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…
Tag: Role Playing
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…
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.
An example of this would be a fighter in Dungeons and Dragons who knows that they want to tank. The two primary stats for them are going to be strength and constitution. With more strength, they’ll be able to do more damage on their attacks and be more likely to hit. But constitution for the tank is the biggest thing. Constitution helps bump up hit points and makes it harder for that character to be taken down.
Now, that’s a simple look at what Min/Maxing is in D&D, but it goes beyond that, and there are some reasons to not find it that great in your game. Most of the time it is going to be fine and good if a player does that in the group, the concern is that you have someone min/max into an area that another character is supposed to be better at. Maybe the fighter in our example also puts points into Wisdom and now they are better at perceiving than a class that naturally would want wisdom is, and the fighter is now stepping on the toes of another character. Fighter isn’t a great example for this, but classes that get expertise like Rogue and Bard can have this issue if a player min/maxes over another character specialty.
But let’s look at some of the positive things that can come from it as well. If you are smart about your min/maxing as a party, you can have character who cover all the bases that you want. You can cover attacking, social interactions, sneaking, healing, etc. and be good at all of them because you and the group have min/maxed the skills of the group. This means, you aren’t ever going to feel inadequate when trying to do something, if you are there as a whole group. And, if you are in a combat focused game, everyone can focus on doing more damage and hitting more consistently by min/maxing as well.
I will also add, that if you are min/maxing, it’s good to have the whole group doing it. Sure, one player character can be min/maxed, and that would probably be fine. But if you have four of you at the table and three of you are min/maxing and the other player isn’t because they don’t know how, I’d recommend helping them min/max, or if they don’t want to, don’t fully min/max your own character so they don’t seem like they’ve fallen behind or can’t keep up with the rest of the group. I’ll go back to the saying that I learned from The RPG Academy, “If you’re having fun, you’re doing it right”, and that means fun for the whole table.
But let’s talk about how you go about min/maxing a character, because, it can be fun to play that extra powerful character in a game of Dungeons and Dragons. When I go through this, I’m going to be using my fighter example where combat and tanking in combat is their most important thing.
The first thing to look at is what class you want to play. In this case, we know we want to be a tank and we want to hold up well enough in combat. We have a few options, we could do barbarian for their D12 hit die, but the limitations on armor puts the barbarian more into an attacking role, whereas fighter has more armor options can use a shield which will bump that armor class up even more.
With that figured out you want to think about what race you are going to want to take. In our case, we have a couple of different options. The Half-Orc has +2 to strength and +1 to constitution to start with, and that would allow us to create a good combat character. The Mountain Dwarf, however, has +2 to both strength and constitution, which is just better. However, the Half-Orc, in it’s favor, has a trait called “Relentless Endurance” where, when it gets knocked out or down to 0 hit points, once per day, it can go back up to 1 hit point and keep on fighting. That is useful, but I’d prefer the extra hit points that we’ll be getting from the Mountain Dwarf.
Now, going back to the class, we have some features to look at, at the first level. The main one being the fighting style we can get at first level. We have a lot of different option. Protection would be interesting, because we’ll have a shield, but defensive is even better for us, because it gives us a permanent boost to our armor class.
Finally, because background doesn’t give us that much in way of bonus to this fighting min/max build that we’re doing, let’s put our stats together. We’ll use the standard array as not to make it confusing, but that gives us a 15 and a 14 to place. I would place the 15 in constitution, giving us a 17 to start with in that stat, and then a 14 in dexterity, actually, versus strength. The reason for this is that we have a 13, which will give us 15 in strength, but only would have given us a 13 in dexterity. With the 14 in dexterity, it means that our initiative is going to be a +2 instead of +1 for our die rolls, and we still have a +2 to hit, which isn’t bad. It also gives me two odd numbers, so at level four when I get to go up a level, I can take my strength to a 16 and my constitution to a 18, and improve both of those stats to a +3 and a +4 respectively.
But wait, I forgot one last thing, we get our equipment as well. Now, I could have gone shopping for this, but standard equipment works out well for us here. We get chain mail for armor, and we can get a shield that are going to make us hard to hit as well.
So let’s look at some of our key stats. At level 1, we’d have 10+3 HP, so 13 hit points isn’t bad at all, but more importantly, we have an armor class of 19. That is extremely hard to hit. So while, maybe, a lucky hit would be able to take us down, but unless the monster is rolling with a decent modifier to their attack, it’s going to be hard for them to hit us. Our fighter is set to run into the fray, take on attacks and slowly deal damage to the enemies.
