I have Friday and Saturday off from the day job. So, naturally, I make plans to make a dent in all my other endeavors those days. Last night, I planned to sleep in until 9ish and then get started on reading more Aphotic Realm submissions (Submissions still open), working on a story outline, and maybe even do some preliminary work on some book covers I was commissioned to do.
Here I am, sitting at my computer, alive for no more than 30 minutes at 1 PM, just taking a sip of my first cup of coffee. Apparently my alarm wasn’t loud enough this morning.
Just got a text from the wife, I need to go run some errands… So, I’ll be back.
I can’t tell you how much I loathe grocery shopping in my neighborhood. I live by a retirement community — Sun City, look it up — which means literally everyone and their grandma is out and about today. What could have taken twenty minutes to do, took over an hour. It is a game of dodging and maneuvering through a sea of shopping carts piloted by blue-hairs moving at a snail’s pace. It’s 2:23 PM now and g’damn that took forever.
Writer friend and blogger, William Marchese posted a blog today about making characters feel real. It was a good read, check it out HERE.
So, it got me thinking. I really want to write up my thoughts on the matter in a big, long post, but I don’t have the time. I’m hosting a Dungeons and Dragons session tonight and my house is a fuckin’ mess. I have to tweeker clean for the next few hours.
But, with that said, I had to write an article a few years ago when I was in school. I decided to write it on character development when it comes to tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder or what have you.
We were supposed to try and get it published. I never tried. So, I thought I can post it now. If you’re a writer, I suggest playing games like these. You have to live as the character, stay in character, make decisions that make sense for the character, and watch how those decisions affect the world and other characters in real time.
Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, and Other Tabletop Roleplaying Games: Five Tips to Optimize Your Gaming Experience
A. A. Medina
July 21, 2016
Whether you’ve been chuckin’ your twenty-sided di for decades or you’re just about to embark on your first journey into the world of pen and paper gaming, there is one element that can make or break the experience: Roleplaying.
Now, I’m not saying to show up to the kitchen table adorned in full armor or with a cloak and dagger; but if you do, more power to you. The following five tips are extremely simple and have the ability to turn a dull campaign into one fraught with laughter, excitement, and maybe even some bonus experience points.
Prepare to be immersed.
Backstory, backstory, backstory…
So you’ve created a battle-axe wielding Half-Orc Barbarian named Krunk. He’s mean, he’s kind of green, and he is out for blood. It’s always exciting to have that one party member who starts swinging before thinking. Now, what if Krunk used to be the chief of his clan, but after losing a one-on-one battle with To’gor, a rival clansmen, Krunk had to forfeit his throne and was exiled from the village? More exciting? Yeah it is!
Ideally, you’ll have the chance to inform your Game Master of your backstory before the campaign begins and before you are introduced to the other characters in the party. This can create an air of mystery around your character, especially if Krunk isn’t so quick to talk about his past. Also, this gives the GM the opportunity to give Krunk the chance to redeem himself in the future, giving more depth to the quests.
Stay in character!
Willis Lighthammer, the holy cleric striving for justice and the eradication of evil. Should he be arguing with the necromancer in the party over a Scroll of Raise The Dead that just dropped? No! Unless Willis plans on destroying it, he has no need for it. Should Willis be pickpocketing innocent civilians in town? No! However, that is unless an element of his backstory justifies it – which is just another reason to write one!
I’m not saying speak in an Old English accent; but again, if you do, more power to you. I’m suggesting staying within the parameters of your character’s personality. Unless spontaneity is one of your character’s traits, keep it to a minimum. That’s not to say Willis Lighthammer can’t develop these traits over time, especially if he takes a liking to the rogue in the party.
Don’t Derail the Plot.
The Game Master has spent the last week or so preparing an epic quest, the layout of an abandoned castle, new enemies to encounter, and the next plot point for you and your party to discover. He has dropped hints all session long that you should check out that mysterious castle on top of the hill, but guess what, the stubborn Halfling Bard doesn’t want to go, he’d rather stay at the town’s inn and play his lute for gold. Poor Game Master.
Don’t be that Halfling Bard. However, if you are, and you decide to stay back, at least contribute to the story. Gather information from the townsfolk; maybe you’ll find a secret passage into the castle. Pay off some guards or befriend some mercenaries; maybe you can show up in the nick of time with an entourage to help your party with a difficult boss battle.
Just try not to be “that guy.”
This tip is more of a personal preference. My Human Ranger, Koldo, is somewhat of a MacGyver in our current Dungeons and Dragons campaign. I didn’t like wasting an action pulling out my dagger anytime I wanted to melee attack after using my bow. So I started extracting the fangs out of the Dire Rats we were clearing out of the sewers for a town sheriff. I took those fangs to the town’s blacksmith and had him dip the fangs in molten steel to reinforce them before visiting a leather worker to fashion them onto a heavy leather gauntlet. The result: A Wolverine-like claw I can use to slash and stab my enemies with after firing my bow – without wasting an action to draw my dagger. I also altered a belt pouch to drop caltrops; and using a cord, grappling hook, a steel rod, and some gears, I plan to make a retractable harpoon attached to my belt. Think Batman, but cooler.
My point? Utilize your surroundings. Pick plants, skin animals, and disassemble objects. Use your imagination and create potions, armor, weapons, and gadgets. Just run your ideas by the Game Master first.
Embrace the challenge: Being overpowered is overrated.
There is usually one in every party. The guy that rolled his stats without any witnesses and miraculously ended up with the highest possible ability modifiers. Also, he is a sorcerer, but his backstory justifies his use of heavy armor and a bastard sword without receiving a penalty. More often than not, the Game Master will put the kibosh to that nonsense before it gets too ridiculous, but that kind of mentality takes a lot of fun out of the game.
It also reduces the opportunities to work as a team. Need someone to sneak around the corner behind the enemies? Let the rogue do it. Need someone to barrel through the doorway to face the monster head on? Let the Fighter, who is armored to the teeth, do it. Without the challenge, the game gets boring. If your character is the best at everything, what’s the point of being in a party?
Five simple things to keep in mind when starting a campaign, or even begin utilizing in your current one: Create an interesting backstory, stay in character, don’t derail the plot, be resourceful, and work together to embrace the challenge. As you can tell, these tips are more for the players than the Game Masters, but that doesn’t mean they can’t utilize these tips for building their NPC’s or even suggest them to their players at the beginning of a campaign. However, if you are interested in a plethora of invaluable tips, tricks, and lessons for Game Masters and players alike, check out the YouTube channel, Dawnforged Cast. There you will find hours of entertaining and informative videos about all things tabletop.
May your crits be successful! Go forth and adventure!
I dedicate my song of the day to all you Bards out there.