Friday, June 11, 2010

My Favorite RPG Quote

Character background is what happens between levels one and six. 
                                                                                   -- Gary Gygax

Got no reference, maybe he never said it, doesn't matter to me.  I'm not like omg Gary said it so it must be awesome!!!  Rather it succinctly nails how I think about sandbox campaign characters. [although I'd say one through four since 9th lvl is my high end] Who you are, where you're from, what you've done are not as important (or as interesting) as what are you gonna do next?  We play the game to discover the answer to that question.  The most interesting character's history is built in game.

Hmmmm, I like that "what are you gonna do?"  Good definition/delineation/explanation of a sandbox/rulings/seat of pant DM to new players.  DM's the guy/gal who asks you "What are you gonna do?" With the follow on implication that once you tell them, they then figure out what it means / how it works out.

Others I've recently added to my collection of quotes.

Booty may have different meanings in different places, but it's all the same to Conan.
-- Matt

Me early on:  Whats the goal of the adventure? Why are we here?
Them: Gold, treasure, and to kill the minotaur king/Beastlord.
Me: Why are we killing him?
Them:  Because he's the guy on the cover of the module! 
In 4E you call out the name of your attack. In OD&D you call out the name of the henchmen who are throwing javelins. [is the proper quote according to muleabides]

In 4e its called Whirling Strike.  In OD&D it's called my 5 henchmen attack. [what I posted originally]


  1. Hmm, now that that latter quote is starting to spread I feel obliged to issue an errata. The original utterance was:

    In 4E you call out the name of your attack. In OD&D you call out the name of the henchmen who are throwing javelins.

    (At least that's how I remember it; I was very proud of this bon mot.)

    - Tavis

  2. Norman -- I read that too somewhere, but I can't find it. Thanks for the post. It's a great quote and it nails how I feel too. In my early campaigns, the characters "lived" their background story. In later campaigns, they arrived with it, "created" by their imagination beforehand. There's validity to both, but I remember (and cherish) the former better.

  3. @muleabides
    errata applied

    @Jim "There's validity in both"
    Yes, great point. There's a tendency to assume that if someone states they like 'X' it must mean they dislike 'Y'. Why I narrowed this down to specifically to "sandbox campaign characters".

  4. One good point is that a new player should be able to get started without listening to the backstories of every other player.

    Same with the campaign history to date.

    As a referee, you should be prepared to introduce a new player using a minute or so of exposition and naming no more than one or possibly two characters in total. If you need more time, it's too complicated.

  5. That's a great quote, real or not, from Gary but I think there is another dimension.

    A lot of the time I don't have a background when I roll a character. But sometime about level 2 I probably remember being in the city we're heading for to trade in some magic item. On level 4 I remember how my father fought with the King's Red Guards during the last goblin war and told me the story of how the Red Stripe Knight's sword was lost near Grizzlegrim. Finally at level six I'll meet that girl who was a camp follower on the campaign where I was first a soldier.

    Sometimes discovering your background as you play is much more fun that trying to write it before hand. In that way what you were influences what you're going to do organically.

  6. I'd go with muleabides memory on this. Mine was beer-addled that night, and I tried to get them down as good as I could. :)


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