Over the past year or so, I’ve played several games that give you pretty much free reign to create whatever character you want. The Secret World and Fable: The Lost Chapters both allow you to create pretty much any ability set (within reason), and Aion and Guild Wars 2 are both games that allow nearly limitless appearance customization.
And as I’ve played these games, certain patterns have begun to arise. There are certain themes that keep coming up over and over when I’m given the freedom to create whatever character I wish.
This has led me to wonder whether I, and other people, have an “ideal” RPG character that we will always gravitate towards creating if we have the chance. And if so, why are these traits our ideals?
There are two sides to this: appearance and abilities.
While I do play and enjoy characters with other looks, there is one look that keeps coming up over and over. If you’re a regular reader, you’re probably used to it by now: a tough-looking woman with an athletic, muscular build and black hair tied back in a ponytail. I’ve also occasionally dabbled with tough-looking women with tied back white hair.
Examples of these include my World of Warcraft rogue, my other WoW rogue, my Guild Wars 2 thief, my GW2 mesmer, and my Templar in The Secret World. If we add those with white hair, the list also includes my WoW warlock, my GW2 thief from the beta, and my ranger in Aion.
This all began with my rogue in Warcraft. I chose to make her tough-looking because, well, she’s a killer. I’m not sure why I always go for black hair, but the ponytail is because I wanted a style where her hair wouldn’t get in her eyes while she’s stabbing people.
Similar reasoning also applies to why I choose athletic builds in games where body customization is possible. My characters are fighters; they should look the part.
I also tend to make my characters tall when given the chance. The reasoning for this is simple to understand. Despite being of normal height for a white male, I’ve always felt oddly inadequate about my height and wished I was taller.
As for why I keep playing women… that’s more complicated. I’ve already talked about that in some detail, but I suspect I still don’t have all the answers.
I first started thinking about this when I spent a week playing Fable: The Lost Chapters about a year ago. This was by no means a particularly good game, but one thing I did appreciate was the utter freedom of character design. You can pretty much be whatever you want.
I went into this game with no plan. I just did whatever seemed like a good idea at the time and progressed as felt natural. This makes my Fable character possibly the truest expression of what my ideal playstyle would be.
So what was my Fable hero? A great, hulking, plate-wearing, greatsword-wielding, fireball-hurling battle mage.
The Secret World is also incredibly open in the kind of character you can create. What did a I end up using there? Fist weapons and blood magic. Again, melee and magic.
My Templar alt has settled on swords and pistols. In GW2, my warrior uses axes/longbow, my thief uses daggers/pistols, and my mesmer uses sword/staff. All characters that combine melee and ranged abilities.
Is it any coincidence that I stopped playing Aion right around the time my melee abilities stopped being competitive with my ranged skills?
So it’s clear that I prefer characters that are capable of fighting both with melee weapons and at range. Which makes sense, as I enjoy both. If I had to pick one, I would probably play ranged, but melee has a visceral thrill that ranged fighting just doesn’t quite equal. Plus, melee weapons are better aesthetically — they look more heroic.
As for which melee weapons, I prefer to dual wield weapons — usually swords — instead of using two-handed weapons. Plus, dual wielding tends to lead to faster attacks, which is what I prefer.
I also like characters that have at least some magical capacity. I’ll be honest; this is mostly just down to looks. Magic is pretty.
(Mini-rant: Why don’t games put more effort into making non-magical skills look good? You developers could really learn something from Aion here.)
Reading it back, this seems kind of greedy of me. I want my character to be everything: ranged and melee, magical and physical.
But is that wrong? Why should our characters need to fit into rigid boxes? I won’t say that classes are a bad thing necessarily, but I feel they are often too confining.
One place where I have to give Guild Wars 2 credit is the way they let you interpret each archetype very broadly. A thief can be a subtle assassin, a sword-wielding brawler, a gunslinger, or artillery.
Classes do muddle the idea of an “ideal character” somewhat, as do game mechanics. I’ve always loved the idea of playing an archer, but most games tie bows to annoying crap like pets, minimum range, or an overabundance of ground target AoEs. So my view of what my ideal character would be may be somewhat skewed by the games I’ve played.
Also, it’s probably impossible to ever get every experience you want from one character. If you like playing tanks and glass cannon DPS, you obviously can’t be both at once.
So my ideal character would likely be a female character with an athletic build, tied-back dark hair, and abilities that combine fast melee skills with ranged magic.
Hmm, no wonder I liked Dungeon Siege III so much. I basically just described Anjali.
At the same time, it also seems clear to me I could never only play one character, no matter how closely it matched my ideal. We all need a change of pace now and then.
What about you? Do you have an “ideal” RPG character? What would it be, and what makes it your ideal?
God damn it, now I’m upset there wasn’t a Dungeon Siege III expansion again. ><
Lol, great post as usual.
