A continuum of changing characters

I remember playing role playing games for some years. Although I have had some attempts at playing I mainly reside on the rule filled side of the DM screen, creating the adventures and spending hours reading and re-reading rule books. I’ve recognised numerous changes across the years, from games being played round a table on a bank holiday or Friday night, through the use of letters (as in snail mail) to the present day use of Roll20 and/or Skype to bring the players together. Although the game has changed I’ve also noticed a change in players. When I refer to players I’m not meaning they have grown older, although they probably have, but more of the characters they choose to play and, when considering this in more detail, I started to realise that the characters people play follow some sort of pattern.

Can you remember your first ever character and role playing game? Which type of character do you really enjoy playing? As always you can let me know in the comments below.

This week on the Discord channel, someone posted a link to a video detailing various types of players and a DM which people might be familiar with within their gaming sessions. Some of these really made me giggle, mainly I think because I had actually encountered the majority of these or even been some within my gaming career. One of the most exciting part of any RPG is the creation of a character. You sit with a wealth of ideas and across the hours change those thoughts and imagery onto paper ready to adventure in the campaign world. But something which I have noticed is that as players create their characters they create them according to certain points on a continuum. Although I cannot say for certain that this is the progression, you will probably be able to look back on your own characters and see characters from the past which actually fit into each of these ‘types’. I’m not saying for one moment that one character type is better than any other – people should always play the type of character they want, but I do think as people progress as players they tend to move along the continuum. So, here is what I think is the continuum of characters.

  • Stereotypes – We probably all remember our first ever character we created. I remember in late Autumn being taken down to the local game shop (no Amazon then) with £8.50 burning in my pocket to buy the red box set of Basic Dungeons and Dragons. The module – ‘Caves of Chaos’ I think, was quickly removed and I hurried home to read and indulge in the new world which I had been introduced to. Of course, the most important think was to create a character. Well, the use of the definite article ‘a’ is probably incorrect here. I made loads and loads! My character creation was increased with the purchase of the 1st Edition AD&D players handbook (PHB) to a stage that I needed an A4 folder just to hold all the character sheets. My first character was a Dwarf (Basic D&D so no separate race and class) and he was a fighter type called rather predictably ‘Thorin Oakenshield’. At the start of the character creation continuum are the stereotypes. Players want to recreate what they have seen or read about in films and books. Elves with bows, Mages with long flowing robes and staffs. In some way, the initial rules almost enforced these stereotypes onto players. These characters are usually made before the players have experienced the game but they still enjoy hacking through the campaign world. However, as they encounter combat and magic and, perhaps more importantly, the rules, players tend to want to recreate their characters which leads us onto the next character on the continuum

  • Rule Characters – As a DM/GM I usually start the game having some understanding of the rules. I’m often jealous of the players embarking on a campaign not knowing all the rules and monsters. It must be quite exciting not knowing what or how things are going to happen. Once players have started to play the game they start to gain a better understanding of the rules. With this is often the opportunity to take time to read the rules and see the advantages and disadvantages of choices. Players move away from the stereotypical classes and start to make powerful, rule enhanced characters. What do I mean by this? Well they enjoy playing characters who are powerful and can deal damage and survive situations and start to look at the rules and make their choices to support this playing style. They spend hours on race and class combinations, the best weapon to wield and spells choices and character’s skills are based around attribute bonuses. In order to be successful the players have characters who hardly never not hit, they never can be hit and they are almost immune to everything. Some people never move from this character generation preferring to play these rule characters. But some players, as their ability to role play improves, move to the final level of character generation along the continuum

  • The Role Player – One online RPG which really annoys me is Black Desert Online (BDO). The combat and crafting system is excellent, but I rarely get past the character generation. Why? Well there are gender restrictions imposed. What do I mean by this? Well to be a ranger I have to be a female. I have no idea why, in the world of BDO, why males are banned to be rangers – but obviously it is the case. I like options. Options that allow me to mix and match attributes to my character in order to create a character which might be different from others. In the world of Shadowrun I have always fancied playing a troll. Now, a rule player would definitely make a troll into a tank or street samurai due to their high body (which determines hit points). A Role player character would separate out the two choices. First they will decide on the race and then the class/profession, but the rules will not make an impact on the decision. Surely, there must be Troll mages and deckers around and this is the joy of well constructed RPG games. Choices. For a role player, the emphasis is not on the rules, but the role playing. I don’t mind if I am a rogue with -2 to my rogue skills due to not having dexerity 18. Although the party might be disappointed, this will only enhance the role playing opportunities. And it definitely gives that rogue character something to improve. At this position on the continuum, it is not the stereotype or the rules which impact on character generation – it is the pure joy of the role playing.

  • Throughout this post I have referred to a continuum on purpose. The creation types I have referred to here is not meant to be a progression, they are three types of character creation which people enjoy doing because they enjoy that sort of character. Neither is better than the other, although I do notice that as players progress in their RPG ‘career’ role playing becomes more of the emphasis rather than the ‘power’ of the character. Yes I might have started off with the stereotypical dwarven fighter wielding his battle axe and launching into combat. But I soon reverted to playing the magic-user who had little hit points and very little armour. The emphasis of these mages was not their power, it was more their role play potential. So where on the continuum are your characters and which sort of characters do you like to play? Remember, its all personal preference and the important part is to enjoy what you are playing.

