What exactly does it mean to be alive? This question is often more philosophical or intellectual than anything, but for Journer Ironskin, it is a daily struggle. Journer is a warforged ranger created by a player named Brian. The warforged race was crafted by humans to fight, hence the name warforged. They do not eat, sleep, drink, or suffer from exhaustion, so, from a D&D perspective, are they alive? If they are, how does their construct-like form affect them psychologically? (Click Here for more information on the warforged race.)
In Journer’s case, his past was a mystery, adding an entirely new element to the question of whether he was alive. Even his name was derived from the fact that he journeyed, rather than from a personal history from which most people could extrapolate their character’s personality.
SPOILER ALERT: If you are currently playing in the campaign with Journer Ironskin, there are spoilers in this article.
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It is likely, then, that warforged require some skilled roleplaying. It would be easy to play a warforged character as inhuman, just as one might easily play a goblin or bugbear as evil. With that in mind, why would somebody want to play a race whose humanoid nature is questionable? Brian’s reason: because the race’s humanoid nature is questionable.
I haven’t done much gaming, but when I do, and there is a synthetic character option, I tend to enjoy it. Otherwise, it’s because I find synthetic creatures both physically cool, and philosophically interesting.
The warforged race creates many opportunities for questioning the nature of life, the nature of people and social interaction, and the nature of nature. This philosophical pondering becomes more real for a warforged as it affects their daily life. They don’t need sleep, but do they watch their friends sleep and wonder what they are missing? They were crafted, but do they wonder for what purpose? Do they know why they were crafted, unlike so many other humanoids who only see the randomness and chaos of birth and death?
Journer’s Love of Life
Having picked the most synthetic of the official races, Brain had to choose a class. As a questionable living person, Journer was very much interested in life, and so the ranger class seemed appropriate. Brian did not want to play a magical or religious class, such as a cleric, and the ranger was the most natural given that prerequisite.
What about alignment? We know that Journer is forced to consider the construct-like nature of his existence, and that he has an interest in life and nature, but how does that translate to an alignment?
I wanted a character that considered what is good, but also wants to step back and observe before choosing who to help.
Journer’s alignment fit with the idea of a creature that is not quite alive and so not quite one with the world around him. While he at first took a moment to observe, perhaps being a bit too literal and trying to interpret the customs of various cultures and the appropriate actions to take, he did attempt to do what was appropriate once he figured it out. Rather than creating a character who was piloted by an absolute internal morality, Brian formed a personality who considered what was correct or good through observation, and then acted based on his interpretation of it. Thus, the lawful good warforged ranger was made.
When asked if he had any regrets, Brian revealed a potential flaw in the warforged design. For most races, your traits are assigned. After all, the point of a race is that you are born that way. One might even say is that a race is how you were born, a background is who you became, and a class is who you are becoming as an adventurer. Journer was once a more typical humanoid and became what he was through the crafting of his wooden body, unwilling though the transformation may have been. Having been crafted this way, he had some choice about the form his body took, such as the wood he was made of, which determined his armor class.
Since Journer was of the subrace “envoy”, Brian could pick a set of tools that was integrated into this PC’s body. Originally he chose carpenters tools, but later on he began to wonder if he would have been better off with a different set. While in most cases, you get what you get with a class, this choice left room for doubt. It could perhaps be compared to that high elf who really wished they’d chosen a different cantrip. After all, who can predict what will be useful as the campaign twists and turns in new directions?
What to Do and What Never to Do Again
What did Brian do right and wrong? What could he have done differently? While it was not really a regret, Brian does recommend talking the D&D community about how to create the best combination of race, class, background, backstory, and other aspects that make up who you are as a person. He emphasizes that this is not about combat, but about creating the perfect character combination in other ways.
Talk to the community about how to optimize the self, for lack of a better word of their character. Figure out what the best starting race, class, background, stats, & gear would be, not for combat, but for WHO their character will be, and let the combat, checks, & gear flow naturally from there.
If you like combat, there is nothing wrong with being good at combat; however, many players choose Dungeons and Dragons because they want the experience that only roleplaying games can provide. While you can fight monsters in any video game, many of us have experienced that moment when our video game character said something in a cut scene that was unbearably stupid. In D&D, the character is who you say they are and does what you say they do. It is the perfect opportunity to create a realistic personality that you will love to play.
How to become a Dungeons and Dragons Player
If you’ve enjoyed these articles about D&D beginnings, think about how you can get others involved, look for groups, and find the advice Brian suggests you seek. In Brian’s case, he saw a game called Titansgrave played on television. Some of us might have done something similar on youtube.com or through shows such as The Big Bang Theory. When he got a chance, he looked for an online method of playing the game, and stumbled upon the online platform roll20.net. On this platform, he could fill in a character sheet, view maps, roll dice in the chat, and roleplay with people from all over the world.
Question of the Week: How did you get into D&D?
Places to Talk to the Community:
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.
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