Character Advancement: Planned vs Organic

When I first proposed my current campaign and asked the players for character concepts they began pouring through books and began mentally building their characters. A few days later when they began to tell me what they were going to play, I was getting information about what feats they would take at 12th level and what prestige classes they would have X and Y levels of. I was thoroughly confused as to how they could know what feat they would take at 12th level, the game hadn’t even began, the story wasn’t known to them. How did they know what would be important at that point, where was the character growth?

Having a general direction that you want to go with your character is important, but having a rigid “build” robs you of the ability to see your character grow and be shaped by experiences. Part of roleplaying is being shaped by the events of the story just as much as you shape them. I find that a concept irrespective of mechanical considerations such as class and level is a much more effective way to develop a good roleplaying character. A good way to think about your character is to ask how they would introduce themselves to others. My Pathfinder character, for example, would not introduce himself as Barek Clr2/Bbn1, he would say “I am Barek son of Borghild, devout servant of Gorum who lends me His wrath that I may smite my foes with His might.”

Suppose that during the course of the campaign that horses became and important factor. A character who found themselves riding horses a lot may well want to begin putting ranks into ride to reflect an increase in skill that comes from experience. If combat often occurred while mounted, wouldn’t it make sense regardless of class, race, or “build” to take the mounted combat feat? What if the majority of a campaign took place in cramped subterranean corridors where a horse couldn’t go, would it still make sense to take mounted combat at 12th level when your character hasn’t been on a horse since 2nd?

The difference between our plans for our character and the actual events of the campaign may not be large enough to create drastic changes such as a fighter becoming a wizard, but they might influence which skills get ranks and what feats are taken. Next time you level up, think about what has happened to your character so far, do the features that you are gaining mesh with your character’s experiences?

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~ by katallos on October 14, 2009.

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