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The past blogs have been about improving your role playing game, specifically aimed at players.  This one is too, but with a bit of a twist.  This one isn’t just about what peeves, but also about working together as a group, and doing it well.  Before you go any further, if you are looking for pointers on maximizing your game stats, and being a general munchkin, this is not the article for you.

What this article IS about is being a good, contributing player.  Contributing, that is, to not just the content of the game, but also to your fellow players’ efforts.  This is about being a team player, and not a party-killing, scene-stealing f*cktard.  Role playing is a social, cooperative event, meant to be the players attempting to overcome the obstacles the GM sets before them, and making their own stories.  That said, if the players don’t honestly put forth the effort, and act intentionally pants-on-head retarded (quote from my friend John, one I think I will use myself for a while), it all gets shot in the face.

One of the first things everyone at the table needs to determine is what Role they will be playing.  For now, let’s focus on the term Role to mean your job within the party.  We will get to Role as personality later.

A lot of the Role you will play in your game depends on what style of game your GM is going to run.  This is why most games suggest all the players sit down at the same time with the GM, and talk this step through.  If the GM is planning a fantasy campaign that will make heavy use of secrets and intrigue, your sword-wielding barbarian may not be the best choice… or maybe it is, if you play it right.

The point here is that your party should be constructed as a party, with the players all there.  This also will make it easier for the GM to tie you all together, instead of the rather silly notion of complete strangers just banding together for the hell of it.  That said… let’s talk about your Role as a character first.

Every part needs to make sure it that certain needs are fulfilled for the game.  If you are playing a modern era game that will deal with issues involving vampires that have infiltrated all levels of the police department and local politics.  He also informs you that this will be played very realistically, including the police responses to gunfire, carrying firearms within the city limits and the very real possibility of being arrested and put in a cell by the very creatures they are seeking to depose.

So, what this means is that the idea of a gun-slinging maverick should be reevaluated.  Sure, you can have someone that is damn good with rifles and pistols, possibly from a military or law enforcement background.  You may even be sure to spend character resources to have the correct permits for said character.  But they need to be more than just an ammo dump.

Going with that idea, let’s explore coming from a military background, as well as a law enforcement one.  It would actually even be possible, and rather simple, to combine the two, so that is the course we will take.

Given that we now want our character to have both spent time in the military and then gone on to be a member of law enforcement, we should probably put his age at either the late twenties or early thirties.  Let’s say, for sake of argument, 29.  Just out of high school, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps on the GI bill.  With basic and boot done with, he was placed with the Marine MPs.  A two year tour in Afghanistan was followed by 18 months in Iraq.  After he got out of Iraq, he used his GI bill money to attend a local university to get his degree in Criminology.

After graduating with a decent GPA, he went on to the Police Academy.  There he passed with flying colors, attributed greatly to his military background.  Given a chance to join a city SWAT team, he jumped at the chance, becoming a well-respected member of one of the prime SWAT teams.  Decorated for his actions during a hostage situation, he was also given a rank increase, and a pay raise.  Life was pretty good.

Then, about six months ago, he was called out for another hostage situation, this one in an old railroad warehouse.  There, he saw one single man take out his team, one man at a time.  When this strange man came for our character, he was crazed, eyes flashing madly, and our character could swear that he had blood coming from his mouth, like a baby sloppily drinking from a bottle.  His canine teeth were longer than any man’s should be.  Without missing a beat, our character opened fire.  The truth of it is that he encountered a blood-crazed vampire, and he unloaded enough rounds from his police issue assault rifle that he overcame the vampire’s supernatural nature, and he was nothing but ash on the wind within moments.

When the next team got in, responding to the distress call, they found our character, babbling about a mad man, with fangs, drinking blood.  They found his whole team dead, and no perp to be found.  IAB performed a full investigation, and ordered our character to take a psychological leave.  Department psychologists classified it, over that leave, as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, from his time in the service, and triggered by the stress of being a SWAT member.  IAB forced our character into temporary disability, pending his psychological treatment.  But deep down, he knew what he saw.

So what we have here is a backstory that can easily dove-tail into the campaign concept, and can easily be worked in with the other characters.  Now, let’s talk character creation for this character.  Coming from a military background, basic level athletic skills, firearm familiarity and strategy and tactics training would be a base.  His time with the MPs would also include a small amount of skill in investigating, interrogation techniques and military law.  After his discharge, his time in college would apply basic academics and some training in Criminology.  Then, his time in SWAT would increase his firearms skill, athletics, Criminology and strategy and tactics.  Finally, his encounter six months previous could easily have caused him to spend time learning on his own about the occult, strange phenomena and the like.  Add in one or two low-level skills to reflect personal hobbies and interests and you have a character that can easily contribute to the party.

So, now you have run this by your GM, he has green-lighted it, and you did all the number crunching needed to get your skills to pan out.  You even have a name: Christopher Kansas.  But, you have to tie Chris to the others.  Your three fellow players have created the other characters of the party: Julius Kane, a college student working on his master’s degree in cultural mythology and theology; Emily Trevor, a trust-fund Goth with an interest in the arcane, and insight, it seems, into the vampires; and Harold Nernberg, a former psychologist who was shamed for a supposedly inappropriate relationship with one of his female patients.

Looking at this, we can sit down and come up with how Christ knows at least one or two of these people.  It would be very simple to have him connected to Julius Kane, by way of having a couple classes with him when he attended college just a few years ago.  Harold Nernberg also could be tied to Chris easily, by way of Nernberg actually having been his department-mandated counselor.  Emily is the hardest to tie Chris to, as they have no common ground.  BUT, here is where working as a group can come in handy.

Emily’s player and Harold’s player decide that Emily was the supposed female patient that Harold had been inappropriate with (false; though they decide she WAS a patient of his, being treated for self-mutilation (cutting).  Emily still has ties to Harold, and talks to him when she needs a shoulder.  Her own interest in the occult, stemming from her background run-in with a vampire who attempted to turn Emily into his own little blood-doll, spiked Harold’s interest in the occult, and how it could have related to Emily’s cutting.

Julius’ player determines that he and Chris know one another from classes, just a passing acquaintance.  But he does know Emily as a girl who frequents one of the clubs he goes to on occasion.  He has hit on Emily a couple of times, gotten a smile, a first name and a phone number… but that’s about it.

Now we have ties for all the characters to know each other, in a convoluted way.  The GM can now come up with a way to draw the whole party into the story.

As you can see, it truly is not that hard to do.  It just takes a little effort on your part to build the character to work well.  And it takes cooperation on the part of the other players to fill all the roles that may be needed.

You now have a Role, both in the party (you will be the police expert, strategist, and firearms guy), and for yourself (wronged hero out for the truth).  Not to shabby, eh?

What do you think?

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