36
\$\begingroup\$

When creating characters, I often face a dilemma between making a character. It feels like they can either be optimized so they can "pull their own weight" or having a character I think is creative and fun to play.

When I say 'pull their own weight', by and large I mean by filling out the role expected of them (e.g. doing your best to maximize your DPS as a striker in 4E D&D, or choosing useful life paths in Traveller as opposed to interesting ones) and contribute to encounters at the same level as the rest of the group.

I was wondering if there were situations or game systems where one is categorically not OK? For instance, 4E as a system seems more inclined towards optimisation than others. How have people handled this as a group before? Was it handled IC or OOC?

Examples

In D&D 4e

  1. I've tried to play a scholarly warlock, buying magic items with flavour (goggles that let you read any language, for example) which was criticized by my gaming group because I had to spend money wisely so the group was strong enough to defeat encounters.

In Vampire

  1. I've created a Tremere with no Thaumaturgy, as the character in life was a skeptic; it was resolved in character by the sire co-ercing him into learning those powers eventually.

I saw this graph the other day on the WotC forums: Optimisation Graph

It made me realise the issues I've had before were due to not wanting to sit in the blue box, or that close to it, for roleplay reasons. Hopefully this should clarify my points above.

\$\endgroup\$
0

14 Answers 14

38
\$\begingroup\$

I'm going to go against the prevailing advice here:

If the other players won't let you play a character that you find interesting, because that character won't "pull its weight" in combat, they're violating Wheaton's Law.

If you want to play a character that is ineffective in combat but effective in other situations, that is your right as a player. You don't have to be part of every combat situation. Or every situation.

The exception is a character who is clearly and specifically against the party's best interests. If someone in an all-Jedi group wants to play a Sith, well, sorry.

I'm a DM/GM, so I handle this out of play, and I let people play the characters that they want to play. In the case of the explicitly antagonistic characters mentioned above, I'll steer the player towards a different character concept.

\$\endgroup\$
3
  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ Great advice so long as you remember the other characters (not just players) have rights too. "OK, the last of the band who have sworn to kill the Evil One can - talk to animals? " Or equally "We need somebody who can help us survive the wilderness and you can - do 297 points of damge in one blow? Don't call us , we'll call you" \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2011 at 23:00
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @TimLymington: your former example is actually not a good one, as that ability actually is useful in that situation -- think Minion-Master here. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shalvenay
    Nov 6, 2014 at 1:29
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ −1, because there’s no such thing as “player rights.” You’re not entitled to play at all, much less play exactly what you want to. A non-combatant character could be as problematic in some games as a Sith character would be in a Jedi game—and groups are allowed to play that kind of game. If someone thinks your game is that sort of game, and you don’t, then there needs to be discussion about what kind of game we really mean to play. But asserting your “rights” is completely wrong. There’s nothing right or wrong about that sort of game—you simply need to agree on whether or not yours is. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 16, 2021 at 21:13
18
\$\begingroup\$

You've fallen prey to the Stormwind fallacy.

A character built and validated against requirements should perform to those requirements. The requirements, if necessary, should include role or combat performance and how to use creativity to enhance that. This may require consultation and support from your DM.

I address this in my paper on constrained optimization for characters here. The stormwind fallacy states:

Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa.

However, this argumentation presumes that creativity qua roleplaying is dominant. Extending beyond that, however, "creatively" designed characters are intended to fufill a different set of constraints and interact with the world differently.

There are two situations we must address here: failing to build a character adequately to constraints, and not sharing the same requirements as the rest of the party.

A character's role is the manifestation of the consequences of your choices. There are no rules elements to require you to play in a certain way, though they do change the design space of possible options. Through the requirements imposed by your own creation process you may make a character that fails to fufill that requirements. It is important to catch this early by articulating those requirements and how they can be failed. These requirements can be theoretical, mechanical, or narrative.

Adding additional constraints for "interesting" characters can make for a more challenging process, as it demands additional system mastery if the rest of the group expects performance at a certain level. However, the build cannot make up for poor game play, but highly effective game play can make up for a poor build. Furthermore, designing for high "power" characters tends to be self defeating: the DM escalates in response for a stalemate.

