Player Advice: 5 Roles For You Character To Fill
I recently began rolling a character for a new game I will be playing in.
I can't quite explain how excited I am. It's been quite some time since I've actually been a player (close to two years to be precise). I do the full write up; stats; backstory (blog about that forthcoming), personality, etc.
However, there is one thing that the players' handbooks and core rulebooks never delve into. Something that is never quantified or noted on a character sheet. That missing element?
What role will the character play?
When I say role, I don't mean melee damage sponge, arcane battlefield control, divine healing or skill-whore. Those are roles granted by classes and class abilities. They are the roles most folks imagine when they think about roles. What I am referring to is the role their personality will play in the party.
A character is more than the sum of their attribute scores and saves. There is a personality that comes out when we play that isn't easily transferable to a character sheet. It's a living thing that we feel when playing. You are but one personality among many, and you have a role to play.
These roles can run the gambit from subtle nuances to wild, larger-than-life personalities. They offer a great deal of fun and role-playing options at the table and can quickly become captivating, but beware; If the roles aren't played with a proper amount of restraint and consideration for the people around you, the character can cease being fun and entertaining and begin to become annoying distractions for everyone else.
Below is an offering of four:
1. "The Classic"
This is the straight forward, by the book, true to their race and class style of character. The stalwart, stubborn dwarven fighter. The absent-minded wizard that spends all their time in libraries to research their next spell. The pious cleric. The kleptomaniac halfling rogue. These are the hallmarks, the images evoked when one opens up a player's handbook.
Why It's Fun: Sometimes it is nice to disappear into an old school character, becoming the paragon of your race and class, to see through the eyes of what the original pioneers of the game originally intended. Anyone can play something strange like a Fire Genasi Ranger (my first D&D character), an elven frenzied berserker, or a half-gnome-half-dragon gunslinger/magus, but how many times have you ever seen one of the classics at your table, and how many times was that character pure awsome-sauce? The old ways now hold a sort of mystical nostalgia that makes them strangely appealing.
What To Watch Out For: Classic can mean two things; retro and boring. Dwarf Fighter, Elf Wizard, Halfling Rogue. They don't exactly jump off the page with boundless excitement. In truth, the classics can feel a little cookie cutter. They are predictable, par for course, and lacking new avenues of insight that make some of the stranger character combinations appealing. In the end, this is the safe option.
2. "The Atypical"
Sometimes we don't want normal. Sometimes we want to venture into strange corners of the gamerverse and indulge in something a little... off. Such is the life of the Atypical Character. Atypicals take what you expect from a class or race and flip it on its head. A dwarf that abstains from drinking ale, a fighter that is a complete coward and runs away at the first sign of a fight, an atheist cleric. Hell, I once played with a guy who was basically an awakened lobster inside an Apparatus of Kwalish. Atypical Characters introduce a twist into the gaming dynamic that often messes with people's perceptions of what they know a character can be. Can I get a little love from all my half-orc bards?!
Why It's Fun: Playing a character that doesn't fit into the preconceived archetype can be very fun, if not a little challenging. They are often memorable, standing out in even the most diverse parties. The bizarre combinations of race and class and sometimes background can make the character dreadfully fun for you and everyone else at the table.
What To Watch Out For: Atypical characters, if not played with the proper attention, often fall into the rut of becoming a one-note character joke that screams "Hey, look at me and this weird thing that makes me different! This is the extent of my entire character!". These characters run the serious risk of becoming flat and uninteresting outside of their "quirk" that sets them apart from others of their ilk. If too much time is spent honing the strangeness, the other aspects of the character can be lost.
3. "The Comic Relief"
Everyone loves a clown!
Wait... that's not right.
Everyone is afraid of clowns. Rightfully so, with their dead, soulless eyes and hollow laughs that draw the joy from the souls of the thousands of children they've devoured over endless lifetimes.
Hmm, that got dark quickly. Let's start again...
