My first two characters for Dungeons & Dragons – rolled up using the 1981 Moldvay Basic Set – were named Magic and Battle Axe. I was 9. And they were so … damned … cool.
While cleaning out some of my old gaming stuff, I found Battle Axe’s original character sheet. A fighter/wizard, he ended his adventuring career at 17th level. I don’t recall if the old D&D Cyclopedia rules (which the D&D Basic and Expert sets evolved into) allowed for multi-classing. I also don’t think my then-9-year-old self cared much.
Much of Battle Axe’s career happened during a semester-long gifted and talented program that took place on Saturdays. My dad was one of the teachers and I got to tag along – I remember taking two classes: one on speed reading and the other on Dungeons & Dragons. Looking back, both had huge impacts on my life and complimented each other beautifully.
But enough about the kid. Let’s talk about Battle Axe.
As near I as I can tell, Battle Axe was inspired by the characters Short Axe Fang Shih and Long Axe Yang Jiu from the Japanese martial arts movie The Kid with the Golden Arm (which I watched one fateful weekend on WPIX 11). I can’t be 100% sure – it’s been nearly 40 years – but the facts plot and characters fit.
Battle Axe collected an impressive collection of magic items. The specifics are hard to make out, given how much time has passed, but they included:
- A +2 Batte Axe (of course!)
- A Necklace of Missiles
- Boots of Levitation
- A Dragonslayer sword (+2, +4 vs. red dragons).
- A Wand of Frost
- A Sunsword
He came by the sunsword honestly enough, as part of that long-ago class included a foray into Ravenloft. His Armor Class was -3, though his character sheet gives no indication of how he got there.
His gear included a longbow, shield, 40′ of rope with a grappling hook, 20 vials of holy water and oil (you can never have enough), a flask of wine, a backpack, a polearm, and a trusty potion of healing.
He also had a large keep, probably acquired when the class – and his adventuring days – encountered a Deck of Many Things. I never got around to naming the keep.
Spell-wise, he had the usual: sleep, magic missile, web, shield, fireball, protection from evil, lightning bolt, wall of force and – of course – fireball. Because what dragonslayer / sunsword duel wielding fighter/wizard isn’t going to have fireball memorized?
Gear-aside, his stats are suspiciously great: Strength 18, Intelligence 18, Wisdom 12, Dexterity 18, Constitution 16, and Charisma 14. It’s good to see he had that ol’Wisdom dump stat in there to give him a little balance…
Later in life (both mine and Battle Axe’s), I revisited the character and his companion wizard, Magic. In my high school campaign (which featured a hell of a lot of backstories, and not a lot of gameplay) he became King Samuel “Battle Axe” Longriver, leader of the kingdom of Ostland.
In college, I revisited him again, when he became Lord Mayor Samuel “Battle Axe” Longriver, member of the Griffins Guild – an adventuring company in the world of Greyhawk – and founder of the free city of Obsidian Bay on the Pomarj peninsula. His long-time adventuring companion, the archmage Robertson (aka “Magic”) raised the Obsidian Tower to serve as the home base for an arcane order dedicated to protecting the world of Oerth from extraplanar incursions.
After college, Obsidian Bay became the home of the Blackrazor Guild, the namesake organization of my gaming group. Twenty-five years later, the group is still together … and for me, it all started with a single overpowered character named Battle Axe.
A photo of Battle Axe, one of my first D&D characters. Also pictured are crystal dice that are almost, if not exactly, as old, as Battle Axe. Credit: Ken Newquist