Fundamentally: any character that meets the personal requirements imposed on character creation should be able to fufill those requirements. Those requirements should reflect chosen directions of agency-expression within the game. If you violate normal tropes, you should have other competencies that provide for useful agency, so long as you are aware of the type of game everyone else chooses to play.

You may have to inform the DM as to your chosen competencies, and ask for a shaping of challenge, but given that it happens naturally against optimized characters, the same should happen in the other direction. Most critical here is managing the expectations of your party and figuring out how to contribute usefully to the party within your own chosen avenues of agency. One way could be to perform a narrative reflavouring of the powers to match your chosen story-expression, while maintaining a more traditional "mechanical" build to support your party in their aims. More interestingly, however, you can take advantage of terrain and other environmental aspects of the world to creatively express agency and provide sufficient support for your party. Some DMs do not support this environmental interaction by default, and you should go out of your way to request this means of interaction.

\$\endgroup\$
7
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ This. Roleplaying well and optimizing the mechanics are orthogonal; doing one doesn't necessarily help or hinder doing the other. You can do both, or neither. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tynam
    Dec 16, 2011 at 15:01
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ @Tynam That really depends on what "roleplaying" means to you, and what kinds of game mechanics we're talking about. The games I prefer tend to tie mechanics and fiction pretty deeply, such that your fictional choices are directly reflected in the mechanics, and the mechanics drive the player's roleplaying actions. In such a game, mechanical and fictional choices aren't orthogonal at all -- that's the whole point of the mechanics. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alex P
    May 30, 2012 at 18:38
  • 14
    \$\begingroup\$ -1. The OP's example of buying gear that is fictionally-interesting to play with but useless for combat effectiveness is an example that falls outside of the assumptions that go into the stormwind fallacy: If treasure is a fixed resource, then spending it optimally is never going to be identical (as in a Venn diagram) with spending it for roleplay reasons. Yes, there is overlap in any Venn diagram of resource allocation, but the overlap is the only part of the diagram where the stormwind fallacy is meaningful. \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2012 at 18:45
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ The OP mentioned 'creative' characters, he didn't mention anything about good roleplay. And I do see a clash between optimization and creativity: while a character might be optimized in several different ways, starting with the same resources, optimized characters will eventually all be part of very similar clusters - which imho goes directly against 'creativity'. \$\endgroup\$
    – fgysin
    Nov 26, 2014 at 10:38
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @sevensideddice and fgysin have got it better than I could have done. What struck me was this: Extending beyond that, however, "creatively" designed characters are intended to fufill a different set of constraints and interact with the world differently. There are two situations we must address here: failing to build a character adequately to constraints, and not sharing the same requirements as the rest of the party. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 27, 2014 at 22:04
10
+250
\$\begingroup\$

Everyone is responsible for the overall health of the game

That means everyone is responsible for finding a place for themselves and their characters within the game. If the game is focused overcoming an extremely challenging tactical position and saving the world despite the massive resources and power of your opponents, then it may be that a certain amount of power is mandatory for a character to participate. And if that’s the case, then it is the individual responsibility of every participant to ensure that they come to the table with a character that fits within that game.

Likewise, if a game is focused on the social interactions of the characters within the society of the town, and violence is all-but-verboten as a solution to problems, then it may be mandatory for every character to have a deep enough background, with fleshed-out social connections to the town, in order to play. It becomes every player’s responsibility to come to the table with such a character.

Characters from the first game won’t fly in the second game, and vice versa. A character with no backstory and whose only notable feature is the ability to one-shot-kill a god might be entirely appropriate for the first, but utterly inappropriate for the second. That character would, most likely, be rejected by that society and thus unable to participate. A character with tons of influence and social standing, but with no survival skills or combat ability, sounds like a perfect fit for the second, but would not be appropriate in the first. That character would be one of the people the first group are trying to protect, and would be left behind in whatever safety is available, and would not be able to participate.

No one has a right to play whatever character they want, the expectations of the game and table be damned. It is every player’s responsibility to come to the table with something that fits the game.

