Sunday, December 26, 2010

i'm a slaya, a slaya, a d&d playa

With a jab of his axe, Eldeth forced the lizardfolk Savage to jump back. Using the momentary respite to glance over his shoulder, the stout-hearted slayer saw that his party’s dwarf cleric, human knight, and eladrin wizard were all sprawled in the dirt, unconscious and dying. “By Moradin’s hammer, that ain’t good,” he thought to himself as he ducked under a wild swing of the Savage’s club. Knowing there was nothing he could do except end this fight as quickly as possible, Eldeth embraced his inner fury, hitting fast and hard with his greataxe.

The tactical situation midway through our most recent Encounters session (#14- Watchers in the Water) seemed distressingly familiar: lizardfolk attacking, PCs falling. But where we only had four adventurers in the previous fight, this time there were a whopping seven of us battling the fierce reptilian humanoids. So although we got knocked around again, having such a large group of players allowed us to prevail through sheer numbers. Eldeth was satisfyingly vicious in this session as he sought to make up for all the time he spent dying in the last encounter. After chopping down the lizardfolk Savage mentioned above, he ended the fight by charging across the clearing and taking out the last pesky Magi.

The day after that game session, I went to the library to get a few books to read over the holidays. On a whim, I checked to see if they had any D&D books and was pleasantly surprised to find that the 4e Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG1) and Monster Manual (MM1) were not only listed in the library catalog, but were both on the shelf. Nice!

I took the DMG1 to the airport with me on Christmas Eve and managed to skim through most of it while I waited for my wife’s flight. One section that caught my interest was the part about Player Motivations (pages 8-10). I didn’t remember seeing that section in the Dungeon Master’s Book (the 6”x9” softcover book that comes with the D&D Essentials Dungeon Master’s Kit). Sure enough, when I got home and paged through the DMB, there was nothing in it about the types of players.

The DMG1 identifies and describes eight basic player motivation categories: actor, explorer, instigator, power gamer, slayer, storyteller, thinker, and watcher. The core assumption behind all of this is that “everybody plays D&D to have fun, but different people get their enjoyment from different aspects of the game.” Finding all of this particularly interesting, I naturally wondered which category might best describe my motivation for playing the game.

Here’s a brief rundown of the eight basic player motivations…

  • Actor: You like to pretend to be your character, valuing your character’s personality and motivations over mechanical game elements.

  • Explorer: You want to experience the wonders of the game world, learning about the people, places, and history you encounter.

  • Instigator: You enjoy making things happen. You prefer action over planning, and sometimes make deliberate bad choices to see what happens.

  • Power Gamer: You like to optimize your characters, choosing the best mechanical elements to create a perfect build.

  • Slayer: You just love to kill monsters, and you prefer combat to any other situation.

  • Storyteller: You want to hear the ongoing story of the game. It’s important that your character’s background is significant to the game’s narrative.

  • Thinker: You prefer to make careful choices, solving challenges and puzzles in an organized and methodical way.

  • Watcher: You like being part of the group, but you don’t want to be the center of attention. You just want everyone to have fun.
I immediately discounted the possibility that I might be either a watcher or an actor. Upon a bit more reflection, instigator was also out. Power gamer and storyteller were the next ones to be eliminated. That left explorer, slayer, and thinker. I found myself stuck at that point because there’s something in each of those three categories that makes me happiest when I play D&D.

Luckily, I happened to receive the Player’s Strategy Guide (PSG) as a Christmas gift and within its pages is a quiz entitled, “What’s Your Motivation?” Taking the quiz is supposed to help you find out how important each of the eight motivations is for you. I was game, so I sat down to work my way through the quiz’s ten questions. At the end, I added up the number of points I scored for each motivation. (Note: My score adds up to more than ten since the instructions state that if you can’t decide between two options, you’re supposed to select both.)

Watcher: 0
Actor, Storyteller, Instigator: 1
Explorer, Power Gamer, Thinker: 2
Slayer: 3

So there’s the official result… I’m a slayer. With that in mind, it looks as if it’s no mistake that I’m playing Eldeth, valiant male dwarf fighter dude, in these Encounters sessions. Although other warriors might focus on defense or fancy maneuvers, as a slayer Eldeth has trained from his first day of combat to cut down his foes without mercy. His greataxe is one of the most devastating weapons available. There’s nothing subtle about his approach to combat; he simply closes with foes and hews them down as quickly as possible. (FYI: The photo below is the mini I've been using to represent Eldeth while playing D&D Encounters.)

The question and answer in the PSG quiz that totally pegged me was #3…

Question: A social skill challenge with the prince of Efreet broke down, and now the party has to fight their way out of the City of Brass. What explains the breakdown?

Answer: Who cares? It’s time to stop talking and start kicking efreet butt!

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