Who loves a laugh? Everyone. Even (especially) creepy clowns, of whome wer can all agree don't deserve things like laughter, food, or love.
It is the fool who brings those laughs to the party. The Comic Relief presents something special to the table; the ability to break the tenseness and heaviness that can happen during a particularly dark session... possibly one involving clowns...
Why It's Fun: Being the funny one can quickly make you the heart of the party, and the life of it too. Other characters will feel compelled to be around you, just to see what happens next. Truth be told, Game Masters also like these characters, seeing what surreal predicaments that can place them in next. Your antics alone can make the game itself infinitely more memorable. Remember the time Leeroy ran into that room full of hatching dragon eggs? We all died, but boy was it funny right before we were consumed!
What To Watch Out For: Being funny is all well and good, but there comes a time when your antics might become distracting or detrimental for everyone else at the table. Running into a room screaming "Hey, I'm Mr. Meeseeks! Look at me!" might be amusing, but the other party members might find that their humor has turned to sand as the dragon that had been sleeping suddenly awakens and comes rushing towards you. Trust me, they will not be laughing at what will most likely be your final practical joke. Humor, when done right, is done in small, carefully measured doses.
4. "The Badass"
Walking away from explosions without looking, having the perfect quip when ending someone, or backing up an impossible claim with ruthless efficiency. Surviving something you had no earthly business surviving. These are the hallmarks of a badass, and it is glorious. Many people set out to claim the title of badass in their respective parties, but it is an elusive honorific not for the faint of heart. In truth, attaining such a status in character makes you just a little badass yourself in real life.
Just a little...
Why It's Fun: There is nothing, and I mean nothing quite like the look of awe and admiration on the faces of your fellow players as they come to the realization that you are a stone cold badass that does badass things, badass-ly. A lot of times it happens by accident, sometimes by design, but when it does happen, it can be one of the most satisfying feelings in the world.
What To Watch Out For: You might find yourself doing one of two things; brooding in a corner (which gets old quickly), or trying too hard to be the badass you want to be, and falling horribly short. Try too hard and you may end up looking like Batman from the Lego Batman Movie, which technically casts you in The Comic relief territory. As I said before, a good deal of badassery is accidental or just plain dumb luck. Before attempting to fill out this role, you have to ask yourself... "Do I feel lucky... punk?"
5. "The Agent Of Chaos"
Hours of careful planning, supplying, and recon, all thrown to the wayside as the berserker throws caution to the wind and decides to run into the heavily secured fortress while shouting insults, questioning the integrity of the enemy's collective mothers. Why? Cause reasons, that's why! This is the life of The Agent of Chaos, and a short life it often is. If their enemies don't kill them, their comrades might. Chaos is your companion, and you revel in it, be it fighting when you should deal, or throwing down diplomacy checks when you should be cleaving through the masters, or in some cases; both at the same time. Your mere presence at the table is a sure sign of one thing; the evening will be very interesting.
Why It's Fun: To just throw yourself into situations with naught a fuck given is something remarkably, inexplicably freeing. Your fellow players may look at you with some measure of admiration with a slight nod of "Well, this is happening" before their characters draw steel and jump into the fray. You add an element of the unknown to the evening's proceedings, which can liven up a campaign that might otherwise be a little dull.
What To Watch Out For: Your "Zero Fucks Given" policy might be fun for you, but it is a good way to get your party into unnecessary trouble, up to and including a TPK. Your fellow players may look at you with some measure of disdain and a shake of the head that screams "Well, this is happening" before their characters draw steel and jump into the fray. Don't be surprised if they land a few well-placed crits on you as well.
And there we are. Five roles to fill at the table. You can focus on one, or become a combination of two or more. The-Comic-Relief-Character-Trying-Too-Hard-To-Be-A-Badass is a fun one. Play to your strengths, but don't be afraid to try something new as well.
Did I miss any? Is there a particular character-type you play that I didn't mention? Let me know in the comments below. Share that shit with the world, my friend. Until next time...
Roll well, my friends
+Ed The Bard
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