I *did* tell customers they should try Dungeon Siege 3 when I was working at a gaming store earlier this year….. ;p
All things considered, I’m still not sure what my ideal is in terms of rpg characters. I do know this much: I love elves. So much so that most of my friends have, at some point, either come to mock me for it or buy me elf themed merchandise for christmas. Which is funny because people told me to read about Drizzt Do’Urden, every fangirl’s favorite emo Drow, and I took one look at the first book and shelved it. But still….elves are fascinating creatures who have their origins in deep seated myth and legend. Perhaps the idea to me of immortality and power are fascinating concepts that I feel many elvish lore adequately addreses.
That being said, in WOW for example, one of my mains is a night elf priestess. Initially made for my daughter so she could play, the priestess, being always in demand in dungeons, quickly outstripped my female druid in levels and is now primed to be next in line once my lock completes the Pandaria arc. The big thing that initially addicted me to WOW despite my misgivings was the ethereal, dreamworld feel of the NE starting zone so I think I had more of an affinity for that race than almost any other in WOW initially.it was a world I wanted to be in.
Tall, willowy, and graceful, with long hair and a delicate,caring faces, my night elves were all I wanted to play, so when my son asked me to roll him an undead warlock like the badass one in the cinematic, I did so reluctantly and failed to level him until my alliance guild began to frustrate me too much. Then I actually started leveling him…
The undead are an ugly, awkward race to look at, but once you start playing them you realize they have one helluva backstory. Trying to stay true to lore despite my brain saying “but you’re evil, why would you work with the horde in the first place”, I avoided too many lovey dovey quests that made me feel like Skeletor in the He-man Christmas special (totally OOC), but one quest that hit me hard was the one in Brill where you are gathering materials for an undead seamstress to weave into blankets. She has advanced in decay to the point where she is about to get “the chill” (the point where you become a mindless zombie) but she wants to do her part for the dark Lady before this occurs. She also tells you to end her before she regresses to the point where she is useless. After that, I found I could sympathize a lot more with the fate of the Forsaken and always took the time to go bow before Sylvanas when I was in Undercity. (In my defense, I was on an RP server). Seemed right somehow. Perhaps that affinity and the fact that I felt the character I was playing was a rather amusing sort who truly wanted to explore the world around him before he too got “the chill” was what kept him interesting enough to get to ninety.
Overall I suppose I have to develop an emotional tie to any character in order to be able to play it. But, in every game I’m curious about all the lore so I’m usually a hodgepodge of different things. Played the draenei and shook my fist at Blizzard even while doing so. Have far too many blood elf toons that never got past thirty. My death knights all sit at sixty. In other games like the Diablos I always rolll a badass female. Rogue, assassin, female barbarian. When I am playing with the boyfriend (who never rolls a male) im either a guy or a girl. In skyrim I rolled a battle-scarred elf male. In baldurs gate I alway tried to get the elf in my group. In Unreal I was always a heavily tatooed female…but that’s not an rpg and my posts are always too long. Sorry for the rambling. I just love how I can talk about this stuff on your blog.
Yes, Elves are where it’s at. Those who claim they dislike Elves are just too proud to admit that they picked the wrong team.
I also share your thoughts on the Undead. I don’t like playing the bad guy, so I won’t play one seriously, but they’ve got some of the best quests and storylines in the game. These days, whenever I level a new Blood Elf, I move them over to the Undead zones as soon as I’m level five or so.
Your posts always make me question my gaming choices 😀
For play style I definitely prefer ranged, but I have more of an affinity with my rogue. That’s probably why I keep insisting on playing her no matter how bad I am with melee.
My ideal RPG rogue – female human or blood elf because compared with all the other races, they are generally smaller and more lithe – “ballet dancer” is more interesting to me than “athlete.” That “fits” my idea of a rogue more than say a NE or even a human male.
Yeah, I spend far too much time picking out the “perfect” hairstyles for the classes I’m playing.
The whole “lithe” thing is why my rogues/thieves/assassins are always female. Just seems a more natural fit.
Would it be safe to say you would join me in celebrating if Blizzard ever added a ranged spec for rogues?
Oh my! If Blizzard added a ranged spec for rogues I’d probably never play my priest again 😉
Pointy ears are where it’s at. I’m also partial to black ponytails.
I’ve previously preferred melee to ranged, but then I go and surprise myself with a mage main. But I would love for the art team to cook up a tier set that really screams “battle mage.” They were getting close with Horde T9 with the bits of fur and metal, and then completely fubarred it with the Cata tier that looked like someone’s grandma quilted it and you *had* to wear it since she worked her fingers to the bone on it.
And either I’m insane or it’s “snowing” on your site.
Stupid question, but have you looked at tier 8? That’s pretty “battle mage.” It’s not even a robe. I was tempted to get it on my mage, but I was too in love with my blood mage cosplay.
The ten man version is red, so it’s perfect for a Blood Elf: http://www.wowhead.com/itemset=836#modelviewer:10+0
It’s snowing all over WordPress as far as I know. They did it last December, too.
T8 is disgusting. Easily my least favorite of any tier for any class. Seriously, I hate it. I was excited about it at first… yay, pants! And then realized they had managed to make mages look like rogues. There’s a way to do battle mage and T9 was the closest they’ve managed in my book.
(My apologies to anyone that actually liked mage T8)