Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Right Character - Final Thoughts

As I said at the beginning of these posts, this is something I've been thinking about for awhile. In a way, I've been thinking about it since I was 14 and my Dungeon Master told me I had to play a fighter, since that's how I insisted on using my characters...and I was left wondering why it was I couldn't just get my act together and play like I was "supposed to."

The thing is, I didn't think much of the fighter as a class when I was a kid...as far as I was concerned, it was the most boring class in the game...any edition of the game! I made characters for pretty much every class: cleric, druid, assassin, illusionist, bard, monk, but never a single straight fighter. Not even as an NPC in a game I was DM'ing! I just thought they were, well, blah. I didn't make my first fighter until I was playing a one-off second edition game, some time around 1997.

But even when I made a magic-user...for a 3rd edition game no less...he was fairly martial in temperament. Hell, I modeled him after Gandalf the Grey, right down to giving him "martial weapon proficiency" with the long sword. The first encounter of the DM's dungeon required the use of a fly spell, which of course I didn't have. The DM was aghast: "How could your character be 8th level and not have a fly spell?!" Gandalf doesn't fly douchebag...but he can speak giant eagle.

The chump DM was so disgusted that he folded the game, rather then figure out a way our party could proceed without the suitable spells...if we had continued, though, I'm sure "Gandalf" would have found a way to go toe-to-toe with some big baddie, probably meeting a gruesome, non-wizardly kind of demise.

The point of this series of posts was not to say, "don't play what you want to play." Of course you should play whatever your heart desires. But I want you to play a character that gets you fired up, that fires your creative juices and makes you want to engage in the game, not just "participate." And some character classes are better at playing particular adventuring "roles" than others...if your individual style is not conducive to the role of your class, you might find the play of the game disappointing. And nothing kills engagement like disappointing play.

Sure, some people may find it challenging to play "against type" and enjoy/thrive on the challenge. Those aren't the people to whom I'm directing these posts. If you are stoked by the concept of Dungeons & Dragons and want to enjoy it, but find the actual play to be unsatisfying, consider that you may be playing the wrong type of class for your personality. And if you've tried ALL the classes and STILL find play disappointing, consider that D&D may not be the right role-playing game for you. There ARE other fantasy RPGs out there, after all.

All right, I think I've said about all I have to say on the subject, with perhaps one final thought: if you are a DM currently running a game and think that some of your players are not fully enjoying their characters because the class doesn't suit their personality/style of play, consider allowing them a one-time "re-classification." Allow them to retain all their earned XP and treasure, give them the opportunity to switch their ability scores to different positions, and let them choose a new class. They will have to re-roll their hit points of course, and may need to sell/trade-in certain items of equipment to match their new class. But give 'em the chance to do so. I mean, we all want our players to be happy, right?

Think of it as the fantasy equivalent of a "mid-life crisis."
; )


  1. Is D&D necessarily Class-based?
    --If not, then that seems to be the simplest solution: Letting folks weight the aspects that are important to the Player, party balance be damned.

    Talking with Rob Kuntz convinced me that what proto-OD&D was is different than what D&D became/has become, mainly due to the concretisation of the open framework of what RPG is all about: Imagination used to resolve challenges.
    --Classes are there only to prevent rampant abuse of the mutually agreed-upon conventions of the milieux; a sort of shorthand description of a shtick.

    Barsoom, Blarad, and Bugbears all co-existing as equally possible/viable expressions of "Imagination used to resolve challenges", just as Wemic, Cyberknights, or Superheroes.

  2. If an adventure requires the player to have or do a specific thing, the DM should just give them that ability / skill or narrate that specific event happening. At least that gets the game past that awkward jumping through hoops bit where the player's don't really have choices to make and everything stalls until they do the "right" thing. I'd rather spend time on stuff where the player's creativity makes a difference.

  3. Excellent series of posts! As usual, you hit the nail on the head when discussing an issue in depth. Also, I enjoyed your spot on "Save or Die!"