Table of Contents
Nevermoor is a case study in bad ability scores creating a character. Recently, I joined a Curse of Strahd campaign without a character in mind. Having settled into my role as Resident Cleric, I was keen to try the new Twilight Domain cleric from Tasha’s, but beyond that, had no goals.
Since this campaign used manual rolls for ability scores, I started there, hoping the dice would show me a character.
Let me tell you, an overall six ability score will definitely write a story.
I put the six into Dexterity, mainly because it’s my second favorite ability just behind Wisdom, and I wanted to challenge myself by trying something new. Lastly, as a cleric, I actually prefer going last in initiative, so the -2 definitely helped there.
Venturing into unfamiliar territory, I needed to pick a race that was familiar, while focusing on Wisdom stat bonuses.
I’ve played water Genasi a bunch, and liked the racial stat bonuses of +2 Constitution and +1 Wisdom, because starting with a 17 in Wisdom is my bare minimum for clerics. I also loved the possibility of having access to Create or Destroy Water in a campaign where vampires were a promised threat.
With Race, Class, and Abilities settled, it was time to jump into character theme. This came together quickly after leaning into the low Dexterity score and wanting to base the character off of the concept of “slow” or “stagnant” water features. The result was the idea that the character was not simply a water Genasi, but a swamp Genasi!
After putting together the skeleton of what would eventually become Nevermoor, it was time to paint on top of it.
Understanding that Strahd is a gothic setting—a concept near and dear to my black little heart—I wanted to lean into some classic gothic tropes. In particular, the idea that the protagonists are just as monstrous as the horrors they face.
Additionally, I think of Genasi—or their parentage, the jinn—as being hallmarks of folklore and fairy tales, so when it came time to provide background, Nevermoor’s origin had to exist in a way that honored that, following fairy tales’ most sinister traditions.
The final goal for Nevermoor’s theme was to embrace the Twilight Domain, using the plurality of twilight and dusk. A time when both sun and moon held the sky.
When thinking about how I wanted Nevermoor to play, I wanted to try and accomplish the following:
- Use armor and shields to shore up my abysmal AC
- Get access to a diverse set of mobility options (for healing and general tactical advantage)
- Find an alternative to the starting mace for melee encounters
- Build up a repertoire of bonus action options
- Diversify offensive and control spell options to balance healing
- Shore up healing effectiveness by any means
If successful, Nevermoor would be difficult to hit; could flit around the battle, delivering buffs and healing; would work as either a caster or frontline character; could manipulate the battle; or could dole out damage while—hopefully—not sacrificing healing talents.
Admittedly, we started Strahd at level three, so conceptualizing Nevermoor at levels 1-2 is going to be a little ad hoc.
At level one, we began with proficiencies, taking Religion (duh) and Insight (don’t leave home without it).
For cantrips, Sacred Flame became our main offensive output, with Word of Radiance to combat multiple enemies, while Spare the Dying helped cover the support role. Light is always good to bring along, but since I knew Nevermoor was going to take Twilight Domain, it was surplus. Thanks to Nevermoor’s racial traits, they also had access to Shape Water.
First level spells were as follows: Healing Word and Cure Wounds (the classics). The Twilight Domain also granted access to two fantastic spells: Faerie Fire and Sleep.
Speaking of domain, I’m pretty sure that’s as obvious as a sparkly vampire in the sunlight.
Twilight Domain grants bonus proficiency in martial weapons and heavy armor which satisfied TWO build goals (but we’re not done there yet).
Eyes of Night provided overclocked Darkvision (up to 300ft) to a number of creatures equal to our Wisdom modifier (hence no Light cantrip), while Vigilant Blessing gave advantage to Initiative rolls, for some further manipulation of attack order.
Lastly, with equipment I took Chain mail (with the bonus proficiency) and a Shield which got Nevermoor’s AC up to 18, satisfying another build goal. This left us with only a mace as a melee weapon, but we’ve plans there.
Levels two through four
Moving to level two, the big addition was the amazing Channel Divinity, Twilight Sanctuary. Essentially, Nevermoor transforms into a roving HP vendor and can turn back Charmed or Frightened conditions within a 30-foot radius. For spells, we snagged Sanctuary, which lets you redirect attacks away from others acting as both buff and a minor control spell, and Protection from Good and Evil, which would be situationally valuable in Strahd.
At level three, not much changed. As Genasi, Nevermoor got access to Create or Destroy Water. This spell is a vampire nuke under the right DM, so its arrival here is welcomed. We also got access to two 2nd-level spells. I would take Lesser Restoration (perfect support/healing spell) and Blindness/Deafness for situational control.
