DovahQueen: Bend the Knee
Since 2015, the DovahQueen has been taking your questions and giving advice to improve your games. Now the tables are turned in this DovahQueen series; Loren is asking the questions and a panel of three guests—an RPG-industry veteran, a Know Direction network staff member, and a fan—answers. It’s time to Bend the Knee!
First, let’s meet today’s guests.
RPG Industry Veteran: Kate Baker
I’ve been playing TTRPGs since 2013 and started freelancing in 2016. My best-known work is definitely the morlamaws, the psychedelic-colored space walruses from Starfinder, but I’m also quite proud of my Adventure Path volumes: Starfinder Adventure Path #22: The Forever Reliquary and Pathfinder Adventure Path #154: Siege of the Dinosaurs. I have an old hound dog named Clarence who is keeping me on a regular walkies schedule while we’re all stuck at home.
Know Direction Network Staff Member: Luis Loza (@donatoclassic)
Hey, I’m Luis! I’ve been playing tabletops RPGs since I skipped track practice back in 2004. I had a good amount of history with 3.5 D&D, quite a bit of 4E, before finally falling deep into the Pathfinder rabbit whole. I am currently a developer at Paizo, working on Pathfinder, no less! I help develop the Lost Omens line plus little bits here and there. In addition to playing RPGs, I play lots of board games, video games, go running, enjoy food, and watching movies.
Fan: Eric Prister
I’ve been playing and GMing (let’s be honest, mostly GMing) Pathfinder for about eight years, started learning to play almost exclusively by listening to the 3.5 Private Sanctuary podcast, and play Ryx on the KD Societus play-by-discord game. I am also a freelance editor for Paizo, and have worked on a number of 2E and Starfinder Adventure Path volumes and Lost Omens hardcovers. I was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, am a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, and now live just outside New York City, working in education.
“It’s time to start a new campaign with fresh level 1 characters. Best of all, someone else agreed to be the GM this time. You’re going to be playing in a homebrew world designed with the interests of each player. Everyone already has all of these really cool ideas for their next character. You *would’ve* had a really great idea too, but all of the classes you like have already been taken or are off the table for some other reason. This time, you have little to no choice; you’re going to have to play your least favorite class AND you’re going to have to do a bang up job with it since everyone else already has such great character concepts they’re going to play.
What is your least favorite class to play and why? How would you build a really cool and interesting character using that class so that you could actually enjoy playing it?
Kate: This is an interesting question, since I don’t have a least favorite class, per se. I actually try to make all of my PCs as different as possible from each other, so that I can get a good feel for different play styles and really understand how all the different classes work. Because of this, my *groan* moment for a new campaign would be playing a PC who is too similar to one I’ve played before.
So let’s say this new PF2 group is going to be all goblins, but I need to play the wizard. I think goblin wizards are great! My highest level PFS character is a goblin wizard. However, I would be disappointed to play another one, especially for a long campaign, instead of getting to make something different.
The way I would build and play the character to still have fun is to figure out how to differentiate the character from the one I’ve already played. I could focus on a different school of magic, or I could explore multi-classing, which is something I haven’t done yet with a PC. I would definitely look at newer books for character options I didn’t even have available when I made the first character. This goblin either wouldn’t have a familiar or would have a completely different kind of familiar. I could also go a very different direction with how I role-play the character. Perhaps this goblin wizard is counter to type and hates to light things on fire. A goblin caster who hates fire is an interesting character concept right off the bat! I would definitely come up with a different voice and personality to try and make this PC feel distinct. Between different mechanical options and different role-playing choices, I can definitely make this a PC I still feel excited about playing.
Luis: Oh, boy. This is such a fascinating question for me. I have always said (and still maintain) that my least favorite class is the ranger. However, I can never really pin down why it’s my least favorite, that’s just always my answer when asked the question. I guess now is the time to do so!
Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with the ranger, it just never had anything that really pulled me in. It has the unfortunate fate of being a class where everything is sound and there are no glaring problems with it, it’s just not exciting to me in particular. If I wanted to be a great warrior, I can look at the fighter or barbarian. If I wanted to do the skill monkey thing, I can play a rogue or bard. Magic is more interesting when I’m playing any other spellcaster. The ranger is mostly a collection of specific things that other classes can do better. Mind you, the ranger has them all in one package, but the jack-of-all-trades thing doesn’t really appeal to me most of the time.
