In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:
- This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
- This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
- While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
- The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic
When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.
Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.
In deference to this being Final Fantasy 14 Week, a sub-theme in Talen Month, I figured it was time for us to give the fan, singular, what she wanted, and finally write an article about her favourite character, and how I’d go about playing her in a game that she doesn’t play and has no reason to care about.
It’s also an opportunity to talk about negative space and harmonisation.
Let’s talk about Minfilia Warde.
Examining Minfilia Warde
For those not familiar with the character, Minfilia Warde is a quest-giver from the critically acclaimed MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV with an expanded free trial which you can play through the entirety of A Realm Reborn and the award winning Heavensward expansion up to level 60 for free with no restrictions on playtime. Minfilia is perhaps best described as your first major quest giver; you start the game as one of any number of nobody jobs, and have to do something to earn attention from the organisation that Minfilia operates, and then around level 17, you meet her. There’s this quest ‘hub’ – a place where you return to talk to her, repeatedly, called the Waking Sands, and after each arc of quests, you go back there and talk to her to get updated on the big main story, until there’s a big plot event and she’s kidnapped the first time and you have to go rescue her the first time.
This is an opportunity then to look at Minfilia Warde, as a character, and tease out what exists in the game lore to serve as the basis for how she would ‘work’ in a D&D style game, like an RPG, the genre she’s from. Do we see her using weapons, do we see her in armour, do we see her casting spells, and…
I’m going to level with you.
Minfilia is a character presented in the existing text she’s from, which, I keep stating, is a RPG, with almost no demonstration of anything she can do, or anything she might want to do. After her story is over, the writers then try to backfill an explanation of what she did, but in the purest sense of things, her purpose in the story she’s from is as a quest giver; a sexy lamp that dispenses tasks to do, with a personality that crests the lofty heights of ‘is nice’ and ‘a particular kind of basic hot.’
Minfilia is an empty vessel.
That, however, is not a problem, and, in fact, creates a new kind of puzzle for us. Instead of having a question of how do we represent what this character does, we are instead presented with the question of how do we represent a character that does not violate what this character was shown as doing?
This is a process known as harmonisation. Sometimes you’re presented with two or three ideas and they don’t seem to line up, but you can, with the right added information or explanation, find a way to make the ideas work together, to work in harmony. Harmonisation is about looking for the creative space afforded to you by a text in what it doesn’t say and what it doesn’t disqualify.
These things are going to be elements of personal taste, of course. To use an example that’s not mechanical at all, there’s a single moment presented in an April Fools’ day joke where Minfilia is stated to have an interest in men – and only men. Now, one could take that as one of the small pieces of canon information we have about Minfilia and therefore use it as one of the boundaries of that creative space. On the other hand, it’s in material that is not canon to the main text, and it’s not uncommon for non-heterosexual people to present heterosexuality at some point in their life. It therefore may seem very reasonable, and not at all disharmonious to ignore it, and open up other opportunities for Minfilia romantically, and ship her with someone else, like Ysale or Moenbreyda.
What I’m going to be looking at for this text is Minfilia’s role in the main storyline scenario of Final Fantasy 14, and I’m going to ignore the way the story ‘writes her out’ by making her a seer-prophet of a crappy god in service of an inscrutable, stupid and breathtakingly cruel plan. Instead, I’m going to look at the Minfilia we get in a natural environment, when she interacts with the player character, in the first arc of the story. There’s a lot of stuff that can be dismissed here, like her helplessness in the face of her kidnappers, if one can find a reason she would be unable to level her powers against something. More on that later.
We know that Minfilia came with Thancred, Yugiri, Merlwyb and the Warrior of Light to confront the mage summoning Leviathan. This implies that there was something she could do, and the writers just forgot about it. One view of the text could be that there’s no reason to believe that was a possibility, but did you consider that these writers are terrible idiots who couldn’t imagine anything cool for Minfilia to do, so it’s much more likely that they forgot rather than that they intentionally mean for her to be useless?
In her universe, Minfilia’s look doesn’t really mean anything about your armour; she could be wearing tank gear, glamoured to look like a stylish dress with a butt window. There’s no real hint there. I would say that I would expect her outfit to be representative of more cloth or light armour, because it has a loose flowing skirt and that implies some degree of freedom of movement.
The way she looks is important — it’s one of the only defining traits we have about Minfilia, an appearance, which means it’s one of our best options for building up ways this character can harmonise with mechanical options. If we were to try and frame her as, say, a raging barbarian who lashes out with a big two handed weapon, we’re going to be asking questions as to how that fits with what we know of her, and if that contradicts something about her appearance, that makes it harder to see the way those things mesh together.
The Essential Minfilia
There is one thing we know for sure Minfilia does have going on: Diplomacy. Minfilia is a character who, post-fact, we learned was a negotiator who was able to earn you place in political courts and arrange for resources to move around to finance your operations. This is expressed mechanically in the game via literally nothing, but it’s a clear enough point the story brings up when Minfilia leaves it that Minfilia arranged things.
Note that in D&D 4e, the rule about diplomacy is that it’s negotiating in good faith. It’s not trying to convince someone against their best interests or deceitfully, which I think neatly fits with Minfilia’s established personality of is nice.
In order to make sure that her class doesn’t interfere with this skill choice, then, I think it’s time to break open the rarest of mechanical options and look at backgrounds. Are backgrounds like themes or heritages? No, they’re their own thing; a tiny option that the game largely uses to give you options for adding a small bonus to one or two skills your character has, or maybe show that your skillset is different from what your class normally offers because of your personal history.
