What is the best character for D&D? What is the worst? While we cannot answer these questions, we can answer this one; who was your first? This week we learn about a man named Alastair’s first character, a half-elf paladin named Artorius Reincaster.
One of the first things we pick for a new character, sometimes before even picking a race, is their class. For some of us, this comes naturally for a player, as with Anakis the rogue. For others, it seems logical based off their race, such as for the dwarf Bruenor Frostbeard. For Artorius, class was an important choice based off his preferred playing style.
In that case, why does someone create a paladin? Do they like the idea of a character swearing an oath to do something they believe in? Do they want to fight evil as a righteous warrior of a god? In this case, the keyword is “versatile.” Alastair liked the versatility of a paladin who could act as a tank, absorbing a lot of damage, but was also a heavy hitter with some fun magic and abilities.
Next, we ask, what is a good race for a paladin? Since versatility was a key factor in choosing the paladin class, it made sense to choose a race with an actual trait called “Skill Versatility.” In Alastair’s own words, half-elves are “the best of both worlds,” combining humans’ trademark versatility with the otherworldly grace of an elf.
The concept for this character’s concept came naturally to Alastair, forming organically from the basics he had chosen for him. He liked the idea of a stern, disillusioned character, rather than a knight in shining armor cliche. When you think disillusioned and stern, it is natural to think of the soldier background. This background allows for a “holier than thou” attitude, as Alastair put it. It also gives room for a paladin who has seen a little too much to be naive the way many such holy warriors are depicted.
Extroverted But Serious
Now we have an idea of Artorius’ fighting style, but what was his personality like? Was he fun or serious? Was he kind or cruel? The answer is all of the above. As a trained military officer, it made sense that Artorius became a leader of sorts for his party. He was not afraid to criticize characters who made poor decisions and was always the more logical member of the party.
At the same time, he was a more extroverted character. As a soldier, he was a proficient gambler and often challenged other players to card games. He was a capable character in many ways, with gambling skill, leadership abilities, and high stats for combat encounters. Despite all these great features, Captain Artorius Reincaster was far from perfect, or perhaps too perfect…
Artorius was both fun and serious. He could be a powerful enemy but also fought to protect people. It seems like a perfectly balanced or perfectly contradictory personality, but this personality did lead to some friction in the party. Along with his paladin class and soldier background, he had an unbending morality that made him difficult to live up to, and caused some frustration among less serious characters.
In our first article, we learned about Anakis, whose main flaw was being too evil and too chaotic. Now we have a character whose main flaw was being too good and too lawful. It seems that a character who falls somewhere between those extremes has a better chance of success.
The Perfect Character
Does that mean that the perfect character is a neutral one who is neither evil nor good? That is not the case! After all, a character’s flaws are sometimes what makes the game interesting. As a DM, my favorite part of the game is figuring out how to deal with the crit fails and failed checks. You tried to shoot the goblin boss, and instead hit your group member in a sensitive area with an arrow. What a mistake, but what a story to tell!
Alastair’s advice to new players is “don’t treat this like a game you need to play ‘right’.” After all, the point of the game is to enjoy it, and you come away with stories that are worth writing an article about! Taking a game too seriously can sometimes cause as much trouble as being so silly that you get killed in a bar fight while your group members wait impatiently to leave on a quest.
The most important thing is to have a group that works well together. Artorius was too serious for the campaign, but he had incredible stats and fighting ability. A character like that could work great for a campaign with other serious characters who are fighting for good, but would cause tension in a group of chaotic misfits on a tavern adventure. Similarly, characters like the chaotic evil Anakis would cause friction in a serious quest against evil, and might even turn on their own group! The key is balance.
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