Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Character Types Part 3 - The Best

For the third installment of the Character Types series that I'm doing, I figured I'd look at a character type that I've seen a lot of people want to play in various table top RPGs, but that generally doesn't work. Despite the fact that it can, and does, work fairly well in other story telling mediums.

The Best at X
The Best is a character who quite simply is the Best in the world at some thing. Sometimes this is as general as "the best fighter", and other times it can be more specific such as "the best encryption cracker". Other common usages involve shifting the word 'best' to 'most' such as "The most dangerous". In essence though the character is the same, they are quite simply the best at something and have to deal with everything that comes with that.

Someone who is the best is a target, especially in a field where there can be any sort of competition (read: almost all fields). "The Best Swordsman" in fantasy (or other) stories will often find their name precedes them, and as much respect as it may get them, and troubles it can help them avoid, it will also get them into fights. Particularly with people trying to make a name for themselves by being the one who beat the best.

The stress of being on top is generally the story done with this character, alternatively, the quest for being recognized as the best. Either way, the story is about the people on the top and how one makes their way there, or how they maintain their position.

So why doesn't it work?
So why doesn't it work for table top? In short, the answer is mechanics. Games generally have all players made with the same amount of points. As such, it is generally impossible for someone to be the best in the world at something broad like "fighting", because if another PC specializes in a type of combat they will be better just from the benefits of specializing.

Perhaps I shouldn't say impossible or doesn't work, instead it is just very hard to get and keep working. It is something you want to talk to your GM about first, as if he/she is fine with you being the best it means that there technically shouldn't be mechanically superior NPCs, afterall, you are the best.

The other problem that comes in mechanically comes from new characters joining the game. Using a lump sum of points, as opposed to slowly building up as you go along, will enable a different, and generally better build simply because you have all the points at once, so you don't have to worry about mid stops. There is no waiting 4 sessions for enough points to raise a stat or skill, you just raise the stat/skill.

The impossibility however comes in when you try to dictate to other players what they can and can't do. Trying to stop other players from being as competent as your character (if they are mechanically able to do so) because you are supposed to be the best is simply wrong. That is why I generally view being The Best as being an impossibility for games, as unless everyone in the game is cool with, and remains cool with it, you have no ability to maintain it. Something that can lead to frustration as you, trying to play being The Best suddenly have to deal with the fact that a companion is just as good, if not better, than you in your area of expertise.

Instead, I recommend doing The Elite, or someone striving to BE the best, not necessarily the best now. It works a lot easier.

Happy Gaming.

1 comment:

  1. Not only is it easier to be the Elite, it is more interesting to be the Elite wanting to be The Best because it is an intrinsic story where as The Best has less of a story to play with.