For decades, that open-endedness has brought players back to the table
October 12, 2017 7:24 PM   Subscribe

At FiveThirtyEight, Gus Wezerek asks, "Is Your D&D Character Rare?": "We got a peek at what kind of characters everyone is building, and a lot of players are sticking close to reality." Going beyond basic descriptors, Neal Litherland at Improved Initiative explores uncommon ways to think about Pathfinder characters in a regular feature: "Unusual Character Concepts," e.g. "The Farmer Ranger," "The Heretic," and "The Pill-Popping Paladin." And in an interview about the podcast Tell Me About Your Character, Steve Keller praises "that off-the-cuff, excited meander" exemplified in his first interview about someone's favorite character.
posted by Wobbuffet (76 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Is Your D&D Character Rare?"

Yo gnomes, smell ya later
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:37 PM on October 12, 2017 [34 favorites]


Incidentally, I'd intended "someone's favorite character" to describe the reoccurring topic of the podcast, but to give as much credit as I can I should have mentioned that, in the first interview, it's Arlene Medder (who used to write for Gaming as Women).
posted by Wobbuffet at 7:41 PM on October 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


*waits impatiently for the thread to turn into Tell Me About Your Character: Mefite Edition*
posted by jason_steakums at 7:51 PM on October 12, 2017 [30 favorites]


Even when I was a tabletop gamer, the specter of someone telling me about their character filled me with dread. There weren't phones to fiddle with in my day. If somebody settled down to talk about their character, you just had to hunker down. And yet this podcast is so counterintuitive that I think I'll give it a try.

Myself, I can never brag about my old characters because I am going to hell for them. They were super culturally appropriative and I am sorry. This was before I knew it was wrong. Plus White Wolf basically laid the table and invited you to chow down on cultural appropriation. And manpain, of course.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:52 PM on October 12, 2017 [15 favorites]


Wizard, warlock, and sorceror? Back in my day we just had magic-users and we were thankful for them.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:59 PM on October 12, 2017 [20 favorites]


Oh, I can do you worse - Let Me Tell You About The Characters I Would Play If I Had A Game Group And Was Not A Busy Parent.

First Up: Druid who at 3rd level has to be ritually sacrificed and then brought back via Reincarnate.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:59 PM on October 12, 2017 [18 favorites]


The article mentions racial bonuses driving players to certain race/class pairings, but that's only part of the story. Basically every edition since 3.0 (plus spin-offs like Pathfinder) have rules making it (realistically?) hard for small races to excel in physical combat. Even in 5e, while weapon sizes are no more they still restrict what larger weapons e.g. halflings and gnomes can use effectively.

End result? It takes some dedication to play a small race as any class that depends on weapons' base damage die.
posted by tocts at 8:06 PM on October 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


*waits impatiently for the thread to turn into Tell Me About Your Character: Mefite Edition*

I will do it. It's these guys. I guess they are unusual, except for the halfling rogue (aside from the part where she's an old grandma). I was somehow able to make Triton Desert Druid make sense story-wise.

I only just started playing D&D recently (my gateway until I can find a GURPS group) but I've noticed certain classes are just plain built to fill a job. Tabaxi monk, halfling rogue, elf wizard, etc... But for specific campaigns, the weird combos can be great. I chose half-orc paladin specifically for Out of the Abyss knowing that half-orc darkvision and paladin radiant damage would be perfect for dark areas and fighting all the demons/friends that are weak against radiant.
posted by alexlaw at 8:10 PM on October 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'm currently running a game, so I don't make characters so much as NPCs, some of whom are drawn from my inspirations for characters:

-Human Fighter (yawn), with no tragic backstory - happily married, but knows what he is best at is killing stuff, so he goes out adventuring with the blessing of the spouse.
-Half-Elf Monk who is on "rumspringa" from the commune, where they shun the practice of magic
-Dwarven Warlock who is a little crazy, just because I'm intrigued to play a Dwarf who can cast spells (back in my day, Dwarves couldn't do magic at all, much less were there things like Warlocks or Sorcerers)
posted by nubs at 8:10 PM on October 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


A bunch of us here had a lot of fun a few years back with a 1st Edition AD&D-by-Twitter expertly run by prize bull octorok and I especially enjoyed my character, Chumsalt the half-orc goat-farmer-cum-warrior who actually wanted to be a ranger but couldn't be because of class restrictions. Later in the campaign he set up "Chumsalt's Wilderness Investigations" and ended up vandalizing some innocent old couple's farm because...I actually can't remember why. Anyway, good times!
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:14 PM on October 12, 2017 [8 favorites]


Chumsalt, btw, is going to be an NPC in the game I'm running - I have fond memories of that half-orc. Was he the one who stirred up the Jubilex cult or was that someone else?
posted by nubs at 8:23 PM on October 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


My last one was Dumbles Treestump, a disgraced and exiled forest gnome druid who, as a young gnome, burned down his clan's sacred grove by accident and was bumming around selling hallucinogenic ritual plants to get by as the campaign started. He pretty much looked like a doofy garden gnome in my head. Unfortunately it was Yet Another Campaign Cut Short By Life Obligations and our group didn't get far.

I especially enjoyed my character, Chumsalt the half-orc goat-farmer-cum-warrior who actually wanted to be a ranger but couldn't be because of class restrictions.

