I think I mentioned way back when that I came to D&D late in life. It was Laurel’s dad’s group that took me in. They were patient, explained how the rules worked, and (since this was 3.5) they re-explained when I got confused. They even incorporated a few of my crackpot ideas into the game (My dragon paladin is from an ancient civilization buried beneath your setting! You’ve never heard of it!). But there is an incident that sticks out in my mind as a hiccup on the road to good gaming. It involved a wrestling match.

That long-ago campaign had been going for years, and there was a pretty-dang-beefy half-giant in the party. She was a barbarian with a Strength score well into the 30s, and was very much the group’s “me smash puny weaklings!” PC. You know the type: lots of rage and muscle attached to a short fuse and a low Int score. I’d improvised some bizarre “in my country we settle legal disputes through gladiatorial combat” backstory, and so described myself as a lawyer. I forget what exactly caused the argument, but looking back, I think that my gold-dragon-lawyer-paladin sounds pretty punchable.  Suffice it to say that this half-giant and I stumbled into some sort of disagreement. We wound up going no-holds-barred in the t̶a̶v̶e̶r̶n̶  square ring, and that’s where the trouble started.

Now it was the GM that built my character for me. He knows what he’s doing when it comes to optimizing, and it turned out that he’d given me a slightly OP dude. He must have figured that the extra oomph would make up for my lack of experience. When it comes to “who can roll higher on a contested Grapple check” however, skill doesn’t really enter into it. I won handily at the thing Ms. Giant was supposed to be best at. The giant was less than pleased, and so was the player. Can’t say that I blame her.

I suspect that the classic lineup of fighter/cleric/wizard/thief is popular not simply because it works, but because it gives everybody a clearly defined role. Fighter is the best at fighting. Thief gets to be the skill guy. Wizard and Cleric handle offensive and defensive magic respectively, and everybody feels like they’re the best at their own thing. Having a well-defined role in the group allows you to carve out your own little chunk of conceptual real estate. You’re the lord of your chosen domain, and that feeling ties straight into the lizard brain power fantasy at the heart of this hobby. Finding out that some Johnny-come-lately has come to kick you off of your property makes your character feel lesser: less powerful, less interesting, and certainly less special.

What about the rest of you guys? Have you ever gamed with a player who horned in on your territory? How did you resolve it? Let’s hear it down in the comments!