Friday, 13 February 2009

Practice Makes Perfect

I'm one of those people who quite likes playing mediocre characters. Making the best of a bad lot is fun, especially if there's a humourous angle. But I also tend towards the view that there is something virtuous in overcoming the trials and difficulties of life as a bad character.

RPGers don't really talk about practice - not these days, anyway. I believe Gary Gygax may have mentioned it somewhere. But anything worth spending time doing, whether learning the saxophone, playing rugby or practicing keyhole surgery, requires it. Why should role playing be any different? And in the same way that playing chopsticks over and over again on the piano won't turn you into Rachmaninoff, surely playing uber-munchkin characters won't help you get very much better at your game of choice, either.

This is the problem with min-maxing and why it was always considered anathema, I think. Bring on the mediocre characters and the protestant work ethic for role playing!


  1. I'd agree with you if in the game there were more options of improving your character. One of the benefits of games like Hero, GURPS, and Rolemaster is that your not necessarily the same character physically stat wise as you are when you start. D&D, especially older editions, are notoriously hard to change ability scores and thus all the practice makes no practical difference.

  2. Joe: Sorry, I didn't mean in character terms - I meant as a player of the game personally. I think playing weaker characters allows you to practice role playing skills more, just how playing a tough Khatchaturian piece really hones your piano playing skills.

    You're right that D&D doesn't really allow a character to improve physically, but by the time they're 6th level and above they're practically demigods in real world terms anyway. I actually do prefer the GURPS/Rolemaster way, though, all told. Experienced characters in those games don't have the sense of invulnerability that high level D&D characters do.

  3. My experience is that most of the time, in the long run, the numbers on the character sheet just don’t really matter at all. It’s the decisions I make. It’s the ideas I come up with. It’s the coöperation. It’s the seeing a plan succeed...or fail. It’s hanging out with friends. Those are my measures of success.

    And it’s really funny when the munchkins accuse you of being a munchkin because somehow your mediocre PC seems to be outshining theirs.