Friday, October 28, 2011

Colorful Characters 3: Cohen Strauss, The Town Blacksmith

Cohen Strauss was born far away from where he lives now, in a small farming community. When he was seven summers old, a party of adventurers came through his town. He was fascinated by the fineness of their arms and armor. Having lived all his life amongst poverty, he was amazed to learn that items of such beauty could exist. When none of the adults were looking, he bravely strode up to the dwarf and asked where he got such wonderful armor. In typical dwarvish fashion, the adventurer responded that only the greatest dwarven smiths could craft such armor and weapons.

Cohen never learned where they were going or why they stopped in a community so far off the main roads, but he never forgot his fascination with the fine armors of the adventurers. As soon as he was of age, he apprenticed to the village blacksmith, where he learned the basic skills and tools of the craft. But sodding horses and constructing crude farming implements did not satisfy Cohen. Whenever a traveling merchant came through town, or some farmer went to market, he put up all of his meager earnings to buy books on the crafting of arms and armor, and on the dwarves who were known as the finest of all craftsmen. He taught himself to read using these books, and by the age of twenty he had surpassed his master in skill.

Realizing there were no opportunities for further advancement in such an out-of-the way town, Cohen resolved to seek out the dwarves. He bid goodbye to his family and his friends, and began the long trip to Gorren'Vor Mountain, stronghold of Moltenforge clan. There were other dwarven clans nearer his home, even clans who were renowned as craftsmen amongst dwarves. But the Moltenforge clan had a reputation for being welcoming to outsiders who wanted to commission their craft. Cohen hoped they would be as welcoming of a student eager to learn from them.

It took the eager young smith over a year to cross the distance to Gorren'Vor, stopping occasionally along the way to earn pay as a blacksmith as needed, and to pick up new knowledge and skills. He never lingered too long though, eager to reach his destination. When he finally arrived, feeling as though his entire life had been one long journey to the mountain which stood before him, Cohen eagerly requested to be granted an audience with a dwarven smith.

His audience was granted. And, after hearing the young man out, the smith he was taken to refused to accept him as a student. The one which Cohen saw the next day refused him as well, as did the one he saw the day after that. Day by day, Cohen saw his dream crumble as he was rejected by one potential teacher after another. Most had been kind to him, but none were interested in passing on their skills to a human.

"Why trust me legacy and me teachings to a boy who'll be dead before me beard's gray?" one dwarf had said. After a few months the guards simply stopped allowing Cohen to enter the dwarven city. Crushed, the young man found a bar in the human settlement of Taire at the base of the mountain. He sat down, ordered a drink, and didn't stop ordering drinks until he had to find a job.

It wasn't hard for a skilled blacksmith to find work in town. And with the constant flow of adventurers stopping on their way to Gorren'Vor, Cohen had many more opportunities to exercise his craft than he would have ever had in his home village. So for fifteen years he has made his life in Taire. He has become well respected in the town as a reliable smith, though most agree that he drinks too much. It never seems to affect his work.

When not working or drinking, Cohen makes arms, armor, and jewelry of remarkable quality. It easily matches the dwarves' work in quality, which is why most assume he purchased it from them. After awhile, Cohen just stopped correcting them.


Cohen Strauss is dour, and not terribly friendly. When dealing with dwarves he can be particularly spiteful, often openly ignoring them, or using racial slurs. In truth, Cohen suffers from a severe inferiority complex. Despite the high quality of his work, he feels completely inadequate after his rejection by the Moltenforge clan. Years of demeaning labor as a common blacksmith, as well as the lack of recognition he's received for his more finely crafted items, have not helped matters in the slightest.

Thoughts on Use

Cohen Strauss could be used as a simple smithy if that's all the game requires. The players could also be told that he's a good person to commission work from by a local who knows of Cohen's largely hidden talent. If the GM was so inclined, the lack of recognition for Cohen's work could make it difficult to learn that he's a skilled craftsman, and as a reward, Cohen's lack of self-worth might cause him to sell his items below their market value.

Particularly altruistic characters could be enticed into a political/role playing adventure wherein they try to get the dwarves of Gorren'Vor to accept the talented Cohen as a student.


Cohen keeps a number of scrolls available, and has a good working relationship with the same wizard who provides magical assistance to the Moltenforge clan smiths. He has studied enough of magic and scroll use to be able to use the scrolls to imbue his creations with powerful dweomers.

Much of his work is improvisational in nature. Rather than engraving a scene from mythology on a shield, for instance, he largely plans what engraving he makes as he goes along. Oftentimes the patterns and designs on his work seem random, or have no definite shape.

Interesting Facts

*Despite being relatively well settled, Cohen's demeanor does not endear him with women. Most of the women in the local bawdy houses know him as a somewhat unpleasant customer who pays well.

*Years of heavy drinking, as well as other vices, have caused Cohen's voice to develop a rasp.

*Cohen is completely clean shaven, never allowing the hint of a beard to remain on his face.

Cohen Strauss (CR 9)

XP: 6,400
Human Expert 12
LN Humanoid
Init +0; Senses Perception +0

AC 10, Flat Footed 10, Touch 10 [10 + Armor(0) + Dex (0)]
hp 70 (12d8 + 12)
Fort +9 Ref +4 Will +4

Speed 30ft
Melee Masterwork Blacksmith's Hammer +12/+7 (1d8 + 3/x3)

Str 15 (+2) Dex 11 (+0) Con 13 (+1) Int 16 (+3) Wis 11 (+0) Cha 6 (-2)
Base Atk +9/+4; CMB +11; CMD 21
Feats Craft Magic Arms & Armor*, Craft Wondrous Item*, Master Craftsman(Craft Weapons), Skill Focus (Craft Weapons), Skill Focus (Craft Armor), Master Craftsman(Craft Armor), Master Craftsman(Craft Jewelry)
Skills Appraise +18, Craft(Weapons) +26, Craft(Armor) +26, Craft(Locks) +18, Craft(Jewelry) +20, Intimidate +13, Knowledge(History of Dwarves, Arms, and Armor) +18, Profession (Blacksmith) +15, Spellcraft +18, Use Magic Device +13
Languages Common, Dwarven
Gear Heavy Leather Apron, Masterwork Blacksmith's Hammer, Masterwork metal crafting tools, 500gp

*Technically, according to the rules in Pathfinder, one must be a caster of level X to take these feats. However, I not only find that silly, but downright offensive to the proud history of the Fantasy genre. If this rule were to be enforced, then every master smith in fantasy literature would need at least a few levels of wizard. How many dwarven smiths seem like wizard types to you?

Edit: -C of Hack & Slash pointed out in the comments that I overlooked the Master Craftsman feat, which allows non-casters to qualify for Craft Magic Arms and Armor, and Craft Wondrous Item. I also notice that I forgot to increase the benefit from skills focus from +3 to +6 after 10 ranks. Both issues have been corrected. Sorry about the mistake everybody! -LS


  1. You might want to open up your pathfinder rulebook and check out the feat "Master Craftsman"

  2. @-C Well don't I feel the fool. Thanks for the heads up. I'll see about fixing that.


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