October 22nd, 2007

#648: That's me, and I ain't "mythical".

Irregular Webcomic #1730

...specifically, the comments. David Morgan-Mar says, "By this I mean any self-respecting min-max gamer who wants the most buff character with the most skills and advantages, not the mythical 'character roleplayer' who revels in the challenge of playing an inferior character."

I know he's making a joke there. But I wanted to discuss the issue anyway.

When I am in an RPG I want an interesting character to play, not a collection of statistics designed to make sure I "win". I've played a bunch of different characters in my time, and I finally understood that trying to "win" isn't the fricking point of the damn game. (I'm talking about D&D here, but I think the situation would apply to other systems as well.)

The last player character I ran in a game was a female sorcerer named Solana. She had a 9 Charisma. And I did that on purpose.

What? "9 Charisma"? WTF, you're saying you were playing an ugly chick?

No. First off, Charisma (CHA) is not a measure of how good-looking your character is. It's a measurement of a lot of different things which add up to "leadership potential". The character could look like Marilyn Monroe (when she was alive, I mean) and still have a low CHA score. People wouldn't listen to her. "I think we shouldn't go in that cave, guys." "What do you know? You're a dumb blonde!" RAWR "OMGWTFBBQ there's a DC50 monster in there!" *sigh*

Second, Solana was a sorcerer, and the sorcerer's spell casting ability is based on CHA.

Solana was not supposed to be a very good sorceress. She's a person who originally went into adventuring and retired from it (at level 5) after she had a nasty run-in with a near-death experience. Her ability was not supposed to be exceptional.

Solana was a fill-in character for Emerald, a fallen paladin who somehow retained her powers. (She served the goddess of Justice, and her actions had been "just" even though they were technically illegal.) She had a Constitution (CON) of 9. Her CON bonus was -1, which meant that every time I went up a level I'd roll her hit die and then subtract one hit point. But there was a reason for that, and it was all part of the character's background.

And it gave the DM some great ideas for things to have happen in the campaign. Her being arrested, put on trial, and imprisoned was part of that. She might even have been executed for her crimes, and if that had happened I would have been fine with it. It was all part of playing that character.

I found out that the character's flaws make him more interesting than his strengths. One of my past characters was a "locksmith"--rogue--who was not really "into" adventuring and who got killed and raised, and who basically had post-traumatic stress disorder afterwards. One of the best moments of that campaign was when I (my character) went to talk to a friend at his home, and asked, "Aren't you going to invite me in?" And my friend said, "DO NOT ASK ME THAT KIND OF QUESTION!" because he thought my character might be some kind of vampire! It was awesome!

I played another female character who was a very talented necromancer--necromancers are supposed to be evil, but she wasn't--and another character (in an SF RPG) was supposed to get killed somewhere along the line.

In fact, I think the last character I played who was meant to be a true min/max badass was Thorgrimm Stonebender, a dwarven fighter/priest.

I had always marveled at the other players at the table, how they could come up with such clever ideas for actions--but when I started playing characters with flaws, I understood: the flaws made you think about what you could do without getting yourself killed. A dwarf fighter with a big club, a high armor class, and a dump truck full of hit points doesn't need to use finesse, but that scrawny thief-type over in the corner can't shrug off a fireball (more than one, anyway) without dying all over the place...so he's got to use his brains a bit.

And to be honest, Thorgrimm was not exactly a "badass", anyway. The stats were there but the dice rolls...I have terrible luck with random number generators of any kind, be it dice, cards, what-have-you (which is why I don't gamble).

I am really good at playing dwarves, but by the time I played my reluctant "locksmith" adventurer, I was craving something different. The character after that was the SF guy, a psionic character who was supposed to get killed (but didn't); then came the female necromancer.

Now I am telling you, if you are getting tired of playing the same old characters over and over and over again, switch it up and play the other gender. I had never done that before that game; the necromancer--Calandra was her name--wouldn't have worked as a male character, and I had a blast playing her because she was different from anything I'd ever played, or indeed anything anyone at that table had ever played, which is really saying something.

