June 6, 2010 by Jeff
Characters in D&D are represented in the game in many different ways. Classes, races, backgrounds, feats, alignment, and more. None of those things necessarily help you know how to play the character however. Sure, your class, role, powers, etc. might tell you where to stand on the battlefield, but eventually you’ll run into a choice to make that comes down to one thing…role playing. Personality styles give you a method to understand what your character would do those situation. A character’s personality tells you, the player, how they would react to an enemy, what feats or powers they might choose, what they might do in a skill challenge and more. More than that, personality styles can have a mechanical impact that shows that a character’s personality isn’t just something that is “fluff” in the game but should be reflected as something important throughout the character as both role-playing choices and mechanical or “crunchy” options.
In this series of articles I will be detailing different styles of playing a character, of giving it a personality. WotC has a pretty good list of playing styles in the DMG that describes the style and motivations of players and the Player’s Strategy Guide, which is full of good advice, continues to use them. While this is some really useful information for DMs trying to understand players they don’t help a player know how to play . The Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide also started giving you some great mechanics about adding backgrounds to your characters and have expanded that with nearly every book since. Backgrounds are great for explaining what your characters have done in the past but what they don’t do is tell a you how to play their character now. Personality styles are just that.
The idea here is not to give the DM information about how to understand their players and provide games to meet their expectations. The goal of this series will be to come up with a list of ways that one can play their character, give some advice, mechanical choices, and more. So that a character’s personality, their role-playing choices, are meaningful and significant in the game.
These personality styles, of course, are far from final or a matter of black and white. Few people in the real world are just one thing and fit nicely into a box like this. It is useful, however, to understand the dominant theme of your character. This will help you make choices for your character that are consistent.
It also helps players know what actions to take. When playing a character, especially early on in it’s career, there will inevitably be a moment when you just don’t quite know what to do. How your character would act, what feat to choose, what power to go with, how to make that choice over another. When those moments come, this is when you turn to your personality style.
There are a few ways to add personality styles to your game. You could choose your primary one, or call yourself conflicted (thanks @KatoKatonian for the idea) and choose two. Put that primary style on your sheet as a reminder, and turn to it whenever you’re unsure of what to do. Or you can list a primary style, as well as one or two secondary styles. The first option gives you a very clear direction for your PC and could be a great way to encourage players make focused and consistent choices with their character to help encourage role playing over meta-gaming. The second option is a bit more advanced and takes more thought in the midst of the game, but better simulates the shades of grey that live within all people.
I recommend that you choose one or more of these in place of a background (you can choose up to six backgrounds for your PC, after all). In the rest of this series I will detail each of the following personality types, how they can impact the choices a character makes, and even provide some small mechanical benefit that can be applied in place of a character background.
Now as you look through this list you may see things that you think of as the same, but rest assured, each personality style is intended to be unique. That said, I do recognize that there is some overlap. Someone who is Subversive is likely going to make some choices similar to someone who is Sneaky. In the same way that a Whimsical PC might make choices that an Impulsive PC would make. As the series progresses I hope to write about several personality styles each month that are similar to each other so that I can best describe the differences between them.
- ??? What can you add to the list???
What terms are missing from my list that I should add? Which styles are best grouped together and how would you describe those groups?
I hope you enjoy the series, the concept, and the new website. Let me know what you think or want to see in future articles by leaving a comment.