Ok, so, you’re a role-player. In being a role-player, there are certain decisions that have to be made, the first of which is what kind of character to you want to be? From an anthropological or point of view, I’ve always found this aspect of the game fascinating. Why do we pick the characters we pick? Which in itself, harkens back to the ultimate question, why do we game in the first place? The kind of character we play reflects on who we are as people. Or does it? Just because someone likes to play an anti-paladin or an assassin doesn’t necessarily mean that they are killers at heart. They might just be frustrated with the world at large and wish to rebel in the only way they can without hurting anyone in the real world. I respect that. I know a nurse that loves to play assassins because she doesn’t want to bring her healing world of work to her leisure time. Not wanting to bring work home with you is a noble desire and entirely understandable.
I have a long laundry list of characters that I will list and why I created them and let you decide what is the underlying psychology behind my decisions. First off, we have one of my oldest, certainly my most powerful characters, Gozaron. Ahnto Gozaron was drawn up to be myself in the D&D world, plain and simple. My friends and I, having grown as appetite for something a little more adventurous in the game back in the mid-eighties decided to convert ourselves to character stats and see what happens. My friend Jeff became Lynnecrest the bounty hunter cum bard, my friend Gary became Yungoric the barbarian, and I became Gozaron the bard. Beforehand I had played a fighter named Sargoth with a posse of companions of every make and model, from human magic-user to dwarven fighter, assassin, paladin, ranger, etc. you get the picture. When I had a moment of free time, the game had me so enthralled that I spent every waking moment in either dungeon creation or character generation. But at that time, there was no consideration from me as to what kind of character I was creating, only that I hadn’t made that kind of character yet, so the long list was my first generation of characters and only served as a warm up to the deeper, more meaningful characters I was to create.
After the third generation of D&D, or the “third age” as we call it, I began to put a lot of thought into the characters I made, mostly because my time for gaming was more limited and I had to make every little thing count. Let me start with Enscavrious. I have a little wood elf, a little over four feet tall, named “Enscavrious Fisilenelriel” who loves to arch, is a fighter, and has the morals of a paladin. He sports a hunter green mohawk haircut and loves to destroy evil and protect the good. He is very outgoing with a penchant for sniping while the others do battle face-to-face but has compunction for rushing in with his wee sword cut hack and slash with the taller folks. Why did I create this guy? I personally am built like a dwarf, love to play dwarves, and am outgoing, but not flamboyantly so like Enscavrious. Nor am I lithe, nor svelt, nor short as all that, nor do I have enough hair to construct a mohawk. So why Enscavrious? I do love to arch, I do hate evil, I will fight without hesitation or fear, but not without reason. So, in many way Enscavrious is not me, but in many other ways is. He is an extension, like many other characters, of who I am but not. Enscavrious is more or less a small part of me that would exciting to let out. He’s the technician and the expert that is in me that concentrates on one thing mostly and does it very well. I admire his dedication to his craft of archery.
Another of my favorite characters is the dwarf Smaed. It’s not “Smeed” like the diphthong implies, that’s Western language. His name is pronounced “Smade”. Smaed is a brash, chaotic neutral fighter that gets what he wants when he wants it or bad things happen to bad people. He’s a champion for good, though his methods aren’t always. He was cast out from his dwarven brethren because of his love and fascination for humans and his desire to live among them. He is an outcast, tavern owner, smithy extraordinaire, and has seven wives, all of whom are minotaurs, female. He is currently in the middle of a great battle for the quaint little village of Restinfjord and is building something that he hopes will turn the tides in favor of the defenders.
I created Smaed to be my opus dwarf character. He embodied much of my personality, especially his methods of getting things done that aren’t always approved by the popular vote. The both of us are tough, tenacious, stronger than we look, not cookie cutter men, feel like outcasts, kind to kittens, love a sharp axe in our hand, stand up for those who cannot do so for themselves. Smaed is a sort of me-zilla that I would love to be. This is a sort of fantasy realization thing in which the role-player is playing someone that they wish they could be or could be more of without the restrictions of today’s society.
I have a goliath character whose name is “Zeerthok” of the Thok clan. He’s a noble savage type, breaking stereotypes of barbarian tribesmen by being well-spoken as well as powerful. He is next in line to be chieftain of his tribe and his rite of passage was to go out from the tribe and become a man. He traveled until he found a city of men that was under siege and took that as a sign of his duty. He volunteered to help fight for the people, who were also known to Zeerthok from trading with his people. He is still fighting. Zeerthok is a character that projects my love for dignity and class. I hail from a small, redneck town full of ass-kickers and beer drinkers and but for a few choices became I one as well. I am a stereotype breaker and a pathfinder in my own right, I have two bachelor’s degrees, two master’s and a Ph.D. to prove to myself that I am not like those people back home. Zeerthok is my statement that one does not have to be what one appears to be while maintaining one’s status. I have drank my share of beer and kicked more than a few asses in my time and can do so again at any time, I just choose not to because I am more refined than that.
My latest character was made for the simplest of reasons: I’ve never played a character like that before. He is a character with no moral character whatsoever. He is a D20 Modern fast hero that has no respect for life, no regard for the law, and feels no guilt or remorse in any way. He wants money and will do anything for it. So far, he has excelled in his task. He has come a long way from level one to level two, as he is only second level, but playing this guy, whose name is “Justin Goode”, has been one of the greatest challenges of my life. So far there have been at least two instances in which I may have played him wrong. In other words, there are at least two people in that universe walking around now that should be dead. I think Justin would have killed them when I chose not to.
Justin was created as I said, for the sole and express purpose of an experiment on myself to see if I could pull it off. I’m getting used to the idea of playing a sociopathic murderer, even though it goes against every fiber of my moral coat of arms. Therein lies the challenge. To be able to control a character that is so unlike myself so well that people start to wonder about me. Justin is a fun character that is oddly liberating, but at the same time revolting to me because of his lack of caring for life. So the final reason for me to roll up a character is for the challenge of playing that character, to get outside my comfort zone, quite safely at that.
The next time you roll up a character, take a long look at why you’re rolling that particular character up, and don’t say it’s just, “because I like rangers” or anything as simple as that. We are complex machines with even more complex desires and motives. You might like rangers because you really dislike cities, or you love the freedom of nature, or many, many other possibilities. Also, take the time to try and play something you would never have thought of playing. I chose characters for my own kids because they didn’t play the types I picked for them. My eldest had a paladin thrust upon her and came back with “What? Why? Paladins are boring, they’re always restricted by all those religious rules and such.” Now, Saint Celsian The Balanced Blade, once Celsian the Lost, is her favorite character, bound for glory in the mighty and pure name of Pelor. So in essence, one never knows where that next favorite is going to come from or morph into. Your character, if played well, might just change you.
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