Monday, February 11, 2019

Recognizing the Best of the Best

Hanging out on Quora has been an interesting experience. I generally assume that most of you readers here are experienced RPGers with more than a few campaigns under your belt. I’m not entirely sure why I assume that; many of my players these days are brand new to D&D, and that doesn’t appear to be an unusual thing. Over on Quora, I see a lot of topics asked about that it would never occur to me to write about. Like a recent one asking, “What does a mature tabletop players character look like?”

Of course, the answer is: the character looks like exactly what the campaign needs.

Playing an old-school game where life is cheap, survival is difficult, and death likely? The mature tabletop player’s character fits on a 3x5 index card, and there’s probably two or three in reserve.

Playing a storygame where the bulk of the action is supposed to be about the interactions of the PCs, including conflict, reconciliation, and relationship growth? The mature player’s PC is going to be built with ties to all the other PCs, or with a personality trait specifically chosen to create drama with at least one of the other PCs (and probably crafted with the help of those PCs’ players for ultimate buy-in and effectiveness).

Playing a game of 4th edition D&D where most of the action takes place on a battlemat? The mature player’s character has a specific role it’s designed to fill to help the PC team achieve victory. Most often, they’re going to be playing a support role that requires them to be in the thick of things, creating synergies that make the actions of the other PCs more effective.

If you’re playing a “standard” game of 5th edition D&D and you’re wondering who the mature, AAA player at the table is, here are some hints:


  1. They worked with the DM to create a character that is deeply tied to the setting from day one. They’ve got a background that invokes the setting; that is, they’re not just a scholar, they’re a scholar from Candlekeep, or they were a soldier during the Northern Troll Wars. There are specific names in their background that can be invoked during play to provide contacts for the PCs or hooks for the DM.
  2. They worked with the other players to create a character that will play off and with the other characters in fun ways. If you’re playing a dwarf who’s biased against orcs, they’re playing the half-orc paladin. If your character has the street urchin background, they’re playing the character who helped yours escape from the guard way back when, or possibly even got your character off the streets. If you’re playing the noble paladin who’s always first into the fray, they’re playing the scoundrel rogue with a heart of gold who is always talking like a self-interested jerk but just can’t bring themselves to abandon your character in a fight.
  3. They’re not afraid of their DM. They have a sweetheart in town, a younger sibling who’s always getting into trouble, and a pile of similar hooks the DM can use to create drama for their character.
  4. The DM isn’t afraid of them. The DM is happy to make the character a relative of some reigning noble, the (apparent) focus of a prophecy, or the grandchild of the ancient hero of legend. The DM considers letting them play that weird homebrew race or proposed subclass from Unearthed Arcana.
  5. They’re looking for ways to push the other characters into the limelight, or share the spotlight when it’s on them.


We’re all there to have and share fun. The mature player keeps that in mind and tries to be a force multiplier for that fun, so that everyone at the table has a great time. What makes RPGs so awesome is that they’re shared make-believe; getting the most from the shared part means actively engaging as many folks at the table as possible. And that’s what the best of the best do. I’ve been very blessed to play with many folks who deserve to be called the best of the best.

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