You might notice that Monk looks rather different here! Apparently a lot of folks were having trouble figuring out that he was a gnome, so we’ve adjusted his skintone and given him some oversized gnomish eyebrows for good measure. Of course, today’s comic is more than skin deep. It’s all about PC exceptionalism.

Just look at poor Monk there. Dude wants so badly for his training to feel special. To feel as if his powers set him apart from common folk, and make him something extraordinary within the fiction of the game world. When the product of your life’s worth of kung-fu montages looks like a cantrip though, it’s awfully easy to get discouraged. In my experience, it takes a group effort to make the world feel as magical as it does in your head. In other words, when it comes to feeling as cool as your character, you need buy-in from your fellow players.

I experienced this mess myself most recently in a 5e game. I forget the precise situation, but my warlock was having some kind of argument with a buddy’s eldritch knight. It might have had something to do with giving my imp companion a set of miniature bagpipes. (Imagine bagpipe music, but off-key, constant, and even higher-pitched.) In any case, I’d reached the end of my patience, and wanted to storm off from the conversation in a puff of drama.

“My eyes glow gold,” I said. “The pupils rotate to snake-like slits. His voice seems to boil up from some infernal pit when he says—”

“Yeah yeah,” interrupts my fellow tiefling. “I can cast thaumaturgy too. Big whoop.”

Now I admit, that’s not a big deal interaction on paper. It’s even a reasonable thing for a character to say in the middle of an argument. But in my own head, it felt as if I was violently ejected from the fantasy. My character wasn’t an imposing creature in league with the Fiend. I was suddenly a nerd in a basement getting too worked up over a minor spell.

This is what the drama kids mean when they talk about the “yes, and” principle. Implicit in my melodramatic bit of character description was the idea that “I’m being intimidating.” By dismissing that subtext, my buddy the eldritch knight negated and rejected the move. That’s her right of course. The way your character acts and reacts is always yours to choose. But speaking as the guy on the other side of the table, it felt like all the momentum had gone out of the conversation. If she’d popped her own thaumaturgy in turn, described an involuntary step back, or even replied with a sardonic, “No need to get upset,” it would have felt as if I’d effected the world. As it stood, I could only muster a lame, “Well, you can’t blame a guy for trying,” before letting the scene peter out.

How about the rest of you guys? Do you ever struggle to make the PC in your head match the one in play? Do you feel like you’re on the same page as your buddies when you imagine what your character is like? By the same token, do you ever feel as if the impact of your mechanics doesn’t quite match up to the in-game fluff? Tell us your tale of mismatched expectations down in the comments!


REQUEST A SKETCH! So you know how we’ve got a sketch feed on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon? By default it’s full of Laurel’s warm up sketches, illustrations not posted elsewhere, design concepts for current and new characters, and the occasional pin-up shot. But inspiration is hard sometimes. That’s why we love it when patrons come to us with requests. So hit us up on the other side of the Patreon wall and tell us what you want to see!