Remembering to Play the Part

One of the first things a role player will try to beat into your brain is to always separate player knowledge and character knowledge.  It’s one of the most basic tenets of role playing.  Just because you know Ner’zhul became the original Lich King, doesn’t mean Sir Awesomeman the Paladin of Stormwind would.

The other night at my weekly D&D game, I came across a variation of the idea that honestly never occurred to me before. The separation of player motivation and character motivation.  Our party was trying to get into a ‘restricted area’ to speak to an important official in this Church of Pelor that we were sorta-kinda working for.  The high guard decided to cut us off, checked our ‘guest passes’ and declared us “Not supposed to be here.”  She was quite snooty about it too.

Now, as the rest of our gaming group was quick to point out, this woman was a high guard in the organization employing us.  Killing her would be bad, so we should all use non-lethal methods to subdue her.  The group knew this. I knew this.  But did my character?

Well, let’s think about it.  My character – Scythe – is a revenant (if you’re not familiar with the D&D race, think ‘The Crow’. Not the elemental revenants in Northrend) that was raised by the Raven Queen to hunt down and claim souls for her so he can earn his freedom.  He’s a soul-harvesting bounty hunter for the Goddess of Death – I think it is safe to assume he doesn’t do non-lethal.

I went all out on her.  Brought my A-game.  Some solid hits, a little combat advantage, and one brutal critical hit later and she was lying on the floor covered in her own blood, muttering her final words to her god.  Scythe walks over to her and grins, “Pelor has no power where you’re going.” He pulled out his talisman and sent her soul to the Shadowfell to meet his mistress.

I had  knowingly killed what should have been an ally to our cause.  A high guard that served directly underneath the Church’s council. Why?  Because my character had a different motivation.  His freedom was more important than sparing some pain-in-the-butt guard that decided to pull a sword on us because our hall pass was invalid.

I think it’s safe to say that no one else in my group agreed with my actions.  This was a stupid decision that is surely going to cause a lot of issues for our characters in the near future.  As we ended the session for the night I smiled and looked at our Dungeon Master and said, “That was a mistake wasn’t it?”

He smiled back and said something I don’t think I’ll ever forget: “Wil Wheaton knew not to split the party.  Aeofel didn’t.”

I can not wait for our next game.

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Posted on September 29, 2011, in Gaming and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. “This woman was a high guard in the organization employing us. Killing her would be bad, so we should all use non-lethal methods to subdue her. The group knew this. I knew this. But did my character?”

    Um, did your character NOT know this? Your character knew she was totally innocent, and he still butchered her? This is not ignoring meta knowledge or roleplaying the limits of what your character knew – your character knew EVERYTHING and still did it. Your character DID know it, and IGNORED it. That’s a BIG difference from Wil Wheaton knowing something and ignoring it because Aeofel didn’t.

    And…how is he going to get souls for the Raven Queen if he’s a) in jail, or b) killed? I mean, if you’re roleplaying him as such – a really impulsive, evil guy – then okay, fine…but if the rest of the party’s gaming experience is suffering because of this, it’s not a very good fit IMO.

    If I was a member of your group, I’d be really annoyed. There’s a point where putting your own character’s personal desires ahead of the group’s enjoyment is just selfish. Honestly? In my group if anyone purposefully did something like this just to cause trouble, they’d probably kick him out or kill him outright for being a brutal murderer. After all, if you kill innocent guards when YOU are breaking in and you KNOW they are good, why the hell would I trust you to guard me at night?

    • Wow. Just wow. You are drawing some radical conclusions based on all this aren’t ya? 🙂 This isn’t your super serious Game of Thrones-ish D&D. This is the “What will the rogue steal out of the bad guys’ pants this week and what will the dragonborn end up eating” kind of D&D. (For the record, this week the Dragonborn ate… Books!)

      It’s the kind of wacky fun, that brutally murdering the guard that tried to stop us while on a mission to save the world is more akin to Fred Flintstone spending all the grocery money on a new bowling ball.

      Is Scythe a horrible person? Yes. Very much so. If it wasn’t for his strict, “Don’t start crap with me and I won’t start crap with you.” policy, he would be firmly planted in an Evil alignment. He doesn’t walk the streets killing every single person he sees. He doesn’t start fights for an excuse so he can kill people and claim a soul. But if you threaten him or his companions, he will leave your body in a ditch and your soul in the Shadowfell.

