Monday, February 22, 2010

What a Bunch of Characters

In 4th Edition Dungeon & Dragons, there is a large emphasis on roles. As the designers themselves have stated, this is nothing new. They been around in earlier editions, just unspoken. In other places, such as World of Warcraft they’ve been keenly articulated and circulated, and gamer’s vocabularies possess and understand tank, controller, striker, DPS or what have you.
The emphasis on or understanding of, roles is a useful tool for group dynamics. It helps players fill a niche  . . . We’ve got a cleric, but no real ranged threat in the group? I’ll play a ranger. It also helps characters find ‘their place’ in the game. It seems to me that most of us have our pet characters. Some of us love tanking being up front – bashing and being bashed. Others love the eventual might of magic, the wizard archetypes who fling terrible spells and can fly, teleport and break all kind of ‘rules.’ Personally, I love the rogue and the cleric classes. Both are support characters, albeit with different angles (healing/buffing versus skill-monkeying).
Unmentioned above is the fact that sometimes roles can be a straightjacket, when the pressure is on the player to fill a certain role despite playing the type of character they’d want to. And there’s not much worse than getting a few levels in and realizing you hate/dislike/are willing to kill your new character.
The reason this topic is on my mind is because my characters (Pathfinder game - Curse of the Crimson Throne) arguably have managed to play the types of characters they enjoy, create them independently from each other with no real awareness of what roles have been filled, and then, in the heat of battle, slowly molded the odd group dynamic to fill those roles. This has shown me two things:
1) The roles will be filled. D&D is a game of teamwork regardless of which edition you play; players seem to intrinsically understand they must each be adding to the whole and finding ways to contribute . . . hence they seek ways to fill the roles.
2) Damn it. I lost my train of thought. Hmm . . . guess that means it is time to introduce my cast of characters and how they fill the roles.
Beevok – Beevok, a gnome summoner, is a walking contradiction. On one hand he is in thrall to shiver, a violently addictive hallucinogenic drug common on the streets of Korvosa; on the other hand he demands control over his surroundings. He has mastered his innate spark of magic to summon an otherworldly eidolon, a stone-skinned, muscular entity he affectionately refers to as ‘Rocksteady.’ Yet, he’s been unable to turn that same level of passion and diligence to fully kicking his habit for shiver.
At the table, Beevok operates as the group’s tank. He hangs back from the fight and sends Rocksteady wading into melee. Alone, Rocksteady is a more than capable melee combatant, but Beevok makes sure to support him with a steady stream of summoned monsters (currently his favorite being a Celestial dog).
Beevok, does have a high Use Magic Device skill rank, and thus could be capable of taking on some healing or ranged striker roles depending on what wands, etc. he equips, but as of now, he is more than content to sit back and let his Pokémon . . . I mean Eidolon do its thing.  
Imelio Phillips – Imelio is a drunkard, gambler, womanizer, scoundrel, con man, and a cleric of Cayden Cailean. Brought into the PCs struggle because his once wealthy family has had their name disgraced by an enemy of the other PCs, he has proven to be more trouble than aid. Often drunk and lecherous, Imelio has fumbled spells in combat, hit on the Queen of Korvosa, and generally convinced the group to stay up late carousing while he partied on their coin . . .
Still, they realize his usefulness. He is essentially a jack-of-all-trades. On one hand he is the healer, and though he’s far from the best healer around (he is completely confounded by the halfing’s spreading filth fever, for example) his cure light wounds and channel energy ability have proven useful.  Additionally, Imelio believes in being in the thick of things, whether this is from a sense of adventurous rush or drunken tomfoolery has yet to be seen, but it stands true; Imelio is quite skilled with a rapier. Lastly, Imelio has loaded up on social skills, and serves as the face of the group.
So, despite being a drunken fop, the party is keeping him on board, perhaps seeing his potential . . .
Pint Hornswaggle – A pragmatic halfling, Pint is a clever rogue who’s ever on the lookout for number 1. He sells this selfish streak as logic, essentially knowing when to fold. Despite possessing the smallest stature, it is Pint who arguably makes the hardest decisions for the group, such as leaving Imelio for dead when they thought he’d become alligator bait.
At his core though, his selfish nature is more a mask for someone who’s had to survive the rough streets of Korvosa and seen the city swallow too many friends in the past. Pint would rather make the tough decisions a hundred times over, he’d rather be the bad guy to everyone, rather than form friendships he knows the city will eventually rob him of.
Thus, Pint has attempted to become self-reliant and always ready to run. He’s become a ranged expert in combat, and a skill monkey outside of it.  Trusty shortbow at his side, Pint prefers to stay at a distance and pepper foes with arrows, but has recently turned his sharp mind towards the study of magic as well. Picking up a level of wizard, has doubled Pint’s effectiveness in both areas. Now things he cannot skill his way out of, he may have a spell to aid him . . . now things he cannot shoot, he can blast. 
Smog Whisprunner – Silent and deadly, Smog at times comes across as a loner. His past would back this up, a pickpocket and street waif, he spent his childhood cutting purses and running from guards who’d lock him up and thugs who’d cut his throat and take his coppers. When Smog grew older, he left the city, but the promise of revenge brought him back. Possessed of a certain bloodlust against the city he feels robbed him of a normal childhood, this human ranger means to inflict some damage while here.
Smog is the damage dealer of the group. He sits back and fires his composite longbow with deadly accuracy; he is mobile enough to avoid most incoming attacks and doesn’t hesitate to move around the battlefield seeking the optimal shot. Rarely pressed into melee combat, he is no slouch if need be, and keeps a greataxe strapped across his back to relay this message to any would be foes.
One thing is becomingly increasingly clear, however, is that Smog cares more than he likes to let on. If Pint is the brain of the group, the one who demands they do things safely and logically, Smog is the heart, the one who argued they rescue the cleric, the one who has little time for plans and safety when the rush of adventure is about them.

NEXT TIME à Campaign Journal Part 1 “Something Fishy”
PS - Art is admittedly ripped from google image searches  . . . will post links to artists or sites soon.

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