I recently read Character Roles Reflect Player Roles where the author argues that character classes imply different play styles that reflect the player’s preferences: fighters for the “strong and silent” player that is happy attacking the bad guys, cleric for the supportive player, thief for tactical player that takes initiative and coordinates actions with others, magic-user for the player who likes strategy – figuring out when to use spells and what to use them for.
I recommended the article on Google Buzz and remarked that this supports my point of view that players don’t have the right to play any class and personality they like—they have the privilege to play the classes and personalities that most suit their player abilities: tactics, strategy, imagination, courage, oratory, creativity, all of these are unlimited by the constraints of the physical world, unlike strength, dexterity and constitution, unlike most of our fighting abilities.
Adrian replied to that, saying “if I applied those criteria, at least from a tactical standpoint, I’d estimate that fully half the players I’ve played with probably shouldn’t be playing anything but an INT 8 raging barbarian.”
Adrian is right, of course. And yet, I feel that his point does not invalidate mine. If this is how his players act, so what? Nobody is going to fix their tactics for them, right? I think the real problem is thinking bad tactics is a sign of low intelligence and then looking at the character sheet and discovering the Intelligence score.
I think my point of view works a lot better if you rename the mental abilities to something that cannot apply to players, thereby reducing the confusion. Int could be “book learning”, Wis could be “yoga” or “fu”, Cha could be “leadership” or “magnetism”. What I’m trying to find is words that imply things we don’t want to act out at the table. Intelligence, tactics, strategy, wisdom, intuition, charm, oratory — these are things we can act out and therefore we don’t need an ability or skill for them.
Why is this? Why try and introduce this separation of things that we can act out at the table like oratory and the things we cannot like attacking with swords? Can’t we treat everything as something we cannot act out at the table?
We could, and many people do. If people think that shy players should be able to play bards just as peaceful players should be able to play fighters, then that’s what they’ll do. The reason I personally don’t like this is because I enjoy the acting aspect of role-playing.
I see the game as having two sides, fighting and talking:
If any of you read German, you might have read a previous blog post of mine a few days ago where I wrote about not liking social skills. I used the same argument: I like both aspects of the game.
Now, having established that I like the parts with no rules, no dice, no character sheets, my position hopefully makes more sense. I don’t like abilities and skills on the character sheet that stand in for something a player could act out at the table. These abilities and skills take away from my enjoyment.
Yes, my preferences will also take away from shy people’s enjoyment that want to play bards. But that’s just where I draw the line between wish fulfillment and role-playing. If it is wish fulfillment that you seek, I recommend reading a book instead. You’ll never get what you want at the table; the others will never be quite as entertained by your Diplomacy rolls as you are, alone in your mind’s theatre. Go play a fighter instead! It’s what I do.