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Rolling New Characters Adds Character – Part Two

Written by Darkwarren - Published on February 26, 2013
"Image courtesy of arztsamui / FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

“He’s like this only without the scarf.”

DM Dispatches is a weekly column that shares stories and relfections from Darkwarren’s experience dungeon mastering his weekly group’s Rise of the Runelords campaign that started in January 2013. The intention is that other DM’s and players can learn from his experiences as well as enter into discussion and add their two coppers as well.

In our last column we recounted how using dice to randomize the character creation process was a great way to kick-off a new campaign. Rolling for stat’s, height, weight, starting gold, and a variety of characteristics amped up the energy and got everyone cheering for the other players throughout the process.

Except for one player.

That one player rolled mediocre stat’s. Granted, another guy rolled amazing stat’s that would make Gygax blush, so he’s enjoying the experience. But the guy who rolled crap? He’s disappointed. He’s frustrated; because his character’s stats were average. (Nothing above a 14 and nothing below a 9 – if I recall correctly.)

He chose to stick with the elite array that I told everyone to use as place markers before the session instead of the random stat’s he rolled at the table. I gave everyone that option but he’s the only one who took me up on it. When it came to the height and weight he rolled, didn’t like his rolls, and declared he wasn’t going to use them. Once again, he was the only one.

Usually, at this point of the session, with this one player not joining in the spirit of the group and being the only one rejecting his rolls – I can get real sardonic. But I’m DM’ing for the first time in years, and I’ve been trying to learn from another one of our experts. Keith Baker is always writing about DM’s trying to play with the players and not against them. I felt that I needed to lay off the mocking and let him do his thing. If he would have more fun playing his character with particular stat’s and with a particular height and weight, fine with me. Besides, the other players gave it to him, and I didn’t want to pile on.

These rolls always seem to happen to the pessimist. It leads to a metaphysical gaming question: is it poor rolls that lead to the pessimist gamer or the pessimism that leads to the poor rolls? As if there is some kind of cosmic dice karma.

I tried to remind him that he had already decided to play a powerful race (angel-touched) and he decided to opt for wings and flight (extremely powerful ability if used wisely) but he was still disappointed.

So at the end of our creation session these six adventurers will be adventuring in and around the town of Sandpoint:

• Zindelo Paci Occam: human – Varisian (think Gypsy) male tattooed sorcerer with a penchant for evocation. Possible “Face” of the party.
• Marta Tog: half-orc female cleric of Irori with a love of books and all things ancient
• Darwidian: half-elf rogue who prefers ranged combat and scouting (and gambling)
• Gregor: human – Kellid (think Celt) male fighter/brawler missing one hand and a scizore on his stump
• Raziel Kane: aasimar – plumekith (think part garuda, an Indian bird angel) musketeer
• Lem Lotuseater: Halfling male monk (this is Mythic Party’s character)

As a group that has playing for more than ten years we all know each other very well – especially our gaming personalities. I was concerned that the one player’s pessimism could taint the roleplaying of the first campaign session and it would already be difficult for this bizarre, angel-touched, exotic weapon wielding stranger to interact with NPC’s in the town – especially when the player describes Raziel as mysterious as possible, including a scarf covering his entire face.

But I made a conscious decision to make things as positive as possible. The NPC’s would not run right for the pitchforks because it was a festival and they would be friendly to most strangers.

It also helped that the adventure describes a mirror at the edge of town asking visitors to see themselves as the townsfolk would see them. This was a great opportunity for the player to become aware of his character, Raziel’s, appearance. The strange musket on his back, the slightly hunched back (tucked wings under his long duster), wide brimmed hat, and the scarf covering his face all added an air of mystery, danger, and… hostility. After a few distrustful looks from townsfolk I finally had him interact with a well-meaning but blunt-speaking NPC that already knew and respected Raziel’s uncle.

“Uncover your face, son. Let people take a look at ya!”

His silver skin brought more looks from the townsfolk but they were looks of awe instead of distrust. This made all the difference. The disappointment and pessimism from some poor rolls at character creation had evaporated in the light of positive NPC interactions. By not allowing his pessimism to become a self-fulfilling prophecy the people of Sandpoint have now come to know and respect Raziel Kane, hero of Sandpoint. How did he and his friends become heroes, you ask? Wait until next column.

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Written by Darkwarren

Matt W., aka Darkwarren, has been roleplaying ever since his older brother introduced him to the red box set when he was 7 years old. Since then he has game-mastered SSDC’s Battleords of the Twenty-third Century, WEG’s Shadowrun and Star Wars, and of course Dungeons & Dragons in a variety of forms. At thirty-four years old he takes turns on both sides of the screen with the group that he helped found in 2000 when 3.0 hit the stands and has met every week fairly regularly ever since. Currently they have been running a variety of the Paizo Adventure Path scenarios, so that’s his wheelhouse. He was almost famous when two of his adventures were green-lighted for possible publication right before Paizo relinquished the rights to publish Dungeon magazine.

Matt also has years if experience in improvisational comedy, fiction, and non-fiction writing. He is currently working and studying to attain a master’s degree in theology, to enhance his career as a religious studies teacher. Lastly, his greatest passion is his family, especially the three sons and dog that he shares with his wife in upstate New York.

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4 Responses to “Rolling New Characters Adds Character – Part Two”
  1. Caddoko says:

    Awesome article Darkwarren, I’ve never really put a lot of emphasis on my players’ characters’ appearance – sure we discuss it so we can make imagining the scene a bit easier but I’ve never had someone play a character with an overly striking appearance. I think I might pay a bit more attention to this aspect of the game now.

    I just want to say thanks to all of you at DMing (?) for these articles as you give great points and articulate them in ways most of my players would have trouble doing, I really think you’re making me a better DM every week.

  2. Darkwarren says:


    Thanks for the feedback. Especially the postscript. We’re glad to read that we’re moving in the right direction here at DungeonMastering.com

  3. Fenixius says:

    I’m really pleased to hear that you all managed to get through that one person’s initially poor reaction. I don’t think I’ve ever played with such a diverse party; most of my 4E games tend to be a lot more ‘vanilla’ in terms of races and classes, even with the inclusion of Tiefling and Dragonborn races.

    I love the idea of a mirror with altered perception. Did you ask the characters to describe themselves there, or did you do it for them all?

    P.S. – Sorry I’m late! I’ve had a nasty habit of letting my rss feeds build up and I just got around to catching up on the fine writings being shared here at dungeonmastering!

  4. Darkwarren says:

    No worries, Fenixius.

    This particular player almost always has to play a PC that looks absolutely bizarre, a new race, or a completely different take on a race/class/etc. There’s nothing exactly wrong with any of that – it’s just that I got tired of having him play something bizarre and have him complain about other NPC’s treating him like he was bizarre. I wanted to bring his attention to how others (in this case NPC townsfolk) perceive his character. It’s been a fairly positive experience as the campaign has moved on.

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