I had a character in a comic I really need to dust off and finish who was actually a pretty formidable wizard who late in life decided his real calling was being a ranger and absolutely refused to be pigeonholed as a wizard in the party. He was bad at rangering. I loved that guy.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:25 PM on October 12, 2017 [6 favorites]


Was he the one who stirred up the Jubilex cult or was that someone else?

I think that all kind of happened by osmosis thanks to a series of shitty decisions made by just about every player ;-)
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:34 PM on October 12, 2017


10:1 odds that the farmer ranger character concept picks Ahnkegs as their racial enemy in perhaps the strangest retelling of 'Peter Rabbit' ever.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:34 PM on October 12, 2017 [7 favorites]


I think I went there dozen characters in a single Call of Chuthulu adventure one time. It's like a workshop for quick character development.
posted by GuyZero at 8:39 PM on October 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


Myself, I can never brag about my old characters because I am going to hell for them. They were super culturally appropriative and I am sorry. This was before I knew it was wrong. Plus White Wolf basically laid the table and invited you to chow down on cultural appropriation. And manpain, of course.

the indigenous people of the world stand up and start clapping, orson welles in Citizen Kane style
posted by Sebmojo at 8:43 PM on October 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


I've been heavily into Starfinder lately, and I might possibly have rolled up a character or three that are basically Bowie in Space.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:45 PM on October 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


Chumsalt the half-orc goat-farmer-cum-warrior

There are two things you might mean there and I know which one I'm hoping for.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:48 PM on October 12, 2017 [26 favorites]


I haven't played since 4th edition and my last character's race is apparently not even an option any more - so I guess I've leapt past rare and straight into out of print!
posted by thecjm at 8:58 PM on October 12, 2017


I remember when adding drow as a playable race was controversial.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:04 PM on October 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


I put on my robe and wizard hat?
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 9:04 PM on October 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


I put on my robe and wizard hat?

You say that as a joke, but in that Twitter campaign turbid dahlia mentions? I got to say that my thief did that and it was a perfectly good non-sexy thing to do at that moment.

Well, it was maybe a little bit sexy. But my thief was an Elf, and its hard not to be sexy.
posted by nubs at 9:12 PM on October 12, 2017 [8 favorites]


If I may derail briefly for a moment, I once created a character for a Rifts campaign that was so overpowered I basically got myself kicked out of the group. I took advantage of the fact that they allowed for Heroes Unlimited character builds in the world (with the conceit being that they transferred in through one of the rifts) and made myself basically a troll version of Juggernaut (invulnerability and super strength), and via a series of lucky rolls he wound up with something like 56 strength (IIRC the system allowed for standard 3d6 rolls for stats normally) and was basically immune to damage and capable of destroying most of the power armor that the other characters had with a single punch.

Palladium had interesting world settings, but maybe not the most effective game designs, overall. Good times.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:21 PM on October 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


I always liked the Magic User in theory. There was something so pure in it (though everyone was all "why isn't it just called wizard?") I never played it though. It took too long to get good spells.

I was a troublemaker, so I loved playing the Thief. There was a certain elegance and Anthony Kennedy-like "all eyes are on me as I pick this lock!!" as well as the potential mischief you could cause amongst your party, stealing items and whatnot. That really didn't work so well actually. And yeah, thieves gotta be elves.

When we started using psionics (remember PSIONICS), I switched to cleric, because you had to have Wisdom and Constitution? Not sure ... I really liked psionics. I think Monks also, but that class was coming in as I was quitting (long ago). I really hated Paladins. Who doesn't, except Paladins. (My brother played Paladin. What a lawfully good yet totally evil class.)

Did I dream that there was once a Ninja class?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:53 PM on October 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


(Speaking of Rifts, they're kickstarting a new edition... I'd link to it but I'm not sure if KS links in comments are verboten like KS FPPs.)
posted by Jpfed at 9:56 PM on October 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


I guess maybe you could be a Halfling Thief and get by.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:56 PM on October 12, 2017


*waits impatiently for the thread to turn into Tell Me About Your Character: Mefite Edition*

I dropped out of D&D decades ago, but at one point I had a Halfling thief character named "Spam" (stolen shamelessly from Harvard Lampoon's Bored of the Rings) who, because I was profoundly stressed at work at the time, became the outlet for all of my intense frustration and craziness.

In the midst of one campaign, after setting off some alarm while attempting to infiltrate an enemy encampment in the middle of the night, he managed to duck into what turned out to be the commander's room, take advantage of the poor sap's confusion, and actually somehow get the guy dressed and off into a misdirected search of the compound for himself ("HURRY HURRY NOW NOW NOW GO GO GO!" "Okay okay, who the hell are you fine I'm going geez") while he made his escape in the opposite direction. Either the cosmos was magically on my side that day or the DM was so bemused by my colossal chutzpah that he allowed my gambit to work, because I got away without a hitch.

It was such an astounding event in my D&D history that it basically ruined me for any further playing. But I certainly went out with a bang.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:02 PM on October 12, 2017 [6 favorites]


End result? It takes some dedication to play a small race as any class that depends on weapons' base damage die.

Or the realization that small sized cavalry can fit anywhere those big, lumbering humans can go...

And in the Eberron setting, traditional halflings are nomadic dinosaur herders... so... it is perfectly reasonable given the setting to have an armored halfling paladin charging across the room on the back of a raptor.
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:39 PM on October 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


The race/class combo I've been playing in my first D&D game in years isn't even on this chart. Kobold Rogue. Who decided to put her third level into Sorcery instead of choosing a Rogue subclass. Last weekend she got to nearly kill another character with a Wild Magic Surge that hit them with a l5 Magic Missile; it was only through the intervention of an NPC and a little DM fist that they survived.

