Tuesday, April 23, 2013

More on Subtracting

Here’s another thing I’m subtracting out as I build my next D&D campaign: PCs who aren’t sitting at my table. They no longer get campaign support. Sucks to be them.

Wait, what? Of course you aren’t supporting people you aren’t gaming with, Noonan. What’s your point?

My point is this: because I care only about the players at my table, I don’t need to assume a world with other PCs running around.

For example, you can’t play a paladin in my next campaign. Instead, you can play the paladin. Meaning:
  • There’s only one of you.
  • You’re like a slayer from the Buffyverse. That's why you have smite evil.
  • Your crusade is an individual one, because you alone were capital-C Chosen.
No mechanical difference, but that small difference in article—“the” instead of “a”—puts quite a spring in your step, doesn't it?

(In theory, I should have to worry about stuff like “What if two players want to be paladins? What if someone multiclasses into paladins later?” But I can’t make myself care about those questions because with only six chairs at my table, they’re almost certainly hypothetical. And the upside of being the paladin is too good to pass up.)
Now extend that reasoning to the other classes. I’m not going to make every class literally one of a kind, but I’m going to invest every character with that much uniqueness. Every PC stands out from the crowd. Even the unobtrusive PC is a quasi-mystical Platonic ideal of unobtrusive.

Finally, extend that reasoning to the other races, too. You’re not an elf. You’re the only elf most people will ever meet, a dangerous fey creature capable of anything. Do you get your own table in the inn? You bet! Do guards take two steps back when you pull your hood back and reveal the pointy ears? Yes, ma’am!

And when you do meet other elves, it’s because you’ve crossed over into the Seelie Realm, which is Elric’s Melnibone with better shrubbery. Those elves are the payoff for all those superstitious innkeepers and nervous guards. Turns out that was all foreshadowing, and now your elf is dealing with a whole culture even elfier than you are.

So that’s the paladin and the elf. Now comes the fun part: extending that sense of uniqueness to the rest of the classes and races. Then the best part of all: watching the players pick who they’re gonna be.

P.S. I've changed the color scheme on the blog. Your eyes will thank me.


  1. Very cool. So are you positing a world where most people are human, living fairly ordinary lives? Or are you starting out in "the Shire," then sending the players out into the Big, Dark Woods and on to the Blasted Wasteland?

    I like the idea that the PCs really DO have the PC Glow. :)

  2. When NPCs start showing up at my table, I'll cater to them too :)

    And to answer your actual question: My next world is going to have very little racial integration in NPC communities. PC groups will be as diverse and cosmopolitan as ever.