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Creating My Pathfinder Character - Ornela

Diving into the world of Pathfinder, my first ever tabletop RPG, opened a new chapter of adventure with my fiancé and his friends. What started as listening to tales of their ongoing campaign soon turned into a thrilling surprise when I was invited to join their fantasy world during a memorable trip. I was definitely interested in playing at some point, and it was a great surprise when they let me in on their existing campaign during a trip to meet the friend group all in person!

Initial Character Creation - Ornela

It was unexpected, so I quickly sketched up a character and later refined and colored it during the trip back home. I didn't remember everyone's character from the stories I heard, so ended up making a Ranger, which the team already had, but it wasn't an issue. I just gave my character, Ornela, a basic backstory of coming from a farm and ended up joining the Fighters Guild that the main team was a part of. I didn't know anything about Pathfinder and the lore, but that didn't matter too much as we were all learning as we played. You can see her in the gallery below in the first image.

Ornela's original design was mostly desaturated green cloth and dull reddish leather armor to blend with the colors of the forest, with gold strings and thread that she found to keep her outfit together (literally and in a fashion-sense). Her clothing is torn and patched up, her face body and face having healed up scars to show her experience in the field. The short, brushed-back spiky hair is both for practicality and her stand-offish and rougher nature.

A Three-Year Adventure Ends...

After three years, we went through several fun sessions with our four-person party. The other characters were Ada, a Dhampir Ranger with a raven companion/pet named Dax, Flava Flavson, my fiancé's sorcerer who's design was heavily inspired by Guy Fieri, and Lily One, a rogue leshy who carries an amulet of Zon-Kuthon, the God of Pain and Darkness, would possess her if she failed her Will save rolls. This dreaded partnership could have been stopped had we removed the before it fused into her hand.

We've only reached Ada's backstory so far, finding their mother, Mags, early on in the campaign, who shortly after succumbed to her wounds. Ada had learned from Mags that her father is Lord Julius Silverblood. The Silverbloods are the ruling family of The City of A Thousand Lights, our campaign's largest and most-densely populated city we've seen so far. Hundreds if not thousands of people from many races and religious creeds live behind the city walls of a vampire.

During an infiltration of the ball in the Silverblood castle, they revealed their dastardly evil scheme. Desna had given Ornela a special blessing on her attacks to aid in the fight against Lord Julius. We were able to defeat Lord Julius and burn his coffin so he would no longer return, but the rest of the Silverbloods were able to run off during the chaos. Ada and Flave had drank his blood, turning into full vampires; they also turned onto an angel who was chained up in the room as well, granting them more powerful abilities. It was at this point that the amulet of Zon-Kuthon had merged with Lily One as well. This was the turning point for Ornela; she was fearful of all her teammates now, seeing their uncontrolable bloodlust and thrist for power, wondering if they'd turn on her next.

The team were able to control themselves to move further into the castle where we found more powerful weapons and a large painting of our predecssors and mentors, appearing as if they had been an adventuring party. No one really spoke up about this discovery.

As they crawled further into the castle, Ornela could no longer feel Desna's presence. Fearing the worst, Ornela believed that the destruction the Silverbloods revealed had escalated and killed her goddess. As they escaped the castle, most of the city had been set aflame or in ruins save for the few churches that had protective wards. A dragon made the city its new roost, and soon the party made their way out.

In the panic and confusion, Ornela submitted to drinking Ada's blood to gain power to fight against whatever evils laid ahead of them and to prevent her own demise should her teammates lose compsure and turn on her.

They set their sights on the Silverbloods who had escaped. The path led the party to a no-violence-tolerated inn, whose owner sent us on a fetch-quest to a nearby mountain. We found a large hole in the ground, at the center of a camp on our way to the quest. In it we found a few puzzles and locks we couldn't solve confidently and some dangerous enemies. At the end of one room was a large gnoll that we were having difficulty with, but it was only made that much worse when Lily One, possessed by the spirit of Zon-Kuthon, opened up a scroll and summoned a shoggoth - an Eldritch beast that was more than triple our level. Lily One tried to make a break for it after the summon but was killed by the Gnoll, now blocking the only exit. Ornela was soon after killed by the shoggoth, then Ada. Flave's last turn was spitting into a jar of dozens of marble-sized orbs of water, each containing the equivalent of a lake, to kill the shoggoth. The impact from the deluge killed him instantly; the eldritch monster was shot out of the side of the mountain, almost into the atmosphere, and fell to its death. Nothing in that room survived. Had the three vampires built coffins, we would have been fine. Lily One can regrow, in a similar manner to Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy.