She was already kinda manic-depressive and this is only gonna make it worse.
posted by egypturnash at 10:41 PM on October 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


Yo gnomes, smell ya later

Still here - and I think if you ask Magic the Gathering, you'll find I definitely am Rare.
posted by Metro Gnome at 11:29 PM on October 12, 2017 [6 favorites]


Back in my day we just had magic-users and we were thankful for them.

In my day, dwarves and elves were character classes, and we were grateful!
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:19 AM on October 13, 2017 [7 favorites]


I'm actually just wrapping up baby's first D&D campaign this weekend! It's been tons of fun and not a little addictive.

I've been enjoying my gnome-artificer who accidentally got chosen to be a druid by gods he didn't worship due to an unfortunate name mixup, but... Well, apparently in 5th edition, with a little jiggering and a tolerant DM you can play just about anything. My partner made the mistake of telling us all this in our character planning session.

This is how I wound up questing with a turkey vulture who is technically a cleric, a sapient and mobile birch tree, a totally deaf Bard, and Half-Elven Teddy Roosevelt.
posted by sciatrix at 1:23 AM on October 13, 2017 [11 favorites]


I just started DMing a game, so I guess I'm playing Drummond, aka Flops (he has a floppy hat). The PCs waltzed into a village and Flops was one of the small crowd of people who gathered to offer their services. Each claimed to be the best connected, but they interrupted each other and gave reasons not to hire the others and undercut each other on prices. They were only described as "floppy hat", "pock nose", and "green doublet." It was meant as a nuisance encounter, but the PCs liked the floppy hat guy and so now he's talking their ear off, getting them to spend a silver here and a silver there. He's paraded them around the village a bit so the other guild thieves know they're "his" marks. He will probably help them for awhile, as an investment.

It's been a long time since I've been the DM and it's going well. I think I'm getting back into D&D a little? I've been using "The 52 Pages" (previously on MeFi, but updated since).

If I touched Pathfinder today I'd give a terrible shriek and dissolve into a pile of slugs, but I have enjoyed reading these condensed/delinearized Adventure Path summaries.
posted by fleacircus at 1:37 AM on October 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


The statistics in the 538 link are kinda interesting, but hooooly shit is that last sentence ever the most patronizing, holier-than-thou bullshit. "Human Fighter is better than something weird because it means you're spending your time STORYTELLING and not flipping through books, obsessing about the ACTION and DICE and ARGUING RULES." Completely go fuck yourself, Gus.
posted by kafziel at 2:08 AM on October 13, 2017 [8 favorites]


I am a wizard player- or at least magic user. I can't help it, it's fantasy so I have to have the magic. Last character (DungeonWorld, but close enough) : Morgan from a city that had a bay with lots of islands in one side, lots of pine and redwood forested hills on the other. When game started he was sleeping on a shelf in a bookstore that was next to a coffee shop. Wore a hoody, had a perpetual scowl. Had great contempt for theposer necromancers in the forest
"All these altars and rituals, and ooh, I raised a skeleton. Wooow. Shit, anybody can do that. I can do that. Hey, if you croak here, I'll raise you up as a skeleton."
Paladin: "What."
Previous was my sorcerer Merinta, who started theorizing why she only gained new spells after a certain number of combats. "I think we special few are bonded to demonic furies. They crave violence, domination and wealth, and in return they give us power. They also protect and strengthen us, the better we may create mayhem. Carrick, that's why your arm was nearly chewed off, and it didn't bother you. It was hanging by a tendon, and you still were able to ram your sword down that dragon's gullet. Because such pleases our masters."

People used to back away when she started ranting.
posted by happyroach at 3:03 AM on October 13, 2017 [7 favorites]


Pribram of the Four Effs, the troll barbarian. After years of mind-controlled experiments at the hands of a mad magician, he lost what little grey matter he once possessed, leaving precisely four neurons conveniently labelled Fight, Flee, Feed, and *ahem* "self-Fornication". If he critically fails any roll, roll a D4 to find out what he was doing instead.
posted by Eleven at 3:57 AM on October 13, 2017 [5 favorites]


There's apparently an old Knutepunkt tradition that if you're going to tell someone about your character, you have to buy them a drink and you have until they finish the drink to tell the story.

As someone who talks about their characters too much, I think this is a sensible policy.
posted by Erberus at 4:27 AM on October 13, 2017 [4 favorites]


I started playing Basic D&D and then AD&D, but I was almost always the DM. I “grew out of it” before 2nd ed came out and was drawn back into it by my son not long into the 5e era. I had a half-elf cleric who was everyone’s mom, a human genderqueer desert Druid, and a depressive dwarf wizard who died reclaiming the crown of a lost ancient dwarven realm. Now I’m DMing again and having more fun than I even did as a kid!
posted by rikschell at 5:10 AM on October 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm used to building lvl 9 players for 3.5/pathfinder that would level up maybe once or twice in a campaign as that is about the level where its high enough that you can design interesting things, but not so high that making strong characters doesn't necessarily mean making broken characters. I just built one last month from a dream that I had even though I haven't actually played in years, and its gotten me excited enough to want to seek out or build a group.