The problem comes when you have games that aren’t as clear-cut as my two examples—and you have people at the table disagreeing about what sort of game it is. When you have an epic quest to save the world, making friends along the way, one player might see this as closer to the first game, while another might see it as closer to the second. This doesn’t have to be a problem, of course—the really important thing is that everyone enjoys the game, so as long as everyone gets an appropriate amount of time in the spotlight, and there are situations where both players’ characters can shine, there isn’t a problem.

So in the end, it becomes a question of what kind of game does everyone want to play, or think they are playing? Is everyone on the same page? If not, is the DM comfortable catering to both as appropriate, and is everyone comfortable with there being segments of the game that perhaps interest them less or interact with their character less?

If you want to play a lower-power character, are you accepting that you are lower-power, and so will have less opportunities to shine in hard mechanical situations? Or are you demanding that everyone else get to the same place as you, just so you can play the character you want? The former is fair and reasonable; the latter is not.

If you want to play a higher-power character, are you accepting that you are higher-power, and the game will have segments where that does not matter and that will highlight what the other characters have going on? Or do you want your optimization to mean you “win” and get to have the spotlight on you all of the time? The former is fair and reasonable; the latter is not.

In the specific case of you wanting to play a lower-power character, and other players objecting to the character on the grounds that it is too weak, that needs to be the discussion that you are having: is this a game that mandates higher-power than your character is offering? And if the other players think it is, why do they think that—what are they concerned about losing if the game is tweaked to allow your character to participate? Note that there are valid concerns that might exist here. It’s not the case that they are simply wrong—it might be, but it also might not be. You have to be open to that, because you have a responsibility to engage with the premise of the game and this is part of it.

  • Other players might—reasonably—point out that their characters couldn’t, in good conscience, bring someone as vulnerable as your character along on their quest.
  • Alternatively, they may simply be interested in greater mechanical challenges, and be worried that the presence of a lower-power character will require the DM to water down the challenges, or force one of the higher-power characters to “babysit” the lower-power character.
  • If the game has a “master” player, who is responsible for the challenges the party faces, that player may well object to the simple power disparity as making their job too difficult.

And so on. You can discuss these, determine if these—or others—are concerns that the other players have, and then determine whether or not those concerns are valid in the particular case of the game you are all seeking to play. If they are valid, you can consider how they could be remedied—whether it means a different character, or tweaks to the system to allow the same character to move upward on that graph you have, or whatever else.

But nobody has a “right” to play. This is a voluntary, cooperative activity for fun—your ability to participate is entirely predicated on the voluntary cooperation of those you would play with. You can’t make them play something they don’t want to play; they can’t make you play something you don’t want to play. The only way anyone gets to play is if everyone gets along and agrees to play—and agrees to play the same game. That’s all it really comes down to.

\$\endgroup\$
9
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This answer could go under a whole lot of questions on this site ... +1 \$\endgroup\$ Apr 16, 2021 at 18:04
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Really, it’s the only answer to this question. Group game, group has to figure it out. That’s the only way it can possibly work. So it kind of flabbergasts me that a question with a dozen answers still needed that to be said... \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 16, 2021 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ If I look back to ten years ago, and note how a big portion of D&D topics being discussed are 4e (see the old meta post about "are we about RPGs or D&D 4e" which has been reprised as "are we about D&D 5e or about RPGs?" in the past few years) and if I then look at what 4e called for conceptually, I think that it would have been quite easy for there to be an expectations mismatch among players. I think 'system agnostic' isn't a great tag for this question, but that's my opinion. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 16, 2021 at 19:35
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Sure, but we have plenty of answers “challenging” that by going the complete opposite way and saying “of course you can play your low-power character; anyone who says you can’t is an ass,” and it’s like “no, that’s not true either: everyone has to get on the same page, and anyone refusing to do that is being an ass, no matter which side they’re sticking out on.” Sometimes your low-power flavorful character is an inappropriate choice for a given game. Sometimes your high-power flavorless character is an inappropriate choice for a given game. Communication! \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 16, 2021 at 19:37
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan we are in violent agreement. 😎 \$\endgroup\$ Apr 16, 2021 at 19:39
8
\$\begingroup\$

From my own experience, the power level of the character is utterly irrelevant. What matters is that the character (and thus the player) gets as much "camera time" as the rest, that his characters have room to develop within the story told, and finally, that the character is vital to the game story. This is why I find rules get in the way, so I don't use them.

