The most difficult character I ever had to play was one drawn from a stack of manila folders in a gameroom in Astoria, Oregon. It was a one-nighter session — not my usual brand of poison, but I was a girl in a room filled with guys and Guinness, and anything becomes more palatable with Guinness. I was rather pleased to have made the cut. Out of 20+ interested applicants in the game, six of us actually got to participate. Didn’t dawn on me until years later that my participation may have had nothing to do with my… er… literal participation. I wasn’t very clued in back then.
The GM had a basic AD&D adventure planned. Normal character classifications… none of this hybrid, super-specialized, “Well, in this supplement, you cross a mage with a ninja” craziness. One-night only. Goal? Survive until 2 am. Simple.
Probably should have taken it as a warning sign that we didn’t need to bring anything with us and all efforts to pitch character ideas were brushed off rather nonchalantly. The confusion was rectified when we walked in to find the folders sitting neatly in the middle of the table along with a note: “Choose one”.
I wasn’t as courageous back then as I am now, so I sure didn’t take the first pick. But wasn’t willing to be out of control long enough to take whatever was left. So, I have to say, I did it to myself. Third folder of the six picked up. And I wasn’t happy with what I saw.
First of all, let me just say how much I truly dislike playing fighter class characters. I know you need them, I know they’re important, and I’ve owed my paper-hide to fighters many a time over. So, it would be just my luck to get a fighter. That wasn’t the kicker though. My intelligence and wisdom scores were.
I don’t remember if my INT was a 6 and my WIS an 8 or the other way around, but I don’t think it mattered in retrospect. I was your typical all-brawns, no-brain brute force, and I was pissed (which probably helped the character portrayal). For good reason, too.
See, I’m usually the character in the party that takes stock of everyone’s gear, calculates the approximate trajectory of a grappling hook in a west wind, and comes up with the thing the GM never thought someone would do. I take a particular pride in being a pain in the GM’s creative ass. That’s right, it’s messed up, and I’m sure it has everything to do with a need for vengeance for every time a brilliant player did it to me. Oh, and I like watching smart creative people squirm. (This is going to come back and haunt me, I swear).
The conundrum was how to take my naturally smart, cunning self and dumb it down to fit the character. I don’t know how to act generally brainless despite my knack for peopling my life with good examples of the trait. And coming up with great ideas is part of the joy of gaming for me. So… what to do?
I kept my great ideas. For every situation or choice we faced, I allowed myself my naturally cunning response — and kept my mouth shut while I rolled a d10. Anything less than an 8, and that idea never saw the light of day. God forbid I roll a 1 or 2, because then I had to come up with something STUPID on purpose. If I managed something above an 8, I spit the idea out. I was a veritable Forrest Gump of insight and ingenuity. Most of the time everyone wanted to pour MiracleGro into the cavity where my brain should have been, and occasionally, I was an accidental genius. The hardest thing was biting back all those wonderfully creative ideas because “my character wouldn’t have been able to come up with this”.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the “Here’s your character!” trick on a few groups I’ve GM’d for. Some folks eat it up. Others, you give them a well-developed character and it’s like telling them to climb inside a locked box. What I learned from my tough little rping experience is how hard it is to put aside your ego and the things you’re good at in order to play something truly, and how attached we get to our strengths. I really began to appreciate my talents more after that session. There’s nothing like feigning “not having a clue” to make you glad you have more than several.
So… what was your most difficult character? And what did it teach you?