Role-play 101 Part 1: A Class Act

For Day 15 of our Xmas Countdown we have Sharon one of our Roleplay veterans give us a quick rundown of Roleplay 101.

So what do you need to role-play?

A safe and comfortable space, a group of fellow dice enthusiasts, an agreed upon system and the appropriate dice. One you have assembled your band of merry adventurers, one must be chosen (or more usually volunteer) to become the all important master of dungeons or Games Master (GM).

So what systems are available?

Too many to name, but for the purposes of this article lets focus on one of the oldest and most popular systems, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D).

D&D was created by the late, great Gary Gygax back in the mid 1970’s; it has been through several evolutions and is currently in its fifth edition. D&D is played with a set of polyhedral dice that includes: d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20,

and d%.

There are of course many other systems and some of the ones played at Gobstyks include; Legend of the Five Rings, Pathfinder, The Storyteller system from White Wolf (which includes many different settings) and Call of Cthulhu.

What is the importance of the GM?

The GM is the teller of stories, the weaver of tales, the keeper of dungeons and the primary driving force behind any adventure. Every seemingly random encounter, every piece of precious treasure found, every adversary faced and every moment of divine intervention occurs because the GM wills it to be. It is a great power and a terrible responsibility because you hold within your hand the success of the role-play; you are responsible for the enjoyment of the other players, for when a game stops being fun it is no longer a game but a chore.

So we get why GM is important but what do the players do?

Well they play the game, they are the characters, they create the fine detail of the story being told with their actions, they can push a plot forward to the desired conclusion or they can completely derail it with unexpected actions, one of the marks of a good GM is the ability to think on your feet because as we all know no plot survives first contact with the players.

So how do we know what character class to play?

Well that can honestly depend on your preferred style of play and the story that the games master is trying to tell. Some players, being less experienced than others, plumb for the less complex character, others with more experience may try to fill in gaps in the party dynamic. For the purpose of this article let us look at an off the shelf D&D adventure.

Most of these pre-done adventures give you a starting character level and will work to the standard dynamic of 1 tank, 1 dedicated healer, 1 dungeon delver and 1 master of the arcane. With D&D these roles can be filled with different classes as listed below:

Tank: A close combat type that normally presents the greatest physical threat, it takes most of the damage and allows for the other party members to deal damage to an adversary relatively untouched.

  • Fighter: a versatile combat class that can be presented as anything from a gladiator fighting for the entertainment of other and the promise of freedom, to the sell sword trying to make a living with his only skill, to the great knight on his charger fighting for family, duty and honour.

  • Barbarian: An un-armoured close combat character that is generally considered to be savage and illiterate and filled with an unbridled rage, this is not necessarily so, whilst most barbarians do fit the stereotype, some are in fact warriors of great skill and spirituality said to embody the great animal spirits.

  • Paladin: Heavily armoured close combat characters, paladins are the champions of gods, they represent all that is good and godly, some follow a creed that is older than the memory of humans, while others are oath bound to seek vengeance and right some grievous wrong.

  • Monk: Unarmed and Un-armoured, tanking with this class is not for the inexperienced, Monks are the epitome of self discipline, they hold firmly to their monastic tradition, monks have also the ability to focus and use the power of ki which can make them preternaturally agile and often possess great wisdom, it has been said that fighting against a monk is akin to sparing with a waterfall, you hit nothing and end up battered, bruised and humiliated.

Dedicated Healer: Usually a divine spell caster whose primary purpose is keeping the party alive; They also heal damage after a fight, and have a secondary utility function as either a damage dealer or providing buffs.

  • Cleric: From the acolyte in a small country shrine to the High Priestess in the great towering temples of the capital, all of these are clerics. They are all granted the powers they possess by the gods that they have dedicated their lives to. Goodly clerics are the scourge of the undead, they are beacons of light and great healers; whereas those on the opposite side control undead and can cause great harm to the living. While not front line fighters clerics are often called to defend the will of their gods so they tend not to be slouches in combat.

  • Druid: Defenders of the natural order, whether they are keepers of ancient knowledge or guardians of the wild spaces, all druids abhor the unnatural particularly the undead and aberrations. Druids not only have access to divine spells, these seemingly ageless casters have the ability to transform into great beasts of the forest, this can cause an unwary foe great problems.

Dungeon Delver: These are the people that scout ahead, gain access to buildings and deal with a wide range of issues from traps to guards that are ready to sound the alarm. They are an important yet overlooked role; they can make the difference between success and failure as they can pave the way for something other than a direct assault. They also act as damage dealers and can be devastating from either range or up-close, particularly if they get the drop on an enemy.

  • Rogue: Whether the pick pocket in the slums, the cat burglar climbing out of the window or the deadly knife in the dark, these are all rogues; be assured if you see a rogue in the open it is because they wish you to. Masters of the stealthy arts, they are adept at opening locks, disarming traps and gathering information, if a rogue catches you unawares it is normally the last thing you will see. Usually plucked from the street at a young age rogues go through rigorous and often brutal training at the hands of the guilds, after all there are only two types of rogues; good ones and dead ones.

  • Bard: From the street performer to the travelling skald, bards are charismatic bunch. While not as adept as rogues in matters of stealth, they possess a font of eclectic knowledge that they can call upon, they also have access to the arcane arts as well as healing spells which makes them a welcome addition to any party.

  • Ranger: Where rogues are at home in the urban sprawl, Rangers live in the great rolling wilds. They often act as trackers and guides; they are expert hunters and often have an affinity for the creatures that make the wild their home. They are masters of survival and ambush; they also have access to divine spells, which makes them useful as a secondary healer.

Masters of the Arcane: Keepers of lore, practitioners of the arcane have access to spells with great destructive potential, but calling down rains of fire is not their only skill, some can talk to beings of great power, some have access to spells that improve the abilities of their party.

  • Sorcerer: There are differences of opinion as to how these sorcerers came about their power, some say that they have the blood of dragons running through their veins, others argue that they can mould raw arcane potential to fit their design, but whatever their origin one thing is agreed upon these arcane practitioners are possibly the most powerful; however they have a smaller knowledge base than their learned counterparts.

  • Wizard: Spending years studying amongst the dusty tomes of great libraries, wizards accumulate vast depths of knowledge, whilst their knowledge is not as broad as that of a bard and their power is not as great as that of a sorcerer, they are specialists in their fields, no bard can hope to create an illusion as impenetrable as a master illusionist and no sorcerer can hope to create a fireball that can exclude their party from the damaging effect like a master evoker can.

  • Warlock: Delving into the forbidden and occult knowledge hidden away in long forgotten sections of the great libraries is often a dangerous prospect, but if one can manage it the rewards are often worthwhile. The warlock is often given great power after signing a pact with a being of great power whether that be one of the archfey, a great fiend or an otherworldly being so strange as to be beyond comprehension.

So after you have your basic party put together what next? Well you have to look at the alignment of your players as that can have a massive impact on the type of campaign you run, and that is something we shall look at in part 2.