Shining Dodecahedron

One geek's views on role-playing and games in general.

This place is all about discussing paper-and-pencil roleplaying games. I'm Jay, and I run this joint, but that doesn't make me smarter than you. This will all work best if I say things, and you say what you think about them, lather, rinse, repeat. With luck we can all understand the hobby a little better. If you have a topic that you would like me to start a thread about, post a comment here. If you've got something to say about characters (my ongoing topic du jour), post a comment here.

Monday, June 13, 2005

An Exercise in Character Context

The biggest, most important type of context for most RPGs is character context. This is provided by resources that tell you things about your character--things that help you decide how to play her in the game.

Instead of me pontificating, take a look at the following table. It contains the ability scores for three D&D characters. Just the numbers. The exercise is this: tell us what you can and can't tell about these three characters with the information provided. I assume that you are all at least somewhat familiar with D&D in one form or another, but even better if you are not! Look at the numbers assigned to the names for each character and think about what they tell you.

AbilityCharacter 1Character 2Character 3
Strength18812
Dexterity121610
Constitution161012
Intelligence101412
Wisdom71017
Charisma101413

Now discuss!

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll play (just found this Blog this morning, so sorry for the delayed response).

Though one can never evaluate more then a fragmented picture of a real character from a set of "basic stats", there are certain game mechanical and/or character construction trends that one can deduce. What deductions, and how much of each, prove true is where the true character creation process lies, and can never be deduced without a lot of other information (both about the character and about the setting) is provided.

Brief disclaimer: I'm going to approach the following from the point of view of D&D 3.x Edition. The interpretation gets decidedly more complicated if one tries to encompass earlier versions of D&D/AD&D.

Charater 1:
* Point 1: Anytime a character has a "maximum value" in a given stat, that stat is going to be a defining aspect of the character in a game (primarily in how the other players and DM view the character). Though there are character concepts placing values in "non-traditional" stats for a given class, I just don't see that happen all that much (particularly in relatively extreme examples such as this).
* Point 2: From a strictly game-mechanical point of view, it's a no-brainer to see a melee-oriented Figher matched with this character's stats. The Fighter likely uses maximum-damage weapons appropriate for the actual concept (possibly a one-handed weapon used two-handed), and likely wears heavy armor (possibly not the heaviest, however, as there is a minor Dex benefit).
* Point 3: Anytime you have a spread of numbers like this one, the end-result character is almost invariably a fantasy stereotype. This is a prime reason why I personally never like a dice roll set that only consists of either very high or very low to mediocre rolls.
* Point 4: The player will likely encounter difficulties playing this character in non-combat scenarios unless a solid and sustainable concept outside of the stats alone is crafted as a guide to roleplaying (and the stereotypical "dumb grunt" frequently proves non-sustainable in the longterm campaign).

Character 2:
* Point 1: I tend to view this as a "thinking-man's character". The specific stats selected for the higher numbers provided a solid degree of tactical flexibility to the character. This generally happens with characters made by players who want their characters to be able to dabble a bit. Generally such players know a bit more about the game system then the average. The signs I see are a player who wants the character to have a lot of tactical movement capability in combat (rather then straightforward fighting), a good spread of skills, and possibly a flexible spread of arcane magic.
* Point 2: The more obvious classes for such a character are Bards, Rogues, and Sorcerers (in about that order of probability). I'd bet on this character following a multi-class/prestige class path. Range combat is the order of the day for that aspect of the character, be it with a bow (crossbow is more likely) or with ranged magic (the character stats are solid for ranged touch attacks).
* Point 3: There are two noteworthy flaws to such characters I have seen more then a few times in the past. First, unless a very good (and sustainable!) concept is built for the character at the get-go, the player will probably eventually get bored with the character. Second, and very much related to the first, the character concept could get "muddy" as its player tries to follow two or three (or more!) different developmental tracks. Flexibility becomes a killing weakness for the character in longterm play, if one relies on stats/game mechanics alone.

Character 3:
* Point 1: I find this stat distribution quite similar to that of Character 1, in a lot of respects. Again, the spread consists of one high value and a bunch of "average" ones, which inevitably results in a good deal of concept specialization in D&D.
* Point 2: This character is likely a Cleric, for obvious reasons; though either a Bard or Druid are somewhat distant alternatives. Moreover, the character is likely a stereotypical Cleric of older D&D games, rather then one of the more innovative possibilities existent in 3.x today. The player doesn't appear to want this character to be a combatant at all, and so I would expect the character would solidly follow a "support" function in the game.
* Point 3: This character suffers from the same limitations as Character 1, only moreso. Such a character is desperately reliant on a sustainable concept and background that is largely independent of the character's stats. A strong connection with multiple aspects of the setting will be a requirement for the longterm enjoyment of this character.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005 11:11:00 AM  
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Saturday, October 22, 2005 11:54:00 PM  

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