The end was so sudden. It felt like we just dove into the story after playing for three years, and then to have it end just like that put a damper on our moods.

It was hard on me because my character didn't open up to any of the others, and I was hoping to explore more of Ornela's character. We hadn't even seen Flave's or Lily One's stories either!

Resurrection and Redesign

Our friend and DM messaged us the next morning individually to continue the story, but with a twist! He was able to resurrect us, but with some changes made to the characters for story purposes. It was such a relief!

I chose Paladin, Redeemer path. I had a few ideas scribbled out on scrap paper, but once I got an idea and inspiration from Pinterest and references online (image 6), it really took off. These ideas were quickly drawn out on images 2-5. Once I got a head that I liked, I drew out the rest of the body. At first I did a more European medieval knight-inspired suit of armor (image 7), but after reading a little more into the lore of Pathfinder, I went more Persian/Middle Eastern-inspired to fit with being a Paladin of Sarenrae (image 10) using references I gathered on images 8 and 9.

I used Chat GPT's Dall-E to help with generate a few ideas that I picked bits and pieces from, such as the green butterfly-inspired armor seen in image 6 and the mood board in image 9.

Some ideas come instantly in my head when I'm familiar with what I'm drawing. For this character's new Paladin class, I knew it would take a longer time for the reference-gathering and researching. My drive was unstoppable when working on this project. We play our campaign every other week, so I knew I had a short deadline. The new concepts for Ornela took about 2 weeks. It's been years since I was able to get a work completed from thumbnail to illustration.

Both concepts were inspired by moths. Ornela's God of worship was Desna, who's sacred animal was the butterfly. I chose the moth because during the campaign when most of the group became vampires, they "strayed away from the light", and so when they were resurrected by Sarenrae, the Everlight and Healing Flame, Ornela was guided back to the light. The first concept was a general Medieval-inspired outfit with a moth motif. I especially loved the two feathers on the helmet! Since Sarenrae was the Goddess who brought them all back to life, and Ornela was going to be her paladin, I read up on her worship and areas of influence on Pathfinder lore sites. After learning of the Middle Eastern influence, I decided to derail and follow that path.

Expanding on the Backstory

When we first played, I had no idea about the lore of Pathfinder, so I kept the backstory basic - a farmer who hunted undead and eventually made her way into the Fighter's Guild. I wanted to add a little more to her backstory so Sarenrae's giving them a second chance at completing their mission had a stronger impact:


"Ornela, a woman of few words, seldom revealed her life's details to her companions. She originated from a farm in Saray, a small town on the Taldorian side of the border with the Qadira Empire, an area accustomed to conflict and strife.

Her family was deeply entangled in the regional disputes and the Cult of the Dawnflower, a militant sect of Sarenrae followers. Ornela's father, a fervent member, rigorously trained his children for combat, disguising it as farm labor. Among her five siblings, Ornela was the third, constantly striving to stand out, especially against her two older brothers. The family dynamics were further complicated by their mother's death in childbirth and their father's quick remarriage.

A unique feature of Ornela's family, reflective of their Varisian heritage, was the presence of birthmarks. The eldest son bore a sword-shaped mark on his left shoulder, symbolizing strength and combat prowess. Ornela herself had an indistinct mark over her heart, resembling a symbol of the sun as she aged, perhaps indicative of her inner turmoil and resilience and future. Lilia, her sensitive younger sister interested in alchemy, had a butterfly mark on her right calf, a symbol of transformation and delicacy.

Their maternal grandfather, Firuz, who often visited, was a stark contrast to their father. A Varisian follower of Desna, he disapproved of the militant upbringing and secretly whisked Lilia away during one of his visits, leaving Ornela without any contact since.

Ornela's life was further complicated when her father assigned her to befriend the son of a Taldorian mayor for espionage. This relationship, which evolved into love, ended in betrayal and chaos when her true motives were revealed. The subsequent conflict led to her brother's death, her father's injury, and the capture of her other brothers.

Betrayed by her family for her failure, Ornela was left for dead after a severe beating. Rescued from a fire by a neighbor, she was taken to the mayor's estate, only to face rejection from her former friend and lover.

