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Tell Me About Your Character!

Greg Chatham April 4 2000

Every gamer has heard bad role-playing stories. Such tales cause friends to despise each other, significant others to grow distant and even repulse fellow role-players. It puts a lot of stress on a relationship when one person doesn't care about the other's interests, like the time they fought the zombies with the 30-foot extendible tongues.

A lot of role-players retell their adventures in ways relevant only to the people they play with. Old timers begin to fear strangers in their hobby, lest they be subjected to The Life and Times of Bob the Paladin and His Charisma of 17: Volume 1, Levels 1-6. Many experienced role-players quit in frustration, the lamers stay and the normals never want to get involved with something so lame. Before long the industry will collapse from lack of support and there will never be a Monstrous Arcana supplement for Giant Space Hamsters.

In order to sustain personal lives and make the market grow, gamers must learn how to tell their stories and make people care. There are those who would go so far to argue that a new class of gamer must be created to accomplish this goal. As The Dungeon Master's Guide advises, you should never create a new class when its abilities are already covered by another. A new kit should suffice.

Bard kit, The social gamer

The social gamer is a bard who specializes in relating stories created during her role-playing sessions. She can communicate these stories in an involving manner. Unlike the fighter kit of the same name, the bard can tell tales beyond what die rolls she made.

These bards protect a method of storytelling that comes from disputed origins and suffers from public contempt. Their goal is to keep this unique entertainment alive and attract the participation of those presently unaware of its benefits. They're also in it for the cool dice and the women dressed in outfits suitable for Clyde Caldwell paintings.

Weapon Proficiencies:
Gamers may use any weapons but are commonly found carrying replicas unsuited for combat.

Non-Weapon Proficiencies:

A backpack full of battered books, pencils, and sparkly dice are required. The books may be of 1st or 2nd era, depending on the bard's taste.

Distinctive Appearance:
Do not write in this space.

Special Benefits:
The social gamer begins with the ability to sense lame, which is always active. Upon receiving a danger signal, most gamers make a point to escape the story before it gets any further. This is even effective against stories she is currently involved in. ("Get me out of this module! The boxed text is terrible!")

At 3rd level, the bard has enough experience points to have something to say. She can now communicate a story concept, relating events with as few specifics as possible. ("Our guys let loose a Dark Lord from his horribly forced ironic punishment.") After gaining a listener's interest, the bard may find herself permitted to expand upon her tale.

5th level grants the bard the skill to sense who cares.

A 6th level bard has advanced sufficiently in her storytelling mastery that she can vividly describe an event from a story she has participated in. She may do so without pausing and going back. ("While Kire kept the goblins at bay, Jan went to work on the derelict Evil Jammer. The vessel was powered on pure evil and she knew there would only be one way to destroy it. Heroically, she pushed the paladin into its warp core.")

Upon reaching 9th level, the social gamer may utter the phrase "Let me tell you about my character," without inciting a disorderly retreat through the conveniently located exits at the front and rear of the theater. The bard's descriptions of her characters actually draws interest. ("Mortle Trumpy is a tortle, a gentle humanoid tortoise from a defunct fantasy land. A follower of the great Gammera, he is friend to all children, except for the evil ones. Those he roasts with the righteous flame breath that is a gift of his patron deity.") By this point she could make a Dangerous Journeys adventure sound appealing.

At 10th level members of this kit begin to attract groupies. The DM should roll on the followers chart every once in awhile and implement the results as the story sees fit.
01% Undercover reporter
02-5% Wargamer
6-25% Lamer
26-60% Gamer
61-65% Small woodland creature
66-75% Normal
76-85% Gamer's girlfriend
86-90% Gamer's boyfriend
91-93% Invisible friend
94-96% Satanist conspirator
97% The 11 year old next door who plays RIFTS
98%-00% DM's choice
Though they don't automatically establish a castle or reliable fortress of any means, role-playing bards who go beyond 12th level are often given sanctuary in educational facilities and libraries. They may also become game designers. Those who don't know any better consider this a reward.

Social gamers are prohibited from implementing any of the following storytelling techniques in a narrative. Violation of these bans in the presence of other bards will result in ostracism from the hobby. Outlaw bards may redeem themselves by taking responsibility for the pizza bill for one year.

Game Terms - These enlightened minstrels realize that the terminology of a game system has no place inside a story. Listeners react to game classifications like Armor Class, alignment, and THAC0 in the same way that characters in a game do, with the fight or flight reflex.

Me or I - When relating stories, a role-player often toggles between describing his character by its name and his own. This is confusing to the audience, especially those unfamiliar with the role-playing experience. "Bill? You were wearing a chain mail bikini?"

Die rolls - A bard of this kit should describe actions in appropriate detail, not the mechanics behind them. "Mike's character was splattered up against the wall from the blast of a plasma rifle" is preferred to "He was hit for 9 health levels of aggravated damage and he couldn't roll enough successes to soak it." (This colorful example is brought to you by a special guest system.)

Stats - There's no way to tell the "My Character Has Three Slots in Etiquette" parable that hasn't been told before. Read your back issues if you don't believe me.

The closest that can be seen to an awareness of natural selection in the role-playing community is that guys know they should play Vampire if they want to meet chicks. Playing a social gamer may not be for everyone, but there's something to be said for cultural adaptation.

Story is the most important aspect of a successful role-playing game. Without a story your characters are cheese makers. Well told stories are just as important outside the game. They bring people into the hobby and keep them there.

If that doesn't work, gamers can buy their friends some nifty dice. Those things are really hard to put down.

Greg Chaltham

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