Character Profile: Clanless Nala
Nala wandered through the trees, tall enough now to reach the lower branches and pull them down so she could look at the veins beneath the surface of the leaves. They looked, she thought, like stained glass in the wash of the sunlight spearing through the forest, all in green, but just as beautiful as anything made by people.
She plucked a leaf that had just begun to turn red around the edges to show her mother and twirled it by its stem between her fingers. Then she continued to explore, following a toad for a while as she hopped her way between the roots of the ancient trees, then sitting still and silent to watch a small blue bird dart back and forth between the ground and the branches, bringing nest-making materials back to his home, and finding a clearing filled to the brim with wild berries; she collected enough to fill the little pouch her father had given her just a few weeks ago.
It was growing darker by then, and so she turned and wandered back the way she came, though she wasn’t quite sure if she got it right. The light was different and nothing looked familiar, though of course it didn’t; this was not their home forest, they were only visiting. Undeterred, she pushed on, knowing soon she’d crest a rise and be able to see her clan’s encampment.
When she came to a stream, however, she knew something had gone wrong. She had not crossed a stream when she left the camp, only wandered over mossy hillocks and shadow-drenched roots. No streams, not even a small one. Determined not to cry–she was not a baby anymore, and hadn’t been for a whole year–she took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then turned away from the stream. She assured herself that she would be fine alone in the dark; she could breathe enough heat now that she could make a torch if she needed. Nodding to herself on that thought, she took a step back into the forest.
“Mother?” she called as she walked. “Father? Biri? Medrash? Thava? Are you there?”
Over and over again she shouted for them, but there was no answer.
Nala wakes with a start, her heart pounding. Habit has her clenching her jaw to hide the lingering effect the nightmare always has on her. Looking up, she sees Alessia is up and standing near the banked fire, her bedroll packed and ready for another day’s walk, her gaze open as she waits for Nala to wake. Ketlin sits cross-legged next to the ashes, a map spread in front of them, but their attention on a piece of paper they grip in their hand.
The sun is shining through the cave entrance; the snowstorm must have blown itself out during the night.
Better to move than to stew in grief, Nala thinks and sits up.
Ketlin glances at her and says, “I thought the map might help but realized we need to know where we are first.”
Nala nods and clears her throat to get rid of the screams she never let go in childhood. “That’s a good idea. Let me take a look outside, see if there are any landmarks that might help.”
She stands and walks to the front of the cave, pausing only to stretch her back after a night sleeping on cold-hardened ground. Once her sun-struck vision clears, she sees the twin towers just to their east, back the way they’d come the day before. Turning to find Ketlin has joined her, she points down at the map. “I think we’re just here. The crevasse should only be an hour away, I think, if I’ve got the scale of this right.”
Ketlin smiles at her, though the warmth of it leeches away before even a moment has passed, then looks back out across the snow-swept tundra.
“It’s so bright now that you could almost believe yesterday was a bad dream,” they say, their voice soft.
Nala shuts her eyes against the reminder of her first nightmare, of watching Arnam’s body fall while she was held motionless, unable to get to him before he was lost and gone. Unable to bring him back before he, too, disappeared.
“Lucky for us, I suppose,” she agrees, swallowing hard and clearing her throat again. Ketlin pats her arm a few times, and then they break away to pack their things.
Nala casts one more look over the frozen landscape, wondering whether Arnam would hear her if she called to him as she had her clan, before she became Clanless.
Nala is the first D&D character I created. I’m going to be really honest when I say this, I chose most of her options because I thought they were fun, not because I knew what I was doing. I saw a dragon-creature, I went for it. I saw a class built around nature-based magic, I went for it. I saw a background of a globe-trotting sailor? I went for it. It was only after I dug into some of the research after the fact that I thought, oh no, how am I going to make this work? I think I did okay, but you tell me.
Name, Race, Gender, Description, Et Al.
