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"You have such great characterization." That's a compliment I get a lot for my novels and short stories. Part of that is because going into a story, I know who the characters are, and their complete backgrounds. Recently I signed up for a new RPG with a friend of a friend, and the DM sent out the character sheets. My first thought was why is this in a foreign language. My next thought was that my friend had better be prepared to help me. He was and did. And I still messed up.
The DM gave precise instructions about what he wanted for this particular campaign. In hindsight, if I had read what he wanted and applied critical thinking skills to it, there would have been no issue. But reading is hard. Thinking is impossible. The concept of the character I wanted seemed to be a hit, a survivalist cop. It looked like a winning combination to me.
With a sense of false pride, I sent the rough draft to my friend. He has always been gentle with me and guided me through the tricky aspects of gaming, and this was no different. One by one he ticked off my mistakes and let me know what I needed to do to tighten the character up a bit. The backstory wasn't necessarily required, but I did need to give a personality type (he's an introvert who is willing to follow as long as he can blow shit up). Initially, I wanted a wizard who could cast fire spells, but for the type of world that is being created, that didn't seem like a smart thing to do.
When my friend got to my stats, well let's just say that wasn't pretty. Math has never been my strong suit, an accounting professor once asked me if I knew what 1 plus 1 was. When I answered 11, he didn't know if I was joking or not. I was. I think. Nonetheless, I had given myself 25 effective ranks. The DM had said in the instructions that we were allowed 5. What can I say, I'm used to getting extra because I'm cute. That's the argument I'm going with here.
When it came to the ranks, apparently that math is easy. It wasn't, but everyone says it was. I don't want to say they were wrong, but somehow I messed that up too. There wasn't enough balance in the numbers or some such. The DM asked me to revise them a third time (once I barely did them, my friend helped with the second set, and then finally the final set). After that math was finished up, I sent them over with the caveat that my friend helped me with the math, and he should be blamed if there was an issue. He was not pleased with being thrown under that dragon (does that work as a suitable replacement for bus?) and said I should be held accountable myself. Right...
Then there was the nickname fiasco. There is no argument that this is where I should shine, it's literally part of my day job to name people. What most don't know is that I have help with my names, every character in my stories that is based on me is named Jeff. It's simple and makes the writing go that much faster. This time though, I chose a name that Scrivener suggested to me. A cool-ish name. And when it came to finding a nickname for him, I settled on a shortening of that name. Given the nature of the campaign, my friend argued, I should find something less identifiable. So I switched to Scar. Then the DM asked me to change it because there was an issue with that name and I went back to the original nickname. At least there was no math involved here.
Was the first gaming character I created a success? When the campaign gets underway, we will find out. As of right now, I am trying to forget how bad I was at creating this person and focus on getting myself ready to take on a more significant role in the campaign. The words my friend said to me after the character was created gave me some peace, "Everyone sucks when they create their first gaming character."