This week, I’m finishing up the semester at school and trying to set up a game so have been conducting those GM-player interviews I’ve discussed in Hook, Line, and Sinker. The game is 4th Edition D&D, and one of those interviews went fairly easily, but the conversation is a perfect example of what I want to happen in such an interview.
A GM-player interview should be a time where both sides can come to an understanding on the expectations and goals of the other. A GM is going to have an idea of what kind of campaign they hope to run, and what kinds of characters are appropriate to that campaign world. A player will have an idea of their character and the goals that character would have. These two need to come to some sort of focus point where they are compatible, as a problem at such a core part of the game is sure to cause bumps later.
Following is the conversation I had with one of my players. As the game is via Gametable, most of this conversing is happening via e-mail, I also took a few liberties with order so that it reads better in this format.
I've got a character in my head for your campaign but I want to know:
a. What the other players will be playing so we can have a balanced party
b. What you will allow in your world
c. The amount of roleplaying that you usually do
Just some basic questions so I can decide the extent to which I will flesh out my character.
In case you are wondering, the character I have in mind is a Eladrin Ranger. Now, depending on the races you are allowing, that can change, and depending on what the party needs, that can also change. But for now, that is what I have in mind.
Well, one of the other players also is looking to do a ranger, so that in mind, I can modify encounters so they're balanced based on the party and not on expectations, so don't worry about that so much. If you are really worried about party balance, why don't you take the idea 'ranger' out and explain to me the character concept in narrative terms and not mechanical? Maybe we can find a class in another role that will do your 'ranger' just as well?
As for b: I have no world except for that which comes out in play. So basically, have fun with your character concept.
C: Also depends on the group. Some groups, I end up with more role playing than anything, very few dice. Other groups, it's hack and slash heaven. It really comes down to the individual players.
Alright, that sounds lovely, here is my basic idea for my character, though if you don't mind I would really love to stick with the Eladrin race.
She is a wanderer, someone who prefers to get things done alone rather than with a group because she feels that people get sidetracked too easily when in a group. She worships Melora and Corellon, and prefers nature over the civilized world. Despite her upbringing, she is a very accepting person and uses her words to her advantage, whether it be in getting her out of thick situations or in getting a higher reward. She grew up wanting to be a hermit in the woods, wanting the company of animals, rather than humanoids, but instead decided to go into the world of adventuring in order to gain gold to increase the beauty in the world. She plans on settling down in a wood somewhere once she has gained enough riches, and have no family. The reason that she joined the party is because she is knowledgeable enough to know that she can't fight dungeons on her own. She is often selfish, though, and will kill without thinking because she knows that death is the natural way of things.
Now that I've got that written out, ranger, though a perfectly reasonable class, seems to fit less then Druid might. Do you have a druid in the party yet? And I don't know if that is what you wanted, but it made much more sense for me, and now has me thinking of what I want to do with the character.
Unfortunately, I won't stand for the loner characters, as they too easily cause problems. (Note: This is important, sometimes, for the good of the game, the GM absolutely needs to say no. This is one of those times.) Besides greed, what else would drive your character to rescue hostages from a small village?
Now, are you playing an Eladrin because you like the otherworldly nature, or just the pictures? If it's the second I'd recommend forgetting the mechanics nature of eladrin and just describe the character like those pictures (Or using them for your character token.)
As you haven't talked about how your character intended to fight, I'm still at a bit of a loss as to what class to offer. Do you imagine a warrior who uses weapons specifically, or a spellcaster with a nature bend?
How about this:
Would you rather lead a group and make them fight more effectively (This might be a way to reconcile the 'loner' characteristic with something actually useful to a group scenario. Keep the 'people in groups often get sidetracked' and become a bitter and exacting commander type.)?
Are you perhaps just at home in nature and have become something of a natural predator?
Or maybe you would rather use your abilities to defend people, your friends and allies, or even animals caught in the crossfire?
Completely understandable, I was worried that you might not allow loner characters, but I thought I might give it a go. I am completely okay with being much more friendly. I like the idea of her being a leader, because I can make her seem distant (as in she feels she is above everyone) but still need to have the group to support her, for she would be little without the rest of the party.
I intend on playing the Eladrin because of the otherworldly nature, not the pictures. Though I do prefer to play an attractive character (just personal preference). I want her to seem distant and somewhat unreachable, hence being otherworldly.
I think, with the direction that I am now bringing her, I think I shall make her a melee character, rather than a spellcaster. Ahhh, this makes me want to be a ranger again, so she could use multiple swords/weapons. That would be great.
But I can resist. I think I will have her fight as the person who goes in, takes a ton of damage, deals a ton of damage, and keeps the enemies off of the cleric/archer.
Definitely she is definitely a natural predator, no question, and doesn't care about helping others because she feels that if they cannot protect themselves from what they are facing, then what is the use of them living.
In the case of why is she rescuing villagers, I'm going to invoke a little bit of her history here. When she was but a small girl, she was thrown into the abyssal realm by an evil Eladrin mage. She was rescued by the god Faerinaal, but only if she promised to help any person who is in need of rescuing. This competes with her personality, but she is forced to obey the god.
Sound good? Or a little bit too.... much?
You don't need to make her 'friendly', just needs to be team oriented. Begrudging respect is fine.
What you just described is a Tempest Fighter. If you don't have access to Martial Power, I can help walk you through building it. Basically, two weapons, bonuses when wielding two weapons, draws enemy attacks and defends its party. They are cool because unlike most fighters, they can attack multiple enemies a turn if they play their cards right. I'll house rule your skills a bit to bring some more 'nature' flavor if you can't fit it in the baseline skills.
[Your back story] is the most interesting information yet. I might change the god's name eventually, but for now, you've got a solid back story here.
Alright, sounds good! I enjoy begrudging respect. Haha.
I'm happy to say that I do in fact have that book, I'll take a look at it...
I'm glad that you think so! I took a good look at the history of the race and their gods, and am happy to come up with something semi-original.
Thank you by the way for helping me out, I have a brother who is very deep into d&d but refuses to tell me anything about the actual game, and I did a lot of ad&d when I was a lot younger, but haven't for awhile. I'm sorry if I ask ridiculously ignorant questions, I've read the Players Handbook, so I have a basic idea of what to do, but it's different in action.
This was a great conversation, as she made it clear what type of character she wanted to play, I expressed my concerns and we came to a wonderful compromise and a character I can’t wait to see in play.
Come back next week for the next part of Hook, Line, and Sinker.
I do have to say that the last paragraph from my player bothers me. Why do gamers feel the need to hide the rules from new players? Why is keeping the concept of role playing an esoteric past-time so important to some people? You tell me readers, what is it that’s wrong with our community that we fight so hard to keep it small?