When I decided to play a Dragonborn, I had no knowledge on traditional names, but after about five minutes of research, I found that Dragonborn tend to be introduced by their clan name followed by their personal name, and they might’ve had childhood nicknames. I originally thought I might call my character Naia, then realized that it was very close to a traditional Dragonborn name–Nala–so pivoted. When it came to a clan name, I had no ideas, and I’m playing within an home-brew world, so wasn’t sure of any canon clans in my DM’s world. When I read about Clanless Dragonborn, I realized I could work with my lack of knowledge, rather than bluffing my way through. I don’t have to know my Dragonborn’s clan if she doesn’t know it either. And thus I settled on Clanless Nala. Her childhood nickname was Drifter, given to her by her older brother Medrash, for her habit of drifting beneath the trees as she investigated some new plant or other.
Dragonborn, as a rule, are tall, strongly built, and have literal claws. Nala is a Brass Dragonborn in both name and scale-color, can breath fire, and resists fire damage. She has deep green eyes and shockingly red hair that she keeps braided down her back.
For Dragonborn, their clan is their life, and they are bound to uphold the honor of their clan, striving always for excellence. Nala is no different, prideful and self-sufficient to a fault, and with no clan to which to bind her honor, she takes all failures as her own. She gained her love of freedom from her father, though she would not remember it, and feels very strongly that the seas and wild places must be guarded as a refuge for those seeking the freedom she desires.
Backstory & Family Life
Nala was born into a clan as all Dragonborn are, but she does not remember them well beyond the names of her siblings. Even her parents faces have faded from her memory. She was only two years old when she was separated from her clan, old enough by Dragonborn standards to play by herself, but not yet old enough to have a reliable memory. Her father and mother had three other children, Thava, their eldest daughter, Madrash, their only son, and Biri, another daughter only a year older than Nala and often her playmate.
She wandered in the wilderness for days after losing her way, and stumbled upon a druid named Reynword who had made his home in the woods. Reynword, being a bit of a hermit, did not raise Nala, but did help her learn how to survive in the woods and taught her Druidic. She joined his order, the Circle of the Moon, in honor of him and to honor her love of the wilds as well.
When she was 15, and by Dragonborn standards, an adult, she began to feel restless in the forests and opted to leave to find the sea. She signed on as a cook’s assistant and backup healer on a ship of discovery called The Wanderer and saw many strange and wonderful things on The Broken Sea because of it. After ten years, however, she missed the solitude of the forest, where no one would panic if she spent time as a wolf or a bear, and resigned her post aboard the ship, ending up in Nook, a port city on the Eastern edge of the Broken Sea. She wandered from there, always coming back to Nook as a place to resupply. As of the start of the campaign, she’d been in Nook for three months, unable to force herself to leave despite her itchy feet, and elected to stay, certain that fate was guiding her.
Initial Class & Changes Made Over Time
I set Nala up as a Druid of the Circle of the Moon at level 2. This meant that she could cast spells, and gave her the ability to change into more dangerous animals than another Druid would be able to and much quicker as well. Since the start of the campaign, she has leveled up twice, and is currently a level 4 Druid of the Circle of the Moon, and I don’t see her branching out from that path any time soon. She is determined to be the best druid she can.
Background & Previous Careers
Nala, having sailed on The Wanderer, has the Sailor background. She is forever bonded to the crew of that ship, as they were as good as her clan for 10 years. When she needs to, she can secure passage on any ship for herself and her companions. So far, she has not needed to use this feature, as she and her companions were instead hired to join the crew of The Broken Bone, a ship of discovery captained by Captain Selsi. The first mate, Arnam Troth, is played by one of the other players, with Ketlin Bakderl and Alessia Oakenheel rounding out the table. Nala’s sailing, cooking, and healing experience were deemed worthy of Selsi’s mission to find a lost city, though she’d only been seeking Ketlin’s research prowess. Similarly, Alessia hopped aboard in a quest to prove her worth to her ancestors.
Daily Carry & Weapons of Choice
Nala has collected or thrifted everything she owns, given that she left her family with only the clothes on her back at the time. After leaving The Wanderer, she crafted her own leather armor under the tutelage of an armorer in a small town. She’s got a scimitar and shield that she learned to wield on the deck of a ship. Her druidic focus is a wooden staff she carved from a fallen limb of an oak tree. Given her time clambering over the rigging of a sailing ship, Nala always has at least two bundles of rope, convinced she can use it for anything.
