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Fox Box Socks
2011-09-21, 12:53 PM
I got invited to join a 3.5 campaign by a friend of mine (who happens to be the DM). She's a very smart lady and knows her way around RPGs, but we had this conversation.

Her: What will you be playing?
Me: I'm thinking Human Swashbuckler.
Her: I...don't know. We're landlocked, and you're gonna have tough time playing a pirate.
Me: Who said I was playing a Pirate?
Her: Well then why are you playing a Swashbuckler?

I thought long and hard about the mindset on her part that led to this line of thinking, and the best answer I can come up with is that what is written on the character sheet has become more important than what your character says, does, or is.

Want to be a fire wizard? Well, taking spells that deal fire damage or refluffing them so that they're fire-themed isn't enough, you need feats that make you better at fire wizardry and prestige classes with names like "Pyromancer". Want to play a samurai? Well, even though samurai was more of a social caste than occupation historically, just playing a fighter or barbarian or ranger isn't enough, you need a class named samurai, and the only way to be a samurai is to take a level or two in it. Don't want to be a samurai? Well, then why does it say samurai on your character sheet?

Ultimate Combat was recently released, and while it's a fairly solid book overall, there are a few real stinkers, namely the Holy Gun, Prone Shooter, and the infamous Death or Glory, the last of which is a feat that lets you deal less damage in exchange for a Large monster getting to punch you in the face for free. The defense of these feats and options is that "they're for roleplayers", but are they really? Do you really need a feat that says "you are reckless around Large enemies"? If people wanted to express that at the table, didn't they used to, you know, be reckless around Large enemies rather than just take an objectively terrible feat that's only redeeming value is that it goes on your sheet?

This isn't a 3e issue either, it pops it's head into 4e all the damn time. There was an 11 page spread in this month's Dragon about arcane universities, and people where pissed that it didn't include any crunch. Interesting character hooks? Unique backgrounds that can be placed into practically any campaign? Pfff, where are my feats and paragon paths? Moreover, every other week on the various 4e forums is someone that comes along whining about how it isn't fair that you can't play a ranged fighter in vanilla 4e (the slayer can kind of pull it off, but it involves heavy multiclassing). Being told that ranger is now a martial class and can be played as a military sharpshooter rather than woodsy marksman with incredible ease isn't good enough; people apparently need to both play a character with a bow/crossbow/whatever AND write fighter on their sheet, because that's important (apparently).

When did this happen? More importantly, why is this still a thing?

Sipex
2011-09-21, 01:07 PM
As you said, we see this sort of thing with 4e all the time. Another popular complaint is not being able to attack with both weapons as a sneaky, thief type yet DEX based Rangers as just as capable as Rogues in stealth and thievery (provided you train the skills).

I blame video games for this although I only started playing P&P rpgs recently. In most cases, a single video game will have the ranger always be the same ranger no matter how many times you play through it, the wizard will always be the same wizard and the fighter will always be the same fighter.

MMORPGs are particularily bad for this, the rogue is always the only one who gets sneaky abilities, the ranger gets the outdoorsy abilities, the fighter gets heavy armor. Worst of all, if you try to break the mould you're likely leaving out some abilities which you SHOULD be using and hence 'Doing it wrong'.

flumphy
2011-09-21, 01:08 PM
And I can't understand why anyone would play D&D if they were in it mostly for the roleplaying,.

D&D is primarily a game. Games are about defeating opponents and figuring out mechanically-optimal ways to do so. There are very few things in D&D that support storytelling and non-combat encounters, because, as evidenced by the ratio of crunch to fluff in pretty much everything WoTC has put out over the past decade, that's not really what the game is about. If your crunch isn't forcing you into a certain flavor, then chances are that flavor just isn't happening because it's suboptimal and/or too much work. Especially since most crunch-oriented people (the main audience of D&D) likely have what little default fluff there is (spell names, etc.) burned into their brain, and no amount of refluffing is going to change their awareness of the fact that their refluffed warlock casting Arrow of Sunny Happy Joy is actually firing off an eldritch blast. The crunch is too intermarried with the fluff to make refluffing a realistic option.

There are other systems more conducive to flexibility and roleplaying. And there's freeform. And these invariably fall short when it comes to in-depth combat mechanics, because they were built for storytelling.

To make it clear, neither of these things is bad. A screwdriver isn't bad because you can't whack on a nail with its handle and get the same results as a hammer. A hammer isn't bad because it sucks at unscrewing things. They are different tools for different situations, just like RPG systems.

If you want to find a playerbase with a different attitude, look beyond D&D. I say this as someone who plays both D&D and freeform on a regular basis and enjoys them for completely different reasons.

Gamgee
2011-09-21, 01:10 PM
And I want to be a pixie elf of death, may as well refluff human so I'm destroyer of gods. Mary Stu syndrome where it comes to the point yuou can do anything. I want a fighter who dervies his power from his charisma, magical ability, and natural prowess. Then you roll the damn dice and its like... yea.. 2 damage. Your really that badass elf pixie of death/fighter.

Oh god the nightmares I have of free form roleplaying. I can understand refulffing some things like Samurai as a social caste. Others like firemage I can't because fire works a certain way via the rules.

BRC
2011-09-21, 01:12 PM
The idea of Archtype is very powerful in fantasy, especially DnD, which is attempting to provide mechanics for representing generalized fantasy archtypes.

The Rogue, for example, could be a cunning, amoral thief, a military scout and infiltrator, a constable who knows how to fight dirty and investigate crimes, a cultured gentleman who makes up for his lack of strength with pinpoint precision. Any combination of "Lots of skills" and "Knows how to target enemies vitals" can be a Rogue. But, for some reason, most Rogues end up as cunning, kleptomaniac thieves, because that's the archtype it was originally designed to create, it's built right in to the name, "Rogue".

Rangers are supposed to be the Archtype of the hunter living in the woods, as opposed to a fighter who happens to use Bows.


Heck, the Monk's absolute suckiness can be traced to this. The Monk was trying to go for the "Semi-Mystic Kung Fu Guy who is so awesome he can fight without weapons". Said Semi-Mystic Kung Fu guys are usually depicted as being very strong, very fast, very tough, and very wise, then they put that into a system designed to make sure characters couldn't be all those things at once, hence the Monk's MADness.

