picture by BogapeJane and taken from www.deviantart.com
By Frank Gori
When I think about The Princess Bride what comes to mind is a collection of small moments that endear me to the film.
-Andre the Giant saying in a forlorn voice “my way isn’t very sportsman-like” after Vizzini tells him his way to kill is to throw a rock at the man in black’s head from a hiding place.
-Both Wesley and Inigo declaring that they are not left handed in their duel.
-Humperdink being bluffed into surrendering, then being tied to a chair and left to contemplate his own cowardice.
-Billy Crystal yelling “Have fun storming the castle” and the exchange afterwards.
Small moments can make a film, and consequently a game. They are also the province of a good player. The difference between a good game and a great game is often not on the GM but on the players.
I’m a fantastic GM but I can’t make a group of people bring fun characters to the table that’s on my players. A good player builds in quirks, flaws, and motives that make a game and their characters more memorable.
To put it bluntly, if your character is too perfect it’s boring. If you want to “win” all the time play a console game on easy mode. Tabletop RPGs are about making a fun shared story and that is as much on the players as it is the GM. Your GM is busy making every bit part and setting entertaining while as a player you get to make one of the star characters.
Just like a GM it never hurts to borrow aspects from your favorite characters, just don’t rip off everything (no one is excited about your drow ranger dual wielding rapiers and using a tiger animal companion so stop it.) The key is to either separate concept from mechanics or use mechanics to flesh out concept.
For example one approach to building a character might look like this:
I want to play Inigo Montoya…
The two core elements of the character are this: he is a son looking to avenge his father’s death and he is an expert swordsman. The latter is caused by the former and that can be taken to any character. Does obsession with vengeance drive a man to study evocation magic to face the wizard that slew his father. Maybe instead your character pursues alchemy to achieve the perfect balance to defeat said wizard? If you want to be the best swordsmen perhaps a different motive make you so dedicated, like a tournament to win the hand of a princess in marriage that takes place in a year when she is going to turn 18.
Either way you have a character different from Inigo that you can make your own.
Another approach is to take something you admire for mechanical reasons and build a story to explain the numbers.
For this example let’s say we want to play something like Fezzik.
For the size you might see if your GM will let you play a half ogre as it allows for allot of the stats that would make sense like size, strength, con, and perhaps not the brightest intellect. For the unarmed mastery perhaps monk is the proper class but now you’re lawful. For an opening feat throw anything seems appropriate based on Fezzik’s boulder tossing antics.
Explaining this combination builds a great character. Was the character a product of rape, or a strange love that would be forbidden to both cultures? Did the baby get left on the doors of a monastery? Did the child grow up with ogres and find himself too lawful and gentle for their ways?
Borrowing from your favorite characters need not amount to something blatantly plagiaristic. There is nothing wrong with liking a character and wanting to pay homage to it, just try not to take everything or maybe mix and match it with another character you love.