Fighter or Rogue, Which am I?
A Guide for Character Development, with Additional Notes on Hybrid Characters.
Hello and welcome to my guide for plotting your character class!
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We've all had these awesome, fantastic, sometimes crazy, super pumped ideas for our characters! We want them to climb up walls, run after bad guys, beat them up, and save the attractive girl-next-door archetype at the sacrifice of the rich bombshell / beefcake. That's what everyone else wants, right? Well... no matter!
How do we get to that part? Well, first, we need our character. You know, that thing that we're SUPER PUMPED about. We gotta' put him up, we gotta' get him squeaky clean, and we gotta' show him off! Though, what exactly is our character? Hah, that'll be easy! All these fancy RPGs make it super easy to tell what we want.
He's gotta' be able to kick butt, like - a lot of butt, all of the time. Though, I want him to have this cool demeanor and a way with words, something he might've picked up overseas. Everybody likes a lady's man. Though, at the same time, he's not a dunderhead, he's got these awesome skills to keep himself out of trouble and approach unseen like, and he's really good with handling animals at the same time... well, you're starting to see the problem here, right?
This guy seems pretty perfect, except perhaps some estranged kryptonite somewhere. I know your character might not seem as titanic as my character right here, but this character I've got needs some work. This is something I see sometimes when people are struggling to create their character; they aren't entirely sure what they want, and they might not be entirely sure what to gauge their wants against.
I'm going to break this guide up into chronological sections. Feel free to skip around, but I can't be held responsible if you get confused along the way. Though, easy solution from that, go back a section and see if it makes more sense!
The sections I'm going to include in this guide are:
Believable Characters 150.
A Rogue/Fighter and a Fighter/Rogue Are Not the Same.
Finishing Touches, Compromising and Dedication.
In the guide, I'll do my best to make your character really speak in the way you want them to speak. Even if they don't have verbal communication, we'll find a way!
Believable Characters: What We Do.
In this section I will define what particular capabilities are common within characters, and how to effectively utilize them in a character you've built.
Our characters will go off on their own adventures, great and small, in whatever world we have decided to venture into. These adventures may range from anything to anything else, but I am sure there are some great things out there that we're just dying to experience.
For this section, we're going to look at what makes our characters good at what they do, and how we might explain it to other people. I believe there are three important portions to your background that explains your character's ability to perform in their tasks. Education, experience, and upbringing.
For the purpose of explaining these traits, we will use the example of Combat:
The big C, that it is. Our character might be the big, mean, stinkin' Orc that's just ready to rumble. He may be the valiant man-at-arms defending his city from a bandit attack. She could be the commander of a naval frigate, about to engage some enemy position with the sun behind her. Great stuff! Though, there's more to this role than just saying "me like fight".
Your education should explain what learning you received in the handling of fighting specifically. Perhaps your big brothers showed you how to handle yourself with your fists, and how to wrestle someone. Perhaps your rich parents paid for you to have a private fencing tutor, one of the best and most renowned. Mayhaps you didn't have a tutor, but just had a sword, a barrel, and perhaps some unfortunate animals, and tried to figure it out. Suffice it to say, someone who's had a hand in learning how to do something is much better off than someone who was just practicing by themselves, trying to get it right. Even the most brilliant prodigies need to throw their theories past something, whether it's a teacher, or through live experience.
Your experience is defined by what use your character has put that education towards. Have they done sparring? Have they been in some petty brawls in a tavern? Have they been (or left someone) mugged or beaten on the roadside? Have they fought to the death against someone, or with a small group against another group? Perhaps they've seen the terror and horror of a true battlefield? These are all important, as this level of experience provides a level of familiarity with your character genuinely putting their skills to use, regardless of their capabilities.
Lastly is your upbringing. Is your character expecting a fight, raised in such a way that fighting is common, and you can raise your fists to people who insult you? Maybe not, perhaps they were born in a city, where carrying swords after dark is banned, and brawling in the streets will get you tossed in a cage for a few days. This is important, as it may affect how your character reacts to other people and situations.
