Dumb Bard, Taciturn Druid — who we play and how we’re not like them (very much)
A: Let’s talk about our characters, just as some background for readers—that way, when they look at our other discussions, they can be full of judgement about our opinions based on who we chose to play as.
C: How are we doing this? Should I talk about my character and then you talk about my character and then you talk about your character and I talk about your character—does that work? We give perspectives as players and as DMs.
C: Alright! Well, in Angela’s campaign, I play a dwarven druid named Weyrholm. He has a charisma score of 6, so he’s atrocious at conversation, and is effectively a well-meaning woodsman—he mumbles a lot, but generally has a solid moral core.
A: He’s probably the player character (PC) in my game who wrestles the most with their actions before making them. Other characters deal with consequences. Like, Weyrholm always wants to know about the flora and fauna they’re facing before deciding whether to attack it.
C: When I created my first D&D character, I did something which I think a lot of people do, which was make him this law-obeying, dour guy who had a very set perspective on the world. As a result, he didn’t develop much—I cut him off from having an arc, almost, by wanting him to be ironclad in his ways. Which was foolish. So with Weyrholm and other characters, I have tried to give them room to develop beyond their perceptions. With a druid you have some great options there from the get-go; I have him grapple a lot with the distinctions between the natural world and civilisation, and whether or not he can find any sort of balance or harmony between the two.
A: It’s not going great for him so far.
C: And I’ve tried to create a character who has internal conflict—he has a strong dwarven identity, but he also has a strong devotion and commitment to his druidic ideals, which means he’s constantly challenged and caught between these different approaches to life. It makes him interesting to play.
A: Also he says ‘I digest’ instead of ‘I digress’.
C: It’s fun to play a character who has a hard time communicating with the other PCs, and certainly not what I’m usually like. It stops me ball-hogging all the time. It’s probably clear just from these conversations I have a bad tendency to overtalk.
A: Weyrholm is slightly irritating for me as a DM because druids turn out to be crazy powerful.
C: They are pretty powerful.
A: Especially low-level druids—you began my game at level 3, and are now at level 4—who don’t have animal companions. I appreciate the fact that Weyrholm doesn’t have an animal companion, because animals are stressful for both player and DM to look after; you have to remember to feed them, and to make sure they can survive in the terrain the party is traversing, and to try not to get them killed, etcetera.
C: It’s stressful having companions, constantly thinking they’re going to die. I also get stressed out about having animal companions, because I constantly think they’re going to die too.
A: [laughs] My point is that Weyrholm doesn’t have an animal companion. Instead he gets a domain, and the powers associated with that, and domain-druids get some pretty natty spells and skills.
C: Yeah, I’m a weather-based druid. Soon I’ll get thunder powers.
A: If you live that long.
C: If I live that long. [clears throat] Let’s talk about Farrar.
A: Yes; I have a secondary character in Calder’s campaign, but we’re just going to focus on my main character for now: Farrar. She’s a gnome bard. I designed her without having listened to any Critical Role, but if you are a fan and can imagine the personality of Pike with the talents of Scanlan…
C: That’s a pretty good description of Farrar.
A: Although ‘talents of Scanlan’ is really stretching it because she is incredibly dim. She’s sweet but hopeless; when we looked her up on a point-buy system—which isn’t entirely flawless, but is a good checking system for characters—she came out in the negatives.
C: For context, the average character is meant to come out with about 15. In the end we buffed Farrar to get her up to that, but in terms of stats, she’s still behind most other PCs in my game.
A: Yeah, her highest modifier is still only a +2, while most characters have a +3/+4 in at least one stat. Those low stats shaped a lot of how I played her—I couldn’t use many attack spells successfully because the DC was like 11, so very easy to beat. As a result, she became the helper and the healer in the party.
C: And now she’s taken levels in another class…
A: Yeah, she’s multi-classed with cavalier. She rides a giant weasel called Bartholomew—Barty for short.
C: He’s a rescue weasel.
A: He’s traumatised and easily scared and only has one eye. But she adores him. As I mentioned earlier, having a companion is stressful; both Farrar and Angela would cry if anything happened to Barty.
C: And if anything happened to Farrar, I think the rest of the party would cry. When we started playing, there were five characters in my campaign, but nearly all of those have changed—a couple of players had to drop out because they moved away, or they haven’t been able to play for a few months so their character is taking a break in-game, and other people have…changed, let’s say, characters. But Farrar has been there pretty much continuously.
A: She became the party’s sort of mascot/cheerleader.
C: I think Farrar is holding the torch for the party. As a DM, I really like having a character who’s been there since the beginning because it gives the game this through-line of personal relevance.
A: It definitely makes the stakes more emotionally poignant for her at least.
C: Also the way you play Farrar makes it easy to get behind her. Lots of players—and I should stress that I don’t think this is a good or a bad thing, it’s just the way they play—come in wanting to do certain things or get certain powers, and my job as a DM is kind of to facilitate that and to figure out how this can fit into my world. But that isn’t really what you did with Farrar. You didn’t decide to take a level in cavalier and then you got a mount. You adopted Barty, and because of that, you decided to take a level in a class which would allow him to grow with you.
A: I mean, I got Barty in part because you showed me an illustration of a halfling riding a stoat, at which point I was very much like, ‘I want this.’ So I influenced things a little for Farrar.
C: That’s true. But my point is that you didn’t tell me outside of the game that you wanted a sweet ride; you were absentmindedly like, ‘that’s a cool thing’, and then when something like that appeared in-game, it began influencing the choices that you made, not just as a character in a role-play way, but also as a player in a meta way because of how you’re levelling.
A: I see your point. I think everyone’s characters have evolved somewhat, but Farrar has probably changed the most dramatically from who she was at the start.
C: Farrar is very much a character who is trying to get to grips with the idea that ‘the world has acted on me and made me change’, not just the other way around, which is more often how I think of D&D characters.
A: Things have got very deep all of a sudden. But anyway, that’s who we play, with a little bit of their personalities sprinkled on top.
C: We’ll probably come back to them, and we’ll name-drop them every now and then when we’re talking about our perspectives. Hopefully this also tells you a bit about us as DMs as well.
A: I think you come across as the more caring DM in this, which is probably true.
C: I’ve had more time to get attached to all my characters. You gotta kill PCs early on or you risk never being able to do it.
A: The clock is ticking for me then; perhaps we’ll do another one of these when you have a new character in my game.