As an example, imagine that JRRT was running LotR for four players each playing Gandalf, Aragorn, Sam and Frodo. Would you feel left out by playing any of them?

However, if the stats/skills are not suitable and you insist on using them, why not have "potions of fixing past mistake"? Drink it and you can re-skill/re-stat your character to be more what you think they should be like? Many computer games (Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Witcher, ...) do just that.

\$\endgroup\$
0
6
\$\begingroup\$

So long as your characters aren't making stupid decisions that are detrimental to the party, I don't see any reason you need to change how you play them. For example, if you buy some magic beans because you think they might be interesting, then that's simply role playing a whimsical character. If you buy the same beans with money you need to purchase an artifact that will prevent the world from being overrun with demons, that's flat out stupid, and the other player would probably rightly be annoyed at that. Though the GM might be amused.

It sounds like you are in it for the roleplaying, and some of the others are in it for the tactical exercise. Both are fine approaches, but you'll get this sort of conflict whenever you mix player types. You could change to conform more with the other players expectations, but then you may not enjoy it as much.

\$\endgroup\$
4
  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ The best of tacticians should be able to come up with a way to save the day via magic beans anyway \$\endgroup\$
    – Lunin
    Dec 16, 2011 at 21:29
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ @Lunin Yes! Saving the day with magic beans is way more awesome than saving it with +8 to hit. \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2012 at 18:41
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ "If only we had some magic beans..." "I've...uh...got some magic beans." "Well then WHY didn't you list those amongst our resources to BEGIN WITH?!" \$\endgroup\$
    – JoeNapalm
    Apr 16, 2021 at 20:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoeNapalm Or the holocaust cloak.... \$\endgroup\$ Apr 17, 2021 at 1:02
3
\$\begingroup\$

It very much depends on the group. My current Werewolf character has fully 6 points of flaws and 4 points of merit towards making it really difficult to shift, despite being the group's biggest combat monkey, and no-one has batted an eyelid at it. Similarly, when playing the Crimson Throne Pathfinder campaign (with a completely different group of people) our group came across a completely impractical magical item that my character developed a liking to and spent ~90% of the money he had at the time on paying the rest of the party for the share they would have got from selling it, rather than spending his money on anything even remotely useful to the group as a whole.

Clearly your group is very different to the people I play with in this respect, so it may be that you have to suck it up to some extent, however I suspect that 4th Ed is a system that may exacerbate this problem somewhat, especially if - as I get the impression from your edit - your GM is running a pre-made campaign that they are unwilling to scale. Otherwise, as other people have commented, the GM should just be scaling the encounters to your power level and so mechanically unproductive behaviour should not cause a difficulty issue.

I'm interested in the idea of handling this in-character though - from both sides of the argument. In 4th Ed, I think In Character is very much in your favour; although the choice to buy some scholarly eyewear is a character choice (rather than spending xp on skills, for example, which I would argue is circumstantial), as an adventurer you're essentially freelance, so it's not really any of the other characters' business what you spend your cash on, and really, they're unlikely to even know unless you go around wearing them all the time with the price tag still on. On the other side, my (admittedly very limited) knowledge of Vampire suggests that your sire co-ercing you to learn useful things is entirely legitimate thing for them to do in character, so it very much depends on the situation. I would say this only covers buying and learning things however; there's no real in-character argument I can see for influencing how someone spends xp on stats or skills (other than convincing them to devote extra time towards improving them by practice, and that requires specific down-time really).

\$\endgroup\$
3
\$\begingroup\$

Game systems are almost always biased towards particular kinds of characters. If you want to know which, just check out the chapter titles on your core rulebook. If it has a chapter on fighting, then fighters are welcome here. If it has a chapter on microelectronics, then you can play an engineer. If it has a chapter on courtship and weddings, then you can play a Jane Austen character.