And you can do this with any class or any character type that you want, whether it is for combat or not. But should you, that’s the question, I’ll be talking about why you might not want to or why I generally don’t use the most min/maxed characters out there.
How do you play in a video game RPG or D&D? Do you like min/maxing, or have you ever run into an issue with it?
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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…
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, I want to take it more into actually playing your character, bringing your character to life at your table, so it has a different voice than just your voice.
I think it’s something that is pretty easy to do, have a character that sounds like you, acts like you, and thinks like you. And I don’t think that is a bad way to role play, sometimes, but there is much more that you can do beyond that to really play your character in Dungeons and Dragons and not just play yourself.
So, why do I think you shouldn’t just play yourself or your idealized version of yourself?
For me, I see role playing as an opportunity to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see the world from a different perspective. Now, I don’t mean that you should play a racist jerk because that’s different from who you are, you’re probably going to be annoying everyone at the table, but playing a character who has issues with another race and using that are an opportunity for your character to grow, can work well if done delicately. But even beyond that, you can play someone who has a different view of religion than you do, a different view of politics, of money, or murder hoboness than you do. Or in a different vein but equally as challenging, it can be an opportunity to play an extrovert when you yourself are in introvert, or vice-a-versa.
That’s the theory on why you might play someone different than you and I encourage it, but how do you go about doing that and doing it in a way where it isn’t a stereotype?
I think a good starting point is to create a character who has a tick of some sort. It could be that they are extremely scholarly, or maybe they have a catch phrase (keep it short and use it sparingly), or some default fighting style (every character should have one), but more than that, something that you can always do as your character in a role playing situation. Or something that is interesting about them. In a one-shot game at a convention, I played a monk dinosaur who was observing the other dinosaurs in the tribe and using it as an anthropological study. When I needed a role playing hook, I would lean into that. Or in another game, I was playing a mage who dressed like The Dude from The Big Lebowski and did drugs, so when I needed a role playing hook, I’d channel that.
These are pretty simple hooks, but they gave me a way to always step back into the character. Another way to think about it is to compare it to learning an accent, or doing an accent. Most of the time there is a phrase or a word that you can use to do your version of an accent. It’s that thing that allows you to step into the accent, in the same way, these ticks or hooks are ways for you to step into playing your character. It sounds weird, but it’s going to be a faster way to role playing your character and a good way to jump start it. It also makes it easier to step into role playing someone who isn’t just like you, because you have that way to change your mindset.
I want to address one more thing about these hooks before I talk about combat again. And that is the idea of using an accent or silly voice for your character. This can be used well to keep yourself in character. Such as whenever you are speaking in that voice, you are in character, and when you aren’t, you are out of character. However, there are a lot of people who aren’t great at doing voices. If you’ve listened to Dungeons and Flagons, you can tell that I will do voices for NPC’s and monsters when I’m running the game, but I have a pretty limited selection of voices that I can do. So don’t feel pressure to do this for your character, and don’t compare yourself to Critical Role when doing voices, they are professional voice actors, they literally make a living doing voices.
Now, I want to circle back to combat for a split second. I talked earlier about having your move. The default thing that you go with when you play your character. It’s important to have this a character not just for role playing, as it will become your characters thing, but also for the game, so that you can make combat go more quickly. I know for a lot of people, myself included, I prefer the role playing aspect of the game, versus the combat aspect of the game. And combat, if not done well, can end up being a longer part of the game than the role playing. So, the signature/default move for your character is there for two reasons. One, it does give that hook to get you into the mindset of your character in a combat. Two, and as importantly, it means in combat you are ready for your turn. If you know that you can always roll two attacks with your great sword, when it comes to your turn, you are ready to go. Sometimes you’ll do different things, but if there is nothing obvious and different to do, you can take your turn fast. That’s why I think it’s something that should be required by the Dungeon Master and players at the table to hold people to having that default move.
Now we’ve talked a bit more about how you can get into character and play a character who isn’t just like you. Next time I want to talk more about creating a direction and arc for your character within the game that you control.