Barbarians too are meant to indicate a very specific kind of character: a wilderness dwelling, frothing at the mouth Barbarian. i've used Barbarians to represent everything from street thugs to fanatics to people driven mad by magic, but if I say "Barbarian" people assume I'm playing Conan.

Tyndmyr
2011-09-21, 01:22 PM
Her: Well then why are you playing a Swashbuckler?

Me: Because I'm gonna swash my sword across my buckler!
Me: WTF do I not have proficiency in bucklers?

Knaight
2011-09-21, 01:24 PM
I got invited to join a 3.5 campaign by a friend of mine (who happens to be the DM). She's a very smart lady and knows her way around RPGs, but we had this conversation.

Her: What will you be playing?
Me: I'm thinking Human Swashbuckler.
Her: I...don't know. We're landlocked, and you're gonna have tough time playing a pirate.
Me: Who said I was playing a Pirate?
Her: Well then why are you playing a Swashbuckler?


What I want to know is why pirate and swashbuckler are even viewed as synonymous terms. Sure, the romanticized pirate is usually a swashbuckler, but the term as it is used most recently covers much more than that. The Three Musketeers is arguably about four swashbucklers, various civilians good with a sword are swashbucklers, Zorro is certainly a swashbuckler, and the ocean is not key to that concept at all.

As for this being the oddest trend in people who play RPGs, its not RPGs in general. Outside of D&D, and possibly other class based simulationist-gamist games (Rolemaster, Harn, MERP), it basically never shows up.

flumphy
2011-09-21, 01:26 PM
Me: Because I'm gonna swash my sword across my buckler!
Me: WTF do I not have proficiency in bucklers?

Actually, that issue aside, swashbuckler does not exclusively mean "pirate." Even the D&D swashbuckler doesn't get pirate-themed abilities. In fact, I just checked: the Complete Warrior entry does not even contain the word "pirate." Therefore, a landlocked swashbuckler fits the default fluff and is a poor example.


What I want to know is why pirate and swashbuckler are even viewed as synonymous terms. Sure, the romanticized pirate is usually a swashbuckler, but the term as it is used most recently covers much more than that. The Three Musketeers is arguably about four swashbucklers, various civilians good with a sword are swashbucklers, Zorro is certainly a swashbuckler, and the ocean is not key to that concept at all.

As for this being the oddest trend in people who play RPGs, its not RPGs in general. Outside of D&D, and possibly other class based simulationist-gamist games (Rolemaster, Harn, MERP), it basically never shows up.

Pirate movies are more popular. People hear the term "swashbuckler" associated only with pirate as a result. People stop using the term "swashbuckler" to refer to anything but pirates to prevent confusion. The cycle feeds into itself...

Anyway, I find that it happens with anything with default fluff. Typically because most things with default fluff practically require you to use it or undergo a massive overhaul. Fortunately, there are many good systems without default fluff, and nine times out of ten it makes more sense to use those instead.

Knaight
2011-09-21, 02:04 PM
Anyway, I find that it happens with anything with default fluff. Typically because most things with default fluff practically require you to use it or undergo a massive overhaul. Fortunately, there are many good systems without default fluff, and nine times out of ten it makes more sense to use those instead.
Maybe in some of the older stuff. I see using the default fluff as typical, but being locked into default fluff archetypes as a D&D thing.

Kurald Galain
2011-09-21, 02:05 PM
Barbarians too are meant to indicate a very specific kind of character: a wilderness dwelling, frothing at the mouth Barbarian. i've used Barbarians to represent everything from street thugs to fanatics to people driven mad by magic, but if I say "Barbarian" people assume I'm playing Conan.

That's a problem, yes. I know several players who will immediately assume that anyone playing a Rogue is out to steal from and/or betray the rest of the party. That's rather annoying, actually.

GungHo
2011-09-21, 03:18 PM
What I want to know is why pirate and swashbuckler are even viewed as synonymous terms. Sure, the romanticized pirate is usually a swashbuckler, but the term as it is used most recently covers much more than that. The Three Musketeers is arguably about four swashbucklers, various civilians good with a sword are swashbucklers, Zorro is certainly a swashbuckler, and the ocean is not key to that concept at all.
I don't know if it's a matter of the world "moving on" or just that people into the hobby are changing, but people into RPGs aren't always well-read and being able to read well isn't a barrier to entry like it used to be.

When D&D first came out as written by Gary Gygax, if you didn't have fair command of the English language, you weren't going to go far. Granted, I was young at the time, but it certainly wasn't as approachable as having a bunch of color-coded powers you could keep in a 3x5 deck like Pokemon cards. 2E was a little better, but still relied on definite literary concepts. 3E, however, talked to you like you were a little boy unless you were trying to figure out the Planes or the continuity of the Forgotten Realms. Everything was labeled. There was no real question of what something was supposed to be or wasn't supposed to be, and if there was a term that could be used to drive a PrC, that PrC was invented. If you wanted to be a Ranger that was a warden of the woods, they'd give you a Warden of the Woods class so there'd be no doubt of what you were so you could be in a nice little box.

A decade or so ago when they first started with 3E, I thought that 3E came out of a general backlash at Storyteller games and the like for being too fluffy and for LARPing being too creepy, and that it ended up segregating people into "roll player", "role player", and "do not let that man near your children" camps, but I'm honestly not so sure of that now. I think entertainment producers (in all market segments) caught on early and simplified and defined everything because they saw the fortcoming trend emerging in short burst communications and knew they were going to have to entertain in that fashion. People like feeling they're "in the know", so they found ways to make get people "in the know" in the space of a few minutes. It didn't take two or three days to read the entire rulebook so you could play... you could jump right in in an hour. And, roleplayers didn't do themselves a service when they would lament about the good old days when things were impossible to understand.

So, back to the point, I don't think people appreciate literature as much as they used to, at least not in a long form, because it takes a longer time to gain an appreciation of it. I don't think people read books with "5 dollar words", even in school, so they never had to go look up words they didn't understand. I don't think that a lot of people know that a swashbuckler isn't a pirate, because they never had to read anything that used the words in two different fashions. If I described my rogue as a "mountebank", I'm pretty sure no one would have a clue and would think I meant he had a lot of money and would try to rob him. So I'd have to simply and call him a con man. People know what that is. They saw that on Lost. Hell, if I just called him a "Sawyer-type character", they'd probably get it even faster. If I called a villain a "blackguard", they'd probably tell me "no, that's from 3E" or if I called him a "rogue" they'd worry he could do a sneak attack. So, better off calling him the big bad, because they saw that on the internet.. though I don't even think they know it came from Buffy/Joss Whedon any more because "being in the know" doesn't have to include information sourced before 1999.

flumphy
2011-09-21, 03:45 PM
So, back to the point, I don't think people appreciate literature as much as they used to, at least not in a long form, because it takes a longer time to gain an appreciation of it. I don't think people read books with "5 dollar words", even in school, so they never had to go look up words they didn't understand. I don't think that a lot of people know that a swashbuckler isn't a pirate, because they never had to read anything that used the words in two different fashions. If I described my rogue as a "mountebank", I'm pretty sure no one would have a clue and would think I meant he had a lot of money and would try to rob him. So I'd have to simply and call him a con man. People know what that is. They saw that on Lost. Hell, if I just called him a "Sawyer-type character", they'd probably get it even faster. If I called a villain a "blackguard", they'd probably tell me "no, that's from 3E" or if I called him a "rogue" they'd worry he could do a sneak attack. So, better off calling him the big bad, because they saw that on the internet.. though I don't even think they know it came from Buffy/Joss Whedon any more because "being in the know" doesn't have to include information sourced before 1999.

I majored in English Literature. That doesn't mean I enjoy having to compartmentalize an RPG's fluff and crunch in my head. If anything, it's the opposite, since the fluff probably means more to me than the guy who doesn't care for anything but big numbers. I mean, I envy those who can compartmentalize that well, but I'm just not one of them. If someone turns their warlock into a Super Happy Rainbow Champion, it WILL kill the mood for me just because whenever they cast "Rainbow Terrain" I know they're actually casting "Nightmares Made Real." I doubt I'm all that atypical, either. People rely on names. It's just how we think.

Also, for the record, there is a mountebank base class in 3E.

Hiro Protagonest
2011-09-21, 04:22 PM
Also, for the record, there is a mountebank base class in 3E.

The capstone is "you gain a template and turn into an NPC"! :smallbiggrin:

SamBurke
2011-09-21, 04:30 PM
Y'know, this is a huge problem... You see a monk class, and people think hoods, cowls, and kung-fu. What about a crossbow-wielding warrior? "HE'S A MONK!!! WHY ISN"T HE USING HIS HANDS!?!?" Because he doesn't have to.

Fluff beats crunch. Period. Use the crunch to support your concept, or build around it. Fun stuff. Classic... and hard to understand, apparently.

Kaun
2011-09-21, 04:57 PM
It happens in most class based games, I have yet to see it in a points buy. I think its just the nature of the beast, if you put a title on something people start to think it is more then just a word.

Lord Vampyre
2011-09-21, 05:36 PM
In reality, people are just lazy. Myself included.

We want to use our imaginations, but we don't want to work to do it. I hate it, as the DM, when my players want to refluff something beyond recognition. Minor tweaks, like playing a rogue that is the town constable in charge fighting the local thieves guild, cool. But turning a Dread Necromancer in to a happy go lucky freak that has an Aura of Friendship that just makes people feel shaken when they attack her is flat out.

There is fine line between refluffing the crunch in my opinion. A swashbuckling fighter great, a wizard who wields a long stick that is actually a sword but called something else is not so great.

I like GURPS, but you begin to realize that everything is simply relative. In GURPS, there really isn't any difference between a Human and an Elf except what you call them. You're free to spend your points however you wish. Unfortunately, this tends to ruin the gaming experience for me as it all seems a little bland.

Jude_H
2011-09-21, 05:53 PM
Why would I use a class-based game if I weren't interested in playing to archetypes?

(honest question)

Hiro Protagonest
2011-09-21, 06:04 PM
Why would I use a class-based game if I weren't interested in playing to archetypes?

(honest question)

Because the only RPGs you've seen are D&D and Pathfinder, and you didn't know GURPS existed until you first saw it mentioned on the forums.

Steward
2011-09-21, 06:12 PM
Some of the archetypes can get annoyingly rigid though, especially when you're dealing with someone who is misinterpreting a word (like the whole "swashbucklers must be pirates") or insisting that a certain class has to be portrayed by a total jerk ("rogues have to try to screw over the party all the time"). You can like the structure of a class-based system without making the former mistake (and it is a mistake in my opinion); it's not something that you find in the actual rules for the game or in the dictionary, and there are plenty of pop culture examples like Zorro and the Three Musketeers) or wanting to make all your friends mad at you.

flumphy
2011-09-21, 06:28 PM
The capstone is "you gain a template and turn into an NPC"! :smallbiggrin:
I never said it was a good class. :smalltongue:


Because the only RPGs you've seen are D&D and Pathfinder, and you didn't know GURPS existed until you first saw it mentioned on the forums.

I am skeptical that this actually happens. I grew up in a very small town where the majority of people, in the nineties, still genuinely believed that D&D was satanic. We're talking a literal Harry Potter book-burning level of isolation and paranoia, here.

The nearest bookstore (30 miles away, granted, but so was the nearest Walmart...) still carried GURPs. In fact, most bookstores (not gaming stores, regular bookstores) do carry at least the basic nWoD and GURPs books along with the basic D&D ones. And I have yet to see a gaming shop that carried only D&D and Pathfinder.

I refuse to believe that anyone old enough and literate enough to understand the rules of D&D has never been in a physical bookstore ever. I find it a stretch to believe that anyone interested in D&D never checked out the RPG section. GURPs has a smaller player base because it's not as easy to pick up and play, not because it's obscure.

Not to knock GURPs, of course. Generic systems are indeed the most straightforward solution to the problem presented in the OP.

DeadManSleeping
2011-09-21, 06:48 PM
In a 4e campaign, one of my friends wanted to play a character who was accessing power from the demon realm of the world. However, she wanted to play a Controller, something the Warlock is decidedly not.

GM: Play a wizard and just say you're getting your magic from the demon realm.

