Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Social Bruiser

Anyone who's been reading my Unusual Character Concepts posts has likely noticed a pattern. They're all high fantasy, and they're typically geared toward level-based systems. A lot of the time they're also exclusive to Pathfinder. So I thought, this week, I'd do something different to give us all a change of pace. This week I'm going to talk about a concept that fans of the World of Darkness can bring to their table (or a LARP) to start turning some heads.

Wait a minute... you're telling me THAT guy is a Ventrue?

Subverting The Social Stereotype in The World of Darkness

Anyone who's played a World of Darkness game, old, new, or otherwise, knows it's not a level-based system. Instead, characters earn XP, and then spend it to buy the abilities they want. When a character is created, though, the player has to assign a primary, secondary, and tertiary area of influence to the Social, Mental, and Physical parts of the character. Not only that, but if you're playing any kind of supernatural character, there is usually some group you belong to. And each group is typically associated with a focus on one of those three areas. For example, Ventrue, Fairest, Silver Fangs, etc. are all stereotypically associated with social skills.

Just because you can be social, though, doesn't mean that's all you can be.

Darkness comes in many forms.
Examples work best, so picture this character from Vampire: The Masquerade. Christopher Blood roared into Chicago on the back of an iron horse, with a gang of leather-clad criminals at his beck and call. He's bold, brash, and crude, swaggering wherever he wants with a threat on his lips, and a gun never very far from his hand. And, if someone tries to call his bluff, the combination of lightning fast speed and his ability to soak up punishment like a fanged sponge makes him exactly the wrong kind of man you'd want to start trouble with.

Between the thick mane of hair, the preference for leather and chains, and the "come at me" attitude, most people would assume Christopher was a Brujah. A few might go so far as to think he's a Gangrel. But, despite attitude and appearances, Christopher was a Ventrue. Because, while he might have been a bloody-minded thug, he was the head bloody-minded thug. He was the road captain, and he gave the orders. He didn't wear a business suit, or keep millions of dollars in offshore accounts, but when it came to asking who stood among the Lords, there was no doubt that he was king in his own territory.

Don't Be Afraid To Be More

There are a dozen ways you can subvert the "social character" stereotype when it comes to World of Darkness games, while still remaining true to the themes and stats of your character's clan/tribe/seeming/etc. If you're playing Changeling: The Lost, what could be more social than a Spring Court Fairest? Or more terrifying than a draconic in full armor atop a mechanized steed, ready to ride you down with lance and magic? If you're playing a Silver Fang, everyone expects you to act like you're entitled to a position of authority and importance, while not having skills that deserve respect among a warrior people. But what if you were a late bloomer, and you didn't have your first change until you were on a mission as a special forces soldier? So now, on top of being an airborne paratrooper who's an expert in explosives, you also have the ability to transform into an 11-foot tall war beast.

It really isn't fair on anyone else.
Now, that sort of subversion of the "standard" character type isn't required by any means. Nor do you have to go in the more aggressive/violent direction. You could, instead, choose to play someone that's both beauty and brains, combining a forceful personality with academic excellence. Instead, you might make a physically skilled warrior who is also a learned thinker and philosopher.

You're not limited by class levels in the World of Darkness... so why let yourself be limited by preconceptions of what certain organization members, creature types, or even skill specialists have to be, when the only true limit is your math skills, and creativity?

Thanks for stopping in everyone! Hopefully you found this palate cleanser on this week's Unusual Character Concepts refreshing. If you'd like more concepts for systems other than Pathfinder, then please let me know. Also, if you'd like to help support Improved Initiative, then why not stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron? All it takes is $1 a month to net some sweet swag, and help me keep creating great content. Lastly, if you haven't done it yet, why not follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter to get all my updates?

1 comment:

  1. Recently had a character concept for my Changeling chronicle. Still need a good name. He's an ogre who offers hospitality to anyone who stumbles on his hollow. He will fight tooth and nail to protect any of his guests. And if you betray his hospitality by attacking another of his guests, he will grind your bones to bake his bread.

    He's essentially an excuse to get the PCs under the same roof as one of their mortal enemies, where they have to engage in a different sort of combat.