Durblin would be fundamentally built as something like a Crusader, Fighter, Warmage, Favored-Soul, Hexblade, or Monk optimized for grappling and Cha for the leadership feat depending on how powered he should be. Other players would be presented with someone identifying himself as a "dire gnome" from days long past acting as the religious leader for a cult of gnomes worshiping a god of gnomish strength of the characters own invention. This cult, which at lvl 9 with some optimization could get quite large, would keep its sacred shrine in a gnomishly modified bag of holding that would require almost all of the starting wealth to purchase. This Type IV bag of holding could at maximum fit the mass of 33-37 40-45lb gnomes stuffed in and kitted out with gnomish breathing straws, while the lvl 7 cohort as well as the whole community that comes with the leadership feat would be purely optimized for being a grapple gnomes. To fight Durblin would grapple the opponent and then all the gnomes in the cult would fly out and aid other the grapple. Being small an awful lot could do this at once, plenty would succeed, and enough would get nat20s - particularly when grappling large opponents. Once pinned, as should happen pretty quickly, the cohort would then tie up the unfortunate opponent while the rest of the gnomes steal all their shit, which would render most non-rogue opponents utterly helpless for at least some time and allow Durbin to then focus on other opponents.

The truth of Durblin however would be that he is really just a particularly ugly half-orc/half-something else advantageous, but I'd want him to have a Cha bonus with gnomes to compensate for the entirely appropriate -2 Cha generally that would come from his orcish heritage. His backstory would be one of alienation from both of his races until he came across a gnomish mine filled with happy ingenious gnomes and had an idea. While the gnomes were sleeping, he painted himself in his best approximation of gnomish runes, and buried himself in the bottom of their mine with a sleeping potion so that they would discover and revive him. Once he came to he introduced himself as an elder dire-gnome of days long past with a strong strange accent in gnomish, arcane knowledge, and a plan to remake the world as a gnomish paradise. He would act as a classic high Cha low Int character that could contrast nicely in game play with the large community of classic high Int low Wis gnomes in his charge. This would be helped as the gnomes would in fact be worshiping my character's Orcish trickster god masquerading as an elder gnomish god, being tickled by the whole bizarre situation, with exercise and bizarrely implausible machines. The haphazardly interconnected pockets of the modified bag of holding would act as their headquarters, workshop, implausible sanctuary and launch pad once a grapple is started.

He would incidentally make an excellent villain or NPC.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:18 AM on October 13, 2017 [6 favorites]


Some of the most memorable characters in our group emerged from trying to explain awkward dice rolls. A friend rolled up an elven barbarian with utterly abominable intelligence and charisma. So the back story that we invented was that he was a famous and puissant ranger named Saengun, who was captured by a mind flayer. His brain happened to be particularly delicious so rather than devour it all in one go, the mind flayer took their sweet time eating parts of it. Fortunately, Saengun's clan were able to track the mind flayer and rescue him, but unfortunately, by the time they did it, he had lost most of his mind. So, stigmatized, outcast, and back to 1st level, he goes forth once more to learn how to live with his new self.

That same campaign was run by a particularly lethal DM who had put us through a meatgrinder adventure. One fight ended up with me losing my bard in a particularly brutal boss fight. Given the high stakes, I didn't want to just sit it out, so I quickly rolled up a new character, choosing to go with a tattooed monk, and I made her an air genasi purely because genasi had the racial ability to levitate so her back story was that she was an indentured enforcer of the tattooed Red Wizards of Thay who backed the wrong side of a political squabble, was on an airship with her boss when an assassin's bomb went off and blew up the airship, literally dropping her out of the sky and into the boss fight that the party was having.

Lately, I haven't done a lot of heavy backstory for my campaigns because I've found that likelihood of a character dying seemed to be proportional to the amount of backstory that they had. The last heavily described character that I had was a human sorceror in a game world that was recovering from an arcane magic apocalypse, so wizards, sorcerors, and warlocks were all heavily tracked and regulated (generally lifted from Dragon Age) ... as a sorceror Augustine didn't know why he had the powers that he had, but his concerned parents sent him off to a family friend who was an abbot of Pelor, the God of Light. So, Augustine learned a few divine spells (in 3.5e there's a feat called, I think, Arcane Disciple, that allows your magic user to adopt a cleric domain) but eventually someone ratted Augustine out and he had to flee. So, when the party meets him, it's in the guise of a wandering priest of Pelor who can do stuff like heal and cast light, and when he uses Color Spray, everyone's a bit like, "oh, we've never seen a priest of Pelor do that, but it makes sense." It's when he casts Magic Missile that the more perceptive members of the party get to be, "hey ... wait a minute ..."

Died in a dinner party ambush trying to help mediate a feud between rival dwarven clans, and was on the wrong end of a critical hit from a battleaxe. I'm still a bit sad about that.
posted by bl1nk at 5:18 AM on October 13, 2017 [4 favorites]


A bunch of us here had a lot of fun a few years back with a 1st Edition AD&D-by-Twitter expertly run by prize bull octorok and I especially enjoyed my character, Chumsalt the half-orc goat-farmer-cum-warrior who actually wanted to be a ranger but couldn't be because of class restrictions. Later in the campaign he set up "Chumsalt's Wilderness Investigations" and ended up vandalizing some innocent old couple's farm because...I actually can't remember why. Anyway, good times!

