Dungeons and Dragons is built upon three pillars, Combat, Social Encounters, and Exploration. Now, these pillars don’t always evenly share the load, nor should they. I talk some about why and what the basics of these pillars are in Part 1. But now I am…
Tag: Role Playing
I’ve previously posted about this (You can find it here), but that was from more of a world building aspect, if you’re playing in a game of Dungeons and Dragons, and your character is magical how does that affect how you might role play your…
Yesterday’s article was about min/maxing a character. Just a quick recap, this is where you make the ideal build for your character so that you are the best at whatever area of the game you want to be in and have the most optimized build for your race, class, and background combo. This can be a fun way to play D&D, and provide a different type of challenge for the game.
However, you don’t have to play a min/maxed character when playing D&D, and I actually think that can lead to some better game play than if you do have min/maxed. The issue with min/maxed character can often lie with them being too good at everything and not having anything unique about them. A skilled player can role play a min/maxed character just fine so that they have depth and are a unique character, but they aren’t going to have as much to over come.
An example of a poorly min/maxed character is Robert Langdon from The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. In the book, he is figuring out all of these puzzles with no problem, he’s able to do fairly athletic things no problem. And for a long time, you don’t really think that he has any flaws. Then he has to get into a small car and you find out that he has claustrophobia, which is then “cured” the next page. Now, this is clearly an example of how not to min/max a character in a story so that you don’t end up removing anything interesting or unique or challenging for them. But the same holds true, in a world of magic and fantasy, when you have a character doesn’t naturally have some flaw, it’s easy to play them without flaw, and often times, without character because of that.
So instead of min/maxing the heck out of your character, you might want to go about creating a character who isn’t the ideal combination of things, but is still effective in the game. This gives them a true weakness and true strength in given situations. Let’s look at our Mountain Dwarf Fighter, the tank/fighter build that we did. Without using anything special, we were able to create a character that was going to be getting a lot of hit points each level and had a lot of armor class from the very early levels. Yes, they were weak-ish to magic, but they were meant more to deal with melee combats, and with their hit points, unless they are being mentally dominated, they are going to be tough to get out of a fight.
There are certainly other ways to bring in flaws and issues to the character for role playing purposes, we didn’t touch on the background items like Personality Traits, Flaws, Bonds, and Ideals, which I’ve done articles on previously. But those are limited to role playing for a character like our tank, and more likely than not, the person playing the tank would be there for the combat more than the social encounters anyways. So those things might be lost on the character sheet.
If, however, you wanted to create a more flawed tank, but still be a tank, you can certainly do that. When we created our tank, we gave them both solid dexterity and strength. The advantage of having both of those solidly stat’ed is that you can get into combat quickly and still hit well. Let’s say instead, for the tank, that they were actually a nerd growing up and loved brewing, keeping the Mountain Dwarf and Fighter in the mix and same equipment, we can just adjust the stats to make it a very different character.
If, instead, we keep the 14 in Constitution because it becomes a 16 with our racial bonuses, so that we still get our +3 to health each level until we hit our first ability score increase, where we can make it a four. Then, instead of doing strength and dexterity, we focus on intelligence and wisdom, we get a very different character. We still have 19 for our armor class and 13 HP at the first level, but we’re now not that great at hitting anything with a lower than average strength, since I put an 8 in there. That becomes a -1 for a modifier, though, we are proficient with the weapon, which gives us a +2 bonus for a +1 bonus overall, the damage output is just going to be bad. Now, you still have a character that can tank and is actually better at dealing with mental domination than our previous one was, but is worse at fighting.
We’ve also created a character with a more unique backstory for role playing purposes. Why are they so good at deflecting punches and hits? Maybe they were bullied as a kid, and they never learned to fight, but instead they developed the skills to take a punch and not be affected by it, and that’s how they dealt with their bullies. That skill then translated well for them when they decided to go out adventuring to learn more about the world and find out information that they don’t know, because they can go around and if something tries to get them, they can still take a punch. That’s more of a unique character that easily comes out of the choices we made in not making a character with their ideal stats.