DONE.

dsmiles
2011-09-21, 06:50 PM
Me: Because I'm gonna swash my sword across my buckler!
Me: WTF do I not have proficiency in bucklers?
Wait. You wanted to swash your bucklers? I though swashbucklers buckled their swashes? :smalltongue:

Lord Vampyre
2011-09-21, 08:42 PM
The nearest bookstore (30 miles away, granted, but so was the nearest Walmart...) still carried GURPs. In fact, most bookstores (not gaming stores, regular bookstores) do carry at least the basic nWoD and GURPs books along with the basic D&D ones. And I have yet to see a gaming shop that carried only D&D and Pathfinder.

This is really a relatively new phenomena. When I was growing up, you were lucky if you could find the Red Box D&D set in the bookstore. There just wasn't anything else until I finally found an actual gaming store. These of course were alot like Charlie finding his golden ticket.

Greenish
2011-09-21, 08:53 PM
Interestingly, the style of thinking OP finds so perplexing is apparently the "old school" way, if an another thread (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=216137) is anything to go by.



Why would I use a class-based game if I weren't interested in playing to archetypes?D&D 3.5 is more of a pointbuy masquerading as a class-based, or a blend. Quoting from "Why do you play 3.5" thread:
If true class-based systems are like a playground, fun, but inflexible in what can be done with the equipment, and point-buy is like sand, able to be sculpted into basically anything you want, but inherently formless, then 3.5 is like Legos: an immense amount of flexibility, so long as you know what you're doing and what you want, but still solid enough to provide a few suggestions, and with a few suggested shapes you can make.


Wait. You wanted to swash your bucklers? I though swashbucklers buckled their swashes? :smalltongue:I'm pretty sure they swashed and had bucklers. As in
swash 1 |sw sh; sw sh |
verb [ intrans. ]
archaic (of a person) flamboyantly swagger about or wield a sword : he swashed about self-confidently.

Knaight
2011-09-21, 10:13 PM
I refuse to believe that anyone old enough and literate enough to understand the rules of D&D has never been in a physical bookstore ever. I find it a stretch to believe that anyone interested in D&D never checked out the RPG section. GURPs has a smaller player base because it's not as easy to pick up and play, not because it's obscure.

There are a lot of people who don't want to learn new things, and see no reason learning a system after they already know one. Moreover, basically everyone starts through D&D, it has name recognition among the general public, where nobody knows what a "GURPS" is until they already know how to play D&D. There are exceptions, of course, but there aren't many, and D&D is perfectly able to coast on name recognition despite being no better than numerous other games.

Lord Raziere
2011-09-21, 11:39 PM
I know, I hate this trend to.

There are so many things you can achieve by simply changing the fluff and leaving mechanics alone, its not even funny. All that wasted potential... :smallsigh:

Fox Box Socks
2011-09-22, 12:14 AM
I know, I hate this trend to.

There are so many things you can achieve by simply changing the fluff and leaving mechanics alone, its not even funny. All that wasted potential... :smallsigh:
That's not the worst part. The worst part? The people who do this think that they are roleplaying. That this is how roleplaying works.

Jerthanis
2011-09-22, 01:01 AM
Interestingly, the style of thinking OP finds so perplexing is apparently the "old school" way, if an another thread (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=216137) is anything to go by.

Actually, I'm not sure the OP of this thread isn't saying the same thing as the OP of that thread, albeit from different directions.

Admittedly, I played more 2nd edition than anything older, so maybe what I assume is "Old school" is actually more like, "between Old school and new", but to me, the old school approach was to have the title "Fighter" apply to an extremely wide array of character concepts, and similarly, "Mage" meant 'pharoh-like sorcerer-god-king' and 'old hermit researching magic-science' and 'impetuous elf stealing secrets from spirits' as well as dozens and dozens of other ideas. Taking a single class and allowing a wide variety of concepts, and in that way, what was written on your character sheet wasn't necessarily what you got out of the character.

I think I remember a story of Gygax presenting the idea of adding a "Thief" class to the game and David Arneson said something to the effect of, "If someone wants to play a thief, they steal something" (obviously we saw how that ended up, but you get the point)

Hjiryon
2011-09-22, 01:01 AM
People tend to think inside these boxes because they've been playing D&D for too long. In fact, D&D tends work against many kinds of creativity, for many reasons:

You confine a character's abilities to whatever fits within his particular set of focus - including any complete package of prestige class in D&D. Realise that this is the opposite of freedom of concept.
You can pick your prestige class - maybe you can even tweak it, GM permitting. You're still caught in a world where fantasy stereotypes is the order of the day.

Level of moral complexity: In the case of D&D, good and evil and objective matters of fact. This ruins a great deal of moral depth in the game completely. Again, boxed thinking.

Character creation process: Is focused on dice (or point-buying). Obviously you can break this down and do something rather more sensible, but that's not the recommended system. Personally, I tend to do something like this: http://www.mimgames.com/window/characters/index.html - Ignore the reference to mechanics, insert a rationalisation process where you have to fit your character concept into the narrow confines of D&D at the end.
Often, doing this only reminds me of why I rarely play D&D, though; it gives no attention to character depth in the creation process, which I think is a fatal flaw.

Set goal within the system: In 4e at least, the stated goal of the campaign is to live through combats, gain experience and treasure, and probably save the world on your way to level 30 if indeed it takes that long - That's paraphrasing the PHB.
This view is extremely narrow and honestly wrecks, to my mind, a lot of potential as to what kind of game you could be playing.

You can tweak and modify your way around all these problems. On the occasions when I return to 3.5 (out of a sense of nostalgia, mostly), that's what I do. I also have to tweak the balance of the wizard class and various prestige classes, or the class ends up being extremely OP.
Unless I want a fairly shallow world where the game revolves around what I consider long and drawn out combats... The only reason to use this system, to my mind, is that I can expect people to be at least superficially familiar with the rules.

That, and I'll admit the system has a certain element of nostalgia about it. I began studying English so I could go from the small red book and to AD&D 2nd edition, which was not available in my native language... So I'd lie if I said D&D didn't matter to me.
At present, though, it does very little to support any notion of roleplaying.

I'd go on rambling for a while, but, eh... I figure it's all been said before.

