When your playing a role-playing game you have you character sheet, with all the characters statistics, in front of you. There will be abilities, like strength and stamina, there will be skills, like spell casting or picking locks, and, there will be personality traits. Why not use these when playing board games?
Ok, as you may be aware by now, I’ve become a little addicted to Gloomhaven (I’m undergoing therapy as we speak!). And, when I created my starting characters, I decided to give them a personality, as you do.
I though back to my days of role-playing, and considered what it was that made playing a character enjoyable. When you’re creating your character, after you’ve rolled up your stats and decided on a class, you give your character personality traits (some do this before rolling stats, and it’s the traits that determine the character class rather than the rolls). In some games they may be determined randomly, and this can be an enjoyable but sometimes difficult experience, but in most the player decides them, occasionally with direction from the Games Master (GM).
It’s these traits that determine how you will play the character you have created, how you bring it to life. Usually, at the point of creation, these traits are often simple, one word, ideas – Brave; nervous; spendthrift; talkative. But as your character develops, then so do the descriptions you give them…
...Peachy, the squirrel faced thief, is furtive and moves around nervously, never wanting to be the centre of attention. He will only attack a foe if he’s sure he can defeat it, or at least avoid being attacked back. So, he will creep around in the shadows, waiting his chance to strike his foe in the rear, and disappear once more away from danger…
It’s often easy to describe how your character will react to danger or a fight, but it’s the moral side that can cause some dilemma – How will your character react when a decision has to be made that may cause the death of another party member? I’ll take a closer look at this shortly.
But first then, what has this got to do with playing solo?
When I’m playing a game, like Gloomhaven or This War of Mine, I find it can be more fun if the characters have direction on how they will behave. It can create a more challenging game, but it adds to the thematic experience that I find enjoyable.
Here’s a rundown of my starting characters in Gloomhaven.
Cola, the Scoundrel, is greedy for gold. Gold is all she thinks about, gold is all she dreams about, and gold is her only motivation. She’s a right spendthrift, only spending her money on things that will enhance her chances of accumulating more gold. She’s capable in battle, and happy to hold her own, but only because the end justifies the means… GOLD!
The Brute though, is a different kettle of fish. He’s only in it for the kill. Spends all his hard earned cash on tooling up, and enhancing his attacks. Never shirks from battle and closes on his prey swiftly, often ploughing needlessly into scores of the enemy, looking to kill as many different types as possible. He’s also proud to be an Inox, and will go out of his way to help his people – and that means he won’t fight against them.
The Tinkerer, Healy, is a busybody. He/she (can’t tell with a Quatryl!) likes to be involved in everything, especially if there are Vermlings to kill! He/she stands off, picking foes off at range or trying to heal those in need. Healy won’t let her team down, and will gladly sacrifice his/herself for them. If you were using the Dungeons and Dragons alignment system, you would say Lawful/neutral.
Finally, Frost, the Spellweaver. She would be Lawful/Good. Will not involve herself in anything untrustworthy, and helps those in need. In battle she likes to take centre stage, casting spells at anything that comes in range, and protecting those who need it most. She willingly puts herself in danger, gaining the team time to recover or complete the mission.
So, how does this translate in to game play?
For those who’ve never played Gloomhaven, you draw city and road event cards at certain times. These often present you with a moral dilemma (see, I told you I’d get around to the moral question!). An example of a road event may be: – (No spoilers, this is made up) You come across dog that has been wounded in its back legs, do you…
- Heal its wounds, and take it back to the city to be looked after?
- Put it out of it’s suffering, and give it a burial?
- Kill it, use its pelt as a pair of gloves, and keep the meat for the next meal?
So for the above, my group would look at the situation like this…
…Cola, really couldn’t care less, but if they could sell the pelt then she would go with No.3. The Inox also isn’t too bothered, he likes dogs, but taking it back to the city is wasting time, there are monsters to kill. So, No.2 or 3 for the Brute. Healy and Frost are both of the same opinion though; Healy would go for No.2 if the dog were seriously injured, but as it can be healed, it’s No.1 for them. Frost loves animals of all kind, and is urging the group to take No.1…
It’s a close call, but No.1 it is, mainly because Cola isn’t bothered, but Frost would never allow anyone else to harm the dog! The card is then turned over and the appropriate result is read, for good or bad (usually bad on the road events!).
Another example, and this actually happened during a scenario I recently played, goes like this… (No spoilers)
…The battle is almost won, if they can just hold on for a little longer. The Brute and the scoundrel are in the same room, three elite Demons are holding the centre, and look like they could change the tide of the battle. Healy and Frost have been fending off Demons and Cultists during a frantic rear-guard action, in the previous room. The Inox roars, and rushes into the midst of their foes, striking a great blow to one of them, but failing to do any great damage to the others. He will certainly be hard pressed if nobody comes to his aid. Cola prepares to dash forward, she can attack, then turn invisible, so as not to be hit. But wait; there is a treasure chest in range. There could be gold in that chest. There could be lots of gold in that chest! And, she could do a little looting on the way there…She looks around, Frost and Healy should be able to aid the Brute, and anyway, the Inox was foolish enough to get into trouble in the first place, he can very well get himself out. The Scoundrel, for that is most definitely what she is, makes for the chest and the treasures that lie within…
Fortunately for me, Frost was able to aid the Brute, who survived the Demons efforts to remove his head, and the game was won. The Scoundrel? She opened the chest, but it wasn’t gold she found…!
So, you see, by giving the characters their own personality traits has led me into a thematic story, one that probably wouldn’t have emerged had I been playing without them. It forces me to make decisions I wouldn’t normally make. But, more often than not, when playing games like this solo, it’s all about creating a really good story. Otherwise, the game just becomes a complex puzzle, one where we move the pieces around to get the best possible result… and where’s the fun in that?
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