Let me put this on the record- a good tabletop RPG is the most fulfilling gaming experience you can have.
If you have yet to partake, this is the best way I can describe it: you know in a movie where you are screaming at the characters not to do something stupid? Consider a game where you can be in the same situation and decide for yourself what you do.
In a tabletop RPG, players can try to do whatever they want. Fight the dragon at first level? Sure, roll initiative. Slap the king when he is being a pain? Make an attack roll. Jump off a bridge? ...Okay. Now granted, many of these options will not work out well for the player, but they are free to try.
As you might expect, this leads to much silliness and creative problem solving. But the difference between a party that devolves into endless dilly-dallying and one that creates compelling, fun and engaging storylines can often be the players themselves. Keeping that in mind, here are some tips to help your characters make the most of their campaign.
- Know your rolls
As I mentioned last week, new players can be frustrating. And for new players, experienced players are not going to expect you to know the exact rules for grappling sharks in a vat of acid (unless you built your character to only do that).
Take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with your character and some of the common rolls. Know where to look for your modifiers for things like skill checks and attack rolls, and keep the dice you need handy. That way, when it comes the time to stick them with the pointy end, you know how. It can help to keep a cheat sheet with your character’s common rolls and modifiers.
- Minimize Min-Maxing
Let me preface this by saying that in some D&D groups, this is the entire point. In that case, go wild.
Broken characters can be fun to play, but they can also create problems around the table. In order to understand why, here is a real example - I was once in a party out searching for a hydra, which came into view over a hill. Before anyone else could even attack the archer killed it in a single round. Now this sounds awesome, and one person got a great story out of it (I’m so badass I killed a hydra in a single round!), but at this point the other four members of the party are basically glorified bodyguards.
None of this means you can’t have a character that does powerful things. But keep in mind that your character doesn’t have to be the literal avatar for the god of death. You can leave some for the rest of your party.
- Have a motivation
This seems simple, but it is easy to overlook. Building a character like “a badass swordsman” is great, but why are they adventuring?
A motivation makes your character easy to manipulate, which is a bonus for your Game Master. It gives them ways to pull characters into the story in a direction they can direct and makes it more personal for the player. It also gives you a way for your character to grow- not just in level, but personally. Think Inigo Montoya looking for his father’s killer.
- Keep it Simple
An eighteen page backstory can create as many problems as it solves. Remember that your character has to exist in someone else’s world, and the more details you include in your history the harder they are to integrate with the plot.
This is not to say your character cannot have nuance, but if your character is a soldier you might be restrained to not develop his entire service history before you know anything about the campaign setting.
- Don’t roleplay for conflict
Party members are going to conflict with each other over decisions, actions, plot lines, etc. Don’t come into it looking for a fight.
You get this a lot with players wanting to play overtly evil characters, or players coming in with a very set world view they force everyone to conform to. When it’s your way or the highway, things get lost along the road. And again some players enjoy this conflict, but time spent fighting amongst yourself is not spent experiencing the story.
- Work with your Storyteller
The Storyteller runs your world, and has power over it’s history and your path. If you want a character who can grow, make sure your GM has some idea what you are doing.
Introducing a new nation, or conflict, or culture for the sake of your backstory will likely create new challenges for how exactly they fit into the narrative, especially if your backstory includes NPC’s that you hope to call on again. But perhaps your GM has someone already scripted who would work as a mentor/parent/friend. It helps make your character feel relevant and connected to the plot. It never hurts to ask.
- Keep it on the rails
Sidequests are one thing, openly distracting the party is another.
There are two parts to this - pay attention while playing, and don’t overdo it with side quests. A great bad example might be insisting you get drunk every time the party hits a new town, or sidetracking the entire narrative because you needed to go pick some flowers for your potions.
Good character spicy moments should be quickly resolved. 'I drop 10% of my loot at the church door, hide my bloody sword, and whistle as I walk away..
If you follow these simple tips, it should help you create memorable, enjoyable characters to plunge headfirst into adventure.
Author: Robert Trueblood