Darkomn
2011-09-22, 01:22 AM
Player: I steal that useless trinket over there
DM: Ok roll slight of hand (but why its worth like 3 silver)
Player:(Because the book says so)
DM: :smallfrown:

paddyfool
2011-09-22, 01:31 AM
I take a certain pleasure in fitting the crunch to fluff that works, but really isn't the default. My character in a PBP Fantasy Craft game is the following: (http://www.crafty-games.com/content/argan-dain)
Species: Ogre with the Fire Brave species feat (equivalent of "Race" in D&D while avoiding any need for LA and other schenanigens; default fluff for this species feat being "Oni"; functionally big, tough, good at disguising self as other species, fire resistant)
Speciality: Gladiator (no equivalent in D&D; represents what/who you are at level one. Functionally, a tough combatant and good at looking impressive).
Class: Assassin (good at stealth, disguise, fighting a single tough opponent)

My fluff/refluff: A kind of medieval/fantasy "disguised superhero", where the disguise is as a fairly generic human swordsman. Species abilities and appearance derived from an accursed bloodline, and raised in a family who pretend to be regular human craftsmen etc. to keep out of trouble and out of the temptation to become the monsters that they believe the demon who marked them wants them to become. This character, however, has become frustrated with the limits of this, and gone out to break some evil heads and transcend said limits, while pledged to a deity who had also once transcended what he was (Caiden Cailean; the setting being Golarion, the standard Pathfinder setting).

Aux-Ash
2011-09-22, 05:45 AM
I wonder if this isn't related to the notion that the better written your character's background and description is the better roleplayer you are. Both seems like convenient ways of fleshing out your characters without resorting to actual social interaction. A way to create and develop your character on your own, prior to play or apart from play.

Combine with that especially many games has taken a very strategical focus. That it is encouraged (and something a great deal of players enjoy) to browse the books in search of the perfect item/spell/ability. That this would be exported to (and partly supplant) most archetype-systems. Going towards a trend of hyper-specificity, that you'd browse the books not to find the archetype that would allow you to play your idea but to find that class that is your idea.

Tyndmyr
2011-09-22, 08:41 AM
I wonder if this isn't related to the notion that the better written your character's background and description is the better roleplayer you are. Both seems like convenient ways of fleshing out your characters without resorting to actual social interaction. A way to create and develop your character on your own, prior to play or apart from play.

I *completely* agree. I vastly prefer to flesh out characters organically during play.

paddyfool
2011-09-22, 08:53 AM
I wonder if this isn't related to the notion that the better written your character's background and description is the better roleplayer you are. Both seems like convenient ways of fleshing out your characters without resorting to actual social interaction. A way to create and develop your character on your own, prior to play or apart from play.


I *completely* agree. I vastly prefer to flesh out characters organically during play.

I do like making up stories, and have crafted various intricate backgrounds before. I then may find myself with a headache as what the character evolves into during play threatens to become something quite different, and I have to decide whether to fight the change, treat it as character growth, or retroactively fix the background.

Whereas I probably do have a bit more fun when I start out with a fairly blank slate and make it up as I go along... when I let myself do this, anyway.

Ravens_cry
2011-09-22, 10:00 AM
The most important part about writing a back story is not for yourself but for the DM. That way your character can actually be a part of the world from the start.

The Glyphstone
2011-09-22, 10:35 AM
Sadly, it's been to my experience that DMs rarely actually bother reading my backstory, let alone incorporating elements of it into the world (or giving me world information to incorporate).

Alanzeign
2011-09-22, 11:36 AM
Writing a backstory doesn't make you a good or bad roleplayer, what it does is give you a foundation that you can use to roleplay with.

I think some people are confusing the word 'roleplay' with 'improvisation.' Being able to create a character concept and NOT contradict yourself entirely on the fly is difficult, to say the least, but it doesn't mean you are a bad roleplayer simply because you wrote a backstory and put some thought into what you want to be.

Using a backstory as an excuse to not be social and then say you are roleplaying is one thing, but I don't think merely having a backstory makes someone inherently less of a roleplayer.

At the OP, I think someone else said it, but it's just people being lazy. D&D is there as a guide, even without 'refluffing' every ability you can be several different characters within any given class. What is needed to do this is personality, motivation, ideals, quirks, stigmas, etc. These drive what your character will/won't do, what they will/won't use, what class they might take, and how they might adapt to the world.

It's not free form roleplay, but it's not as much of a box as people think it is. I thought the whole point of playing a game with a human DM is to avoid garbage like "The book told me I have to steal things because I'm a rogue" or "You can't be a swashbuckler because you're landlocked and I can only see that class as a pirate." Silly, unimaginative way to play a game where the human element is the most important aspect if you ask me, but to each their own.

Aux-Ash
2011-09-22, 12:13 PM
Note that I wasn't refering to the writing of an background itself (which is indeed a good thing. Especially a practical one shared with the DM) but rather the other extreme.
The phenomena of writing massive and elaborate backgrounds as some sort of sign of your skill as a roleplayer. And not to give your DM lots of material to work with.

paddyfool
2011-09-22, 12:19 PM
The most important part about writing a back story is not for yourself but for the DM. That way your character can actually be a part of the world from the start.

It's a good point - many DMs do love plot hooks, in my experience.

flumphy
2011-09-22, 12:28 PM
Note that I wasn't refering to the writing of an background itself (which is indeed a good thing. Especially a practical one shared with the DM) but rather the other extreme.
The phenomena of writing massive and elaborate backgrounds as some sort of sign of your skill as a roleplayer. And not to give your DM lots of material to work with.

Well, keep in mind that in PbP and MMOs and IRC games, mediums that many if not most players have explored at some point, writing ability IS an indication of your skill as a roleplayer. After all, it's pretty much the only way you're going to be expressing yourself in those games. Glancing at a background is also the by far the easiest way to filter out the people who can spell from the idiots from, in some cases, the perverts.

I'll be the first to agree that around a table (or even in real time vs. PbP), a lot of other factors come into play. Many people who can write can't act or improvise to save themselves. However, as the years go by, an increasing number of people are being introduced to the hobby through the internet. It's understandable why that mentality could be hard to shake.

BRC
2011-09-22, 12:55 PM
Note that I wasn't refering to the writing of an background itself (which is indeed a good thing. Especially a practical one shared with the DM) but rather the other extreme.
The phenomena of writing massive and elaborate backgrounds as some sort of sign of your skill as a roleplayer. And not to give your DM lots of material to work with.