She later became quite a badass, too--in that game the characters got "perks", and one of Calandra's perks was immunity to the spell of her choice. I chose "Fireball".

There was one time when we were sneaking into a Drow city for something and there were guards on the other side of a rope bridge. I cast "Invisibility" on myself, then "Fly"; I flew across the bridge, stood between the guards, and cast "Fireball" centered on myself.

One of the guards survived, so I stuck my fingers up his nose and cast "Fireball" in his sinuses. (At that point, she could cast "Fireball" once per day as a free action, using no spell slots, without having to utter the words or make the motions.)

If you look at the interesting characters in books and movies and such, which ones are more interesting?

Which version of Batman is more interesting, the "Dark Knight" or the Adam West version? Who is more exciting to watch in action, Spider-Man or Superman? Who took the One Ring to Mordor--the powerful wizard? The future King of Gondor? No, the meek little hobbit did.

RPGs are interactive stories; characters should be interesting and fun. Those who like to min/max are fine with me--but I'll stick to characters who have weaknesses, thank you.

#649: Ethanol is not a green fuel.

YouTube link.

John Stossel explains why. I like John Stossel. I wonder why ABC even lets him anywhere near a camera. Well, after his story on global warming, maybe they won't, anymore.

BTW the comments for that latter link are hilarious.

* * *

Mark Steyn, whose brain I envy, comments on the SCHIP veto. Awesome.

Democrats want to expand SCHIP so that more people get government health insurance. They're trying to socialize our medical system incrementally. Bush vetoed it, and the Democrat-controlled congress failed to override his veto.

Democrats are currently hauling out every single circus and piece of bread they can to get people to vote their way next year.

Yes, that's right: the Democrat platform is bread and circuses--socialized bread and circuses.

It's the fundamental problem with democracies, and it's why the US was originally set up to be a republic: sooner or later the voters find out they can vote for whatever they want, and think they can get it all without limit, forever, amen. The only problem is, who pays the bill? Sooner or later every pyramid or Ponzi scheme collapses. It's inevitable. You can't escape it.

* * *

Of course, right now the GOP ain't doing any better. Just for example, George Bush signed the biggest increase in Education funding in history, for crying out loud. (And Teddy Kennedy said "it wasn't enough". Of course.) The federal government spends more than 21% of our GDP every year--more than two trillion dollars--and that figure is never going to get smaller unless our society and economy and government collapse.

If we keep finding new things to spend money on, and taxing the hell out of people to pay for it, sooner or later the well will dry up. That's if nothing else goes wrong in the meantime.

I would say we have not more then two dozen years left of being able to fiddle--and then Rome is going to burn.

The answers are pretty simple.

1) Privatize Social Security, at least partly.
2) Nuclear power, damn it. As much as possible. Stop burning oil and gas to make electricity.
3) Get government out of health care, home financing, and educational financing (ie student loans).
4) Tie school funding to the student and let schools compete for students
6) End income tax and start consumption tax (eg Boortz's "FairTax"). Stop punishing people for earning money
7) End ethanol subsidies. End ALL subsidies, price supports, and other government interference in markets. (Leave tariffs, though.)
8) Inaugurate "x prizes" to solve problems. (EG "$10 billion to the first guy who makes 100,000 electric cars with a 200-mile range on a single charge, costing less than $20,000.")
9) The money that has been saved on subsidies, educational and housing funding, etc, etc, can be used for #8 and to beef up critical infrastructure, like the electrical grid.

...there are more. What I should say is that the answers are not "simple", because implementing them would be politically difficult for many reasons--but they are simply stated, no?

And the more I think about stuff like this, the angrier I get about it. 90% of the things we take for granted from our government are stupid, short-sighted, and ultimately harmful.

And the people who are telling us that "it's for the children!" are the worst offenders.