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.
Let the hot-shots and bruisers say what they want, NONE of them has ever stepped outside the wire without the right intel (at least, none of the smart ones). As a Textbook Character, you know a lot of stuff and this makes you an invaluable member to any band of adventurers who doesn’t already know everything there is to know about the places they’re headed (which is none of them). Here are some ideas to add depth to and get more mileage from your character’s bookish side!
Academic or Experiential
Not all learned characters spend time in libraries or academies. Decide whether your character accumulated the bulk of their knowledge in an academic environment or through a more experiential approach. If going with the former, give your character a strong connection to a particular school or institution and one or two prominent NPCs from their studies – fellow students, professors, groundskeepers etc.. As an experiential learner, your character will have a stronger connection to a broader region or landscape wherein they went about gathering their knowledge first hand.
Know My Enemy
A Sullarian ground wurm’s tail-end has a sheathed stinger almost an inch thick; nocturnal swamp hags are known to disguise themselves as lost children to lure in victims deeper into the bogs; the Fifth Fleet has a reputation for being the most ruthless and trigger-happy unit in the Alliance Orbital Security Command; Etc.. As a knowledgeable character, always ask your GM what you might know about your foes! Being able to recall or identify even the smallest of details about potential enemies, their abilities, or their habits can more than make the difference between a reasonably safe scuffle and a devastating fight for survival.
Know My Environment
Short of hiring a local professional to guide your group through the perils of every unique environment they enter, having a well-read companion can often be the best protection against an unexpected disaster. When entering a new tavern, town, province, country, or planet, be sure to ask your GM about things like the local fauna, terrain, climate, cultural practices, prominent figures, and any other major features from that area that you might have come across in your studies.
By whatever method works best for you, you’re an avid learner, and that doesn’t stop just because you’ve started this whole adventuring thing. Whenever you get the chance, stop in at local libraries, archives, or infochants to see what you can dig up about the current milieu or your present objectives – after all, it’ll take you far less time than your companions to land on something useful! Similarly, every time you come back from periods of exploring relatively unpopulated regions, consider sharing (or selling!) any new information you’ve gathered to those same sources!
Sometimes a well-placed fact can trump even the most persuasive or intimidating tone, diction, and body-language. When engaged in social interactions with NPCs, consider the limits of their knowledge on current/local issues and where their motivations and loyalties lie. Peripheral figures often react strongly to secrets or details about major persons/ events, and so these can often be quite effective means to win over or intimidate tight-lipped NPCs.