Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Character Slection: Joys of the Front Line

Let's take a break from all the high end game craft talk we've been doing and take a look at the other end of the GM screen. As a player you get a lot of choices to make over the course of the game, but one of the bigger choices comes to what role in combat your character can play. This may change for some games, but with most RPGs having combat as their primary conflict resolution, you can shape a lot about your character. Today I want to talk about the joys of playing the front line fighter types.

Straight Forward Fun
For most of my career as a gamer I was a Rogue's man. I still love my Rogues, and my natural play style still gravitates twards them. However, something happened the first time I seriously played a front line fighter type character that I hadn't really experienced in a while. The game was more fun. Simpler, sure, but also a lot more fun.

Now I'm not saying Front Line Fighters have to be simple or can't be thinkers, but there is a simple pure joy when your character's way of dealing with violent problems isn't to sneak back or find a way around but to just stand up and take it on head on. It makes you feel powerful, and it is a damn lot of fun.

The Joys of Tanking
Ultimately it may not sound like a lot of fun, but the ability to take a lot of damage can be great. It is always fun to see the wince of pain on the other players' faces when the GM reads off a damage total, then looking down and realizing that you got it. There is also something fun in your character being able to go straight up toe to toe with all sorts of beasties and scary people and not have to back down because they can take it on.

Essentially what I'm saying is that as far as Power fantasies go, while the front line guy may lack a bit in the complexity of it he gets it in the way that counts. The resilient hero that takes on all comers is inspiring. It's something the human brain is programmed to hold in high regard. It's something that pop culture reinforces repeatedly in how awesome it can be. Think of all the stories you've read. How many have featured a main character who could hold their own in a fight? Compare that to how many times you've seen the thief or the wizard archetype used. Yeah, they both get used a lot, but the fighter wins for most times as the main character.

Dealing Damage
Table top RPGs are not MMOs, and in table top RPGs the durable guy is also often the tank on offense as well. After all, what is a tank if not a heavily armored vehicle with a really big gun. Whether it's the Hida Bushi in L5R or the high level fighter in Pathfinder, a lot of the front line types build strength and that means when they hit they hit hard.

This fuels back into the power fantasy of being a strong character. Better yet is that your brain will know where this power is and so be able to enjoy it more. The thief with his tricks has power, but it's ethereal and hard to grasp. The wizard's might comes from spells and is finite. The warrior though? She can always hand out a beating, and that's just fun.

Fun For Beginners. Add Complexity As You Gain Skill
Finally, the big thing I love about the Front Line is that they're safe and good for beginners because of the easy playing style, but you can add a lot of complexity and technique to thes characters as you increase your familiarity with the game. That means that you can play a complex "hard to game" fighter if you want, or you can make a straight forward bruiser. The pick your complexity is a feature really only present with Fighters and it lets you guage how much mind-dead fun you want to have vs. how much puzzle time fun you want to have.

Mostly though there's just something about a fighter that takes away a lot of the stress. You've got a big job, but you're also well equipped to do it. Relax, enjoy, and maybe give the front line a try on your next venture.

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