When you create characters, do you strive for a character that is the ideal at one thing, such as combat or social interactions, or do you seek to create a character with a more interesting story naturally built in?
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If you’ve been around pen and paper RPG players or computer game RPG players, you might have heard of a term called “Min/Maxing”. This is the practice of putting together a character that is the most efficient for what you need in a given game.…
I’ve been busy with my top 100 list and Halloween for the past couple of weeks, so I haven’t written much about Dungeons and Dragons. Today I’m getting back to it and look at creating an NPC for Dungeons and Dragons. This is a topic…
The last part of playing your D&D Character, there is no 401 for this course.
To me there are three main parts that I wanted to talk about. The first was figuring out how to be in character and staying in character as much as possible. The next was figuring out who your character is. What are some signature things about them that you can role play into.
Finally, I want to talk about having your own character arcs in your Dungeons and Dragons game.
Now, a lot of the time, players, following my recommended character creation, put in story hooks for their Dungeon Master and those are the things that they are really going to use for character progression. And with those things, you can get awesome character progression. But, if it develops slowly, or isn’t the precise hook that the DM is using for your character, it can feel like your character is stagnating and hasn’t changed at all.
Obviously that is less than ideal, so when creating your character, you have to be thinking about, what character arc do I want to take my character on, even outside of what the DM might be doing?
Maybe I start out with a character who hates the idea of adventuring. They are a wizard book worm who was kicked out of their tower for some reason, probably because they have a necromancy spell on their spell list, or maybe because they only ever wanted to learn and not use their magic for anything useful. So now they are out adventuring and dragging their feet. You don’t need the DM’s help to make that characters first story arc one of them learning how to enjoy or at least complain less about adventuring.
That could be a pretty big arc for the character and maybe eventually it’s that they do want to go adventuring, but it should be somewhat obvious, with how I talk about character creation and playing your character, once one arc is done, that doesn’t mean that is where your character ends.
Now, you have to pick out your second arc, and pretty often that can be tied into your first arc. In the case with my wizard who is now gung-ho for adventuring, they are going to be too gung-ho. Now they are putting themselves in dangerous situations, and the more times it works out for them, the more risky they become. Then eventually they are going to get knocked down and knocked out of a fight because they think they are too powerful to have that happen to them.
From there you could go into your third arc a couple of different ways. You could kind of mirror the first arc with the wizard regaining some confidence to a normal amount of confidence with adventuring. Or you could have their confidence shaken but them believing that there is one spell out there that they need to know. So when they are in a town, they go to the library to research, if they find a dead wizard with her book still, they read through it in hopes of finding that spell to copy into their wizarding book. And with that let your DM know what you are looking for and you might get it eventually, or maybe the DM doesn’t want to have that spell in their game, so you can then spend some time with the character wrapping up that arc by eventually realizing that they have other spells that are powerful as well, kind of going back to the other arc where it mirrors the first.
Let me also say, you don’t plan out every arc like I have done there. That is probably good enough arc wise to get your adventurer into the middle levels. But you plan out one arc at a time. Anything more than a single arc planned at a time is a bit tricky. You might have some idea as to where you want to forward, but you don’t know how the game is going to go. When you know you’re getting close to the end of one of your own personal character arcs, you can start thinking about the next one, but you certainly don’t have to.
Also, there are no hard cutoffs on several of the arcs I tossed out there, and there probably won’t be with your arcs either. In the case of my wizard, them getting to enjoy adventuring, there is no specific cutoff point where now that arc is done. How much enjoyment do they have to have for it to be considered done is completely subjective. Same with how long it would take for the wizard to realize that they don’t need the spell. Getting knocked down/out has a specific end, but you don’t know when that will happen in game, just that it most likely will, because wizards don’t have many hit points.
Finally, this is your character arc that you are using for role playing purposes. This doesn’t all of a sudden become the whiny wizard hour. It’s something that you sprinkle in sparingly to your role playing. If the wizard was kicked out of the tower to actually do something good and then they’ll be let back in, the wizard is going to go along with the adventure and the party, just grudgingly, and the spell list at the start might be pretty bad. But don’t go kicking and screaming into every new part of the adventure, toss in a line here and there about adventuring, or about how going into the woods is going to be horrible for your asthma, and things like that, but don’t derail the game and hog the spotlight for your characters arc that you are working on. The arc is supposed to be something to help make your character feel like more of a living character than just a plain old hero like you get in bad fantasy books.