      The guard attacked first, Scythe responded as she was an enemy. Are there larger implications to this attack? Probably. Does Scythe know that? Never would cross his mind. He was serving his mistress and defending his allies.

      As for what happens if he is in jail? He waits it out. He was stuck in the Pyramid of Shadows for nearly 100 years. Death? He serves the Raven Queen. Either he dies and gets out of their deal, or she sends him back to complete the contract.

      (Also, the hilarious thing is, as a Revenant who does not sleep or eat, I am the ONLY one who stands guard at night. Thus far? No issues. Scythe mostly just plays solitaire.)

  2. I think I did overreact. I read the line about your party members being unhappy and that’s what I fixated on, because it’s a huge pet peeve of mine when player enjoyment suffers because of someone’s personally-driven actions. In a more serious game (in my experience). anytime a group is mad at a player and the player defends their actions with “I was roleplaying my character!” it’s a sign that something isn’t working – either they’re using RP as an excuse to be silly, or they’re properly RPing a character, but a character that doesn’t fit in with the group and shouldn’t be there anyway.

    But, I’m sorry for biting your head off, haha. If it’s a silly game where you guys get into all kinds of hijinks all the time, that’s totally different. I read your post as you purposefully ignoring the logical, normal thing to do just to be a troublemaker, but I see now that it’s not really the case. If it’s not legitimate annoyance but more like ” /eyeroll Oh, Scythe, you rascal!” then I totally approve of doing the “leap first, damn the consequences” stuff, as it can lead into GREAT moments. 😀

  3. The party members (characters) were understandably upset. The players were not. 😀

    They’re used to this sort of thing though. Scythe routinely is the one who does the most practical although not the most tactful things. Like climbing a sacred statue in order to get a better look at the area, and thus ticking off the locals. Did he know it was sacred? Nope. But it was good place to look from.

    In a more serious campaign, I never play neutral or evil characters. Good or lawful good only. Because I hard time being a jerk in a serious setting. Heck, I struggle playing Renegade in Mass Effect.

  4. I’ve had something similar happen…more then once. One time it even resulted in my character’s death to the gratification of my party who had been yelling at me the entire encounter.
    My favorite instance was while playing a Rogue, I decided to “help the healer” with some guards that had gotten hurt while helping us in a fight. Personally, I knew it meant taking a risk because I hadn’t been rolling all that hot that night, but my character doesn’t know about dice rolls. So as I “helped apply some bandages” I also lifted a couple coin purses from the city guardsmen. A higher level NPC, I think their Captain or the Mayor spotted me (I still call BS on the DMs roll, because my stealth check was superb). He had me slapped in irons and hauled away. This DM wasn’t all that used to improvising, and the campaign actually fell apart over the Player vs. DM argument that ensued. Sigh.
    Let’s not even talk about my Tiefling Warlord that insisted on having a signed contract with every quest giver, and constantly tried to include a clause that would sell the quest giver’s soul as well. Those were fun times…

  5. “The party members (characters) were understandably upset. The players were not. :D”

    This is 100% true. I am one of the other players in the group that Vry is talking about, and our characters may have been a touch mad, but we were more mad that Sythe wasn’t focus firing on the Golem Guards attacking us and was instead blowing Dailies on this chick that asked us for an ID.

    In the end though, the characters weren’t that upset with Sythe, because we had been trying for hours to get into the restricted section, and it was pretty clear several different entities withing that ministry were lying to us, so it was time to crack some skulls.

    The players (I suppose I only speak for myself technically) generally welcome Vry’s decisions as he plays Sythe. Vry is one of the most experienced RPers of the group, so we kinda learn from him about how to make Character level decisions and stuff like that.

    It’s also nice when the group itself has personality and not just the characters. We are kinda a rag-tag group of misfits right now just trying to do the right thing, except for Sythe lol.

    I can see though if a Player just does things to aggravate the group, or go against the grain for the sake of going against the grain, that could be very frustrating.

    I am totally bummed that I have to miss this week, because it is going to be epic!

    • I was wondering if you were going to reply! lol

      And for the record, I only used 1 daily and that was an utility power! That 72 damage crit was an encounter power. With the right combo, I can get it up to 80 damage on a crit before crit dice or other bonuses. 🙂

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