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!

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