Sometimes understanding why other people do what they do is tough. Your best friend constantly complaining about the weather or that guy in the office who is always humming under his breath can be super irritating. But, if you look at these traits from a character-building lens, it can make a bit more sense. Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games provide character creation mechanics that give insight into people and personalities. At some point, the analogy breaks down as people are much more nuanced than any game mechanic could explain. However, using tools we’re familiar with gives us a starting point to learn how to relate with others.
Dungeons & Dragons: Race Relations
Suspend disbelief for a minute and pretend you’re a hill dwarf with a plus 2 in constitution and plus 1 in hit points. When you stub your toe, it’s going to be less of a pain point than a more delicate high elf. Further, when you marvel at a friend’s ability to power through a day of work, workouts, and multiple meetings, perhaps their constitution is a touch higher than yours. In-game, we understand that different characters have different skills and roles to play.
When you get jealous of your sibling’s ability to walk into a room and exude charm and confidence, maybe they’re just channeling their High Elf tendencies. This can apply to traits that are tougher to work through in society as well. Your half-orc friend who is as tough as nails and would probably survive the apocalypse might have trouble fitting in because of their brash ways. The halflings among us might prefer the countryside and feel uncomfortable in the bustle of a major metropolis. On the other hand, tieflings or dwarfs might be more comfortable away from heights or flying. Neither is inherently wrong, but differences that should be taken into consideration.
Class In Dungeons & Dragons
We all have different roles to play in the world and our societies. While people don’t all fit into the 12 classes that D&D offers, it gives us a lens from which we can view others. A paladin’s first instinct would be to defend their cause while a healer might jump to the aid of the individual. Remember your coworker who is always humming? Perhaps he is a bard giving inspiration to his work. They might not be the most in-tune bard but “there’s magic in a Bard’s song.”
Try asking for music recommendations or just use it as an excuse to put in earbuds for your own tunes. Though we do pick our careers, our real world “class” can refer to our hobbies or natural inclinations as well. Those people who seem to make friends with every animal they meet might just be druids and your penchant for slipping into places undetected could clue you into some rogue tendencies. You can even spot multi-class players out there. The friend who used to rush headlong into the fray but has started to find more subtle ways to win could be a fighter multi-classing as a rogue. Finding out the classes of your friends helps you see where their passions lie.
This one is a bit trickier. It can be easy to slap an “evil” tag on someone and thus have an easy reason to dislike them. But most people don’t fall squarely in the “evil” spectrum (though some chaotic evil characters are a heck of a good time). Still, figuring out what is important to someone can give you a better understanding of what their priorities are.
Though they are both coming from “good” alignment, someone who is lawfully good probably won’t agree with a chaotic good’s desires. Neutral alignments might be more relaxed when it comes to moral issues. But they could grate against a lawful good’s desire to stay within the lines. Even those who lean toward a more “evil” alignment help us navigate the grey areas of life and give us a spark of spontaneity. In the end, understanding one’s moral alignment is less about passing judgment and more about clarifying the motives behind one’s actions.
A newer addition to the D&D character creation toolbox, backgrounds provide additional information on proficiencies and languages. Our previous experiences and upbringing play a significant role in how we act and what skills we have. An Acolyte might be frigid and antisocial but their background in charitable work could explain their reclusiveness. Or, someone who moved across the country with their family as a child has the insight and perception of a “far traveler.” Get to know your co-workers and those who might annoy you. Maybe you will find things about their past that will inform you and give you something to talk about.
No one can always be the best at something but we are all good at certain things. Some people are min-maxed and super good at specific skills that may or may not be useful. Others seem nominally good at just about everything. However, most of us are in the middle with a range of things we’re good at and things are bad at. That guy you’ve figured out for a halfling rogue has dexterity proficiencies rivaling Johnny Palmer.
The guy on his second doctorate probably has a pretty hefty intelligence bonus. It’s easy to be jealous of those with dexterity bonuses or advantages of intelligence checks. But don’t compare the proficiencies you do or don’t have and try to learn from those with traits you admire.
Rolling In The Real World
Building rapport within your Dungeons & Dragons or other role-playing game groups is key to success in adventures. This is just as important in real life as well. Since we’re all different individuals, there is bound to be some people we just can’t seem to get along with. Even if they’re relatively nice people that others like.
Using character mechanics that you understand can put differences into perspective. Figuring out what race, class, moral alignment, etc. that you and your friends are is not only informative but can also be fun! Role-playing games are more than just enjoyable ways to pass the time. They show us how different we all are and what strategies we can use to work together.