Another Post About Nothing

2008 May 14
by Vanir

This comic about Seinfeld characters playing D&D (mirror here, it’s getting Dugg) reminded me very much of this post on Seinfeldian magic items I did awhile back.

Seinfeld was never my favorite show in the universe, but I did watch it now and then and it did get me thinking a little this morning — rarely a character shows up on that show that isn’t put under a microscope and all their weird little idiosyncrasies examined in detail (and usually poked with a cattle prod, causing hilarity to ensue). I like it when D&D characters enjoy that same kind of character development. I frequently like it much more than I do the main plot of the story, which I’m sure is the source of at least six or seven aneurysms in Dante and the other DMs I’ve played with.

To wit: my favorite sessions are usually the first two or three, when the crap hasn’t hit the fan yet and we’re getting to know everyone, followed closely by the “break” sessions in the story where we usually follow one character’s personal story (which may or may not be woven into the main story). But barring those weird times when we’re all arguing about which direction to go because we can’t figure out the clues laid before us, those sessions where we’re not doing anything particularly “useful” per se are what I really look forward to, especially with a new character to play.

Making a character that has some strange personal idiosyncrasies, in addition to making everyday roleplay with your character more interesting, may have an impact on everyone’s lives (good or bad!) in much the same way that the folks on Seinfeld frequently have misadventures because they’re really freaking neurotic. I mean, they devoted half an episode to Kramer trying to defend himself from deadly birthday wishes. And I was enraptured.

I’m a believer in that the small stuff can be every bit as interesting as the epic. Characters should be more than a bunch of combat stat blocks! The difficulty, of course, is that as you get higher in level, the monsters you fight are optimized to be a challenge to people who are prepared to fight them. On several occasions (but especially with Bat Loaf), I’ve picked spells and items that weren’t particularly combat-friendly and it cost me. It’s just a fact of life that the vast, vast majority of D&D campaigns revolve around stuff killing other stuff and you need to keep that in mind before you go too overboard. If you don’t, you’ll quickly find yourself frustrated week after week.

But don’t abandon the fact that you have a character to play. DM’s — let them! And try not to dogpile in the end battle on the guy that picked Percussion to give a little atmosphere to his nightly trysts with the barmaids. Dante.

2 Responses leave one →
  1. MichaelS permalink
    May 14, 2008

    This is EXACTLY how I love to roleplay – find something that is a hallmark of my character and go with it. If he’s not a fighter, then he’s maybe timed, afraid of the shadows. Or maybe he’s annoyed by the Lady who’s carrying around a dog. Or maybe he’s dumb as rocks, but watch out if the other party members don’t distract him while they’re talking for 30 minutes, he might go tweak that dragon’s tail and ruin everyone’s day.

    All of the above happened to my characters because I love to find that ‘thing’ that my guys are known for, and exploit it.

    (I should write about my genocidal half-elf LARP character…)

    Thanks for the fun post!

  2. thanuir permalink
    May 15, 2008

    When playing, I often find any and all main plots to be at best boring, at worst annoying. When running a game, any plot there is happens entirely around characters and is there mostly just to poke them towards action.

    I’ve never figured out the point of heavy plotting, really, from player or GM point-of-view.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS