Monday, March 22, 2010

Character Types Part 1 - The Fighter

Partly out of a lack of a better idea, and partly as the idea interested me when I was thinking about some different character types you see regularly in novels, movies, etc, I've decided to start a new series on the blog going into the different, common, types of characters you run into in fictional entertainment. Mostly, I'm going to look into what troubles you get with trying to work them into RPGs as your player character.

For the first part of this, and probably most of the early ones, I'm going to look at some of the broader categories, and some of the specific variations, or further specifications, you find inside of the category.

Today's topic? The Fighter

The fighter is a standard trope of almost every fiction genre, and a standard inclusion in every RPG be it fantasy, sci fi, or anywhere in between. At its core, it is the simplest definition of all. A fighter is any character whose primary job, or largest defining characteristic when it comes to their function in the group, is quite simply to fight.

The noble swordsman, the daring and suave bandit, the exiled prince, these are all different examples of characters that fall neatly into the Fighter character type. The only problem with including this type in this is that it is so generic, that you really can't touch on it in any in depth way.

So lets break it down a bit more.

The Soldier and The Warrior
The Soldier and The Warrior are the two most common types of fighters that you'll meet in games and stories. The Soldier is exactly that, a soldier, a member of a Military organization that gives orders. They are taught to fight, sent out to fight, and generally fight in units. Sometimes as elites, other times as just your average grunts. The Warrior on the other hand may or may not be tied to organizations, they are generally more towards the 'elite' type when it comes to fighting, and whether they fight alone or with groups depends greatly on the person in general.

The Soldier, generally defined, may not actually have a love of fighting. They are competent at it, but it is something that they are trained to do as their job. Fighting to them can be much the same as anyone else and their job. Something mundane, but that you do for money, or something that you really do like. Either way, since it is a job, or at least started that way, they aren't likely to be overly specialized in any one area, instead trained to be viable in a number of different areas that they can switch between to be able to continue to do their job.

The Warrior on the other hand fights because it is a passion for them. They are driven to fighting, to bettering themselves through combat. They are more prone to being specialized in a particular style of combat, but that is not necessarily the case. The key difference here though is that a Warrior fights because it is their passion, more than just a job.

Most characters that fall into the Fighter Character Type will fit into Warrior or Soldier, there are variations from these two things but generally it does come down to that break down of is it their job, or is it their passion. Beyond this, you fall into the more specific niches for characters. Some of which are not necessarily specific to The Fighter and so will be getting their own entry later on in this series (i.e. The Elite, and The Best Ever). A couple of the other variations that are more or less specific to the fighter can be found below.

The Old Soldier
The Old Soldier was a soldier, back in their day, but they survived the wars and have since retired. Now they're, generally, just trying to get by and unsure how much longer the world is going to have room for them. This character type is generally a cynic, and usually fits nicely into the "competent old man" type look. Physically, the character has seen better days, but they make up for all of that with experience and knowledge gained over a life time spent fighting someone else's fight for money.

In RPGs the Old Soldier can be hard to pull off, specifically because of the weird way that XP would need to work with them. Mechanically they're static, if not declining, in ability. Having achieved and learned all they're really going to. So having XP on the character sheet just sitting there is kind of weird, as is a sudden in crease in abilities, on par with that rapscallion new kid from the farm who is learning to shoot for the first time in his life. The other problem, also with XP, is that the Old Soldier is supposed to be highly competent already. This means that you should be starting off with higher skills than the rest of the group.

Combining these two means that essentially you have a LOT of XP issues with this character type. There are work arounds, such as as you gain XP you are simply showing where your character was at "all along" but I don't like that, it never felt right. That being said, some GMs are perfectly willing to set you up with more XP at the beginning in exchange for very little to next to none as the game goes on. So talk to your GM about it.

The Reluctant Fighter
This is often a warrior more than a fighter, but for whatever reason the character is reluctant to fight. Perhaps they have seen the horrors of violence, or they just feel that learning how to fight is a path to greater personal mastery in and of itself. The point is, fighting for this character is a last resort.

You see this a lot in Martial Arts shows with the "wise master" often professing this to their students, at least one won't get it, the character destined to be the big fight at the end usually, while the main character will come to understand it.

In game terms, this character is really easy to play, especially since there are no mechanical complications for anyone to get bogged down to. It is purely a RP choice that you make, and can reflect by taking some non-combat skills along with your combat to help back up the fact that you don't like to fight first.

Wrap Up
I think for today I'm going to end it with those two. There are numerous variations on the Fighter character type however, and most of them work well in games as well as stories. As I add more to the Character Types series, I'll probably return to the fighter and variations on it numerous times. For now though,

Happy Gaming.

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