The Moment of Change

Let’s get straight to the exciting part: My serial, The Questors from Effpiem, is moving forward! Since my last blog post, I’ve finally gotten busy revising that story, which is the first step in my plan to re-release it in a remastered edition, a la Tee Morris. (Okay, inspired by the efforts of Tee Morris. If my remastered edition is even one-quarter as good as his remastered edition, I will consider it a success.) I’m doing this by transferring the story text from OpenOffice into Celtx a little bit at a time, tightening up and polishing the writing as I go along. I plan to keep Seasons 1 and 2 of the serial in a single Celtx project file, so I’ve been thinking about the details of Season 2’s plot. I already knew I was going to add a new character, but I just recently figured out a backstory for the character that will give him an interesting internal conflict. No spoilers, but I’m excited about creating Season 2.

Yesterday, however, I used my creative time to finish my Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition (5E) character sheet. Several members of my local NaNoWriMo group also play D&D during NaNo’s off-season, and this past year, I joined in. We played two or three sessions of Fourth Edition (4E) before NaNo started, and we were planning to get back into it after the holidays were over. On January 3, our DM discovered, much to his disappointment, that the old Web-based character builder tool for 4E on Wizards of the Coast’s official D&D website no longer worked, so he decided to start a 5E campaign. I got my Player’s Handbook from my local indie bookstore this past Sunday, and I really love it so far. Not only is the art gorgeous, but the text gives you a richer, fuller, and more exciting picture of the possibilities for your characters than the 4E handbook did. (In my opinion, of course.) *

I think the new additions to the character creation process in 5E are an improvement, too. When you create a D&D character, you have to determine what he or she can do in order to play the game. There are spaces for that on both the old and new character sheets, of course, but the new sheet dedicates much more space to why the character does what he or she does. The 5E character sheet encourages you to give more thought to your character’s personality and motivations than the 4E sheet does. 5E expects you to create an actual person with a background, personality traits, ideals, bonds to other people or places, and flaws. Those fields are all in plain sight on the very first page of the character sheet, not buried on the second or third page. In short, the 5E character generation process is more story-focused, encourages more creativity, and offers better character-creation practice for fiction writers than in the previous edition.

The chapter of the Player’s Handbook that describes personalities and backgrounds makes a very important point about character motivations. It says: “The most important question to ask about your background is what changed? Why did you stop doing whatever your background describes and start adventuring?” ** This is a vital question to ask about characters in fiction, too. What were they doing before your story started, and what happened to cause them to stop doing it and get involved in the story? At what moment did they change direction in life? Answering questions like these gives you an idea of your character’s motivations and values, which helps you understand how the character will react to what happens in the story. I now know the answer to these questions for the new character in Season 2 of The Questors from Effpiem. Again, it would be a spoiler, but it’s written down in the Notecards section of my Celtx project file. For my D&D character, the answer is: “I’ve been modestly successful as an entertainer. However, while playing music provides for my own simple needs, I’ve found it doesn’t allow me to rebuild the village treasury nearly as quickly as I would like. Not only that, but sometimes treasure is in the form of volumes of forgotten lore, and I want to be the first to rediscover it. These are the reasons I decided to expand my skills and be an adventurer.”

The 5E Player’s Handbook even gives you tables of personality traits, ideals, flaws, and bonds that you can roll for, as an alternative to creating them from scratch. I decided to take a chance and go that route, and I ended up with a character who is very different from me, but I’m okay with that. Role-playing her will be an interesting challenge, and will help me practice thinking along different lines than I normally do in real life, which should help me get better at writing characters who are different from me. I’m really looking forward to getting started with this campaign.

* (No flaming and no attempts to start an edition war in the comments to this post, please. Thank you.)

** Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook (5th ed). Copyright 2014 Wizards of the Coast LLC. Published August 2014. This blog post is a review and no monetary compensation was received for it from any party.

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