These three come up to a good sum of your combat potential. Of course, it might not be everything, there could be more elements, but this is a good group of things to consider when brainstorming a character. Each one is important, but important in different areas. Someone whom has received a lot of education in swordsmanship, but has no experience, may not be able to put those skills to use under pressure. Similarly, someone whom has a good bit of experience, but doesn't really know much about it, might get outclassed if their usual tricks aren't enough to best an opponent. Lastly, someone whom has the attitude to fight anything that moves, but doesn't have much education, and only some passing experience with fistfights, might not be ready to face down opponents with a glaive in a warzone.
Of course, all of the different skills and archetypes that your character could find will have more intricacies to them (for fighters, undisciplined vs disciplined, physical condition, etc), but this is a good basis for figuring out the foundation of your character.
Triangulating your abilities using these three characteristics: education, experience, and upbringing, will really help you find out where your character stands in pretty much everything (thieving, magic, interacting with animals, etc.). The best thing about these capabilities, they're always changing! You are always learning, always experiencing, and always growing as a person, so who knows what could happen!
A Rogue/Fighter and a Fighter/Rogue Are Not the Same.
In this section I will define a spectrum that is useful in deciding how your character may function, and how different examples of hybridization are possible within the same archetypes.
Let's continue the previous example of having a fighter. Let's say he's a cool guy, he fights a good bit, learned from some friends who would scrap with each other for amusement, and hold up rich people who got lost in their impoverished section of the city to seek out a basic living. Now, he would be no stranger to sneakingaround, keeping himself hidden, keeping a calm demeanor that could readily sell a lie at the drop of a hat. Sounds like a pretty badass guy, right? Obviously, he's not going to rush out and jump his target, that's for suckers. Instead, he's going to wait for them to stumble down the way, and he'll offer them help, pick them up, and lead them off until it's too late for them to realize that they're being held up.
Now, I said I would continue our example of having a fighter, and so we did; but, now is where I would tell you that I don't think of this character as a fighter anymore.
Why? He still fights people! Yes. But, let's take a moment to go through a little exercise.
Turn your character into a sentence (if any of you have played the Numenera tabletop setting, you may appreciate this) in the structure of "[Name] is a [noun] who [verb or verb phrase]."
My most fundamental example of this sentence is "Frank is a fighter who fights". By that very definition, Frank's outlook should be to fight, not to skulk around.
Now, let's build the new character: "Andre is a mugger who mugs people." Perhaps this falls into the grey area? I would accept that, but let's look at 'how' he mugs people. Andre doesn't just slink in the shadows and wait for a mark to show up, he baits them out even further, and then holds them ransom. He doesn't just fight them, in fact, fighting might not need to happen at all, perhaps. It's secondary.
So, in this instance, I would call Andre a rogue.
My definition for a fighter is someone who engages in conflict, fighting, directly. This would be your guards, your soldiers, your less tactful muggers, your raiders, and what have you. A rogue is not a warrior who uses fast weapons or wears light armor, no (though we could debate the varying shades of fighter/rogue we could get). Instead, I would say a rogue is a person whom engages in conflict INDIRECTLY. Such as Andre, our fellow whom isn't going to stick someone up, until they're effectively purloined already! I wouldn't say that Andre is entirely a rogue, as he could perhaps just pick their pockets without them knowing and send them on their way (if he was skillful enough). Instead, I would say Andre is a Rogue/Fighter.
Let's say Mattias is an army scout, ranging ahead of his company with only his arming sword, his dagger, his clothes and his hood. Discretion is the name of the game, keeping out of the sight of the enemy, making any notes he can in his head as he moves forward. These are his favorite jobs. He moves up to a small group fetching water from a river to bring to the enemy encampment. From his place in the rushes of the treeline, he's invincible. He emerges from stealth and plans his sword in the back of the right-most man. The yet unmaimed water-bearer flashes up from the water, almost falling over in panic, before attempting to tackle Mattias. A quick turn and a slide of his dagger paints ugly lines all over the man's arms before Mattias's sword flashes red one last time this afternoon.
