Freewrite: What, a Manipulator Again?

A friend of mine asked me last weekend why I don’t play fighters. Said he wanted to see me drop the social manipulator and do something reckless.

He might have a point. We’ve been in four games together. Five if you count the Better Angels incident. In two of them, my characters were social maneuvering and con work first, everything else second. The one that set off the discussion, I’ve somehow ended up as one of our talking masters—there are reasons, I’ll get back to them. In Better Angels, I was just the quiet one whose view of fighting was “If I’m engaged in combat, something’s gone horribly wrong”. …and then there was Blazing Heavens from the Wulin game, she of the tree-trunk staff, but then again, it’s a game in which everyone fights, and I did tend to favor her medical skills, and it was the first game we played together, so it’s not surprising he forgot about it. And he’s not playing with Juniper (though given how defense-oriented she is, I wouldn’t call her reckless), so he wouldn’t know about that.

I’ve thought about that twice this week, and come up with several different and probably equally relevant conclusions. One is about a combination of trust and covered roles—in the case of one of the deliberate manipulators and the accidental talking master, it was partly that someone else already had primary damage dealer well and truly covered, and I was trying to fit into what was left. The friend who asked the question and his closest connection in the game group aren’t social roleplayers and aren’t afraid to admit. So there’s the roles—and then there’s the trust issue. I admit, I play in large part for illusion of competence, because there are a lot of things I’ve had to deal with lately that refuse to go right, and some that go right but for whatever reason I can’t notice them or can’t appreciate them. It’s nice to pretend to be someone who gets things done, and done decisively. And in that game, the two I know to be interested in and good at social roleplaying don’t currently have the stats for it, one just isn’t interested, and the other one loves to talk but has a gift for shooting himself in the foot. It seems like something I need to do.

There’s also the kinds of play I like. I talked yesterday about things to do—or rather, things not to do—when dealing with a scene you’re not interested in. Problem is, those things don’t apply to combat. You can’t just have your character get bored and walk out of a fight for the lives of the group. Heck, even planning for one person to engage in conversation while the others hit opponents with pointy objects is nigh-on-impossible to get to line up between the timelines. In most of the systems I’ve played in, a character build creates something of a contract with the GM, that they’ll at least try to play to your stats some of the time. Playing a pure combat type, as I’ve been re-discovering the hard way with Juniper, means that the scenes I’m built for are the ones that aren’t much fun for me and the scenes that would be fun are the ones I’d be likelier to roll for self-sabotage than to roll for success. Where in that schedule do I get to have fun?

And in this particular player’s case, last is an issue of type of combat. I tripped over this while writing a belated answer to a comment on my last-but-one Imprac, the one about slogs. “I think what our GM (and two other members of the group) can never remember is that [my boyfriend and I are] in it for the interesting tactical decisions, and any fight in which we’re reduced to standing and swinging at the opponent, even if we’re rolling like demons, is a fight in which they’re going to lose us quickly.” It happens that, in D&D games, the kinds of classes that give me the numbers of options I want in a fight are also the kinds of classes that tend to have reasonable quantities of skill points and class skills in the social range.

So if we stick with the status quo—why wouldn’t I bring the social one?

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