If I had to play a ranger, though, I think I would lean into some real weirdness. I would still be a typical ranger who’s good at tracking or identifying monsters, but I would give my character a heck of a quirk. They would be intent on finding some unknown, unheard of creature like the legendary Lumpfblach. My ranger would always compare other creatures to the lumpfblach and keep proposing more and more outrageous abilities that a lumpfblach has. “Oh, this rust monster eats metal armor, but the lumpfblach can eat spell books and make you forget magic.” “That thing? Well, that’s an aboleth. It can take over your mind. It can’t dominate a lumpfblach, though, because a lumpfblach has three brains.”
I think leaning into that would make a really fun time and would let me fill the typical ranger role in a fun and unique way. I would have fun with coming with silly ideas at the table and could dial it back as needed for the game. It would also give the GM lots of ammunition to use for their game in the form of a mythical monster that can show up later. As for a character build, I’d probably go with something simple like a two-weapon ranger. I might fight with two maces. Lumpfblachs are weak to maces.
Eric: My primary mechanical goal (in the few instances I’m able to play rather than GM) when building a character is to have as many options as possible. I really dislike playing one-note characters, and while I don’t generally think of it as a “least favorite class,” I would usually steer away from playing, for instance, a barbarian. So in this case, if forced to play a barbarian, I would want to make sure of a few things.
To start, I’d choose a few mechanical options (whether in skill selection, or with my background) that help me diversify my options. Maybe my barbarian is trained in a few of the knowledge-y skills like Society or Religion, or a social skill like Diplomacy. Maybe I’d choose a background that doesn’t fit the traditional view of a barbarian, like Noble or Scholar – how many barbarians out there have the Courtly Graces skill feat? I’d then reinforce these choices by putting at least a few ability boosts in Intelligence or Charisma, probably sacrificing Constitution, so that I can still do my thing (hit things really hard) while playing up the more refined aspects of my surprisingly multifaceted barbarian. Mechanically, I’d rather stay relatively optimal (by maxing out Strength) while still diversifying, so I’d sacrifice a secondary ability score like Constitution instead.
Most important for me, though, is to take these mechanical choices and come up with a backstory that fits. Rather than start with the barbarian aspect, I’d look at some of the less common choices (like the Noble background and Society training) and start there. Perhaps my character is the third son of a noble from Ustalav who, because his older siblings are more likely to inherit, leaves home to carve out a place for himself away from his family. He is accepted as a student at Lepidstadt University, studying medicine, mathematics, and science (reminding myself that I should make sure I choose to be trained in Medicine and Nature). And where does the barbarian aspect enter in? Perhaps my family has lycanthropic blood somewhere in its past, and I’ve been known to fly into an animalistic rage without warning. Perhaps my older brothers tormented me as a child, and so whenever I find myself in a fight (which I try to avoid at all costs), I lose all sense of control. My goal here is to move away from the most common barbarian tropes into something that fits much more closely with the character background I’ve already started to build for myself.
Finally, I’d go back through and fine-tune my choices. Perhaps I’d choose to fight with a rapier rather than some more common choices for a barbarian; I’d still benefit from the damage bonus from rage, but the rapier is more fitting for a well-educated university student. And maybe, if I’m going to have my character attend Lepidstadt, I’d take a look at the background specifically tied to the university. At the end of the day, my goal would be to make character choices that really focus on the parts of the character other than his class, because I know that the barbarian aspects will always have their chance to shine – I just want to make sure he has other ways of shining as well.
I’ve heard from my guest writers; now I want to hear from you. Which class is your least favorite to play? Leave a comment below, on our Discord, or on Know Direction’s Facebook page.
Each Bend the Knee features three guest writers. One is from the RPG industry. Another is from the Know Direction network. The third guest could be you! Leave a comment on Know Direction’s Facebook, Discord, or Twitter, or you can send an email to DearDovahQueen@gmail.com for your chance to be featured on the next Bend the Knee or Dear DovahQueen.
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