Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Role-playing models

In 1857 Thomas Hughes wrote a novel Tom Brown’s School Days, in which the character of Harry Flashman appears as a bully. Over a century later George MacDonald Fraser used Flashman as his anti-hero of The Flashman Papers, a series of novels and short stories describing in a satirical manner Flashman’s further career. Harry Flashman is not a nice person; he is selfish, a womanizer, and a coward, but apt at manipulating situations to both save his skin and come out looking like a hero. I read the books a while ago, they are funny, and I was thinking of Flashman when I needed a character for a new Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

I am a player in that campaign, and I needed a character that would fit well into the world. The world is the one of The Witcher novels and video games, and it is not a nice place. Somewhat dark fantasy, with a world full of selfish and cruel people. A valiant knight in shining armor would be completely out of place in that world, and look like an idiot as well. So instead I made a bard with a character modelled after Harry Flashman.

I know a lot of people who basically play always the same personality for any of their role-playing characters. Me, I like not only to play different character classes, but also different personalities. Admittedly that is not that easy. What helps is to have a role model for your role-playing character in mind. Flashman is an interesting enough character for an anti-hero role. When I play for example a lawful good paladin, I model my behavior after Benton Fraser, the mountie in the TV series Due South. Using a character from books or TV provides you with concrete examples of modes of behavior, which is easier to follow than a more theoretical description of character.

In practice my bard worked rather well. We played the first two sessions this weekend, and I managed to be and look effective, while simultaneously playing up his cowardly and selfish behavior. Playing an anti-hero is a bit of a challenge, because in reality the social contract binding you to your group requires you not to be actually too selfish. You can’t really run from a fight and leave your group to die. So you need to do your best to help, while role-playing a coward. But I think I managed that and that resulted in some interesting role-play. Go, Flashman!


I'm a lurker but had to come out of the shadows to say Flashman was some of the most entertaining stuff I read when much younger. I hope you have fun using him as an alter ego.
Sounds good! I sometimes play Mush, a casual RPG with missions that last a week or two, and one thing I like is that you are assigned a character with a history and personality.
Oh, and I also enjoyed the Flashman stories...
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