In her pack, she carries the typical adventurer gear, but has two momentos that she keeps within reach at all times. The crew of The Wanderer gave her a belaying pin carved with the name of the ship for her to carry with her into her future when they set her ashore, and she carries it on her hip like a dagger, often using it as a Shillelagh in battle. She also has a small stone with a hole carved in the center by sand and time that she wears on a string around her neck. The healer aboard The Wanderer taught her that if she wore it around her neck, it was a symbol of luck and protection, and Nala has never taken it off willingly.
Spells in Use
- Produce Flame
- Thorn Whip
Level 1 Spells
- Cure Wounds
- Healing Word
Level 2 Spells
- Healing Spirit
- Spike Growth
Feats & Stories
Nala, since joining the crew of The Broken Bone, has gained one extra ability, though she is unaware of it herself yet. After a traumatic fight in the windswept tundra, she and her surviving companions fell asleep, and when they awoke, Nala had developed a curious telepathic ability. She has not yet noticed this phenomenon, attributing the times her friends hear her thoughts to her being unaware she’s spoken aloud, and the accidental use of Detect Thoughts (a spell she can use once a day due to her ability) to being able to read the body language of the foe. I’ve attributed this feat to the fact that she fell asleep wishing she could speak to Arnam, who had fallen to two ice direwolves on the tundra and to whom Nala could not reach before he died.
Important Moments in World
Since joining her companions, Nala has had a couple of important growth moments. She is not one to trust quickly, but does feel as though she owes the people with whom she’s traveling. But with Alessia, there was an instant connection. They shared stories in a tavern in Nook the night before joining the crew of The Broken Bone, bonded over their first battle when Nala needed to heal Alessia after she was thrown into the sea, and then over Alessia’s desire to learn another language. In the military port of Northwatch, they wandered the market together and Nala helped Alessia find a bearskin to wear to honor her ancestor, and was just as smitten with a cute little owl that Alessia purchased and named Bobbles.
While taking a few days to find a missing captain from the Northwatch garrison, the companions were walking through the tundra and were set upon by two massive ice direwolves. In the battle, Arnam Troth, the first mate, was killed by the wolves, and before Nala could get to him and heal him, his player rolled three failed death saves. All three of Alessia, Ketlin, and Nala were left distraught, fought off their grief, and had to gather Arnam’s supplies, burn his body to prevent it from being eaten by scavengers, and find shelter from a snowstorm bearing down on them. Nala opted to keep Arnam’s carpentry tools, deciding to learn to honor his memory. All three of them realized they did not know the man as well as they wanted, and were grieving him and their lack of getting to know him better.
The next day, when they set out to finish their mission, they were going to climb down into a huge crevasse to find the missing captain when Ketlin slipped. Nala, already traumatized by losing Arnam, attempted to cast Entangle to catch her falling friend and missed. Ketlin was able to use Misty Step to save themself, but the failure haunts Nala, as she believes she needs to be able to save everyone.
At the base of the crevasse, the three of them were set upon by ice gnolls that attempted to drag both Ketlin and Nala off as a snack. In the midst of this, a celestial sent Arnam back from the dead and Arnam saved them all. It took a long time for any of them to believe he existed, and Nala feels endless guilt over burning his body, though of course he had a new one. Though Arnam, decidedly their protector on this journey, is back, Nala has been feeling more and more protective of her friends, scared to lose any of them.
As of writing this, Nala is currently in a very strange library beneath a glacier with her friends and the missing Captain Raloren. I have no idea where this journey will take her, but I know for a fact that during the next downtime period, she will be focused on creating healing potions, learning how to use Arnam’s carpentry tools from Arnam himself, and continuing to study druidic magic in an attempt to master that magic. She may also teach one of the others how to cook, because when it is not her turn by the evening fire, she usually has to grin and bear the rations. Whether Nala ever finds her original clan is up to my DM, but I would be curious to know what they’d think of her now, and if she could ever reclaim her clan name.