NPC Closeup 02/28/2004

Leoward, Free Defender
of the Forest

Leoward, the Simple Druid: Even in his early years, Leoward felt that humans, more than the other races, were compelled to tell stories -- about anything -- and truth be told, they never shut up about the most trivial things. He also grew up thinking that humans never close their mouths and that they babble incessantly about the time some event happened or even what they did before breakfast. They tell these seemingly insignificant tales to anyone who will listen.

Leoward grew tired of the near constant social interaction with his fellow villagers and, when his father died (his mother having died during his birth), he set out on his own seeking nothing more than solitude.

The trade he learned from his father was woodworking. After a week in the woods, he realized that he would do better by living among the trees, yet he wanted to remain close enough to town that he could get supplies. He used what his father taught him to earn the supplies he needed, and he took dead wood from the forest and sculpted the material into anything he could sell.

Leoward spent many years in the forest learning how to find the best wood that had fallen from trees or was otherwise dead. Such became his affinity for the woods that he began to feel at one with it. Slowly, with time and interaction with a traveling druid who would pass through the area once every several months to check on other areas of import, Leoward's affinity blossomed into abilities and he became a full-fledged druid.

Leoward, the Hunter: Leoward's tenure as a druid was uneventful for many seasons. He had long since learned how to survive in the woods entirely, but on occasion he would venture to the town for things he couldn't find in the woods or for things he had no desire to make on his own, such as clothing.

He tried to keep his visits in town to a minimum but despite -- or because -- of that, he gained a reputation as the "town druid" who was, of course, crazy. No one sought him out, but whenever he visited, the event would make the rounds of the gossips in town. Aside from this, no one thought much of his presence.

Ricben Fiedlerson, a merchant who had close ties with shipping in a not-too-distant coastal town, was lured to the town because of rumors of a healing elixir made from a rare plant found only in the area. He made plans to gather as much of the plants as possible for profit. They were hard to find, but Ricben had a plan to make finding them easier: harvest the vast tracks of rich forest around the town, keeping the tall trees from obscuring the view of the low-to-the-ground plants, sell the wood to shipyards near the coast, find the rare plants and harvest them, then sell the remaining land to a mining concern. Ricben had pulled off an offensive environmental trifecta.

Ricben paid no heed to stories of the town's druid, who would surely object to the planned use of the land. The local shipyards had an insatiable appetite for trees, and Ricben didn't have the luxury to compromise on supply or time to wait for planted trees to grow thick enough. He had those plants to find and minerals to be unearthed besides.

When Leoward heard the first day's trees go down, he was alarmed. When he discovered the source was a pack of humans cutting down swaths of trees on purpose, he became enraged. Almost without thinking, he wild shaped into a bear, frightened the loggers away, and destroyed one of their wagons.

Over the next few months, there were more episodes like that. Each day, Leoward spent more and more time in wild shape while hunting humans and defending his forest. Eventually, his rage grew -- and focused -- until he became something he'd never thought he would become: an efficient warrior who would preserve the forest at all costs.

Leoward, Free Guardian of the Forest: Leoward's one-man battle against Ricben escalated. Ricben sent minions into the woods to find and kill the druid -- with depressing results. Bigger parties with more sophisticated weapons, including spellcasters, were also introduced into the forest with the sole purpose of killing Leoward by any means they saw fit. The rewards grew and with them came Leoward's proficiency as a guerilla fighter. He would shape into a stealthy animal and track the hunting party back to their camp whereupon he would sabotage everything he could before shaping into a swift animal and getting away.

Although he could have amassed a small fortune in wands, weapons, and other magic items from the people he killed and chased off, he left the items behind on a strange principle that his only concern was the forest, not acquiring items. Besides which, the wide variety of animals he could shape into coupled with the spells he could cast allowed him to accomplish most any goal he set for himself without having to use items. Desiring to be known as a protector of the forest and not a bandit, he left behind all the equipment from those foes he faced down in the forest. He kept the meager possessions he started out with, and he accepted new ones only from the traveling druid friend he'd known for years. Also, in the back of his mind was the fear that someone would plant an enticing magic item hoping he would take it, then use magic to locate the object and thereby reveal his location. Although he has grown a bit paranoid, his wary and not a little overcautious attitude toward magic has kept him alive and free.

Leoward's skill as a druid has also kept him from being discovered. Using spells such as tree stride, he can retreat to any point in the forest, far from any danger. The only thing that attracts Leoward is a hunting party camp or a group of clear cutters. Attempts to lure him out of the forest to a camp to ambush him have been foiled by underestimation of his abilities and the lengths to which he would go to undermine the hunters' and clear cutters' efforts. Much to their dismay, Leoward has shown himself willing to sacrifice trees from the forest to keep his effort going. He's a shrewd fighter with a cause -- the kind of man with which you can't negotiate.

About the Author

Eric Haddock is the assistant producer of online media for Wizards of the Coast and tries to avoid druid attacks by recycling his paper, glass, and plastic. He has written for many companies in and out of the game industry. He lives in Renton, Washington, with his wife Julia and their two cats, Oracle and Ororo, who also recycle.

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