YES CHUMSALT!
IIRC an Owlbear was menacing the farm. I believe you didn't want to kill it, just convince it to leave the farm alone, but there was... a misunderstanding. Chaos ensued.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:27 AM on October 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


More on the topic of characters:

I have a real tendency to do what I think of as "max-min" characters -- where "min-max" is an attempt to take a top-tier combo and make it awesome, "max-min" is taking classes or concepts that are viewed as suboptimal (or even bad) and making them the best at the thing they do.

For example, I played through a 3.x campaign of all wizards (custom setting, in a nation run by wizards) as a gnome Illusionist whose barred schools were evocation and necromancy (e.g. nearly every damage-dealing spell). He couldn't throw a magic missile, but he could confuse the ever-living shit out of anyone, anytime (racial bonuses plus feats to make him amazing at illusion). The downside: this only works with a GM who knows how to run with it. The upside: amazingly fun. Those NPCs don't know I can't raise an army of a thousand dead around their feet to devour them, and now they think I just did!

In a similar vein, I unknowingly built the perfect character to more or less rush us through huge chunks of a pre-written adventure module (one of the Pathfinder ones, trying to recall the name) because it turns out if you bring a gnome bard who is maxed out in every goddamn knowledge skill and diplomacy he just ... knows all the things and convinces all the people without requiring any fighting. (I like gnomes a lot!).

That kinda thing (characters maxed out in non-combat skills you can find creative applications for) has been the basis for a huge number of my characters.
posted by tocts at 5:34 AM on October 13, 2017 [6 favorites]


My favourite Chumsalt Adventure was when he drank a mystery potion, turned into a cloud of gas, and had to be wafted around by the rest of the party until he reverted to his usual form.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:36 AM on October 13, 2017 [5 favorites]


Duracelt the half-dwarf, half-copper-dragon barbarian who had a bad habit of getting shitfaced and barfing sulfuric acid all over everyone's gear.
posted by xthlc at 5:43 AM on October 13, 2017 [5 favorites]


Scratcher the fire wizard, in reality a dragon cursed to walk the land in human form until he learned humility. Irritable and tended to hoard treasure rather than spend it.
posted by SPrintF at 5:57 AM on October 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


I wanted to play a 5e cleric that worships the god Gygax and thus plays according to AD&D rules. No cantrips, waits till 1000xp to level up instead of 300, etc. But I wouldn’t want to inflict that on an actual party.
posted by rikschell at 5:57 AM on October 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


My DM just forwarded this to us last night; it concurs with my general impressions. I seem to recall that race & class choices in fantasy MMOs follow the same pattern; Blizzard published a graph from World of Warcraft to this effect not long ago. A plurality of people choose boring ol' humans, and prefer to bash things with other things.

If we're confessing youthful transgressions in character creation, I no doubt will roast in a level of Hell for violators of Tolkien estate copyrights. I'll spare you my current character concept for the Strahd campaign, but it's going to be sweeeeeet.
posted by The Nutmeg of Consolation at 6:23 AM on October 13, 2017


I have few characters to share because I tend to DM so I've only had two characters from a couple of storium games. (Which I realise I can link to) but they were relatively tame (A cyber punk noir detective because the game was supposed to be as cliche as possible, and a literal ripoff of the character Daniel Jackson from stargate).

Meanwhile, my players (generally as a consequence of playing Dread a lot, which encourages quite interesting characters who are destined to die) have been far more creative. One of them made money being a horse semen thief. One of them wanted nothing more than to retire to a life of complete indolence and ended up heroically sacrificing their life to save a genetically modified super soldier / flower arranger from an alien parasite.
There was the billionaire inventor who was obsessed with windmills (and had prison tattoos of windmills). A man who murdered his own brother as a child because he thought he was a werewolf who then went camping with a six fingered insomniac who once caused a notorious cattle stampede onto a motorway and a lazy fashion designer, convinced them that werewolves were real, died in a river saving them from "Werewolves" and causing them to ingest hallucinogenic mushrooms and club a tour guide to death thinking he was a werewolf.
So what I'm saying is you should all try playing Dread. It encourages memorable characters.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:29 AM on October 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


In my 1e days I always played a thief. Every party I played with seemed to always be in need of one, and it was great fun being all sneaky and snarky. But the most successful character I had was a half-elf. She did quite well in the White Plume Mountain adventure, though she didn't get Blackrazor.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:44 AM on October 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Friar Donnelly, human cleric of Lathander. All-around nice guy.

Ratshagger, dwarf ranger. Wields a heavy crossbow named Matilda. Likes to make inappropriate comments, and regrets nothing.

Dirk Fancyman, human fighter with an ego the size of Toril and the intellect of a box of hair. Prone to setting off every trap in the dungeon, escaping unscathed, and then chiding the other party members that they should be more careful. His middle name is Elizagarth.

Alisdair Isambard Whateley, half-elf warlock. His patron is Nyarlathotep. Most people find him creepy as all hell.

Temrik the Gorf, lizardfolk monk. Ate some colorful mushrooms growing on a dead body in the swamp and had a vision quest. Searching for the rainbow connection.

Steadfast, tortle paladin of Ilmater. If he could draw all the good, innocent people in the world into his own shell to protect them, he would. Rides around on a small ankylosaurus. Her name is Mango.

