The idea of playing a Lion Clan Matsu Berserker in a Legend of the Five Rings is often not viewed as a long-term deal. For one thing, the Lion Clan are notorious for having a rigid adherence to the virtues of Bushido, and do not suffer insults lightly. Combined with a fighting style focused on the act of killing the other guy while having an absolute disregard to personal safety, one can imagine that such a character might not really last very long in any sort of battle.
So why would I want to walk into something that seems to be a tragedy waiting to happen?
Personally, my answer is that it has never been done before, at least in my gaming group. That said, with a little care, intelligent play, and maybe a bit of luck, I think I can manage this character long enough to actually get somewhere in the story.
But what is it that drives certain players to choose suboptimal choices in character creation? Is it because we enjoy dragging other players down? Do we enjoy being mediocre? Do we like losing?
Well, no. We don’t like losing more than anyone else does. However, some of us make these choices because we prioritize simulating a given concept as opposed to formulating a concept to match a given character build. As a member of “the other school of thought” when it comes to character creation, I figure it might be a good idea for me to explain my methodology.
- Come up with a concept - Doesn’t have to be overly complicated, “Surprisingly mellow berserker” happens to be my character sketch at the moment.
- Create a history - Everyone’s got some defining moments in their lives, and rpg characters shouldn’t be any sort of exception. I’m considering the possibility that one of his parents could have died to an ambush by the Crane Clan. This establishes that he has a dim view of that Clan and it’s people, and that he may have certain aspirations to make up for the loss of his parent.
- Establish relationships – Again, no man is an island, and my character knows a few fellow students in the dojo, teachers and role-models that he looks up to and people that he despises. The more of these I have, the more fodder the GM has to complicate my life.
- Build the character – Finally the rules come into play. My personal tiebreaker is that concept trumps rules. If I have to pick out a disadvantage because it’s appropriate, then I grab it. I’ll live (or die) with the consequences with no regrets. One can’t have the character you like without having to take the bad things with the good things, right?
But where do I stand with regards to min-maxing as a practice? Well, nowhere really. I prefer to let people work with whatever methods they prefer to use when they make characters. As a GM I work best when people give me a lot of hooks to use and relationships to explore since I tend to favor non-combat conflict and tension.
I hope that this article has given some insight to those who give me incredulous looks whenever I show then my character sheet. Sure it’s not optimized, but I get a heck of a kick playing it, and I think that’s a pretty good thing.