Mattias is, perhaps, still a rogue, engaging from stealth when he has the advantage. Though, he has no qualms about breaking into an open conflict. Other men might've seen him after the fact, and he made no attempt to rush off and reengage from stealth. Mattias might be more a fighter/rogue, and is in itself a careful step away from Andre in how they operate.
Perhaps unnecessary, I encourage people to observe these slight differences in context, in how a Rogue/Fighter may be different than a Fighter/Rogue, and what this might mean for their experience levels. Perhaps Andre would be a much better thief than Mattias, but it's likely that Mattias would do much better in a fight than Andre. Their skills are different, even though they're both hybrids of the same parent class. I tend to keep a spectrum of five different archetypes, among which any given combination of skillsets is likely possible: Fighter, Fighter/Rogue, Perfect Hybrid, Rogue/Fighter, Rogue.
I typically don't name the Perfect Hybrid, as it is perhaps the hardest to accomplish; an exact medium between any two characteristics (followed immediately by trying to find the furthest end of either spectrum). I, instead, think of it as an arbitrary point to measure from. Of course, as I said, any given position on this range is theoretically possible, and any names ascribed to it are simply arbitrary.
All of this helps to explain why one of my favorite phrases for characters is: "A Rogue/Fighter and a Fighter/Rogue are not the same."
Finishing Touches, Compromises and Dedication.
In this section I will give some thoughts on how to polish up your character and make it a living, breathing entity, with regards to its class and function.
With this final section, I want to stress that it will likely be very simple, and very short. In effect, I highlight these elements to really help people who struggle to quantify their characters; it really took me a bit to get, but once I got it, it stuck.
These are all the active elements of our characters, things they can do. It is a great way to establish ourselves and make ourselves prominent! Though, there are additional points to our characters that help bring us full circle as people.
One of the prominent things you might want to think about is your disposition and your mindset. A scholarly rogue who pilfers discreet artifacts in a museum will approach things differently than a power-driven, uneducated, battle-mage who knows the best way to get better at what he does is to burn EVERYTHING. How you approach situations, and what kind of person you are underneath really helps provide a strong structure for your character. My character might be a jaded rook, have absolute no spiritual conscience, but as a result he might be highly aware of his surroundings and people he encounters, though as a result - perhaps he's not a very likeable guy. Something to consider as you build yourcharacter, what their ingrained characteristics might mean for how you play them!
Next, there is a big one that I always encourage people to indulge in when creating their characters. Drawbacks, flaws, shortcomings, and things they suck at! These REALLY make your character feel like a real person. More than just being 'not good' at this, give them some stuff they 'suck pretty bad' with. They can be small things, or they can be big things, but I encourage people to try and make as many flaws as they do major benefits for their character. I may have a character Brandon whom is a Breton knight whom was rigidly trained how to fight, worship the Aedra, and rule a piece of land. Brandon might be very tough, and fairly intelligent, though he might be entirely uncreative or unimaginative - limiting h is problem solving, and he might be a total jerk that no one enjoys communicating with. These sorts of drawbacks really help flesh out Brandon, and make him a real person.
I would similarly suggest that even if your character is 'combat based' or 'social interaction based' take flaws within their sphere of knowledge. It really makes your character more detailed, and build situations that are fun for you to interact with.
Lastly, to bridge this final section, I will say this: have fun! Make the character that you want to make, and try to make them into something that you are content with! If you ever need to learn more, try and share it with people, and ask for critique!
And that'll be it for this guide! Thank you all for reading! If this helps so much as one person, I will feel quite happy with it. Farewell, peers and masters!