Monday, January 22, 2018

Make Characters More Unique By Adding "But On The High Seas"

Despite roleplaying games opening up massive rifts of possibility, a lot of us find ourselves standing on the same foundation stones, making the same characters over and over again. Though they may have different names, different faces, and different alignments, we often find ourselves going back to the same basic building blocks of the iconic characters in their iconic roles.

One interesting exercise you can do at this point is to add the phrase, "But on the high seas," to the end of your character description to see how that changes what you've put together.

Seriously, try it out a few times.
Take any standard character concept you've had, and add the phrase to see how it changes them. For example, you might choose to play a templar who fights wickedness and protects the innocent... but on the high seas! You could play an orc brawler who sends his winnings home to his mother... but on the high seas! You could make a halfling spy who gathers information for the crown, a tengu warpriest who relishes a good fight, or a tiefling archer looking for work... but on the high seas.

Changing Up Environments Opens Up Your Brain


While the phrase I find most helpful is, "But on the high seas," the specific environment can be changed to your liking. You might prefer, "But from the open plains," or, "But from the mountains," but the idea is the same. By altering the region your character is from, or is used to, you change up the typical three or four square miles of English countryside that most Tolkien-esque fantasy seems to take place in.

When you make those kinds of changes, you end up asking yourself what a wizard from the tundra might act like, or what their magic might look like. What does a cleric from the jungle, or an alchemist from a small island, act like? What environmental choices have informed their strengths, skills, and fashion choices? What are they accustomed to, and what would be strange or unusual to them?

What are barbarians like in paradise?
Even the most basic race and class combinations can feel new and refreshing as part of this exercise. And it doesn't take a special, "hey, let's play pirates!" game for these characters to be useful, and viable. For example, your fighter might opt for light armor and a tower shield, because that kind of mobile defense platform is extremely useful in ship-to-ship battles, but it can be cast aside in an instant if he goes over the gunwale. A magus might keep spells like hydraulic push on hand to clear the decks, and fight fires, along with spells like force hook charge in order to always end up where he wants to be. A gunslinger may not opt for different weapons or armor on a ship, but everything from how he dresses, to his tastes in food, to the way he talks will be different. Even if it's something small, like expecting to have a ration of rum with his food, along with a lime.

Don't Waste Resources, But Have Fun!


There are certain character concepts that are a product of their environment. If you're a mounted character who depends on their charge to be effective, you aren't going to be at home on the deck of a pirate ship. And if you have that concept with an aquatic mount, then you aren't going to be terribly useful on dry land. But it is perfectly possible to make character concepts that would be at home on the ocean (or in the desert, or in the jungle, etc.) work in other places. The key is, rather, to ask how certain races, classes, etc. would be different in those far-off or more exotic locales.

Of course, if your game is going through frozen tundra, or being spent on an island-hopping campaign with a lot of ship travel, you're going to benefit the most from characters adapted to that region and climate. But most people and features are far more adaptable than we give them credit for. So, instead of being from another, usual small town surrounded by hills and forest, spice things up a bit. You'll be surprised at what you come up with.

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday installment. Hopefully it got some wheels turning out there. If you'd like to check out more content from me, head over to my Vocal archive, or stop by the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I work with other gamers to make fun skits and unusual videos. To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. And, if you'd like to help support Improved Initiative, head on over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. Or click the following link to just Buy Me A Coffee. Either way, I'll happily send you some sweet gaming swag as a thank you for your support.

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