Jan 05 2020

From Snarling Murdercat to Laughing Bandit

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Shade-Of-the-Candle uses diplomacy.

Seven sessions in to Inkblitz’s D&D campaign, and I am loving Shade-Of-the-Candle more than ever, and I have been using her to some extent as a therapeutic vehicle for getting through some personal issues that I was barely even aware that I had.

Basically, I realized after the Acrobatics vs. Athletics incident that as a D&D player generally, I have been something of a pissy jerk. Like, since forever. For whatever reason, I don’t think I was ever called on it—or if I was, I didn’t register that was what was happening—and I don’t know if it’s something that’s gotten worse in the past few years as my personal stress levels have gone up. Whatever the facts of the case, when I realized it was happening, I immediately knew I had to correct it, for two important reasons.

First, nobody likes a pissy jerk. I have been blessed with patient co-players who had not yet booted me out or discovered they were just too busy to play on any night where I was there, but if I kept going down that road it would only be a matter of time. And second, because being a pissy jerk is actually not very much fun, and I was wasting precious and limited player time at the table making myself and the people around me unhappy.

So the first step I took, was to give Shady some catharsis. Her backstory had made her a bitter character, so I found a way to give her some closure on that. She’s still shaped by that backstory, it’s far from “finished,” but by giving her an in-character reason to lighten up, it made it much easier to transition my approach to playing her from a metagame standpoint. The second step was to sit down and figure out just how I wanted her to change. I went online and found a ton of YouTube videos on how to be a good player and a valued participant in the game, as well as sussing out a positive, team-oriented way of playing her that maintained and even enhanced her swashbuckling style, rather than sending her down the eye-rolling path of the lone wolf. I wrote all this up and printed it out so that I could look at it while we actually played, to remind myself.

Finally, I set myself goals for each game session based on Shady’s Player Credo. I have a checklist of things I want to attempt each session: talking to every other player in character at least once, performing at least one action that sets up another character for success instead of going for the glory myself, and making sure I ask for group input around big decisions. Interestingly, Shady has still had plenty of Big Damn Hero moments, even tho I have not been chasing them. Her badassery has been more or less accidental, but all the sweeter for it.

The last thing I did related to this was to tell the other DM in our group that I wanted to retire my drow bard Obsidian, which was a little harder but which I felt like I had to do. Obsidian’s whole premise was based on a famous post in the 3.x era about bards regarding the rest of the party as “their staff,” and having a character who was vain, self-important, and frankly bitchy was a fun schtick for a while, but it I felt like her presence in that campaign was actually doing more to foster a toxic environment than anything else. As much as I loved some of her earlier adventures, I hadn’t actually enjoyed playing Obsidian for a long time, and I just didn’t want to keep subjecting myself to that—or the rest of the group to who I turned into when I was playing her.

It’s been a long time since I got to be a player instead of the DM this much, and I am ridiculously grateful for it. Part of that gratitude is going to be making sure that I am as much fun to be around as I am having myself—which in my personal case means playing upbeat characters, and leaving the edgelording to someone else.

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