And these are just the characters I'm currently playing right now.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:47 AM on October 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


Baby, I once played a bard who just wanted to get signed. He wore lots of scarves and silk shirts and gold chains. And a friend of mine played a fighter named Titan who was a (human-sized) Titan from the planet Titan. That same campaign also included an NPC who liked to bite Bulettes. I think he, like, eventually gained a +2 whenever he bit the Bulette.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:52 AM on October 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Did I dream that there was once a Ninja class?

There was one in an early issue of Dragon magazine. It was collected in one their early "Best of" issues, which is where I first saw it. Substantially different from how they were handled in Oriental Adventures.

https://annarchive.com/files/Drmg016.pdf
posted by Cyrano at 7:03 AM on October 13, 2017


I hope you'll all submit these bios to the Neural Net that is generating DnD bios...
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:05 AM on October 13, 2017 [6 favorites]


Mrs. Example hasn't done a tremendous amount of role-playing, but she says that most of her characters tended to wind up as impossibly attractive and neither very bright nor very useful. I, on the other hand, used to end up with characters that were athletic, handsome, incredibly agile and graceful, and devastatingly effective in hand-to-hand fighting.

Make of that what you will, Dr. Freud.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:06 AM on October 13, 2017


I’m doing a 5E one shot tonight with a bunch of new players. I decided the setting would just be Guy Gavriel Kay-esque version of the Kingdom of Georgia around the reign of Queen Tamar – so the modern day country of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and parts of Russia and Armenia. I originally did this as a way to try to convince the players that they could play something outside of the western European fantasy genre without them feeling like they have to explain why their character was there: you could play a Viking barbarian, you could play a wuxia-style monk, and they’d be equally foreign in these lands but also have some historical precedence for being there. But also it has ended up being amazing for fantasy inspiration: this is a real place. So is this. This is a real archeological map that I was seriously thinking of just straight up copying for my town map. There’s this pinterest, too. Azerbaijan has this site called the fire temple of Baku, and also some mountains that are just always on fire because of natural gas.

Since it’s a one shot with a lot of new players, I made a bunch of premade characters along with the option of letting them make their own. The premade ones were as follows:
A dragonborn paladin from Baghdad, in the service of a god of science and innovation
A elven wizard – a former Byzantine noble that was ousted from power and left with only one eye and half of a nose
A half orc barbarian from Scandinavia who looked at this country and decided it was close to Valhalla and that they should stay and wrestle some bears
A gnome bard version of Marco Polo
A human ranger who was a locally famous for killing a bunch of wolves, because there had to be a local option

The Dragonborn paladin of science and gnome bard Marco Polo were claimed – the dragonborn’s player has taken that character and run with it – her character is middle-aged and wants to use the money to retire and starts a school for science in the area. Some of my other players are a dwarven sorcercer lapis lazuli merchant guard from Afghanistan; another dwarf who grew up with horse nomads on the steppes and follows a nearly-forgotten god of thunder; and a teenaged tiefling warlock whose patron is her father, but she constantly blows him off because YOU DON’T OWN ME, DAD. The only one that’s really making me worry about how he’s going to gel is the old-school dude who wants to play another dwarven cleric but hasn’t internalized that the rules are different from AD&D to the point where he’s surprised that there isn’t THAC0 anymore, and responded in a very condescending manner to the idea of a dwarf worshipping the god of wine, because everyone knows that dwarves only drink ale.

Note: Georgia has a rich tradition of wine that spans back 8,000 years, and most of the references I could find about Georgian beer are about how horrible it is and how it’s used as a way to show their dislike of people and cursing your foes. This might be a difficult setting for him.

But for the most part, I’m excited, and most of the players are really into their characters even though it’s only supposed to be a one shot. And part of the originality thing by race/class kind of sticks in my craw, because the race/class combo is only a small part of how you play your character. Possibly the hardest thing to do is when prepping for this one is to try to keep my players from feeling like they have to diversify their race/class combinations or their character will be too much like another character. Which, well, we have two dwarven clerics in my party, but I really don’t think the young horse nomad woman who likes big booms is going to play anything like the guy who has pretty much only given me ‘Tyrion Lannister’ as a character background. Not only is the social/rp part going to be very different, I’m sure they’ll also have different spells memorized and attack in different ways. Playing an unusual race/class combination is one interesting way to create an original character, but I don’t think it’s the only way.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:22 AM on October 13, 2017 [11 favorites]


Or the realization that small sized cavalry can fit anywhere those big, lumbering humans can go...

That reminds me of Crusty, the battle goat. On a whim, the halfling ranger asked for a battle goat as a mount when we were shipped out of a town to go hunt for the big bad. We were given mounts as a thank you for clearing the graveyard of zombies. Crusty was meant to be a throw away joke, the halfling riding a battle goat. So far, Crusty is out favorite NPC.

We get in a fight with evil tree spirit things and the ranger sets up a arrow ward spell that automatically launches arrows at anything that crosses a circle. Our characters knew to stay away, Crusty did not. During the middle of the fight, Crusty wanders onto the arrow ward circle and is impaled by an arrow. I figured that was it for Crusty. Instead, the ranger heals him and casts speak with animals to make sure he's ok.

"Crusty are you ok?"
"Fuuck Youuu." (said in a bleating goat voice)
"I'm going to hear you now."
"Fuck you, you stuck me with an arrow, you asshole." (still in the bleating voice)

This continues until the ranger gets Crusty to shut up by threatening him with further harm.

Crusty has also had some other mishaps, including ending up on the roof before being ignominiously lowered down while bleating obscenities the entire time.