At third level, we also get two absurdly valuable spells, Moonbeam and See Invisibility, thanks again to this magnificent domain.
With level four came Ability score improvements. Nevermoor’s Wisdom modifier was still one off where I’d prefer it to be, so we grabbed a +1 WIS from the new Tasha’s feat, Fey Touched. Misty Step is one of my favorite low level spells and helps satisfy the mobility build goal. It also provided access to a 1st-level Divination or Enchantment spell. I took Hex to pile damage onto attacks whether magic or martial. All in all, a very valuable feat.
Level four also grants one additional cantrip (Toll the Dead) and one extra 2nd-level spell (Silence). Toll the Dead is one of the best offensive cantrips available to a Cleric, and Silence can be a powerhouse control spell, halting communications and verbal casting components.
Previously, we’d made good use of mostly a cleric’s domain to work toward our build goals. With level four, we made shrewd use of a feat, to pull us a little closer.
Level five is where massive strides get made. To do that, Nevermoor dipped into Druid.
The highlights of the one Druid level toward our goals were:
- Primal Savagery (2d10 melee attack)
- Thorn Whip (2d6 ranged attack with control elements)
- Absorb Elements (situational buff)
- Entangle (control spell)
- Fog Cloud (control spell)
- Ice Knife (decent ranged spell with area-of-attack capabilities)
- Longstrider (mobility)
Almost all of these spells worked toward our build goals. Primal Savagery rendered the mace useless, while Thorn Whip, Entangle, and Fog Cloud all manipulate the battlefield. Absorb Elements can prevent situational damage, and Longstrider buffs movement.
Better yet, all of these additions made sense within the context of a swamp-monster Genasi that worships a deity of sun and moon. Wild Shape is a bit of an outlier, but we have plans for that.
Wild Shape plan were as follows: take another level of Druid to unlock Circle of Stars. We don’t need beasts, we’ve gone celestial! This gives access to the class features Star Map and Starry Form. Star Map grants use of the Guidance cantrip and Guiding Bolt without burning a spell slot. This allowed Nevermoor to buff skill checks and attack rolls, and the 4d6 radiant damage of Guiding Bolt is no joke, either. If that weren’t enough, Starry Form provides several bonus action bonuses: from what is basically an off-hand Sacred Flame, to massive self healing when healing others, and even making concentration spells easier to maintain.
Levels seven and eight
After accomplishing what we needed from Druid, it was time to jump back to Cleric. Becoming a 5th-level cleric brought trademark class ability Destroy Undead and 3rd-level spells (Daylight). Our domain provided access to the spells Aura of Vitality and Leomund’s tiny hut. The synergy here between Aura of Vitality and Twilight Sanctuary is of particular note.
We stuck with Cleric to get another charge of the aforementioned Channel Divinity and to pick up the domain feature Steps of Night. This is our mobility capstone, granting flight speed. This feature granted Nevermoor flight speed to match their movement speed—which can be boosted—in addition to already having a swim speed based on their movement speed. Combined with several mobility spells, this swamp monster can move!
With our additional spell slot, we picked up Spirit Shroud, which is just nasty for a character with our mobility. Spirit Shroud adds 1d8 Necrotic, Radiant or Cold damage extra damage on any attack made, while also preventing enemy health regeneration AND limiting mobility. All from a bonus action!
For the Strahd campaign itself, we completed Nevermoor at level eight, and that’s okay, because we absolutely accomplished all our build goals.
By the end, our AC hit 18 (admirable with a -2 Dexterity). We picked up Misty Step and Longstrider, while adding swim and flight speeds. Primal Savagery and Hex combine to bolster melee opportunities. Starry Form gave us three bonus action options that were added to Healing Word, Hex, Sanctuary, Misty Step, Spirit Shroud, and Steps of Night. Our spell list is a veritable treasure trove of offensive and control options on top of healing and support. For our healing efforts, we added in some Druid to strengthen our abilities, while accessing healing for ourselves in return.
As a cleric of any kind, Nevermoor plays the support and healing role well, which isn’t terribly surprising. However, the plethora of mobility types and augmentations, combined with diverse AOE healing and damage, make Nevermoor a valuable combat medic, dipping in and out of skirmishes as needed.
Along those lines, Nevermoor has access to an array of spell-based melee and ranged attacks with minimal risk or cost. With an 18 AC, Nevermoor can go from support to front line attacker if needed.
With the party relatively healthy, and well-defended, Nevermoor can switch to a control caster, making an absolute muck of the battlefield. This ensures that not only is the tactical advantage maintained, it’s improved.
Nevermoor’s awful dexterity (compounded by their armor) makes them a Stealth hazard, best left at home during sneaky incursions.