The problem is when people view a Backstory as a complete story in of itself, rather than the start of a story. A good backstory ends somewhere in the middle, the story itself is going to be told during the campaign. A good backstory should provide explanations for the Character's talents and motivations, while leaving behind plenty of plot hooks.
Example
"When I was young, my parents were killed by a band of ruthless mercenaries called the Thorned Band." Good, we have a plot hook right there, trying to hunt down the Thorned Band.
"I was taken in and raised by Sir Costello, an honorable knight who had been wrongfully banished". Better, now we know where he got his skills, plus we have another plot hook, trying to redeem Sir Costello's honor.
"When Sir Costello died, I took up his sword and set out into the world!"- Okay, great!
"I learned that the Thorned Band had been hired by the evil Duke Astor, the nobleman who had Sir Costello banished. He was using the Thorned Band as thugs, terrorizing the countryside and blaming it on bandits. I gathered the townsfolk and led them against the mercenaries, slaying the Mercenary captain who had killed my parents, and revealing the Duke for the evil man he was. I then set out into the world to make my fortune and fight evil."
And stop. Now, this works as the ending to a story, but not a BACK story. The Backstory should have ended the moment he left Sir Costello's house.


The second mistake is assuming Backstories=Roleplay. Even if you write the perfect backstory, you haven't started roleplaying yet. Lets say you are the above character, if, in game, all you do is sit there silently, kill monsters, loot treasure, and be angry whenever somebody mentions the Thorned Band, you're STILL not properly roleplaying. The Backstory is secondary to who your character is NOW. Did Sir Costello instill a strict sense of honor in your character? Did being raised by somebody wrongfully discredited give you an inherent distrust of authority? Are you obsessesed with a romantic image of Knighthood, or are you a cynic who understands that, in the end, right and wrong are secondary to whoever has the most swords at their back? Our pasts shape us, but we are not our pasts.

In my opinion, a good idea of a character's personality is more important than a well-defined backstory. Some of the characters I have enjoyed the most have had basically nonexistant back stories, but very well defined personalities.

GungHo
2011-09-22, 01:03 PM
Also, for the record, there is a mountebank base class in 3E.
Clearly WotC gave their designers a thesaurus and said, "hop to it boys... we're going to be synonym-free by 2006."


The most important part about writing a back story is not for yourself but for the DM. That way your character can actually be a part of the world from the start.
I usually write a background in broad bullet points. Like I'm presenting to upper management.


Social Class: Serf/Villager
Parents: Father believed dead; Mother alive
Siblings: Two older brothers
Other: Unrequited love with village chief's daughter
Reason for Adventuring: Farm worked by older brothers, left to make a separate living


With that, a GM can do a lot of things. He can create social conflicts with nobility. He can make my father really alive or really dead or really undead. My mother could be dying and I would go home to possibly angry brothers (who could be mad because I left or because I returned). I could run into the chief's daughter somewhere and she could still want me or hate my guts. It's really more a set of parameters for him to play with rather than a short story where I'm trying to write him (or myself) into a corner. And he can also feel free to not really take advantage of any of it and I can just use it as a guide for my own play.

WalkingTarget
2011-09-22, 01:05 PM
Sadly, it's been to my experience that DMs rarely actually bother reading my backstory, let alone incorporating elements of it into the world (or giving me world information to incorporate).

I know that I, personally, have trouble working up backstories for characters in isolation - it takes me a while to get into a new character's head during play. It took the various GMs in my old college days (all still good friends now) a while to work around the idea of offering creative input for my character background. I'd come up with my general concept and if the GM wanted to incorporate certain story aspects into his game and didn't have a hook on other players, he'd work with me to figure out a good way to plug that into mine since I was accommodating of outside input. This only really works if you have a group that knows each other really well, though, to achieve the comfort level and trust that it won't just be used to screw your character over.

Knaight
2011-09-22, 01:13 PM
Well, keep in mind that in PbP and MMOs and IRC games, mediums that many if not most players have explored at some point, writing ability IS an indication of your skill as a roleplayer. After all, it's pretty much the only way you're going to be expressing yourself in those games. Glancing at a background is also the by far the easiest way to filter out the people who can spell from the idiots from, in some cases, the perverts.
However, the needlessly long and elaborate backstory is an inefficient way to transfer information. Being concise is a good sign, and a brief background, and brief personality that give enough to work with without being inundated in pointless detail is the ideal. A 15 page backstory and no personality description is every bit as much a warning sign as "i wnt 2 play ur game, thx n advance".

Tyndmyr
2011-09-22, 01:26 PM
Sadly, it's been to my experience that DMs rarely actually bother reading my backstory, let alone incorporating elements of it into the world (or giving me world information to incorporate).

This is also true. I admit to looking at a 12 page backstory submission in skepticism myself, and essentially skipping over it. I'm perfectly ok with the one paragraph backstory.

Gnaeus
2011-09-22, 01:40 PM
Especially since most crunch-oriented people (the main audience of D&D) likely have what little default fluff there is (spell names, etc.) burned into their brain, and no amount of refluffing is going to change their awareness of the fact that their refluffed warlock casting Arrow of Sunny Happy Joy is actually firing off an eldritch blast. The crunch is too intermarried with the fluff to make refluffing a realistic option.


It happens in most class based games, I have yet to see it in a points buy. I think its just the nature of the beast, if you put a title on something people start to think it is more then just a word.

I have. It was a world of darkness game in which a Tremere player decided that Theft of Vitae was a stupid sounding name. So he renamed it Kiss of Drakul. First everyone got mad that he was using a "custom power", then they made fun of him for renaming his discipline, not that any of the other players knew in character what Theft of Vitae even was.

GungHo
2011-09-22, 01:41 PM
However, the needlessly long and elaborate backstory is an inefficient way to transfer information. Being concise is a good sign, and a brief background, and brief personality that give enough to work with without being inundated in pointless detail is the ideal. A 15 page backstory and no personality description is every bit as much a warning sign as "i wnt 2 play ur game, thx n advance".
The problem with ~15 page backstories is that if you're running a group of 3 to 5 players, that will blossom into 45~75 pages that I have to read and reconcile. I'm not lazy, but I want to play the game too... not spend a couple of hours redacting (legal usage, not literary usage) your and your mouthbreather buddy's Reader's Digest submission because you both put something in your bios that don't fit at all with what everyone else is wanting to do. Like being conjoined twins.