    Can you remember your first ever character and role playing game? Which type of character do you really enjoy playing? As always you can let me know in the comments below.

    As always, if you have any thoughts or comments on this post then please add them below or send them to me via any of the social media sites I frequent. You can keep up to date with my content by following me on Twitch, Twitter and Facebook. If you are interested in joining or playing Minecraft, then please check out my Minecraft webpage for details of joining the the server. Of course any subscribers to my YouTube channel are always appreciated.

    Have fun and I’ll catch you all later and, until then, consider yourself waffled!

    2 comments for “Let Me In! – Simon’s Cat – YouTube

    1. February 19, 2017 at 2:00 pm

      Would be cool to play an one off, one of the dungeon crawls you made! Maybe the 8 level one!!!

    2. March 21, 2017 at 12:05 am

      I miss those early days so much. The current state of rpg’s , the rpg xubculture if you like, doesn’t feel like it did back then. I can’t quite put my finger on it.

      I was introduced to Advanced D&D 1st Edition, by my sisters boyfriend (the BEST boyfriend of the many she had IMHO..), who showed me S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks module after discovering I enjoyed computer based adventure games, I was hooked immediately and it wasn’t too long before I was hanging around the local game shop, Games Gallery, from which I was invited to join in a game run by the assistant manager, who was to become my long and good friend Steve, who was coincidentally, the reason I got to work at the local branch of Games Workshop for a time. Working there, in those days, before it became a Warhammer only shop, was amazing. It was the proverbial kid in the sweet shop!. Staff discount made it even sweeter – 50% off GW’s own products, and 25% off everything else. We also ran a great rpg club, with about 60-80 members at its peak.
      I was always the GM for my main group as no one else had the time it took to prepare a game properly, though after a few changes to the group, and people from the club popping up, I eventually got to play. Games by a company called Fantasy Games Unlimited (FGU) were very popular in all of my groups. FGU sold games such as Bushido, Aftermath,Space Opera, Chivalry & Sorcery, Freedom Fighters, and Bunnies & Burrows, but there were many many more games, by many different companies, covering all sorts of genres – and I still have them all. Many were, as was the style back then, table and chart and rule HEAVY. We loved that. Comparing themto the current crop of “rules lite” systems, I would certainly go back to the old games instead. We played these games sometimes 5 days a week, as for a time we were all unemployed. It was all we did.
      I often spent days creating scenarios, making maps, creating player characters as well as npc’s. I found it quite therapeutic, as is miniature painting – thousands of the little buggers packed away testify to the time I spent doing it. My “toy soldiers” as my brother in law calls them…
      I used to get quite attached to my favourite characters, and whilst one or two died over the decades, most did not.
      For almost all of my characters I would go overboard by most people’s standards. I like to have an image for my characters, whether a photo or artwork. Sometimes I will see an image and that is the base for the whole character, built around the image.
      I always believed as a player, that giving the GM a detailed background, list of goals, motivations, friends, contacts and enemies, will help the GM bring my character into the game more, by using some of what I have given him in the game. As a GM I like to see what players come up with for their characters, and will often use it in the game. It involves the player more, makes the game more personal if part of the game is suddenly about them, and it can help the players become more invested in their characters.
      For myself, I would often map out the characters home, create a family tree, siblings, etc.
      For our Star Trek RPG (by FASA Corp), I created the whole crew of a 500+ personnel star ship… All as detailed player characters. Unnecessary and a bit OTT I know, but it helped bring every department on the ship alive, every member of the landing party was a person not simply a red shirt.

      I am often bemused whilst watching streams when I see the gm of a streamed game pull some “new” idea out of his box of tricks, and the players are like “wow!”, “that’s original”, “I would never have thought of doing it that way!”, knowing we did it 30-40 years ago.

      The games my most recent group and I played/ran, were very detailed games with a lot of depth. Quite dark games too, mature themed, and often very emotional and intense. Having played with the same people for nigh on 20 years, you create a bond, a closeness and familiarity that allows you to communicate in a way you couldn’t, with people you don’t know very well.
      I have been brought to tears several times in recent years during the last (decade long) game we played ,as some scenes were simply too emotional or powerful, overwhelming (GM was a bastard – but an EXCELLENT GM).

      Sadly the group folded, but the GM offered to keep the game going for just me, which he did for a few years, which to be honest I really needed, as it helped me through a bad depression at that time).
      Over the years I have experienced a lot of things because of rpg’s, and made some great friends, too. I have a lot to be grateful for, regarding rpg’s. I was discussing with my brother in law, my collection of rpg’s and miniatures. When he realised how much they are worth, (some regularly sell for £100’s!) he always tells me to sell sell sell. He doesn’t grasp what they mean to me .
      Yet I won’t. Part of me hopes and prays that I will get a local group together (even some of the old group!) and start using them again. But aside from that, as my memory fails, little by little each year, these boxes and books and miniatures on the shelves are my constant reminders of happy and sad and exciting moments, and great fun, and more importantly, great friends.

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