CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Expecting the Unexpected

Breaking Stereotypes

Illustration by Luis Perez
Throughout the history of gaming, written fantasy, and science fiction there have always been conventions. We mostly go about calling the tropes these days, but some things just have a deep-seated history of being so. Some tropes like ‘you all meet in a tavern’ are easily broken, or used and expanded upon. But when some things - especially making characters - become commonplace, it’s hard to break the stereotypes.

The divide between who is good and who is evil is often hotly debated. Even in games where there is no alignment system, a line is drawn between good guys and bad guys. For many people, but not all, a creature’s race determines whether it is a good guy or a bad guy. Goblins, kobolds, and orcs among others sit firmly on the bad guy side. And although games like Pathfinder very specifically indicate that not every member of every race has the same alignment, many people gloss over this fact.

Going against convention in this manner can often be fun. The good orc or goblin can add a little something different; if your GM lets you break the mold of traditional races choices that is. Going the other way can often be fun too. Evil, and not drow, elves can throw people for a loop. As a GM I’ve used innocent seeming halflings as the bad guys to great effect. Many times tieflings are thought of as leaning toward evil and aasimar toward good because of their respective outside blood. Like this week’s randomly rolled character breaking the norm and playing a wholly evil aasimar can shake things up.

Breaking moral norms also goes hand-in-hand with breaking cultural norms. Orcs and their half-orc kin are often thought of as savage brutes. Playing an erudite character from any race that is traditionally thought of as savage can throw people’s perceptions for a loop. As can an elf that is more at home in a crowded city than a forest or a dwarf that’s claustrophobic and hates being underground. And my favorite has always been savage little Halfling barbarians.

Race and class stereotypes are also a thing. 1st and 2nd edition D&D set the tone by restricting what classes certain races could take and how far they could go. As a side note, the woodlands-loving elves couldn’t be druids, which I always found odd. Even after these limits were taken out people still had this feeling that some of these limitations should remain, like dwarves shouldn’t be arcane spellcasters. Even in non-D&D games like Shadowrun, which didn’t have restrictions at all, you’d see people cleave to stereotypes; troll Street Samurai ‘cause they’re strong, dwarven Deckers ‘cause technology is the new smithing.

For me, I like to break these norms often, even so far as taking classes that don’t necessarily sit well with a race’s stat modifiers. You’ll hear a lot of people tell you that dwarves shouldn’t play sorcerers because of the negative to their charisma, or that elves shouldn’t be barbarians because of their constitution negative. These are exactly the types of characters I love to play because they aren’t the same ones that everyone else plays.

Even within class there are many tropes to which we cleave. The sneaky rogue, the white knight paladin, the savage barbarian, and many others are done time and time again. One of my own recent favorite characters is the rogue brute. He’s an intimidation monster with impressive strength who hits things really hard after he scares them. Neal Litherland – friend of the CRB – has done some oddball class concepts over on his blog Improved Initiative. Check out the unexpected barbarian and the savage wizard and see what I mean.

Sometimes sticking with the tried and true works. That dwarven fighter with a Scottish accent, who loves a good drink and wields an axe can go a long way. But sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zones and try something new and different. Whether you’re playing D&D/Pathfinder or one of the myriad other games out there, role playing is our opportunity to really get creative.

What stereotypes have you gone against? Which ones do you think should remain strong? As a GM do you like to throw the unexpectedly different at you players? As a player do you try and talk your GM into letting you try something new?

Hopefully the CRB helps you reach out and try new and unexpected things. Creating content is a second, non-paying full-time job. Creators can focus on bringing you the content you deserve when they don’t have to worry about keeping the lights on.  If the CRB has enhanced your gaming experience, please consider contributing to my Patreon for as little as $1 a month. Or if a one-time donation is more your speed try my Paypal.

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The opening illustration was created by the fine artist Luis Perez. You can find him on TwitterTumblr, and on Instagram at luisperezart

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