The Monster as a Player Character-
On occasion one player or
another will evidence a strong desire to operate
as a monster, conceiving a playable character as a strong demon, a devil,
a dragon, or one of the most powerful sort of undead creatures.
This is done principally because the player sees the desired monster character as
superior to his or her peers and likely to provide a dominant role for him or
her in the campaign. A moment of reflection will bring them to the unalterable
conclusion that the game is heavily weighted towards mankind.
D&D is unquestionably "humanocentric", with demi-humans,
semi-humans, and humanoids in various orbits around the sun of
humanity. Men are the worst monsters, particularly high level characters
such as clerics, fighters, and magic-users -- whether singly, in small
groups, or in large companies. The ultra-powerful beings of other planes
are more fearsome - the 3 D s of demi-gods, demons, and devils are
enough to strike fear into most characters, let alone when the very gods
themselves are brought into consideration. Yet, there is a point where the
well-equipped, high-level party of adventurers can challenge a demon
prince, an arch-devil, or a demi-god. While there might well be some near
or part humans with the group so doing, it is certain that the leaders will be
human. In co-operation men bring ruin upon monsterdom, for they have
no upper limits as to level or acquired power from spells or items.
The game features humankind
for a reason. It is the most logical basis in
an illogical game. From a design aspect it provides the sound groundwork.
From a standpoint of creating the campaign milieu it provides the most
readily usable assumptions. From a participation approach it is the only
method, for all players are, after all is said and done, human, and it allows
them the role with which most are most desirous and capable of identifying
with. From all views then it is enough fantasy to assume a swords &
sorcery cosmos, with impossible professions and make-believe magic.
To adventure amongst the weird is fantasy enough without becoming that too!
Consider also that each and every Dungeon Master worthy of that title is continually at work expanding his or her campaign milieu.
The game is not merely a meaningless dungeon and an urban base around which is plopped the dreaded wilderness.
Each of you must design a world, piece by piece, as if a jigsaw puzzle were being hand crafted, and each new
section must fit perfectly the pattern of the other pieces. Faced with such a
task all of us need all of the aid and assistance we can get. Without such
help the sheer magnitude of the task would force most of us to throw up
our hands in despair.
By having a basis to work
from, and a well-developed body of work to
draw upon, at least part of this task is handled for us.
When history, folk-lore, myth, fable and fiction can be incorporated or used as reference for the campaign,
the magnitude of the effort required is reduced by several degrees.
Even actual sciences can be used - geography, chemistry, physics, and so forth.
Alien viewpoints can be found, of course, but not in quantity (and often not in much quality either).
Those works which do not feature mankind in a central role are uncommon.
Those which do not deal with men at all are scarce indeed. To attempt to utilize any such bases as
the central, let alone sole, theme for a campaign milieu is destined to be
shallow, incomplete, and totally unsatisfying for all parties concerned
unless the creator is a Renaissance Man and all-around universal genius
with a decade or two to prepare the game and milieu. Even then, how can
such an effort rival one which borrows from the talents of genius and
imaginative thinking which come to us from literature?
Having established the why
of the humanocentric basis of the game, you
will certainly see the impossibility of any lasting success for a monster
player character. The environment for adventuring will be built around
humans and demi-humans for the most part. Similarly, the majority of
participants in the campaign will be human. So unless the player desires a
character which will lurk alone somewhere and be hunted by adventurers,
there are only a few options open to him or her. A gold dragon can assume
human shape, so that is a common choice for monster characters. If alignment
is stressed, this might discourage the would-be gold dragon. If it is
also pointed out that he or she must begin at the lowest possible value,
and only time and the accumulation and retention of great masses of
wealth will allow any increase in level (age), the idea should be properly
squelched. If even that fails, point out that the natural bent of dragons is
certainly for their own kind - if not absolute solitude - so what part
could a solitary dragon play in a group participation game made up of non-dragons?
Dragon non-player characters, yes!
As player characters, not likely at all.
As to other sorts of monsters
as player characters, you as DM must decide
in light of your aims and the style of your campaign. The considered
opinion of this writer is that such characters are not beneficial to the game
and should be excluded.
Note that exclusion is best handled by restriction and not by refusal.
Enumeration of the limits and drawbacks which are attendant upon the monster character will always be sufficient to steer the
intelligent player away from the monster approach,
for in most cases it was only thought of as a likely manner of game domination.
The truly experimental-type player might be allowed to play such a monster character
for a time so as to satisfy curiosity, and it can then be moved to non-player
status and still be an interesting part of the campaign -- and the player is
most likely to desire to drop the monster character once he or she has
examined its potential and played that role for a time. The less intelligent
players who demand to play monster characters regardless of obvious consequences
will soon remove themselves from play in any event, for their
own ineptness will serve to have players or monsters or traps finish them off.
So you are virtually on your
own with regard to monsters as player
characters. You have advice as to why they are not featured, why no
details of monster character classes are given herein. The rest is up to you,
for when all is said and done, it is your world, and your players must live in
it with their characters. Be good to yourself as well as them, and everyone
concerned will benefit from a well-conceived, well-ordered, fairly-judged
campaign built upon the best of imaginative and creative thinking.
Q: Here is my 8th-level
What do you think of him?
A: See the DMG, page 21, ?The Monster as
a Player Character:? for the official view on
this and all other cases like it involving
monsters as PCs.
Frankly, I find the concept of dragons as player characters of occassional human-like appearance to be absolutely out of place. No more need be said on this topic
Originally Posted by Geoffrey
Gary, I myself prefer for all player characters/avatars to be human. I am wondering what (if anything in particular) made you change your mind about monster player characters between 1974 (when you wrote in the OD&D rules that players could play just about anything, even balrogs) and 1979 (when you wrote in the DMG that players playing monsters is not a good idea).
Would you believe three decades of experience?
For learning from your experience.