In case you were wondering what happened to the cute puppy from Antipaladin’s last appearance, never fear. He’s gone to a g̶o̶o̶d̶  bad home. Puppies and evil are only tangential to today’s discussion though. What I’d really like to talk about is characters struggling against their own natures.

As you may have noticed, Antipaladin has a hard time being evil for evil’s sake. That’s his shtick after all. It’s also an interesting way to tackle character development. So often when we sit down to roll up a new PC, we concentrate on the end-of-arc version of the hero. This monk will avenge his master. My barbarian will claim her birthright as chieftain. My mage will pursue power at any cost. We picture the ultimate triumph of our characters because we empathize with them. We inhabit them as alter egos, and so begin to conceptualize their goals as our own. There’s not anything wrong with that per se. Immersion is great, and gods know I chase that dragon myself all the time. Consider the benefits of stepping back though. What happens when we design characters from the other end of the character arc?

Maybe that monk will only avenge his master after a bout of drunken depression. Perhaps your barbarian needs to do some slumming before taking her throne. That mage of yours may strive to save his soul, fighting his baser impulses for most of a campaign before surrendering to the dark side. In each case, I submit that these characters are interesting because of the journey rather than the destination. Designing PCs this way—at the bottom of their arc rather than the top—can add longevity to your PCs. And if you do live to triumph, it will make it all the sweeter.

On to today’s discussion question: When you’re rolling up a new PC, do you try and leave room for character development or do you prefer playing your concept straight out of the box? Have you ever realized your PC had nowhere left to grow? Let’s hear your tales of internal struggle and striving heroes in the comments!

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