I don't know the other characters all that well yet. But I know Crusty. And I hope he stays with us for a long time.
posted by Hactar at 10:12 AM on October 13, 2017 [9 favorites]


Probably my favorite character was when I thought about how weird it is that there are racial gods in addition to the ones for specific spheres, so all gnomes get one god, but humans have ones for fighting and healing and farming, etc. I decided to make a human cleric of the gnome god, Garl Glittergold. The party was pretty short on fighters, so I also dumped INT to save enough points that I could be a secondary tank in a pinch. The problems started when I looked up the specifics of worshiping Garl Glittergold. Apparently gnomish religious practice is largely based around riddles and jokes, and my guy's intelligence was, like, 5, so there was really no way he could plausibly understand a riddle or tell a joke. I spent the whole campaign badly telling jokes my character completely misunderstood every time I needed Garl's favor. Thanks to an incredibly lucky roll, a DM who thought this gimmick was really funny, and saving one of the worst re-tellings I'd come up with of the old Two Guys Walk Into a Bar trope for when it really counted, I managed to convert a whole civilization living inside an Egyptian pyramid from the misguided light of Ra to the Truth of Garl Glittergold.
posted by Copronymus at 10:36 AM on October 13, 2017 [13 favorites]


Last weekend she got to nearly kill another character with a Wild Magic Surge that hit them with a l5 Magic Missile; it was only through the intervention of an NPC and a little DM fist that they survived.

My first actual D&D character, in a campaign that lasted more than one session, was a 2e wild magic user. Man, I love that random chaos shit. I loved that shit so much that when that group imploded, a couple of us went on to play Rolemaster and thus created Simon, the Tarot Mage. The Tarot Mage has enough random shit in their everyday spell lists, but he was obsessed with finding the Dice of Chaos. Described in detail at this link, on pages 184 & 185, the Dice of Chaos are supposed to have a 2-roll limit, but by the time Simon got his hands on them, I'm pretty sure our GM didn't stick to the letter of that particular rule. I seem to remember acquiring a really annoying, calamitous follower NPC, as if that would dissuade me from rolling those dice again. Shya.
I can't even claim general RP newbness to defend Simon - my first character was an ever-so-cliche Mata Hari-esque class called a Houri. Her base spell lists were: Kisses, Influences, Alluring Ways, and Houri's Change. /facepalm. If you're curious how bad that could be, check out page 60 here.
posted by ApathyGirl at 10:53 AM on October 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Oh and as long as we're admitting things, I'm also guilty of making the GM roll to see if I'm getting drunk.
posted by ApathyGirl at 10:53 AM on October 13, 2017


So many stories, though admittedly I've been a DM a lot more than a player.

When I was in middle school, I became obsessed with the old mixing-potions table in the 1st edition DMG, and would mix every pair of potions I could find, testing them on pigeons (which you could buy something like 200 of for a gold piece), looking for the "one of the potions' effects becomes permanent" result. This was how I ended up with a human monk who was permanently 12 feet tall and invisible.

Later (cultural appropriation ahoy), I played a character who was essentially a Polynesian islander who washed up in culturally-Europe-but-physically-USA. He was largely interesting because I developed a bit of a deathwish with him (in a reaction to how hard it was to actually get killed in that campaign, which was a stylistic choice our group went with...making my reaction a bit jerkish, but anyway...), but the GM had put him into a plotline involving his being a reincarnated major figure, so he kept dying and getting reincarnated into new races. So, yeah, I started as a boring human fighter, but ended up in a variety of other situations.

Another one didn't get much play, to my great disappointment: a half-elf bard who was determined to utterly defy the rule of thumb of stick-to-your-specialty; pretty much every choice I made with him was to pick up abilities and such from other classes.
posted by Four Ds at 11:21 AM on October 13, 2017 [4 favorites]


My greatest achievement as a powergamer was the fighter/rogue/master thrower who had a very high strength and "throw anything" feat. She threw 2 handed swords as a ranged weapon.
posted by Megafly at 11:22 AM on October 13, 2017 [2 favorites]



Another one didn't get much play, to my great disappointment: a half-elf bard who was determined to utterly defy the rule of thumb of stick-to-your-specialty; pretty much every choice I made with him was to pick up abilities and such from other classes.


The 5e bard is built for this; They are the utility infielder of D&D classes.
posted by nubs at 11:29 AM on October 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


Alas, no representation for my genderqueer dual-classing spirit-medium/necromancer halfling. #GQDCSMNHvisibility
posted by lieber hair at 11:39 AM on October 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


No great character story here, I just came in to mention that when I read the description of the Urbane Druid, Leslie Knope came immediately to mind. New headcanon.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:50 AM on October 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


The Urbane druid is so close to a character I've always wanted to play. Goethe reputedly said "The unnatural, that too is natural." (although from what I've read, it probably wasn't him, but that's another story) I've always wanted to play a city druid. One who embraces the city as just another ecosystem. Not even the parks and the green, but the rats, the weeds, the molds, the lice and other such issues that appear in the city as the natural parts of the city. A druid who, upon walking into a town, goes and finds the rats immediately to ask their opinion of the place. One who is friends with the local queen of flees, which comes in handy for both espionage and distraction.

