What can I do better than anyone else in the group?


An interesting conundrum, and one that often becomes the basis of a new character build / concept.

It’s often the “go to” thought behind a group of friends creating a party in many computer / console games.  Typically, a PC/PS3-4?XBOX ONE RPG game will have a “tank”, a “healer”, and two DPS (usually one ranged, and one melee) but does it need to be that way in a tabletop RPG?

Party balance

I came across this question in a very interesting post on a website called, ‘Look Robot’ – http://lookrobot.co.uk/; the post can be found here (http://lookrobot.co.uk/2014/01/10/six-questions-will-help-make-better-character/) but it explores, ‘Six questions that will help you to make a better character’.  The post itself is very good, and I have very little doubt that a lot of roleplayers could benefit from part / all of it.  However, it raised some thoughts I’ve been having recently with character concepts.

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Now, this isn’t a critique of what the guy has written, far from it as there are some very good points made, but I feel that for my group it’s important to mitre the prose to be more relevant to our current adventure.

It starts off as follows:

“Do one thing and do it well. Be the expert at that thing within the group.  Talk to your GM and ask if that thing will come up at all in the game; make them be honest with you.  I’ve played hacker-thieves in games that had neither computers nor larceny as anything but very, very tangential concepts.  I’ve played diplomatic scholars in combat-heavy games.  Those were bad choices.  I learned my lesson.”

Now, there’s something to be said for doing one thing and doing it well and by all means be an expert at that “thing” within the group BUT I truly believe that there is little fun to be had in being a one-trick-pony.  Especially so if your ‘one trick’ is something obscure or invariably isn’t a major part of a typical story.  Being an expert in one particular area is fine, but don’t do it to such an extent that your character becomes useless in all other areas.

Continuing on…

If you don’t want to specialise at one thing, pick a penumbra (what?) and specialise within that.  Don’t want to shove all your points in Firearms?  Specialise in being a soldier instead. Whenever you do something that’s soldiery – combat, surviving in a harsh climate, observing and analysing a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation, communicating in a military capacity – then you want to be the best at that. Or be a cop. Or a hitman. Or a hunter.

boba_fett

Yepp, yep, what he said.  Rather than being an expert in Computers (or not as some characters annoyingly discover), spread your skill set out a bit.  If you want (as the example above says) to be an expert soldier, then understand that it’s not just about shooting people.  Conversely, if you want to be an expert mechanic or pilot, then that’s great, but do understand that those skills are only going to be of use at certain times; eg. if you’re trying to find out the patrol routes/timings of a guard shift at a prison or negotiating with a Hutt, your 5 yellow die 8 green die skill in Gardening won’t help you and you’d best hope the balance of your party (assuming you’re not by yourself) can ‘fill in the gaps’.

Gardener

If you specialise, it gives other players – and their characters – a clearer idea on your role in the story, and your abilities. (D&D is very good at making specialists with zero effort, because it’s a game entirely about specialisation.) Plus, it gives the GM a pretty massive indication of the skills that you want to use and how to build adventures that will interest you.

Absolutely correct, and it does give a clear signal and most GMs (most good ones anyway) will look at the skillsets of the PCs and put aspects in a story that require those skills so your character can shine.  However, my advice here is don’t go so far into one skill that you excel in 2% of the story and are a backseat driver in the rest.

In my opinion (which you are all most welcome to 😉 ) the answer is not particularly clear cut if the question is phrased as the title of this post.  I believe that at the beginning of your character’s life, this system encourages a wider remit of skills – a shotgun approach; they will initially be of far more use to you. 
shotgun-target

Once you’ve ‘rounded out’ your character with some ‘support skills’, it’s then that I would look to specialise – a sniper approach.

Sniper Target

With a setting as rich as Star Wars the sheer breadth of options and ideas that a GM has to play with are practically endless and are infinitely supported by a plethora of websites, movies, books, games, and fan fiction (be a little careful with some of it though!).

Help your GM to help you, spread yourself out a bit and remember, the more options you give your GM, the better the story will be.

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2 thoughts on “What can I do better than anyone else in the group?

  1. During our livestream on Wednesday, both of my PCs played combat-focused characters. While this would have been okay if all 5 of our PCs had been able to play, it ended up being a challenge to redirect the flow of play and encounters to let them still make their way through the story. It ended up working out, because this system is great about allowing characters to be good at skills outside of their career. If you truly have a one-trick-pony, you’re doing it wrong.

    In regards to party balance in the traditional sense, I think that it is overrated and not appropriate for most games. If you have a tank, dps (x2), and a healer, then you are missing out on mechanics, pilots, slicers, negotiators, traders, archaeologists, and all of the other gems that this and many other systems offer.

    The exception to the above might be D&D 4e, which is basically a computer game with paper and pencils…

    1. Hi Kyle,

      While I haven’t listened to all of your play through, one thing I’ve noticed that I am also falling foul of, is the use of Setback and Destiny dice. At the moment I’m not using them enough.

      Setback dice are very important, more so than boost dice in my opinion, as they give your players the opportunity to use their talents. A lot of the talents are, ‘Remove 1 setback dice per blah blah roll’, and if you don’t give them the Setback then that talent and XP expenditure is basically wasted.

      I’ve taken some notes on the players talent and where they have that type of talent and am looking forward to subtly dropping relevant situations in to see if they realise they can use their ‘leet skills’ to assist themselves. I’m a big believer in trying to give each player a moment of, “How awesome was that?!?! That was alllllll me.”

      Anyway, just thought I’d mention it. Keep posting up the mission recordings though, they’re very enjoyable to watch/listen to.

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