Monday, May 7, 2012
Great Characters, Part 2 of 6. Roles.
The first choice for your character is the easiest.
What will be your character's role in the group?
As part of an ensemble cast, every character has a role. For a group to be a well-developed, and effective team, those roles need to be clearly defined, and the players need to stick to the role they have chosen. It is helpful to coordinate with your teammates so that the team has a well-balanced variety of roles, depending on the nature of the interactive story to be told through the game.
Certain games and genres have specific roles that are not commonly used in other genres. Decker/Hackers aren't used much outside of a Cyberpunk genre. Thieves aren't used much outside of Fantasy. The roles listed here include elements of sci-fi and fantasy, but I’m not trying to cover everything, just enough to get your juices flowing.
The player needs know their character's role when they set up their skills and abilities. Many games have the character's role built into a Class-based paradigm. For games without a Class-based paradigm, consider the following roles for your character.
The Face is a people person. They have the communication skills that will help the team deal with groups of extras, forge alliances and find non-violent solutions to various problems. They speak the language and coordinate efforts between groups and individuals.
Fighters handle the violence. In RPGs, there is typically a lot of violence to be done. The Fighter is usually a specialist in their craft, according whether they do their work by hand or from a distance, and their particular style. That is a matter of Skill and ability choices. For our purposes here, Fighter is specific enough.
Investigators seek out and gather information. A smart team does not go blindly into the enemy's lair, and reconnaissance is an important part of the planning phase of an adventure. Investigators are sometimes specialized according to how they get their information, whether by seduction, spying, infiltration or hacking.
The Leader is the character who keeps the team operating when things are looking grim. The Leader’s abilities focus on enhancing the team as a whole. Good Leaders will also keep the team focused and moving in the appropriate direction.
Medics keep the team functioning in combat by tending to wounds and counteracting other negative conditions inflicted by enemies and hostile environments. The Medic’s abilities are focused on enhancing individual members of the team and counteracting penalties.
The Mystic knows about the supernatural. They often possess supernatural or mysterious abilities of their own. Mystics are handy when facing enemies that also possess strange powers. Mystics are versatile in the sense that they can fill different roles.
Rogues are good at getting the team into (and sometimes out of) dangerous places, usually by subterfuge and stealth. Rogues’ abilities focus on circumventing obstacles and environments, creating opportunities for others and maneuvering.
The Wrench works with tools. Most teams rely on specialized equipment to be fully effective. The Wrench builds, maintains and operates the team’s weapons, armor, tools and vehicles.
A character’s chosen role has some bearing on their nature. Fighters are usually aggressive. Investigators are usually curious. Wrenches often cannot read well, but they can figure out how a machine works by looking at it from across the street.
This is a good place to start. Ask a few simple questions about the character, based on their role.
Why is the character a Fighter instead of a Leader? Are they not good at dealing with people except physically? Why is that?
Is your Medic a compassionate healer or a battle-weary field surgeon? Do they care about the people they patch up, or are they just patients? Why would they put up a barrier like that?
Is your Face character a smarmy car salesman shyster or an observant negotiator who seeks to truly understand other people? What will this character do with that knowledge?
After these first few questions, your character has a skeleton. It's time to put some flesh on those bones.