October 19, 2013
Trying To Build A Perfect Character
When a player is asked to roll up a new character, either for an upcoming game or for a continuing one where their previous character has either been retired or – tragically – slain, it can be a lot of fun to imagine all of the possibilities that lay before them. What sort of character will they make? What abilities will the character have? How will they act? Will they get along with the other characters or will they become something akin to rivals? Character building is an integral part of the game, as this is how you craft your own representation to take part in the game. For many players, this can be incredibly fun. For others, this seems to be when they try their hand at seeing if they are capable of creating a “perfect character.”
When I say “perfect character,” what I am actually referring to is using the crunch of the game to try and draw out every possible advantage by looking for loopholes in the game that can be exploited. Now, while there is nothing wrong with creating a well-built character, this can be taken too far. Abusing rules, or trying to use poorly worded rulings to your character’s advantage, constitute the wrong way of going about it. If something is not clear, rather than interpret it how it will best benefit your character, discuss the rule with your Gamemaster first to see if it really does work the way you hope it does, that way when the rule comes up in game, everyone avoids a needless argument that will basically boil down to “well, if I knew that was the way it worked, I would have never have done that.” I have seen this come up a lot, and admittedly I am guilty of this too, though this can be simply misunderstandings or unintentional misreadings of the rules, as well. So, as a Gamemaster, I do suggest being lenient when this sort of thing comes up.
Often, players will try to find a way to develop characters who lack any weakness and, sure, no one wants to play a character who has a big, glowing vulnerable point on them. Players should also understand that no single character should be capable of handling every situation that arises. After all, that is why role-playing games are games in which many characters take part in the adventure, most of whom have individual strengths that they can bring to the group as a whole and weaknesses that they will have to rely on the others to help them overcome.
For example, in Dungeons & Dragons the wizard class is not all that skilled with a sword. They do not have many hit points, and they have a relatively poor Fortitude save, meaning that they are easily affected by illness, poisons, and magic that affects the body rather than the mind. On the other hand, they have a variety of spells which can aid the party during times of need and are highly resistant to mental effects due to a high Will save. Fighters, on the other hand, are very skilled with a plethora of weapons, have more hit points than they occasionally know what to do with, and have a great Fortitude save; however, they are unable to work magic and have a poor Will save, making them vulnerable to mental magics. By working together, Wizards and Fighters can compensate for each other’s weaknesses. While the Fighter holds their foes at bay, the Wizard can work their magic in order to defeat their foes. The idea of individualized skills, and not having singularly over-powered characters, is where the idea of gaming archetypes came from.
It is always tempting to try and build a character that can do everything, but the chances of succeeding are little to none. Even if you do succeed, it is unlikely that such a character will have a shining place among the game group, as they will likely be a character of a mixed archetype, which is hardly ever superior in either respect to those of singular archetypes. Do not be afraid of character weaknesses or failings. More often than not, your character’s failings are what will endear them to you, as it is better to have to overcome them than never have to deal with them at all.
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