Looks like your game has a chapter on fighting but not academics. Then you have two options:

Make your game

Work with your GM to invent new game mechanics and house rules regarding academics. Make academics an important part of the game, as critical and important as combat, with matching challenges. Then you can play your scholar in a game that has room for fighters and scholars.

In other words, write the missing chapter.

Fit your concept to the game

You can still play an optimized fighter with an academic flair. Give him just a description that gives a scholarly aura, and act and talk scholarly wherever possible. Then bash that troll's head who just happened to interrupt you while reading your book.

Is it just me or is Indiana Jones the perfect example of a scholar who is actually a rogue-fighter?

\$\endgroup\$
3
\$\begingroup\$

Generally speaking, how the group sees itself is going to be the biggest factor. In a game like Vampire or Mage, where the setting tends to be more "slice of weirdo life" it's a lot easier to weave in archetypes like "whole team's little sister" or "eccentric, but expert, professor."

In a game where you play professional adventurers, though, you're probably going to deal with in-character consequences for the perception that you're either not as good at your job as you could be, or that you just don't care. If you like that sort of attention, by all means play it, but it is part of the kit that comes with it.

As a DM, I usually give players the option of taking a fully-me-controlled, rolled-by-the-book, single-class NPC at 1 level less than the group average with them. This costs a full share of the treasure, items, and XP and will be played as someone who is solely in it for the money. At that point it's up to the group which they prefer. The in-and-out-of-character benefit to that is even if the character PC isn't perfectly optimized, it's still the better of two choices, and hiring you instead of them was a choice the group made with their eyes open, not something they were forced into. You live with your choices, they live with theirs.

\$\endgroup\$
3
\$\begingroup\$

I believe it depends entirely on the type of game that your groups wants to play. If your group is playing a primarily tactical game that is emphasizing combat over out-of-combat roleplaying, then it probably makes sense to actually min-max (within reason). For one thing, this helps you enjoy the focus of the game (which is combat in a tactical game). For another, it is actually fairly realistic. People that want to be truly expert in one particular area often do give up life balance and focus incredible amounts of effort and resources into that area, they effectively min-max their life to emphasize that particular part. This is true of Olympic atheletes, some professional musicians, and even some specialized professors and researchers (Paul Erdos comes to mind).

If your group is going for a more role-playing/story centered game with less emphasis on tactics, then it is likely they will be more tolerant of quirky characters. The character should still fit with the party of course, but the definition of that will be much broader. Some of the time, that still means the character needs to pull its own weight (a pro-athlete that doesn't carry his weight will be benched and then dropped), but there will often be more ways to do that (you speak the language of your destination fluently? You're in).

Choice of system does affect this, but its not absolutely determinative. I have played ADnD with character driven plots that featured little combat. I have played Vampire: The Masquerade with a team of enforcers that was close to a "creature-of-the-week" and focused on combat.

In short, I would talk with the group about what they want to play. If it is a combat oriented, tactical game, it may be time to either start min-maxing or find a new group. Conversely, if you are going to story driven game, you need a balanced and interesting character or you may find the min-maxed combat monster standing around as a body gaurd while the more balanced characters run the show.

\$\endgroup\$
2
\$\begingroup\$

Discuss with your group

This isn't a matter that has one definitive answer. If you are a part of a group that wants challenging gameplay, one that seeks to trim all the proverbial fat and play a fully optimized party against the strongest foes available, then not optimizing goes against the style of play most members of the group desire. You will always be left behind feel useless and often die with an unoptimized character

If on the other hand your group consists of people who are pretty much in the middle, then optimizing to a degree will land you also in the middle, stronger than average but still able to be somewhat challenged

And finally if your party is dedicated to playing suboptimal builds, an optimized character will throw the rest of the party out of balance. They will shoot up in power level and either trivialize the challenge for the whole group or force the gm to power up encounters resulting in the other players feeling left behind and useless.

So this is a matter you should discuss with your group.

Its also a matter of degree

Its also important to have in mind what degree of unoptimized we are talking about here. There is a difference between choosing a weapon that does 2 damage less on average vs having a wizard with 8 intelligence. The more unoptimized or optimized you are the more you need to have in mind the degree in which you differ from the average power level of the party. Its always a good idea to not have a big gap here, as it leads to players hogging the spotlight, doing everything themselves, playing too long or feeling useless.

