When was your first Dungeons and Dragons game? Was it a first edition group playing on paper when you were twelve? Was in an online chat you found through reddit? Perhaps your friend dragged you into it because they needed another player. Did you have access to all the books and a seasoned DM or were you just winging it? Kevin got into D&D during summer camp when he was thirteen years old. Another kid in the camp had an R.A. Salvatore book with a short adventure at the end, and the kids decided to play it.
How does a thirteen-year-old create a character? Is it different from the way an adult creates a character? While one hopes a thirteen-year-old will not be creating a seductress or other rated-R character, there are remarkable similarities in character creation style. Many people choose to create characters that imitate favorite historical figures, mythical characters, and even TV show characters. While Kevin’s character was not an imitation, it was a hobbit, modeled in part after Bilbo in the book “The Hobbit.”
Many of us are familiar with the hobbits in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit series. They are essentially halflings, as they are called in D&D 5e. Thus, Kevin created a hobbit thief, as opposed to a halfling rogue.
PG 13 D&D
One would naturally expect that a game played with thirteen-year-olds would be less R-rated. It would certainly not have any sexual themes or gory details. That is to say, someone who had never been a thirteen-year-old would expect this. Someone who had been a thirteen-year-old would expect immature versions of sexual themes. You know, the ones adults hear and think “That’s not how it works, but I’m not correcting you.”
In this game, there were gory details and chopping off inappropriate body parts, to the extent that Kevin claimed “everytime i think about my first dnd session i feel bad for the dm for putting up with so much stupidity from a bunch of 13 yr olds.” There was little roleplaying in this game, which is fine for some groups, but begs the question; what fun anecdotes could come of a game that consisted of little-to-no social interaction? The answer lies in the combat techniques and their complete lack of understanding of roleplay.
How to Not Roleplay
I have asked for input, advice, feedback, and everything else you can think of many times throughout my playing and writing career, and the most consistent piece of advice I’ve received is “Don’t split up the party.” That said, this rule does not seem to apply to teenage summer camp D&D. This group had a method of fighting in which they would split up and rejoin group members. On one occasion, our halfling thief was with an assassin. The group joined two fighters, and the assassin made the mistake of attempting roleplay.
In this encounter, the assassin demanded they give tribute. While Kevin’s young Hobbit was angered by this decision, he later realized that this was an attempt at roleplay, albeit an unsuccessful one. This was the source of a later regret, as Kevin intended for his character to be like the Hobbit character Bilbo, and instead all he did was fight.
Above image licensed under Creative Commons (not mine)
A Hobbit’s Guide to D&D: Getting it Right
While many people enjoy the hack and slash or combat-based playing style, it can sometimes be difficult when it doesn’t fit with a character’s backstory and personality. In this instance, the total interest in gold and focus on killing caused infighting within the group. In the course of studying this infighting, I have learned a new word: defenestrated. This is the act of throwing a person of thing out of a window. Our reincarnated Bilbo survived the adventure but was unfortunately defenestrated by a dwarf member of his party.
This does not mean that the character and players got everything wrong. In the words of another player, BirdtheBard, “can you really do d&d wrong?” After all, thirteen-year-old Kevin had a lot of fun playing his non-PG game and chopping off valued body parts. He was also introduced to the limitless world of Dungeons and Dragons through this character and his adventure, and was able to experience the fantasy worlds he loves through this game.
What to Do and What Never to Do Again
Kevin’s advice to new players is not to be afraid of roleplay. He certainly doesn’t regret basing his character off a beloved book character, and even recommends others do so. When you fall in love with a book character, you rarely fall in love with the battles they fought. Instead, you fall in love with the unique and creative things they did in that battle, the relationships they built with their companions, and perhaps their wit, be it in a tavern conversation or mid-battle. Like Kevin, I believe that a player should not be afraid to immerse themselves in their character, though the character’s personality could certainly be a hack-and-slash fighter.
This brings up the issue of hack and slash characters and adventures. When browsing D&D forums, one gets the impression that many people are less than thrilled with the idea of a hack and slash campaign, and seek solutions to encourage roleplaying, or at least alternatives to combat. In one forum, I discovered an idea that may have hit the nail on the head, figuratively speaking. A forum poster suggested that if you want to play hack and slash, you play a video game. If you want to roleplay, you can only have a complete immersive experience through an RPG like D&D. While Kevin enjoyed hack and slash, he ended up regretting the lack of roleplaying. In your mind, what is the balance between roleplaying and hack and slash?
Who was your first character? Who was your best or your worst character? Message me on Facebook, send feedback in the Contact Us form, or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like me to write a post on it. I am always looking for new stories, and if you enjoyed this article, chances are others will enjoy your character’s story.
Please comment below or like this post if you enjoyed reading about Kevin’s first character!