PC Role Book
Your character in a tabletop rpg can be usefully understood in terms of certain roles. This Role Book series explores some of the ways these various roles can help enrich the roleplaying of your character – things like background, tactics, and story. These posts will help both the single-role min/maxer get more mileage out of their abilities as well as help the multi-faceted PC more effectively don a variety of hats.
The Damage Dealer
Whether you’re swinging a battle-axe or a billy-club, firing a ray of frost or a plasma-rifle, as a damage dealer you’re exceptionally good at dishing out hurt. While the focused damage dealer is often criticized for being one of the more 1-dimensional members of a party, this guide will help you highlight the depth and intricacy of your warrior, proving that there is always more behind the mean!
Martial skills rarely develop in a vacuum, especially when they require competence in any specialized weapons or equipment. Often, this means you will have received some form of basic instruction from an already skilled combatant. Unless you acquired all of your combat aptitude piecemeal in the wild/on the run, your martial skill can provide your character with his/her own built-in NPC. NPCs are a great way to root your character in the world, provide an ally/asset and sometimes a compelling complication!
Tutored or not, every fighter needs to hone and develop his/her craft. This means you’ll have a region or area that you’ve spent some time in and have a developed relationship with. This can be as narrow as one particular patch of woods or as broad as a string of fringe planets. As an alternative, the travelling fighter might have a more nuanced political opinion from his/her exposure to various places. Either way, your fighter will have his/her own territorial views informed by their background.
As the player who’s going to be doing the most wading-in or utilizing the most cover, be sure to know your terrain. While the GM may only give you certain details, make sure to ask about each of the following: exits, hazards, obstacles/cover, difficult terrain, levels. Knowing what you (and the enemies) have to work with can make the difference between an easy encounter and a fatal one!
Most enemies – like PCs – would prefer any alternative to the fatal mop-up. Since not all GMs incorporate morale into every combat, be sure to prompt them: any time you manage to dish out a torrent of pain, ask how the baddies are doing. Drop one of their commanders? Ask about the minions. While it’s not always going to be a slam dunk, the Damage Dealer’s capacity to draw blood can have significant impacts on a battle beyond the awesomely cinematic.
Some game-systems already have a built-in mechanic for sizing up an enemy, but this is a concept all Damage Dealers should discuss with their GMs. While you shouldn’t expect to be given a stat-block for each of your foes, there could be grounds for granting small bonuses when your character has the chance to witness an enemy combatant in combat who utilizes weapons/equipment/maneuvers that you are familiar with. While you’ll need to work out the rules and parameters for this with your GM, the reward can be well worth taking the time to discuss it!
The majority of damage dealers are very familiar with taking lives. It’s only a small portion of them, however, who do so indiscriminately. Make sure you know what your character’s execution threshold is – what rules, if any, he/she adheres to when it comes to the killing blow. This will add further depth to your role and be a significant determining factor in how you roleplay the end (and sometimes the beginning) of every combat.
This is a staple for all character roles. Just because you can’t sweet-talk or do maths, doesn’t mean you are invisible. Something as simple as, “I’m going to keep an eye out to the rear…” keeps your character engaged with the situation, even if they aren’t the one picking the lock. Everything your character does makes the story that much more rich, so always keep busy! “Thog pulls out a hunk of cheese and sits down,” can lead brilliantly into “Thog flings his cheese to the ground and charges the goblin with curds in his beard.”