Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Character Types Part 9 - The Face

So, I'm back from vacation and it is time to get this show going once more. As promised, I'll be starting things back off with the 9th installment in my Character Types series, this time looking at "The Face".

The Face is one of the more classic of character types, and you can see them in almost any format where you have a team. They're usually the front man, maybe not the leader but someone high up in the organizational structure for the group. They're the person who walks into a situation without weapons, and walks back out cool as ever. They're a social chameleon, able to play any role needed and to play it well, changing personalities and 'characteristics' as easily as some people change (or at least get out of) their clothes.

The Face
Like I said above, the Face is the social member of the group. For real world analogues you'd probably be looking at the bigger politicians (the Obamas and Clintons), in game terms it is the character who has decided to take on the challenge of proving that Charisma is not a dump stat. This is a character where more normal things like "Combat" and "Survivability" take a back seat to the primary role the social stats. The preferred method of contact is in the social structures, and often the only thing greater than a Face's ability to talk their way out of trouble, is their ability to talk themselves into trouble.

A Character For Any Story
One of the great things about Faces is that they can literally be in any type of story you want them to be in. They are one of the very few genre spanning characters, fitting in naturally in war, spy, con, romance, drama, or whatever other type of situation you want to put them in.  What this means for you as a role player is that if you want to give it a try, you can, in any game that you want. While your mileage may vary in say, a dungeon crawl, in most other types of games you will get to bask in the fact that you lose no potency no matter the genre switching, and rarely - if ever - will have to modify your build strategy to fit the game. How many other character types can say that? Especially when a simple setting change  will usually completely change the rules on all manner of things.

Strengths of a Face
One of the Face's biggest strength comes from the fact that they specialize in an area that many people view as a non-important area. Namely, charisma and the social game. While Social characters aren't the ugly ducklings that they used to be these days, it is still impressive how many people see things like "Anti-social" as free points that will never harm them. Generally it only takes one or two sessions with a well played Face to make them regret these decisions.

See, a Face plays with people on the emotional level. Telling lies that can't be seen through, and dancing through half truths that lead you down paths of logic that are completely illogical - something you will never see until it is far far too late - until they have sewn your ruin into your own actions. Leaving you to stare at them with mouth agape as you realize that it is they, and not you, who is leading the band through this wonderful story.

In many ways the Face resembles a gambler, mastermind, or trickster in this regard. Their plans are based on deceit and manipulation. Where they differ though is that theirs is truly a social game, and a social game only. They do not generally manipulate a situation by say, holding someone over a pit. They simply play people off of each other. Convince people of what they want to believe, and otherwise split the ranks (or bind them together) solely through the power of their words.

Weaknesses of a Face
The Face's weakness comes into play in the times when talking just doesn't cut it. When the time comes for action, the face is brought out of their element and forced to deal with the much more direct and quicker paced activity that is going on around them. This isn't to say that the Face is necessarily helpless, just with social being their primary area, combat is at best a secondary function for them. As such, Face's usually try to prevent violence from erupting until they know they have the upper hand. They also tend to stick to groups that have a healthy combat capability ready to go, so that when their main ploy fails there are other methods to be used that can pull their fat out of the fire.

Playing the Face
Playing the face is an interesting premise because while you can cover most social instances with rolls, social play is one of those areas where most people think that Role Playing is better than Roll Playing. As such, players who are not as quick witted as they would like to be may find playing a face dis-satisfying as they are constantly challenged in a way that - unlike the other character - they can not simply throw dice at and make go away. Other frustrations can come when a more socially capable player - who is not playing a socially capable character mechanically - starts stepping on the Face's toes as they RP over their character's weakness and into the area for a different person. A good GM can stop this and play around it, but it is something to keep in mind.

The other weakness to keep in mind as a player is that many of your social abilities generally don't work on players. Intimidating a PC is much more difficult than intimidating an NPC, no matter what the dice say. The same goes for charm, lying, and other forms of deceit. There are ways around this as well, but it is something to be aware of. Most of your strength lies with the social rules of a game, and those rules apply more to NPCs than to PCs, something that is again not the case for most other character types.

Aside from these two weaknesses though, playing a Face can be a lot of fun. Giving you practice in out of the box thinking, as well as the joy of getting that surprised look on the GMs face when you befriend the raving lunatic, instead of just shooting them. It is also a great way to experiment with getting out of your shell, or just making a unique character in an otherwise more 'mundane' game. You just need to play to your strengths, have fun with the weaknesses, and never be caught without a witty come back.

Have fun with it though, and Happy Gaming!

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