August 15, 2011 by Jeff
Sometimes it pays off to plan ahead a little bit when bringing a character into a game. how do you want them perceived, or to get used to how to play them. As we continue to tell the tale of my recent journey into D&D player-dom we’ll discuss that concept and see how I did that with my PC.
The first two articles of this journey detail the process by which I created my first character of the campaign (Alain). I say first because it’s Dark Sun and we were told to have a second character ready just in case (and on a side note I designed Alain to become a possible NPC later anyway, something that may be the subject of a future article).
So now the character is built and the next thing I wanted to do was figure out how to establish Alain in the group. I had a vision for Alain when I built him. He was going to see himself as a superior…at least to the other characters in the party. He’s a leader, and in the truly Dark Sun sort of way sees the other PCs as useful, so it’s in his interest to keep them alive. I don’t, however, want him to be seen as uncooperative, a pain, or my playing of him to dig into other people’s fun. I had to find a way to establish who he was in the group and do it in a way to get others to accept him in the way I viewed him.
This is a tricky thing to do. Sometimes you make a character and just wait to see what the dynamics of the group are and some of the characters personality and decisions are formed directly from that. In fact, you almost always have to be prepared to do that and to make sacrifices to your original idea in order to make things fit so you don’t trample on the fun of others. Sometimes, however, you can try and establish things in a way that will guide the other players towards your idea, and I have to say it worked brilliantly with Alain.
In the case of Alain (my PC) I had a few advantages. First, the entire party and, in fact, the campaign, was brand new. So there was no established party that I had to fit into. This meant that if I acted correctly I could set up not just Alain and his role in the party in a way that everyone would be happy, but I could mould the party itself a little to make this work even smoother.
My second advantage is that I’m usually the DM of this group of players and part of the concept I need to get across right away is that Alain is the party’s leader. Not just in “role” (meaning healer/buffer) but by virtue of the fact that everyone should and will listen to him. Being the usual DM for these players, I think, made them naturally inclined to listen to me, if not my PC. I can point to evidence of this by looking at the previous time someone else took over DMing for the group and I got to play and often everyone followed my lead and they really…REALLY shouldn’t have. That guy was never very stable and certainly didn’t have their best interests in mind.
So I found myself, on the day of the game, practicing lines in the mirror to help me establish Alain’s authority. I wanted to have a plan, to have, at least a vague idea of what I was going to say. This could blow up, the others could defy his authority and this would make Alain’s concept a lot less fun for me…he’d have to go all emo and pull a bunch of “I told you you should have listened to me” lines. That’s no good.
“Look, if you listen to me and do what I say you just MIGHT survive this.” That was Alain’s opening line. That’s what I practiced. I didn’t know how the campaign would start, but it’s Dark Sun, so I had a good idea that this would fit in. It wasn’t his actual FIRST line of the campaign, but it was the first time I really spoke through him in character in the game. I suspect it would be the first thing anyone would remember about it.
The rest of the things I did when I built Alain was all in support of this concept as well, and that was a huge help. He’s a warlord that works in such a way that if you do do what he says, you get bonuses to attacks, damage, sometimes even extra attacks or charges. This naturally inclines people to pay attention to what he says. He also follows the Templar theme, which, in the story of Dark Sun, gives him some level of authority. Given that the players are mostly new to the setting when Alain tells them to do something because he’s the authority around here…they’re inclined to take heed.
And for what it’s worth, he successfully followed through on that opening line. Almost to a one people do what he says and they all made it from the wilderness outside of Urik to Tyr without proper weapons or even supplies and not a single person died.
That said, I’m not sure that Alain has their best interests at heart either…but he is at least a natural leader and strategizer. We’ll see how long this lasts.
Do you have any stories of success or failure in establishing your characters role in a party? What worked for you? What didn’t? Leave a comment below to let me know!