Tales From the Gazebo – CLASSics: Fighter, Part 2

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CLASSics: Fighter, Part 2
By Cape Rust

Last week I started this series with the fighter and as usual I got long winded, so here we are with yet another part 2. Writing last week’s installment was actually quite easy. Most of the advice I gave my epic readers had to do with suggestions for making combat better in your games for fighters. This week I’m going to touch on the somewhat difficult subject of what you do with those bastions of combat when there is no… well… fighting going on. As you stop to ponder this rather amazing and revolutionary concept, you will see that keeping the fighter happy when not fighting isn’t quite as easy as it sounds.

In many systems, fighters are given few skills that do not directly relate to well… wait for it…. fighting. So what is a GM to do? There is no way that every player at the table will be happy with a game consisting of nothing more than a protracted series of fights. (Unless you are a huge fan of the latest edition of that game that I mentioned last week…) Trying to break the code on this difficult cipher involves consideration of several factors. If you are willing to look at these rather obtuse factors, you will have a better chance of making the role-playing aspects of your game more interesting for those life takers and heart breakers.

First and foremost, look at the player. Does this player normally play fighters or are they trying something new? Is this player a roll- or a role-player? What type of characters has this player played in the past and is a fighter right for this player? This is not an extensive list, but it should cover the basics. If you have a player that is playing their 100th fighter in a row, then there probably isn’t a lot you need to worry about, except that this player is playing their 100th fighter in a row. If the player is trying something new, pull them aside and ask a few questions. If this player is a roll-player, then fighters are normally a great class for them. Like any character, the player can play it to the hilt or sit back, say little and roll dice when they need to. Of all of the base classes, fighters are easier for introverts to play.

If your player is looking for something different and they have decided to play the fighter, find out why they have decided to change things up. Find out the type of fighter they are envisioning so that you can tailor some activities to keep them engaged. This line of questions might give you the opportunity to steer that player towards a fighting style or type of fighter that might fit into the game better than others. Let’s say that player wants to play a heavily armored tank type fighter. How well is that going to work if your campaign takes place in the desert or mostly at sea? Heavy armor and a character who is designed to wear it will not have a good time. If your player is dead set on playing that lumbering hunk of clank, then give their armor a magical property that makes it float or provides protection from elements. This way the player is happy and you have some leverage over them if you need it. Now that you have the fighting stuff solved, time a look at the role-playing aspects for Mr. Clank Clank.

Why does Mr. Clank Clank insist on heavy armor? Where did he get that armor? Is Mr. Clank Clank a “large and in charge” type of guy or the strong and silent type? If he is large and in charge, why? Is this guy really a gentle giant? Did something happen in his past to make him want to protect the people around him? Is he a masochist trying to get his jollies by taking painful hits from assorted monsters? These questions might sound farfetched but even with those few simple questions, you can see this protective fighter starting to take shape. What is this guy afraid of, nothing you say, then why does he have no fear? Based on the answers to some of these questions, you now have some solid role-playing plot hooks.

I know that with fighters it always seems to come back to fighting, but by knowing more about the fighter your player is playing, you can role-play that fighter into some epic fights that will mean more. OK lets go back to Clank Clank, I’m starting to like this guy. The player has decided that Clank Clank is the strong silent type who is over protective. The player might have an idea of why this is, or those traits might just appeal to that player. If the player knows why, find out! Ask the questions, listen to the answers and start generating plot hooks. If there is something in Clank Clank’s history that dosen’t jive with the overall feel or concept of the game, work with the player to fine tune it. If the player has no idea why Clank Clank is the way he is, coach and work with them to establish why. Maybe he failed to protect a loved one from an attack in his past and is trying to make up for it. Maybe Clank Clank was bullied (big guys get bullied as much as little guys). Maybe Clank Clank is a man of few words because he has a speech impediment, or he could have taken a vow of silence because of his past; yes, vows are not just for monks anymore. Once you have this figured out, you can start an entire plot hook based on that event or events. Depending on how you do this, that plot hook can lead to an epic fight or series of meaningful encounters, rather than the random variety.

The lack of non-fighting skills that fighters are given can prove to be another problem for the GM. Sure they can craft armor, but what self-respecting adventurer has the time to craft weapons and armor and slay dragons? Remember, you are the GM, so feel free to throw in some out-of-class or non-standard skills or abilities to your players fighter to make them unique and playable out of combat. That wasn’t so hard, was it? Allow that fighter to craft some arms and armor, and have them describe exactly how the crafted items will look; in the end it is just a craft check, but the description breathes a little life into the game.

There are as many ways to play fighters as there are people who play RPGs. As a GM you have to look past the character sheet and provide “life experiences” for that fighter. There is much more to fighters than just fighting; when they retire, how else will they become an incredibly overpowered tavern keeper?

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