At level eight, their saving throws are abysmal for everything but Wisdom.
Also, because their skills were never prioritized, they’re only truly effective with Wisdom-based skills.
Pulling down our thematic goals for Nevermoor helped define their history. Within their character history, I wanted to lean into the gothic trope of protagonists as monstrous as the horrors they face. I also wanted lean into their jinn background by crafting a genesis that was fairy tale in nature. The final cornerstone was leaning into the duality present within the Twilight Domain. Lastly, I loved the idea of the party cleric looking otherworldly, even frightening.
Nevermoor’s story starts with The Ill-gotten Swamp, a bog long thought haunted by a malignant Udug; a water jinn of dark, isolation, and remoteness. Which made the swamp a perfect home, for no one dared enter, except for those enticed by the the Udug’s machinations.
One such unfortunate soul was a young woman named Zveda. Lured into the swamp, the Udug bewitched her with promises of eternal riches, power, and beauty far beyond her own. All she needed to do to do was come visit him weekly for a year and drink his maligned swamp water.
So she did, and over that time, she began to change, growing more swamplike, more plantlike. She was becoming the Udug’s “little flower.”
Other things were changing, growing inside her: Nevermoor. Her half-jinn child, and a reminder of what she had willfully given the Udug.
When the Udug first heard the child growing inside Zveda, he made her promise to destroy it, by drowning it in the swamp. He claimed that the baby was nothing more than a parasite that would leech away the power and beauty promised her.
After the baby was born, Zveda did as instructed, pluging the newborn into the dark swamp waters.
As the baby gasped for air with its last breath, finding nothing but toxic swamp water, Eversera—The Duskmaiden—shoved the baby into to the water plane for safekeeping.
She then banished the Udug and Zveda from the swamp.
Once the water Genasi child had grown enough to fend for itself, Eversera brought them back to The Ill-gotten Swamp and taught them the her doctrines and beliefs. That of the goddess who lives when stars meet the waning sun. Of plurality. Of opposing forces.
The tale of the demon haunting the swamp had been replaced during the child’s intervening years, and now the townspeople spoke of “Nevermore, The Rejected Son.” Zveda’s demon offspring that she was so ashamed of that she killed it in the swamp, and then followed suit with herself.
The child adopted a spelling of this name, Nevermoor, both rejecting and accepting their swamp Genasi heritage. Plurality. In honor of the Duskmaiden that saved them, they also took on the title of The Rejected Sun.
Over the years, the townspeople have come to know of Nevermoor, the hulking creature of swamp muck and vegetation. That with no face, but mystical power. That speaks of the splendor of Eversera. Some leave the swamp creature offerings, while some cower in fear. Most just ignore them altogether, leaving the swamp child in isolation, loneliness. The only thing they have ever known.
However, the Duskmaiden has since called upon Nevermoor to leave the swamp and use their faith and magic for a mission of unknown objective. Dutifully, Nevermoor agreed, and now finds itself in Barovia.
Nevermoor defines themselves most by the following creeds:
“Defining oneself by a single purpose, or being driven toward a single goal, is foolhardy.”
“I need long stretches of quiet isolation to clear my head.”
“Everything has a plurality, contains a multitude. Balance.”
“The Duskmaiden saved me during a terrible storm, and I will honor their gift.”
“I must try and find the good in the evil, or the evil in the good.”
Nevermoor looks like what would happen if a bunch of swamp muck and vegetation had woven itself into a living, breathing monstrosity. It has a massive frame at 7’3″ and 250 pounds, towering over most humanoids. It lacks a face, but has more of an impression where a face ought to be, obscured by long, dangling tendrils of plant life and mud.
Nevermoor’s monstrous, swampy appearance harkens back to Marvel’s Man-Thing or Universal’s the Creature from the Black Lagoon. This makes them a perfect fit for gothic settings and horror campaigns. They’re also suited for campaigns rife with wilderness and natural magicks. In more urban settings, Nevermoor works admirably as the “oddity” and would only be beneficial to players looking forward to the challenge of being unsightly and requiring quiet isolation as part of their character.
For DMs, Nevermoor’s mysterious, folkloric origins make for an interesting foil. In small towns, parties might hear whispers of a haunted swamp, lorded over by an evil sentry. One that steals the town’s children and blights the land. As the party makes the dangerous trek through the swamp, Nevermoor’s presence bares down on them. From below the surface, or between thatches of vegetation, they feel watched. When they reach their lair, there’s a small child handing this horrifying creature a little purple hyacinth…
That might be enough to create an engaging encounter, until the child mournfully signals that Nevermoor is a friend and the flower a gift. Depending on how zealous the party is, the swamp creature could be a powerful ally or a terrible enemy.