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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…
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 fits the game you’re playing
2. Make a character that doesn’t have to always be in the spotlight/step on the other players toes
3. Make a character that is fun for you and for the table.
Those things can all be purely mechanical at that point, so you might only have an extremely simple backstory created. In 201, we’re going to create the basic backstory or more so, the basic role playing pieces you need to think about.
The fun thing, D&D already has something built in for that. In the backgrounds section, and I’ve talked about this before, they have you roll for four things, personality traits, ideals, flaws, and bonds. These are going to be your building blocks for Character Creation 201.
Probably the easiest section to talk about because we all have an idea of what personality traits are. Someone can be pompous, demeaning, trusting, quick to anger, and so many more things. Pick one or two things that are your characters ticks and put them into personality traits. It can be as simple as your character is trusting and nice. And it really can be as basic as that. However, a lot of the time you’re going to want to provide a bit more context. For example if your character is easily angered, that’s going to be annoying for everyone to play with a character who gets mad at any sort of slight. Instead, you have a character who gets mad when whenever anyone talks about their family, that’s interesting.
Another one that is pretty easy, what is it your character holds sacred. Maybe they firmly believe that all goblins are evil. It could be that an ancient religion must be revered. This is really the pillar of your character. Now, ideals might be fairly easy to come up with a good one as compared to some of the others, but you do have to ask yourself some question. What if something or someone goes against your ideal in your party or you have to ignore your ideal for a little bit in the game for the story? Going back to the goblin example, what if you have to interrogate a goblin and you’ve always just murdered them before? What if you come across a goblin village with goblin children in it who are playing a game? There’s a tendency to use the ideal as a black and white thing where you’ll act one way on one side of it and another way if you cross to the other side. With the goblin example, not a goblin, you’ll give it a chance, is a goblin it deserves to die. What happens instead if you give yourself room to role play in that, and your character struggles with what to do in the goblin village? It doesn’t mean you change your ideal, it means that your character as depth. And the goblin example is a very concrete example, but it generally shows the idea that is being shot for.
This one is a bit trickier, who are you really connected to, or what or where you are connected to in the world. This could also be seen as a “why you are doing this” sort of thing. Maybe you have a baby sibling who you are going to protect by going out into the big world. Maybe you have a village that was kind to your in your time of need, maybe there’s a certain god or a relic. It’s interesting, because this doesn’t have to be something you’ve experienced in your life yet. For example, if you decided there’s a holy relic, it could be long lost, and your bond to the world is that religion and finding that holy relic. Bonds also don’t have to be a good thing, it could be a bond if you’re a rogue where you owe the thieves guild money. I would say out of all of the traits, the bond is what is really going to drive the character into adventuring and keep driving them forward in the campaign.
The best for that, and I’m serious about this. This one should be the best part, like the personality traits, your flaw is going to be something that can really inform your role playing, and can create some very interesting moments. However, a lot of people look at a flaw, and they don’t really want to take one, because they want to be that near perfect hero like Superman who can save the day. You’re not, you’re probably not even the A-Team, you’d be lucky when starting out to be on a team at all. You are a messed up character who has most likely had a hard life, you’re going to have flaws. So make them real and make them something that affects you in a game. If you go with, whenever I see a demon, I curl up into a ball and can’t do anything, that’s not a good flaw. One, you might not be playing a game with demons, so it won’t ever effect your character, or it might be a game about demons and now you’re going to be worthless. Take something that you can role play into in interesting ways, and something that, if you want, your character can overcome. And once they’ve overcome it, put down another flaw, the next in line or maybe something else that has come out with how your character now copes with the previous flaw.
By adding in these four things, you now have gone from a character that is fit for the framework of a game, and is going to mechanically fit in, to a character that is starting to have reasons for doing things, and places for you to role play. And that’s what character creation is, a place for you to set-up how you’re going to role play throughout the campaign.
This is also a good time to mention that the personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws can all change throughout the campaign. I talked about it in the flaws, how you might overcome the flaw, or maybe your bond will shift as you dip for a couple of classes of warlock. So those are very tangible game reasons, but beyond that, the first couple of sessions it might just shift because you find yourself playing your character differently than you thought you were going to. So let these things be able to change those first couple of sessions as you lock them down, and then give yourself character arcs to go through as you complete a bond and form another.
What are your thoughts on Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws? How do you use them in your games?
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I decided it was time to jump back into some D&D topics, and I wanted to try something a little bit different, instead of just dispensing advice, I wanted to go through the process of building out a campaign that I may (or may not)…