Role Playing “Characters”
There is the sneaky rogue, the awfully good paladin, the monosyllabic elf, the blunt orc – various races, paired with various classes create a myriad of roleplaying characters. Each player has a different approach to the character chosen to play, chosen to interpret, which makes every roleplaying round, every session and the participating characters truly unique. Depending on who is playing a character different facets of a stereotypical class can be experienced. Throw in a handful of interesting alignments and there is an endless supply of fun paired with fairy tale-magic.
Not always, though.
As I have said before, “depending on who is playing” a character is the crucial point. During my +/- 10 years of roleplaying experience I have encountered quite a handful of roleplayers and their real life character puts an interesting twist on any stereotypical character out there (completely independent on the role playing system or the game master).
My very first experiences in the field of roleplaying still makes me wonder why I am still playing and with such enthusiasm. I encountered the unfortunately not so rare species of the supermunchkin. Players, whose sole focus lies on beating the system. Beating the game. Beating the role master. On the head. With a stick (which lacks rhythm). Repeatedly. Then annoy the other players by pursuing the craziest of plans. Not wanting to see nor have it explained how this cannot work, how it makes no sense, how their character is not fit for attempting this, etc. Usually, they ruin the experience of other players by trying something that is not the point of the game.
Other player characters were more entertaining, though. The ones who are rather experienced, have played quite a few games, know how it all works and what to expect. Nothing can surprise them, nothing can throw them a curve – except themselves. Somehow they mix up their player knowledge with their character’s knowledge and make decisions that make sense to the omniscient part but not the character. Not being able to differentiate between the different sets of “knowledge” can get them into pretty tricky situations. A few of the ones I have experienced over the time were almost lethal – others very much so. Dramatically lethal.
A different set of players is also not able to differentiate – between real life and in-game. A seemingly stupid action that is consistent with the character, though, may result in hours of discussion, screaming, drama and more drama. Not understanding why an action was chosen the player is blamed for the outcome, not the character. I have to point out that my focus while roleplaying lies on playing a character, not beating the system. So a rather unfortunate action that perfectly fits the character is something I approve of. The fun part usually is to get out of the situation. It just makes me think harder how to get out. It is the more interesting challenge for me as a player. So when a player is accused by another to have made a wrong or stupid move that is perfectly consistent with the character in general – I wonder how thin the line between reality and play can become for some.
Another type of player character never seizes to amaze me – the ones who take certain skills for granted, no matter what character they play. Every school teacher is also a superbly skilled lockpick. The journalist who is writing for the church paper also has in depth knowledge about how to assemble a nuclear warhead. The challenge is to work with the skill set that fits the character chosen. If my character is a female librarian I will have to work with her skill set – she will be good at research, finding and gathering information, knowledge about filing, books in general, authors, etc. She will know how to use a pen, a pencil, a ruler, scissors and her glasses. What she probably won’t know is how to build a car from scratch, climb up a facade, break into a high security facility or train a monkey (except to read). True, depending on her background she might know all these things but usually the background does not fit the demanded skills.
Of course, there are also the experienced players who are able to create three-dimensional characters with flaws, character traits, a background, interests, fears, etc. and who are able to give this character life by acting upon this information. These players are a pleasure to play with. Stories are created and told by characters that seem more realistic because they are not superhuman (or super-halfling) but as realistic as they can be. Beating the system is never the main goal. In fact, number crunching and dice rolling only becomes relevant when chance and luck come in.
There are a lot more player characters out there and I would love to hear about your experiences with them.
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Tags: alignment, chance, character, elf, experience, game master, halfling, in game, luck, munchkin, orc, paladin, pen, pencil dice, player, real life, rogue, role playing master, roleplaying, RPG, skill, stereotype, supermunchkin, system, thief