Feeling alienated and alone, Ornela fled deeper into Taldor. She rejected the Cult of the Dawnflower and her father's teachings, blaming the faith for his cruelty. She embraced her Varisian heritage, exploring various cultures and teachings, especially those of Desna. This journey of discovery was marked by various jobs and encounters, reflecting her struggle to find a new identity.

Eventually, Ornela joined the Fighter’s Guild, where her past continued to challenge her. However, through different teams and experiences, she gradually learned to adapt and grow, leading her to her current team, with whom she hopes to find a sense of belonging and purpose.

Then the story continues when she is sent to work with her now current team..."

With this new story in mind, I now have a deeper understanding of my character's personality and motivations:

  1. Competitive Nature and Militant Upbringing: Ornela's competitive spirit was fostered by her upbringing in a militaristic household with multiple siblings. The emphasis on strength and cunning within her family, especially in preparation for their father's missions, cultivated a survival-of-the-fittest mentality. This environment not only encouraged competition among siblings but also normalized the idea of strength as a means of survival and success. The bullying of the weaker sibling, Lilia, further underscores the harshness of this environment. Ornela was quite hard on her teammates, berating them when the mission wasn't going they way she would have wanted.

  2. Impact of Betrayed Love: Ornela's experience with a romantic love interest she was forced to betray deeply influenced her interpersonal relationships. This event instilled in her a fear of intimacy, as she became wary of hurting others who might get close to her. Her standoffish and rude demeanor, especially towards potential suitors, can be traced back to this traumatic experience of betrayal and lost love.

  3. Fear of Familial Intimacy and Trust Issues: Stemming from the betrayal by her own family, Ornela developed a deep-seated fear of friendships and any potential new familial bonds. The harsh reality that her biological family, who were supposed to offer unconditional love and support, instead abandoned her, left deep psychological scars. This betrayal fundamentally altered her ability to trust others. Consequently, Ornela often resorts to disguises and deceit, not just as tools for survival, but also as mechanisms to keep others at a distance. Her reluctance to form close bonds is a protective measure, a shield against the vulnerability and potential pain of being betrayed again by those she might grow to care about. This aspect of her character would manifest in her interactions, making her cautious and guarded in forming new relationships, whether they be in the context of friendship, mentorship, or a found family.

  4. Religious Journey and Ignorance of the Gods: Initially, Ornela's lack of knowledge about the gods and different religions reflected her upbringing, which focused more on militant training than on spiritual education. Her eventual choice of Desna as her deity was influenced by her traveler's lifestyle and the goddess's association with travelers. However, her relationship with religion remained complex, marked by a rejection of Sarenrae due to her family's devotion to the goddess. Her selective adoption of beliefs and morals during her travels signifies her personal quest for identity and truth, separate from her family's influence.

  5. Path of the Paladin and Reconnection with Sarenrae: Ornela's evolution into a paladin adorned with symbols and colors representing Sarenrae indicates a significant shift in her spiritual journey. This transition suggests a reconciliation with her past and a move towards a more positive and self-defined path, embracing aspects of her original goddess while forging her own way. The bright reds, blues, and yellow are also a shift away from her original leather brown and forest greens, bringing her out of hiding and survival mentality. Her face still hides with her chain mail to protect her identity lest she finds any one of the Cult members on her journey.

  6. Varisian Heritage and Exploration of the World: The choice to make Firuz Varisian opened avenues for exploring diverse cultures and lifestyles. The nomadic traits of the Varisians, analogous to the real-world Romani people, provided Ornela with a contrast to her rigid, militant upbringing, offering her glimpses of a freer, more varied existence.

  7. Red Hair and Symbolism: The decision to give Ornela red hair in her "rebirth" phase was a creative touch, tying into the Pathfinder lore that red-haired Halflings are often seen as destined for Sarenrae's clergy. While Ornela is neither a Halfling nor a cleric, this attribute becomes a point of connection and reflection for her. Encountering a red-haired Halfling cleric could serve as a narrative device, offering Ornela a symbolic "sign" to reconsider her relationship with Sarenrae and her own destiny.

I'm so excited to see what changed with everyone's characters and the story! Playing this game was a good exercise in character design and development.

I'm currently working on another project with my character Ornela that I hope to show off soon! I would love to do a video on how I worked on each step once it's complete. Stay tuned for more!

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