What we want for Minfilia, and what all our possibilities will want is the Waterdeep background. This gives you Diplomacy as a class skill, so you can always have it, but it also gives you a +2 bonus to it. In the game lore, Minfilia’s background could be properly represented with Political Rebel, but that would involve looking at the previous version of Final Fantasy 14, a game so bad that it dropped Squaresoft’s share prices, and I don’t want to, or care.
With that single unifying trait, how do we approach filling this empty space? We start by trying to find ways to explain how Minfilia looks.
Option 1: It Looks like What It Is
Minfilia wears what is essentially, a fashionable if slightly ornate dress with multiple layers that emphasises her bust, midriff, and butt. It is a sexy outfit, a gown or robe of some variety, and even setting aside the setting’s normal nonsense about what does and doesn’t count as a ‘hauberk,’ it’s material that can be easily seen as cloth armour. When you look at cloth armour in D&D 4e, you’re almost always going to be looking at one of a variety of spellcaster, though special shout out to the Avenger. We’ll see you in the junk drawer.
If I was going to represent this version of Minfilia, I would start with the Cleric. Minfilia is in her setting chosen by a god that gives her the ability to tell the Duolingo Owl to get lost and also see occasional flashbacks. Now, clerics do get access to heavier armour, but that’s an option: If you play a cleric with a high intelligence, low strength and constitution, cloth armour is going to work better for you, and we don’t have a lot of sign that Minfilia is a physically heavy hitting badass.
In this case, it’s just very straightforward: The clothes she wears don’t look like armour and she doesn’t look like she’s holding a weapon, because she’s not wearing armour or holding a weapon. Clerics can get by with a Holy Symbol, like one of the many at her hip, or they can take a number of weapons that work like a holy symbol. We do know that Minfilia owns ‘a knife’ which we also know has a smell, so it implies she keeps it around herself, but also that it doesn’t smell of (say) oil and blood, which also implies the weapon doesn’t get stuck in people very often. That could be a great example of a holy symbol, especially of a god whose whole schtick is ‘splitting things apart.’
Option 2: I Put That Away
Another option for Minfilia is to imagine her as someone who has a distinct and deliberate reason to keep her casual hang-around and talk to people outfit as distinct from her ‘adventure gear.’ If you’re heavily reliant on gear for most of your ability to fight, if you’re trained to fight with pieces of equipment that are cumbersome and hard to transport, it makes sense that being caught without it creates an opportunity for you to be kidnapped. It even adds to the idea of her being a diplomat; if you appear somewhere in armour, with a weapon, it directly implies that you are there to fight, not to talk.
If I was going to take this route, I’d look at the idea of a Paladin. A real classic sword-and-shield type, and focus on using Charisma Based Weapon Attacks. There’s an existing build, strength based Paladins, known as ‘Straladins’ which are very straightforward, but the Charisma Paladin or Chaladin is usually seen as using a holy symbol and fighting at range with blasts of lasers. The Charisma based weapon Paladin is a rarely-seen third path in this mix that gets to use blasting powers of light to hit areas, but also still fights in melee with a weapon that expresses their personality, that is the force of their drive.
A thing I like about this a lot is it implies mode switching. It creates the story that Minfilia at some point chose to set aside her armour and weapon because she needed to be seen as a diplomat, not as a warrior. It also means that as a character, you have reason when you play her to think about when does she get the opportunity to change? A lot of player characters think of their armour as just the same thing as evening wear, able to show up in any place, but this Minfilia is a woman who is mindful of what it means to carry a sword.
Option 3: Hidden On Purpose
This option I find interesting because it takes the questions about Minfilia and adds in a layer of creativity and control. Why does Minfilia seem to have no abilities? Why don’t we see Minfilia doing things? Why does she give us a dagger and ask us to do things with it when we never see her using it? What, really, is the difference between a spy and a diplomat?
One first impulse is to go for a Rogue. This is a great place to start, with a charisma-and-dexterity focused rogue who has been waiting for her opportunity to strike for years. Hell, how many targets had come for the Warrior of Light who never even got close, and even the Warrior doesn’t know it, because this Minfilia shanked them in a dark alleyway, when they thought they were about to get an advantage over the diplomat?
The thing to look out for is Sly Flourish. Sly Flourish is an at-will power that lets you attack with your dexterity and charisma, in melee or with a thrown blade, and the overall effect is a Minfilia who doesn’t just know how to stab you, but who, because she understands you, knows how to make it hurt.
When you take this approach to a Minfilia, you’re operating on the idea that she might be working with party members who assume she’s useless, who assume she’s doing nothing. You may even want a disguise or shadowy mask or something so you can appear and do things with the party in combat, then slip away and leave them thinking they left you back at the Fancy Ball. This could be a fun way to expand on what we see with this character!
I originally liked the Scout, as an option for the stabby Minfilia, because that way you could dual wield out of the box, and the character was focused on being wise. That’s cool, a wise Minfilia would be the kind of person who sees not just the best in people, but also the ways they can be the worst (and maybe have escape plans set up in case of a coup, for example). Another option is the Avenger, which sort of works as a hybrid of these ideas; it’s an ideologically minded, cloth-armoured character who can benefit from using a dagger, because they never miss when they get to work with that dagger, trying to make critical hits happen as often as possible (‘crit fishing’). If you want to keep up with the casting effect and use a dagger, the Invoker is a top drawer controller option.
In the end, the important thing is that any of these ideas work and none of them contradict what’s actually there for Minfilia. Any of these ideas can take the nice blonde lady and add elements to her character, and in whatever situation your campaign goes, you will be able to still feel the same kind of energy as you play her, or as you play alongside her.
Minfilia, as she is known in the game, is a footnote; Minfilia, as she is reviled by the player base, is a punchline. Minfilia, as she is loved, is an artwork, created and maintained and breathed full of life and love by the people who care to do so.
Hold onto that.
No matter what people say, Your Minfilia is Yours.