Shadowknight12
2011-09-22, 01:51 PM
Sadly, it's been to my experience that DMs rarely actually bother reading my backstory, let alone incorporating elements of it into the world (or giving me world information to incorporate).

This. So much this. If I had a dime for every time this has happened to me, I'd be able to afford a few Ferraris.

flumphy
2011-09-22, 02:15 PM
However, the needlessly long and elaborate backstory is an inefficient way to transfer information. Being concise is a good sign, and a brief background, and brief personality that give enough to work with without being inundated in pointless detail is the ideal. A 15 page backstory and no personality description is every bit as much a warning sign as "i wnt 2 play ur game, thx n advance".

The poster specified "well-written", not long. As you've pointed out, those are not the same thing, although the ideal level of detail is to some extent a matter of personal taste.

Personally, I don't even require a written background for my tabletop games, although those who provide one are heavily rewarded in terms of plothooks.

The Glyphstone
2011-09-22, 02:31 PM
This is also true. I admit to looking at a 12 page backstory submission in skepticism myself, and essentially skipping over it. I'm perfectly ok with the one paragraph backstory.

The problem comes when it's a DM who requires a, say, 1-page backstory, and then doesn't bother to read it or use anything you've written.

Avilan the Grey
2011-09-22, 02:44 PM
I thought long and hard about the mindset on her part that led to this line of thinking, and the best answer I can come up with is that what is written on the character sheet has become more important than what your character says, does, or is.

I am sorry but this is news how? For a vast majority of RPG players, the character sheet IS the character, and this is how it has been since D&D 1.0.

Tvtyrant
2011-09-22, 03:06 PM
I find that too long a backstory makes me clingy with my character; I tend to act defensively and not take as many risks as I should as a hobo adventurer.

dsmiles
2011-09-22, 03:38 PM
The problem comes when it's a DM who requires a, say, 1-page backstory, and then doesn't bother to read it or use anything you've written.Hell, I'd be happy if my players gave me a couple of sentences on a greasy napkin. Just give me something to work with!

Ilorin Lorati
2011-09-22, 03:47 PM
For the most part, I play with people who were RPers first and gamers second, so I've honestly never had this issue. I've also adopted a little bit of a different approach to character concept than simply race + class -> backstory -> sheet.


I talk to each player individually to find out what kind of character they want to play. Sometimes a class is involved, other time not.

If a specific class is involved, I translate that to "like a". Rogue becomes roguish; Druid becomes druidic. I tell my characters to keep an open mind in regards to mechanical choices as I can't really have all four players playing the same class.

Once I have the general idea for every character, I scour splat and homebrew for classes that would fit the style.

For example, in my last game I had a player that wanted to play a character similar to an enhancement shaman from WoW, mixing elemental magic with face beating martial prowess. There were a number of options, from Bo9S classes to Incarnum users to gishes. I came up with the options and lent him my books so he could look through them.

Once all of the players have their recommended classes and options, I get everyone together to discuss class dynamics. This is when I answer questions about the campaign, and my players decide on any optional shared histories and class roles. I also give them an overview of the opening so they can figure out how they got there.

Going with the previous example, when all was said and done the player decided on a Soulborn with some custom elemental styled soulbinds to supplement the meager choices MoI had.

After this is all done, then I finally have all the players build their sheets. I work with new players to write everything up, and look over old players sheets once they're done.


It's a little bit of a longer process, but it works very well with my group.

Steward
2011-09-22, 04:27 PM
The problem comes when it's a DM who requires a, say, 1-page backstory, and then doesn't bother to read it or use anything you've written.

I hate that so much. Especially when they demand this long, elaborate backstory and then run some module or something that really has no room for any backstory plot hooks or significant character development from the DM's end. It's like they're aware that many DMs require back stories but don't really know why.

Knaight
2011-09-22, 04:35 PM
The poster specified "well-written", not long. As you've pointed out, those are not the same thing, although the ideal level of detail is to some extent a matter of personal taste.

Personally, I don't even require a written background for my tabletop games, although those who provide one are heavily rewarded in terms of plothooks.

Yes, but the post at the very beginning of this discussion specified the use of backstories as excuses to believe one is role playing, which tends to show up in the monstrously long ones.

Hjiryon
2011-09-22, 05:26 PM
To the people saying that their GMs often do not use their backgrounds, this is hard for me to understand. Sure I've seen it happen, but it's rarely the norm. Here's why:

Usually, when I make a character, I do it in response to a world the GM has presented, and I do it while communicating with the GM.
Pivotal questions include what they want out of the campaign (is it hack and slash, gather treasure and save the princess, are we talking political intrigue where conversation will be central... Or what?).
Once I have a good idea what the game'll be all about, it's usually fairly easy to make a character that will not only fit in but who will, by virtue of his personality and so forth, add to the campaign.

And if the GM can't explain what they're trying to do with the game? I'll find someone else to play with. :)

stainboy
2011-09-23, 12:28 AM
Ultimate Combat was recently released, and while it's a fairly solid book overall, there are a few real stinkers, namely the Holy Gun, Prone Shooter, and the infamous Death or Glory, the last of which is a feat that lets you deal less damage in exchange for a Large monster getting to punch you in the face for free. The defense of these feats and options is that "they're for roleplayers", but are they really? Do you really need a feat that says "you are reckless around Large enemies"? If people wanted to express that at the table, didn't they used to, you know, be reckless around Large enemies rather than just take an objectively terrible feat that's only redeeming value is that it goes on your sheet?


That feat is terrible garbage written by someone who didn't understand 3e combat. I'm guessing Sean K Reynolds, especially if the writer is Stormwinding it up on the Paizo boards about how bad feats are "for roleplayers." Anyway...

Some things need more rules expression than others. D&D never previously had mechanics for how my character fought large enemies specifically so I don't see why it should start now. But say I want to be a necromancer with a pet zombie. D&D is pretty crunchy about distinguishing zombies from other things: they're undead, immune to Charm Sleep and Hold spells, they're not damaged by negative energy, you need corpses to make them, and so on. So if I "refluff" some pet that doesn't have those properties, the game will constantly refuse to acknowledge that my thing is a zombie. That sucks.