This goes the other way too

Its very possible to have a character that's too optimized. i recently had a very optimized necromancer (this was in 5e) who always had a number of skeletons and other summoned creatures following her. It got so bad that i was basically running upwards of 30 different creatures every combat. No one else could even compare with me in power level in the party and i was basically playing as much as the other 3 players combined in every combat. They really weren't having a good time so i retooled the character into a different less intensive and indeed less powerful wizard build.

So all in all, this is a matter of being in line with your group and discussing expectations about this with them. There is no objective answer despite what some might say

\$\endgroup\$
1
\$\begingroup\$

One of the common solutions seen in my gaming group is the use of NPC allies in combat (we run GURPS, so it's actually the Ally advantage). This lets you play the non-combat capable PC, while still being able to partcipate in combat as the NPC.

Currently, I'm playing a utility mage whose only real combat ability is explosions (which isn't so much conducive to melee combats where I have party members who'd like to remain un-exploded) - as a result, I made sure to take an Ally of an iron golem that I'd created before the start of the game. This leaves me capable of giving my golem combat orders and healing during combat, while still getting to participate (my GM lets me roll for the iron golem, and since he's literally incapable of making decisions, it's appropriate and in-character that I make them for him).

Similarly, we have a wealthy, well-connected alchemist character who isn't very fit for combat. As a result, he took an Ally of a mamluk/slave (Middle Eastern setting) who is his bodyguard.

GMs should take care to keep balance in mind - letting a PC play a combat-capable NPC without having to put up with the real consequences of that character's dismemberment/death (or even the out-of-combat disadvantages he/she may have) needs to be offset with something. This something is usually the threats against the non-capable characters in combat - the non-capable characters should still be present (so that a bodyguard needs to actually be a bodyguard). If you're playing the NPC for a whole session while your actual character sits back in a tavern waiting for the party, who's really the NPC?

EDIT: You mentioned in comments the example of a character with an eyepatch taking penalties in combat. It may be a function of your system that's causing some of these issues - for example, in GURPS, having one eye is a disadvantage, which gives you extra points to spend on skills, advantages, attributes, etc. So you could offset the penalties by improving your combat skills, buying a higher dexterity, or any number of possible mitigations to help make you more effective in combat.

As for these types of situations in other systems, I'd talk to your GM if you feel like you're intentionally (for flavor) de-powering your character - maybe he'll allow for some mitigation or compensation for it.

\$\endgroup\$
0
0
\$\begingroup\$

If a character I make won't hold his weight, I put that character on the shelf and play something else instead. Maybe my scholar won't hold his weight in 4e. But he'll do fine in Mage. I try to play someone appropriate for the system I'm playing in. I don't see this as a rejection of my creative and interesting characters, since I do get to play them eventually.

What I have more difficulty with is figuring out exactly where that holding his own weight line is drawn, especially with a new group.

\$\endgroup\$
1
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ The other way round for me: I try to play a system appropriate for the someone I'm playing. :-) \$\endgroup\$
    – Stephen
    Dec 15, 2011 at 19:16
0
\$\begingroup\$

Prepare for my infamous walls of text.

The fact that you are playing a character who is filling in a role no one else can do doesn't mean you can't have fun with the character, or that he won't be interesting.

So, basically, what you need to do is to think on multiple levels. Let me simplify my answer with some of my own experience.

I love rogues.

Oh, no, I don't think you understand.

I.

LOVE.

rogues.

Every manifestation of them. Pickpockets, cat burglars, assassins, acrobats, spies, swashbucklers, you name it. Once, in Pathfinder, I had to play a tank, as no one else could fill in the role.

I forgot the fact that I loved rogues for a while.

I imagined the game as if it was a movie. A movie that I had watched, but forgot. This is a very important step to keep in mind for the rest of my answer.

So I sat down and tried to remember who my character was. The fact that he was a protagonist in a movie meant that he must've been interesting. But he must also have had some characteristic, or more, that distinguished him from similar roles in other movies.

