Thursday, February 23, 2017

Characters I Like

I have a minute so i thought i’d put some words on paper about some of the characters that i like from various genres/games/franchises.  Today i’m going to start off with a gamer culture minefield by picking up with Critical Role, and my absolute favorite character on that show, Key’leth, as portrayed by Marisha Ray.  Critical Role is a wonderful show that follows a group of friends who get together and live stream their Dungeons and Dragons game every thursday night on Geek & Sundry’s twitch channel.  (You’re grown ups, you can use google to find the links for all of this stuff).  What sets Critical Role apart from most of these games is that the cast of Critical Role are voice and screen actors that occupy a huge chunk of pop culture real estate.  There are dozens of features on the cast, their accomplishments, and where they fit into the landscape of games and entertainment, and if you’re interested, by all means go, look them up, this article will still be here when you get back.  

Welcome back.  Now, Critical Role put up their 86th episode last week, and with episodes that run between 3 and a half and 4 hours, that’s a lot of film to watch if you want to catch up on the entire series.  If you have the time, go nuts, there are a lot worse ways to spend your time on the internet, and Critical Role is a fun way to tune out and just enjoy the space that the cast has created for themselves.  They have fun, play dungeons and dragons, and tell the story that they are enjoying.  They’ve had rave reviews, a rabid fan base, and are getting a lot of coverage from other media outlets.  They’re popular for a couple of reasons, but that isn’t the focus of this article, i’m here today to talk about my personal favorite character, Key’leth.  

A half-elf raised among a tribe of wild elves, Key’leth became an adventurer as part of a spiritual quest her people undertake as a part of the growing up process.  Trekking across the world, she’s seeking to make contact with the elementally aspected tribes of her people, and finally to return home someday and share that wisdom with another generation of elves.  Sounds like a fun character right?  

Key’leth is a druid, so her character is built around the concepts of casting nature oriented spells and shape changing into wild animals and elementals.  She has a lot of fun with both, and despite occasionally misunderstandings with which spell does what, (I do this all the time, those cards from Gale Force 9 are a godsend) she does a pretty effective job of handling her business as a spellcaster, and has figured out how effective shape changing can be.

Like most characters built with an RPG system, Key’leth has statistics and numeric values and a bunch of other technical things that might get in the way, but she has one statistic that i find particularly enjoyable, her Charisma score.  Key’leth has a Charisma score of 6, (Charisma being the attribute primarily associated with interpersonal skills and interacting with other people).  6 is a lot lower than the typical 10 that most folks have in the statistic, and Key’leth doesn’t interact well with folks as a result.  

Some folks would play this as a character that just doesn’t interact socially with other people and let the more charismatic people handle it.  Marisha takes a more interesting approach and tries really hard to socialize with people.  This usually has interesting results because Marisha tries to interact with people at what she thinks the social skill development of a charisma 6 character would do.  It’s endearing to me because i know she can be more sociable, but her character has limits in that department that she doesn’t want to push past.  

The other fun character trait that Key’leth has that i enjoy a lot is a sense of doubt.  Key’leth doesn’t ever quite seem to be totally sure of what’s going on around her, and internally she has serious doubts about how her life is going and whether or not she’s doing the right thing.  Most of her social interactions with her friends and fellow adventurers involve her expressing her doubts and trying to talk herself into being ready for the challenges ahead.  

A character with this degree of doubts is wonderful at a table.  My experience with characters tends to fall on the “We don’t talk about our feelings” or “if you don’t quit whining so we can get to the adventure, so help me god,”  so being able to see a character who isn’t completely resolute in their decisions, who questions their role in the world is wonderful.  This is the same type of internal struggle that i remember seeing in most of the hobbits in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and i love being able to see it in another character.

She’s socially awkward because that’s how the dice fell, and she’s got doubts because that’s how she chooses to be.  For those reasons alone, Key’leth would be entertaining.  And she turns into a cat, and elementals, and throws spells at stuff.  She’s a fun character in a group of fun characters.   I’m very curious to see what Marisha chooses to make for the next character she makes in a game.  It’ll certainly be interesting to see on a tabletop.

Anyway, that’s my 2 bits on the topic, and i hope you give Critical Role a chance if you haven’t seen it yet.  It’s on live Thursday nights on Twitch, and goes up on youtube the following Monday.  Happy gaming, and i hope you’re having fun.

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