Refluffing is a stopgap solution at best. It's never an excuse for bad or limited RAW options and it's not a substitute for a DM willing to work with you on homebrew.

paddyfool
2011-09-23, 05:36 AM
On Stormwind: I'll confess I have taken less-than-optimal feats because they fit the character so well and had the potential to be fun. An example from Fantasy Craft again: a feat that boosted action dice rolls when you're hurt. It fit so well with my character just having received a bad beat-down, but being situational, it was significantly less useful than the feat I was going to take, which provided more of a straight combat boost + small additional combat option. Part of the calculation, however, was that said character already seemed a bit more powerful than various others in his group...

Premier
2011-09-23, 06:01 AM
Some things need more rules expression than others. D&D never previously had mechanics for how my character fought large enemies specifically so I don't see why it should start now.

Perhaps I'll be excused for nitpicking when done for the education of the public: that's not really true.

Earlier editions of D&D have mechanics things like that. For one, weapons in AD&D do different damage based on the target's size, giving you the option to pick weapons which are especially damaging to large creatures (because, say, they're long and piercing and can get through the thick hide), or go with gear more suitable against normal opponents. Also, PC races of small stature gained an AC bonus against certain large enemies to reflect the fact the latter can't reach down to them very effectively.

Coidzor
2011-09-23, 06:53 AM
The defense of these feats and options is that "they're for roleplayers", but are they really?

Generally no. Designers like to cover their butts when they don't think things through or are being malicious, as admitting such generally hurts their image and marketability more.

Certain players will attempt to justify them due to a natural human drive to ascribe meaning and worth to things we become emotionally invested in, even if we were to approach the situation impartially, we'd be perfectly able to realize that something was complete and utter horse.

Others will feel obligated or pressured into taking them as the only way to realize their concept at all, even badly, especially since now that there is a feat for it, their DM is going to be even more unwilling to work with them to make something than the usual pulling teeth operation of getting a DM to play ball with someone in order to do something not modeled (or at least, not well) in the game.

Sometimes though, the designers really will design something for roleplaying and it will be bad because of its limited focus and worth rather than because they were being foolhardy or malicious.

This is not really "okay" so much as a reflection of the "there's a feat/spell/item for that" mentality of expanding the rules through such things rather than expanding the baseline rules because one generates those kinds of things so often anyway, that one can sometimes forget there's rules beyond those involved in the magic, feat, or item systems.

Tyndmyr
2011-09-23, 07:51 AM
The problem comes when it's a DM who requires a, say, 1-page backstory, and then doesn't bother to read it or use anything you've written.

Oh yeah, that's just pointless. When I think a DM is going to do such things, I like to include hilarious little surprises in my backstory that are extremely likely to come up in later play.

After all, he approved my backstory, so *clearly* he must be ok with it. :smallamused:

stainboy
2011-09-24, 02:09 AM
Perhaps I'll be excused for nitpicking when done for the education of the public: that's not really true.

Earlier editions of D&D have mechanics things like that. For one, weapons in AD&D do different damage based on the target's size, giving you the option to pick weapons which are especially damaging to large creatures (because, say, they're long and piercing and can get through the thick hide), or go with gear more suitable against normal opponents. Also, PC races of small stature gained an AC bonus against certain large enemies to reflect the fact the latter can't reach down to them very effectively.

Yeah, that's true. Not what I meant though. The 2e weapon damage thing wasn't a build choice. It didn't try to say anything unique about my character, it was just how weapons worked for everyone.

(Further nitpicking my own post: That UC feat I've already forgotten the name of isn't the first build option about large creatures. There's also Gnome Giantslayer or Confound the Big Folk and probably something else I've forgotten. I don't hate the idea of anti-large-creature feats, I just don't gain anything RP-wise by having them.)

The Glyphstone
2011-09-24, 08:33 AM
Giantslayer and CtBF were good because they didn't specify 'Large Creatures', they specified 'creatures X sizes larger than you', and 3.5 was loaded with ways to shrink yourself to Small, Tiny, or even smaller and thus get those great bonuses against normal Medium-sized enemies.

A Weeping Angel
2011-09-24, 05:18 PM
I majored in English Literature. That doesn't mean I enjoy having to compartmentalize an RPG's fluff and crunch in my head. If anything, it's the opposite, since the fluff probably means more to me than the guy who doesn't care for anything but big numbers. I mean, I envy those who can compartmentalize that well, but I'm just not one of them. If someone turns their warlock into a Super Happy Rainbow Champion, it WILL kill the mood for me just because whenever they cast "Rainbow Terrain" I know they're actually casting "Nightmares Made Real." I doubt I'm all that atypical, either. People rely on names. It's just how we think.

Also, for the record, there is a mountebank base class in 3E.

This for me, both the major and the compartmentalizing difficulties.

Coidzor
2011-09-24, 05:51 PM
Considering the reaction some people have to rainbows, is there any real difference? :smallamused:

Ashram
2011-09-24, 07:27 PM
Yeah, that's true. Not what I meant though. The 2e weapon damage thing wasn't a build choice. It didn't try to say anything unique about my character, it was just how weapons worked for everyone.

(Further nitpicking my own post: That UC feat I've already forgotten the name of isn't the first build option about large creatures. There's also Gnome Giantslayer or Confound the Big Folk and probably something else I've forgotten. I don't hate the idea of anti-large-creature feats, I just don't gain anything RP-wise by having them.)

Feat you're thinking of is "Death or Glory". It's a "Oh lord, I hope if I Vital Strike-Power Attack this thing, it goes down in one hit, or else I'm gonna get wrecked on" thing.

WitchSlayer
2011-09-24, 11:36 PM
I am currently playing a Longtooth Shifter in 4th Edition but instead of being a guy who turns into a wolfman when he's bloodied I, instead, decided that when he's bloodied he becomes a SNAKEMAN.

Sith_Happens
2011-09-25, 12:11 AM
Oh yeah, that's just pointless. When I think a DM is going to do such things, I like to include hilarious little surprises in my backstory that are extremely likely to come up in later play.

After all, he approved my backstory, so *clearly* he must be ok with it. :smallamused:

Details/examples please.