I proposed this idea to my DM. But there are no mechanics in 5E for this and we didn't have time to completely make a new class type. So I'm playing the friendliest barbarian out there, who doesn't have rages as much as fits of extreme joy. But who dislikes fighting people who don't enjoy fighting and will not attack people who are not trying to fight. After all, where does the joy come from then?
posted by Hactar at 12:19 PM on October 13, 2017 [6 favorites]


College professor (bard 3rd ed)
- inspires
- font of random lore
- lots of obscure skills
- magically puts people to sleep
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:23 PM on October 13, 2017 [6 favorites]


> ) I've always wanted to play a city druid. One who embraces the city as just another ecosystem. Not even the parks and the green, but the rats, the weeds, the molds, the lice and other such issues that appear in the city as the natural parts of the city. A druid who, upon walking into a town, goes and finds the rats immediately to ask their opinion of the place. One who is friends with the local queen of flees, which comes in handy for both espionage and distraction.

you are china mieville and I claim my five pounds
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:52 PM on October 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


(Speaking of Rifts, they're kickstarting a new edition... I'd link to it but I'm not sure if KS links in comments are verboten like KS FPPs.)

There’s a policy against Kevin Siembieda posts?
I’ll show myself out
posted by rodlymight at 6:35 PM on October 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Interesting SF/F news related to D&D character classes: Ursula Vernon's comments on Twitter this week about paladins, made partly in connection with her two upcoming novels she recently mentioned on Patreon.
posted by Wobbuffet at 11:21 PM on October 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


I feel like paladins suffer from from something similar to Kirk drift where DMs who want to be all grimdark basically demand that they be played as strawmen rather than interpreting the rules reasonably. I mean AD&D rules described an evil act specifically as causing harm to people or their property when not under threat. Stealing stuff might be a chaotic act, in which case you had to go to your priest and atone and everything, But D&D to be anti-paladiningly evil, you would have to knowingly and willingly hurt someone or wreck their stuff without a good reason. That doesn't seem *that* difficult to avoid? At least no more outlandish than wizards casting fireballs from the tips of their fingers. All the moral minefield stuff seems to me like intentional sabotage by people who want good to suck because evil is cool.

Though one character I always wanted to play is a paladin who has a lot of skill in being a lawyer. I was reading this one story about a player whose paladin had fallen because they killed a captured assassin who surrendered and then mentioned escaping and killing people dear to them. My feeling was that making threats was certainly a violation of the spirit of surrender, and that it would be very useful for a paladin to be able to present binding terms and conditions of surrender, sworn on the pain of death that would make that sort of thing a clear violation.

If you expect to go into an evil lord's castle and free some prisoners and might need to steal a key, for instance? Go to a neightboring hostile power and secure a letter of marque and reprisal. You are now perfectly lawfully (according to someone) commandeering the key! And it's for the good cause of freeing the poor prisoners. And then the ability to make all sorts of legal trouble for those scheming lawful evil people who you aren't supposed to be able to touch because the law is technically on their side. Of course, there's the potential of running into a DM who requires that paladins be lawful stupid rather than merely lawful good, but I feel like it could be really fun.
posted by Zalzidrax at 12:47 AM on October 14, 2017 [11 favorites]


If you expect to go into an evil lord's castle and free some prisoners and might need to steal a key, for instance? Go to a neightboring hostile power and secure a letter of marque and reprisal. You are now perfectly lawfully (according to someone) commandeering the key! And it's for the good cause of freeing the poor prisoners. And then the ability to make all sorts of legal trouble for those scheming lawful evil people who you aren't supposed to be able to touch because the law is technically on their side. Of course, there's the potential of running into a DM who requires that paladins be lawful stupid rather than merely lawful good, but I feel like it could be really fun.

This sounds like you're playing a paladin as Daredevil, and I really, really like this idea.

(One shot last night went well, I think, and the most defining part of the party dynamic was that half of the party were RP'ing as teenage girls. Old school dwarf guy did, in fact, drink the ale, and it was, in fact, horrible.)
posted by dinty_moore at 6:07 AM on October 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm probably not going to be able to pay any tabletop RPGs for any point in the foreseeable future (for various reasons the closest thing to recreation time I have right now are occasional flurries of metafilter commenting), but I hope you all don't mind if, when I can play an RPG, I appropriate some of the ideas from this thread.

specifically the "city druid" idea could not be more up my alley. like basically what I really want is to be a city druid. But given that that's not possible in our universe, I would very much enjoy roleplaying one.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:25 AM on October 14, 2017


I love this thread. I don't understand a word of it!
posted by sjswitzer at 2:44 PM on October 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


Just for you, sjswitzer: THAC0.
posted by nubs at 7:50 PM on October 14, 2017 [3 favorites]


So I'm playing the friendliest barbarian out there, who doesn't have rages as much as fits of extreme joy. But who dislikes fighting people who don't enjoy fighting and will not attack people who are not trying to fight. After all, where does the joy come from then?

Here you go Hactar, you use this as your pic on your character sheet. :)
https://imgflip.com/i/1xo4jr
posted by Balna Watya at 4:58 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


This is coming back too late, but I wish I could write half as well as Mieville. Hell, I'd take a thousanth as well. Really, I know that part of the idea actually comes from the way that Rat Shamans are depicted in some of the Shadowrun stuff combined with seeing that (not) Goethe quote regularly in New York. And probably a web comic. But there is so much life in a city, even in a medieval city in the midst of a plague. And I hate how that is always ignored.
posted by Hactar at 12:01 PM on October 18, 2017


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