With all of this now, you should have a character who you play in character, who has some ticks and quirks that you can play into, and that grows and changes throughout the campaign. Getting all of those things in place and with good balance takes practice, so if you have trouble with an arc or an accent, that’s fine and expected as you learn to role play.
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We’ve started going down the route of playing your D&D character, in 101, we talked primarily about how much you should stay in character, and the expectations of being in character and differentiating in and out of character should work at the table. In 201,…
Alright, so now you’ve started building your D&D character, let’s talk about playing your D&D character. Dungeons and Dragons after all is a role playing game, so you need to take on the role of your character. For this, we’re going to assume that you’ve…
Back into building a D&D character.
We’ve talked previously about the simplest ways to make a character that doesn’t step on other players toes, that fits into the game, and one that is fun to play.
Next we’ve talked about how you can use the personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws to create some back story for your character. This allows you to really start creating a backstory for your character and your role playing. You can review 201 here.
Now we’re onto really delving into the backstory and what makes a good backstory. This will be covered in the final two posts about creating backstory and creating your player character.
When creating a backstory there are a few things that you should be writing into your backstory:
Role Playing Prompts –
This is probably the trickiest one to explain, but basically you are looking to expand upon the personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws that you’ve previously created or at this time create those along with your backstory to give you things to role play with. But now you get the chance to really expand upon that. If you have a flaw that you hate all goblins, well, now you can explain why you hate all goblins since they murdered your family and burned down your village. So as you develop your backstory, look to drop in those little tidbits of information to support the personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws. Also, look to add in more role playing elements for you. You can create little pieces of story that are going to give your character a more rich background and more depth to role play with.
A Reason to Adventure –
This one is pretty straight forward. You need a reason to be about adventuring. If you spent your whole life on a farm and you are going to inherit the farm, why are you out adventuring? Or if you are a hermit in the woods who hates people, why are you adventuring? Give yourself a reason to be adventuring, and a reason to keep adventuring. If a bunch of goblins killed off your family and burned down your village, that’s probably a reason to start adventuring to get revenge and also a reason to continue adventuring after you get revenge because you don’t have a place to go back to. It doesn’t have to be that tragic, and with elves or other longer living races, you might adventure just to leave your mark on the world. But use your backstory as your opportunity to create a reason why you are adventuring and why you will continue adventuring with the adventuring party.
Goals/Story Hooks for Your Character
Now, this is partially covered when you create your bonds as they can be things that is your characters goal, but work on adding in some goals and story hooks for your character that the DM is going to be able to use. It doesn’t mean that all of them will be used, but they are things that the DM can use if they want. In our example of wanting to get revenge on the goblins who killed your family, that’s a story hook that the DM can use. If you write that you’ve already taken care of the goblin in your backstory you’ve now closed off that part of your backstory and completed it already. The DM now can’t pull out your hate of goblins, give you the chance to track down the goblins and maybe have a change of heart about goblins as a whole. As a DM, I really appreciate those bits of mystery that people leave in their backstories. In the first season of Dungeons and Flagons, we had a great example of this as Ashley’s character was left somewhere as a young child and all she remembered from it was the stars in the sky. That gives me a ton to play with as a DM.
If you have, especially the first two added into your backstory, you are going to have a character that has a reason to go adventuring and a fun character to play. The last piece really allows you to be more a part of the story and have those story arcs that really focus in on you. If you are a player who wants to sit back and enjoy the story more, having less of those hooks is going to make it so you’re less involved.
Are there other backstory elements that make a good Dungeons and Dragons character? Have you done these while creating characters before?
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Alright, we’re going to take that character creation to the next level. The first level, 101, is the very basic that you need to do. I go into details in the post on what those three things are, but to recap:1. Make a character that…