Or maybe just a bunch of humans.
I started playing Dungeons and Dragons with a few of my friends early last year, and we’re currently in between campaigns so we’re all getting antsy to start a new one.
For those who haven’t played D&D, allow me to give you a basic run down of how the game actually works. You might have seen this clip from Stranger Things on Netflix, and that kind of describes how a night usually goes when I play, but not really how the game works. It is played like an RPG (role player game) video game. The players, are well, the players, each with a conroler in the form of dice. The dungeon master (DM) is eeeeeverything else. They are the entire rest of the game- they set the scene, they enforce the rules, they play the side characters, and on and on. The players use their characters stats to make actions and the DM tells the players what happens in response.
So in reality, it plays very similar to games like Mass Effect, Witcher, WoW, and Skyrim. Only it’s always multiplayer and we play on a table instead of a console or computer.
So as I was saying, we’re about to start a new campaign. And now I’m faced with the most labor intensive, difficult, time consuming part of playing an RPG: creating a character. For anyone who has played an RPG, you know how it goes.
My first and only character that I played was an Ardent Kalashtar, which I chose hastily and without a clue about the game. It was a very difficult character to play, so this time around, I’ve been thinking about playing something easier, and as it turns out, so do most other people that play D&D.
According to this article on FiveThirtyEight, the most popular race is human and the most popular class is fighter. I personally thought that more fantastic characters would be the norm. Why not be a wizard half-orc or a druid gnome or something else off the wall? I personally think that people are more naturally drawn to things like humans and fighters because they are easy to understand.
As I previously said, my first character choice was difficult. The traits of my character, Cassara, set her up to be very stoic, have a tortured past, and be better at assisting in fights than leading the pack. She was very different from me, so it was hard for me to naturally make decisions that the character would make. In a video game, you’re often given a set of lines to chose from, only certain scenarios are possible, and in the end, there’s a certain way you win the game. D&D by nature is completely opposite. It is all made up on the fly. Retrospectively, I think I would have had an easier time playing a human fighter. I have a very good sense of what it means to be human and a fighter. Human is pretty obvious, and fighters punch things.
However, I eneded up loving my chsracter after I got the hang of things and after my DM gave me some wise words. “Dude, you were on improv for 6 years. Just play the character like you would if you were on stage.” And after that it clicked. The choices were easier to make, her spells easier to choose, and her plotline started to fall into place. Now, after working through this blog post, I have created a theory that ties together my experience and the information from the article.
Actors, artists, and writers are more likely, than those who aren’t, to play more fantastic characters in a D&D campaign.
Now, I’m basing this theory entirely on my own personal experience, so it would definitely need to be tested with a survey analysis.
In the group that I play with, my DM os a writer, myself and two others did theater and improv all through high school. There are no humans and no fighters in our group. In fact, two of our players invented their races. My almost brother-in-law is an artist and he frequently DM’s campaigns for his friends and for my campaign group. He is vehemently against playing humans, claiming it doesn’t allow for as much creativity. In my boyfriend’s campaign, there are no artists, writers, or actors. It’s mostly athletes and gamers. Three of their players’ characters are humans.
Now, I don’t mean to say that playing a human makes you uncreative, but I do think that it does not require as much creativity as playing a non human. So the majority of people naturally gravitate toward humans and fighters because the familiarity of the character makes the game play easier and let’s the player focus more on the other complications of the game. It’s also easier for first time players while learning the game when not spending so much creative thought on how a character would be played.
It might just be that human fighters are the best game play, but I believe I may be on to something. Games like D&D naturally attract the creative, but those who spend their time away from the table creating artwork use the game to push their own creativity.