D&D 3E 'Characterisation'

Started by Callan S., July 18, 2011, 01:32:47 AM

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Callan S.

A little while back the D&D encounters game actually finished a small campaign (which was nice to experience) and a new one started. I think these are still modules passed down from WOTC.

Anyway at the start, the GM (a different one this time - he plays vampire and such outside of the game store) said he wanted this to be more like if he was running a campaign and so if our PC's have any characteristics, this is the opportunity to show them and it'd be appreciated (or atleast I heard it that way).

Now, the thing I find hard about this is either a characters behaviour is so minute as to not be worth describing at the table (ie, how he holds a pipe or such), or they are so significant the character would simply head in the opposite direction of the preset encounters (yeah, their preset, which works in a gamist context of whether you can summount the next challenge). I could never really think of playing a character that somehow, while adhering to how I think the character would act, would somehow always conveniently fit in between.

The funny thing is, the GM of the previous campaign played with us last time and strangely enough I think he managed exactly that. He was playing a creepy rogue (always the rogue, innit?!) and it was surprisingly - I dunno, compelling. Yet it never dipped into absolute minutae, nor did he just head off in the other direction. Though it did end up as using wolves heads as sock puppets to a fair degree - but it seemed to fit the character!

I still can't think of any character I'd want to play that fits within that narrow corridor. But it surprised me that somehow he'd found something that could fit.

Callan S.

That should be 4E, not 3E. I don't know why I suddenly hopped back in time...


I have played (outside the playtesting we did in the RPGA for 4e) in one campaign of 4e for a few months. I also played in one Dark Sun event module when they released that world last fall.

In the longer running campaign the players were mixed - there was a group of 3 who more or less fell into the Gamist paradigm. They min-maxed, cared little for the interplay though they did do a great job of having personalities and quirks, and more or less kept things on the conveyor of the campaign the DM was using.

Another player and myself, a friend who both prefer a more Sim to Narr kind of paradigm (mostly Sim I would say). We want to be our characters, to feel the motivations, have the quirks, explore the scenery, and interact with the locals. My friend created a Half Orc who had no leadership skills and followed the character with the biggest and strongest personality. Normally that would be me, but I purposely built a character with a very suppressed personality; someone who was almost sociopathic but not quite. So at times there were conflicts at the table between characters, but as players we managed to keep them friendly discussions.

The problem with any game where a shared space is the desired goal, is that one has to either be there to play with the group or not. You can make loners, you can make characters who hate being heroes or hate working with groups but ultimately as a player if you are in a game about a shared experience, then you need to work as a player with everyone to make sure your character participates in that.

It can be difficult to play that character who under most "normal" circumstances would walk away. However, within the paradigm of D&D that seeming incongruity is part of the experience and even occasionally the butt of in-character humor.

just my 2 lunars

Callan S.

Well, for my interests a shared space is simply a means to an end, rather than the end itself. It's probably what makes me not very simmy inclined.

Thus I really have no reason to 'curb' a character to fit the mould. If maintaining the mould was somehow my goal, I could get that, as it would be toward some purpose. But as is it's like throwing out the baby to preserve the bathwater, because the baby was splashing the bathwater all over the ground. To me, character either comes before the shared space or I don't bother with enacting a character at all (baring the occasional cliche).

If were just going to mess around with bath water, I'm not going to bring along my baby (only for it to inevitably be thrown out).

Anyway, this player seemed to have found a 'baby' that fits within a niche that wont be thrown out. Though in play he was making up rationalisations why sticking around would make his character rich...yet even as he made them, they seemed in character rationalisations. Surprising!


QuoteIf were just going to mess around with bath water, I'm not going to bring along my baby (only for it to inevitably be thrown out).

I think this is very clever but also very well put. I totally grok what you are saying there.


I agree with ADGBoss.  Why sit down to play a game of D&D and then refuse to go along with the basic premise of the game? 

If you want total freedom to explore character as your primary concern, pick a game that suits that, but most games have some sort of premise, stated or unstated, that should be used to inform about who your characters are and what they will be doing in play. 

Agreeing to play D&D and then chaffing against the basic nature of the game is self defeating and annoying for other players who are on board.

If you agree that the premise of D&D is "kill monsters and take their treasure" then use that to inform your characterization at a basic level.  "I am here to get treasure, and whether I like it or not, I need help".  As long as that is the bedrock of your D&D character, you can mix it up any which way on top of that.

You could have other variations on D&D premise - "Im here to <achieve goal>" instead of "get treasure". 

Callan S.

Stefoid, as you can see in the account the GM brought up the notion of characterisation, not myself. Otherwise I'd just engage in alcoholic dwarf cliches and trying not to not have my ass knocked to the ground by monsters too much.

I think the player I mentioned took up your characterisation. But to me it seems empty - why am I so monomaniacle about treasure? Will I starve or will loved ones of mine starve without it? You might instantly say you can add that, but indeed it's adding that - it's not the actual premise built into the game. D&D is mostly about rich gad abouts or greedy sociopaths. And not in a way that will ever challenge any element about them (indeed, it'll reinforce and maintain those elements - which is prolly good for sim play). It reminds me of the flatness in terms of gamism as well - if we stop bullshitting ourselves that we genuinely could all die, we realise that the ending is predetermined: We will get to level 30, eventually. There is no uncertainty.

But anyway, this player I mention seems to play out an 'alive' character, despite that no premise exists. Perhaps because his character kind of generates his own premise - he seems kinda dangerous to everyone, to a degree, even to himself. How's that gunna turn out? Therefore; premise.

More reason for me to be surprised by him, I suppose!


The Sopranos is all greedy sociopaths, but they manage to get some other stuff in there.

There was a thread about NPCs at Story Games, and somebody mentioned as a rule of thumb giving NPCs a Foible and also a Virtue (redeeming quality) I think.  OK, he might be a greedy sociopath, but he loves his family.  etc..

The premise Im talking about isnt the forge version, its just like the agenda of the game maybe - what the game expects in general terms of its characters so that they will be relevant.

If you must layer that with a forge type premise in D&D, then you could set your virtue to be at odds with your foible, and explore that?



But that exploration is a sideshow, not the main event.