So I gave him some unique characteristics. A crimson red full plate armor, no weapons (I made him a pacifist) a mirror tower shield (so that his enemies could see their faces as they slowly realised they couldn't harm this guy :P), white hair, even if he looked in his mid 30's, and an eyepatch.

These things look good, and they help me remember the character, but what makes him interesting? Why did I like him when I saw him in that movie?

So I gave him a story for every one of his distinguishing features. The eyepatch, the white hair, the armor, the massive mirror shield and the fact that he did not use weapons.

Ok, so now I remember why I thought he was interesting. But what gives me the hint that he was in that particular movie?

How does the character fit in the world? How does he treat others, what are his worldviews, his ethics and ideals? Why is he doing what he's doing, where is he from and why is he here?

And suddenly, I remember it all, and it makes sense.


So, to summarise:

  • Create an interesting appearance (doing this will help you develop your character's backstory - Why does he have/How did he get those features/equipment/speech patterns/sayings/scars?)
  • Create an interesting story and background for the appearance(doing this will help you develop your character's personality - How did acquiring those features affect him? Did he have them since birth, or did they develop? Are they part of his religion, customs of his homeland, rank or did he choose to have them for personal reasons?)
  • Create interesting reactions your character had to his background; in other words, give him personality (doing this will help you develop your character's motive - Why is he doing what he's doing? How does he view the world? What has his background made him best at? For example, this is where you would put adjectives to your character, i.e. sneaky, honour-bound, loyal, friendly, chatty, bitter, etc.)

Follow these guidelines, and any role you are called upon to fill, you will do so in an interesting and memorable manner.

Hope I helped. :)

\$\endgroup\$
4
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't really see how this addresses the question at hand (though it is an excellent aside on building characters). \$\endgroup\$ Dec 15, 2011 at 16:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure if I worded my questions properly. you said The fact that you are playing a character who is filling in a role no one else can do doesn't mean you can't have fun with the character, or that he won't be interesting. It's more that I'm creating a character that's expected to fill a certain role but doesn't. Either they do it less well than if you ignored some of their flavour (negative to-hit penalties from the eye-patch, for example) or do something completely different. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 15, 2011 at 16:13
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I can only apologise. Let me see if I get this straight; You like playing characters who are interesting but are not good at what they are supposed to do? Is them not being good at what they are supposed to do part of what you like, or simply a side effect? Where does the problem lie? \$\endgroup\$
    – OddCore
    Dec 15, 2011 at 16:25
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ To answer, my character is interesting to me, but as a side effect not optimised for the party. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 23, 2011 at 0:17
-3
\$\begingroup\$

Make Sane Characters and I'll Make Sane Opposition. Make a Person, not a Character

Whenever I invite a new player to my table, I make a point to state this in no uncertain terms. A video/board game night can gladly be arranged if the thrill comes from mechanical victories, but when I run a Roleplaying Game it's about having an interactive story. Almost every game will point out that the things they give starting PCs already puts them a rather large swathe above an average person in the world. It's why they're the heroes. So if they give me a character built like they should be put into a novel, I won't have to go out of my way to make encounters that specifically pigeonhole their weaknesses. We can all have an organic story and I can use RPXP to pad the rewards in games like D&D that reward combat.

For example, if my players don't munchkin, they get to have opponents who are willing to run away or bargain. Story friendly characters get story friendly challenges, and the rewards will follow. Tagging back to D&D, one of the recognized complications is that CRs are based mostly on hit dice and are a bit nebulous on other things. There's very little accounting for if a monster/NPC has all 20s for stats, and being decked to the nines with major artifacts. To that end, everything is Newtonian. Broken characters beget broken villains, and anything the players try to bend or break the rules with becomes fair play for any of my creations. Additionally, challenges are a zero sum game. When the players activate their own weaknesses, I once again don't have to get creative in doing it for them.

Usually this creates a better mechanical harmony with the party because now playing a weaker/more limited character means they are having (even if limited) say in how hard the game gets. Naturally they should desire to better their characters, level up, gain awesome loot... (etc.), however it should add to the story and not impede it.

\$\endgroup\$

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .