Wednesday, September 14, 2011, 7:31 PM
Now the title of this post may sound cocky and facetious, but there's a point: take your character seriously. That doesn't mean don't crack jokes or avoid any and all references to Monty Python in a ridiculously cliched British accent. And it certainly doesn't mean get all formal and stuck up, as if DnD is all that matters in your life. All it means is, try to play your character consistently, as if you were directing a movie or writing a novel where you want your characters to say and do things that reflect believable motives.
Why? Because it makes the DnD experience more palpable, more immersive, and I'm pretty sure that's what it's all about.
I have failed at this miserably, I'm afraid. While I have a good sense of Rowan's (my character's) historical background, I've been finding how little I understand what I really want for him beyond going on adventures, slaying monsters, and getting rich. That's great and all, but for me, it gets old. What's Rowan truly want, after all? He's a cleric, obviously. Clerics are religious. They typically evangelize, and if they don't, they're kind of bad at their job. They have a sense of a greater good, similar to Paladins. It took me a little while to grasp things like that. Even though such characteristics are incredibly vague and sometimes rather boring, there's plenty of room to explore their implications in the specific decisions you make as you role play. So, after about 9 DnD sessions as a complete beginner, I've decided that I need to get much better at breathing life into my character if I really want to deepen the immersion and have fun.
Here are some examples of what I mean, practically speaking:
-Don't be afraid to argue with your party members based on your character's values or beliefs. It's not like you're at a dinner table with your relatives. Let your character express herself (or himself). I've decided, for instance, that Rowan hates rape, and will not stand by if there's a possibility of it happening, even if it risks the lives of the rest of the party.
-Don't be afraid to split off from your party occasionally to do something that could be of interest to your race, gender, class, ideology, orientation, etc. Of course, this doesn't mean you go on your own side quest. All it means is don't feel completely tied down by what the rest of the party wants. If you're a warrior, visit a warrior's guild; if you're a cleric, visit a church; if you're a bard, learn a new song from a stranger in the inn.
As I said, I'm not so good at this, but other players in my group are, and I've been impressed. I don't necessarily agree with all their RP actions, to be sure. There was a wizard in our group who ALWAYS searched corpses for magical items, even at the most inconvenient times, like the middle of a battle. But he was consistent. It made his character memorable, and for him, it was probably more fun. So as a new player, don't just think about the mechanics and combat techniques; think about who you are, and why you do what you do. In my limited experience, it's just better that way.
Saturday, July 23, 2011, 6:48 PM
Well, I'm a cleric, and I decided to flesh out my character's background. If you've done something like this before, let me know! I'd like to read yours.
The trick, of course, is to make sure the background is possible given the campaign setting you're playing in. After an early draft, I check with my DM, and he said my ideas would mostly work. I did have to tweak one part of my character's narrative, but I think it's technically feasible now. If any of you DnD veterans out there have criticisms, speak up. I'd like to hear your suggestions. I've not done this type of thing before, and I imagine my current narrative could present role-playing challenges I haven't foreseen.
MY CHARACTER'S BACKGROUND
Rowan Saris is a half-elf cleric who possesses a paradoxical mix of ambition and compassion.
Ambition he got from his unorthodox human mother, Janus, a rogue and former pirate who hated gender stereotypes and used to think the sun god Pelor was pretty neat until she started to make a living by stealing things.
Janus despised the life of a maiden, seeing it nothing more than a heap of pretensions, rules, empty fashion statements, and boring, phony things like that. Wild at heart, she longed for riches and adventure, the stuff the bards sing about. She wasn't all that strong, though, so she learned the arts of a rogue, joined a street gang, and worked her way into a pirate crew after proving her prowess with a pair of rapiers. During that time, she made her way up the ranks, hoping one day to own a ship.
Years later, however, she was captured during a fight against the king's navy. Instead of being imprisoned and executed, she was kept alive for her beauty and would've become a lord's mistress (which sounds nobler than "whore," of course) had she not escaped the castle. She fled into the forest and collapsed from exhaustion and starvation. A group of elves found her, cared for her, and she decided elves were kind of cool.
That's when she met Rowan's father, an elven ranger called Armoriss, a tall and greenhhaired dude who also knew how to use rapiers. They fell in love after dueling each other a couple times. Armoriss won the first time, she the second, and that was really all it took. Then they got married according to the traditions of the elven people. Armoriss had a far gentler spirit than his wife, however. Anyone could tell. His father had been a bard, after all. Bards are softies! (I'm kidding, of course. There are some bad ass bards.) He passed his gentleness and patience to his son Rowan.
Rowan grew up liking broad swords and wanted to become a warrior, like many other elven boys his age, but he was ill tempered and not very disciplined. He and his friends got into lots of trouble, and one time he almost killed an elf boy on account his temper. As a result, his mother insisted on him being sent off to a mixed-race boarding school, where didn't fit in, even among other half-elves. At least not at first. He was always getting in fights and being beaten by peers and teachers alike. (The school didn't have auditors, you see.)
As fate would have it (or the gods, or pure chance, or whatever), an elf teacher of oratory and religion decided to have pity on him and teach him how to use the sword in a disciplined way. He grew to love his teacher, whose name was Coronea Telithar, by the way. He didn't love her only as his mentor. He developed a romantic interest in her too, even though he knew it was stupid given their age difference. And while he kept his love for the ways of the weapon, through Sharen's teachings he became profoundly religious as well, eventually deciding to become a cleric.
He finished school and tried to return home, but found it abandoned. To this day he does not know what happened to his parents.
Saturday, July 16, 2011, 7:07 PM
A few weeks, I got together with some friends and started a D&D campaign set in a custom-made realm and run by an extremely experienced dungeon master (DM). There were seven of us, and I was one of the three guys who hadn’t played the game before. The veterans among us practically had the PHB (Player's Handbook) memorized and could run calculations in their heads faster than a computer.
Like any other campaign, we spent the first few hours creating characters. Now, I consider myself a devoted gamer. I’ve played and/or beaten what some hardcore computer RPGs like Fallout 3, Mass Effect, Neverwinter Nights, Planescape: Torment, and Dragon: Age Origins. I’m used to choosing a race and class, managing inventories, and navigating growth trees or allocating experience points to my characters’ abilities. But I wasn’t at all prepared for the obvious or the more complex decisions I was about to face in D&D, at the speed with which I faced it. I said and did a lot of rookie things. Been there before?
Having survived my first game, and planning to play many more, I’ve decided to write a few blog posts from a rookie perspective. I’m aiming to help out other rookies like me as I learn from my mistakes and try to become an awesome player and have tons of fun. So if you're a rookie, this is for you. Or, if you're an experienced player, please add your advice to the list!
Disclaimer: I’m writing with respect to the v3.5 core rulebook. However, if you’re playing v.40, there should still be a good amount of overlap.
Incredibly Obvious Mistakes to Avoid
In this first post, I’ll start with some no brainers.
- Incredibly obvious point 1: Identify which edition rulebook you’re using before you start. I'm afraid to say I learned this the hard way. I assumed we were using v.40, but then my DM arrived and said we were using 3.5. And I didn’t have the 3.5 . *smacks forehead* I ordered it the next day, but for the first game, I felt completely lost on a lot of things.
- Incredibly obvious point 2: Get a Player’s Handbook and read the first chapter before your first game. Don't just buy the book and take it to the game with you without having opened it. The first chapter gives you a good introduction to what D&D is, and it provides a simple list of everything you need to play your first game. And it'll whet your appetite to keep reading.
- Incredibly obvious point 3: If you invited lots of people and don’t know who’s going to show up, print out lots of character sheets. I could’ve saved a good 10-15 minutes if I had printed a bunch of blank character sheets for others to use, instead of printing one only for myself. This is connected to the first point, too. If you’re using the 3.5 rules, print out the 3.5 character sheets. Also, if possible, get your hands on character sheets that are geared towards a specific class and have information filled in already. This will especially save you lots of time when you fill out the Skills portion of the sheet.
- Incredibly obvious point 4: Use a pencil (not a pen). You’ll be shot if you use a pen to fill out your character sheet. After all, you’ll be changing tons of information on your sheet as you level up, get new items, use old items, etc.
- Incredibly obvious point 5: Get your own dice. I had heard that players get attached to their dice. Now I saw it for real. Although my DM was kind enough to bring a giant mound of dice to share, he made it clear that if we lost any, we’d have to pay up. That night I ordered my own dice. (Apparently you roll better if they’re yours, but I’m not that superstitious.)
- Not-so-obvious-but-essential point: Please, please don’t “metagame.” I made this mistake more times than I care to admit. Basically, it means you say things out of character – for example, you try to strategize with your team mates about an encounter while the encounter is actually happening. In “real life,” you wouldn’t be able to hatch an intricate strategy while you’re busy fighting monsters or bandits. Another common way people fall into this habit is by stepping out of your character and the game world to tell your teammates in advance what you plan to do in a given situation, while in the game, your characters are not within reach of each other to exchange such details. That’s a no-no. D&D is a role-playing game for a reason. You’re supposed to do most things in character. (Of course, you step out of character to clarify rules, roll dice, and other things like that.)
In my next post, I’ll share some other useful tidbits I’ve been learning as I go long. (E.g., I’ll write about how it’s a good idea to think about your race and class before the game starts, and to make sure you understand the implications of your race and class.)
For all your veterans out there, please feel free to share your own lessons learned. And if you’d like to correct anything I’ve said, go for it. I’m still new to the game and am eager to learn from other experienced players.