Roleplaying the Big Bruiser

Its time for your weekly dose of D&D goodness! This week’s article will focus on making the big fighter character more interesting to play, something that is applicable to most roleplaying games.

Fighters, every great RPG has some form of them. From those skilled with the sword,



to raging beserkers, the RPG genre is filled with a plethora of options to play as.  In my many years of playing RPGs, while the combat style of a combat fighter varies greatly, the way the character is played often ends up being quite bland and dull.

First I will name what I think are the two most overplayed fighter stereotypes, if your character follows either of these archetypes seriously consider a tweak.

First is the strong, silent, loner, who wants to be viewed as a bad ass. This has been done, a lot, by movies, video games, books, and players. Not only is this stereotype over-played, but if a player goes this route they are removing themselves from the dialogue of much of the game. Strong silent types are not fun to play with. D&D thrives off of player on player interactions. You want to be viewed as a bad ass, there are other better ways to do this, such as actually being a bad ass in combat, and then being interesting out of it.

The second over played archetype is the big, strong, but dumb fighter. A staple of the genre, many players just cannot help but presuming that the fighter has the least intelligence to bring to a group. While it may be tempting to lean on a low intelligence score as a crutch, and just play a brain dead moron all day, this will become boring fast!

While there are other pitfalls, I think these are the two biggest. If you avoid these two stereotypes then you have made tremendous leaps in breathing life into your fighter. But, what can you do to put a unique twist on your big brute?

The best character traits are simple. As the game goes on and the character develops these traits will grow.

-One of my favorites is illiteracy. The D&D barbarian automatically starts with this, but it can be quite fun to take on other characters. The trick to pulling this trait off is how you play it. It will not be fun if you go “Oh I can’t read, so, someone else check out this book.” It would be much more funny if your were embarrassed and tried to pretend to read, regularly botching what books say. Trust me I have done played this type of illiteracy, it was a blast! Or perhaps your character wishes to learn to read, but due to their upbringing they never got a chance. Now as they are adventuring it is a goal.

-Another fun trait would be to poke fun at the fighter stereotype. Perhaps your fighter, though big and strong, is quite well read and regularly knows random bits of knowledge. They could continually buy cheap books in town to keep up with their learning. In game terms this could be reflected with a few skill points spent in a Knowledge skill. Imagine the amazing story when the wizard is stumped by a piece of information, but the fighter makes the connection due to extensive research!

-Fears are also fun to play with. This need to be done carefully, because if you fear something too common it becomes a burden, and no longer fun for your party. It also cannot be something so rare it never comes up. Perhaps your fighter is  afraid of all bats, convinced they turn people into vampires. When adventuring in a cave they insist on additional protection by air. It is important these fears are able to be overcome and the adventure carry on, otherwise they become a burden. Not necessarily the character getting over the fear, but the solution to the fear needs to be relatively simple, and known.

– A more simple, but equally entertaining trait, could be as simple as your character dreams of becoming a great chef. During every camping session your character could drum up food of an above average standard, or perhaps your character is an especially bad cook, and burns everything. This would come up enough to give some potential roleplaying experiences, but be infrequent enough that it won’t grow old.

-Stupidity. Intelligence serves as a low stat for many fighters, after all in game terms it doesn’t often matter how smart they are. This perhaps has helped perpetuate the stupid fighter cliche, however, a low intelligence stat does not need to be played the same every time. Perhaps your character, though possessing a lower then average intelligence, is not in fact stupid, but has very poor short term memory. Or perhaps their low intelligence reflects terrible learning skills, but the character can has a cunning which serves them fine in combat situations. The key with this trait is to avoid the stereotypical stupidity, and think about alternatives to explain your low statistic.

-For a grittier character maybe your fighter, while not a cleric, has firm beliefs in a warrior god, which demands ritualistic scarring, or tattooing. Or perhaps the god requires every victim of its follower to place a copper coin over each eye, so as to assure their spirit’s passage into the after life.

-Finally maybe you are playing a short character, maybe a dwarf or a gnome, and they are sensitive about their height. While I have seen this trait done a few times, I think it still has some mileage and if done right can create quite an enjoyable experience.

These are just a few ideas for creating more interesting fighter characters. When thinking of potential traits of your own be sure to keep the traits simple and straight to the point, but also attempting to avoid cliches. I find movies and books to be the best inspiration, often picking apart why I like certain characters and trying to combine varying aspects of a few characters.

As always get your questions and comments to me, I would love to get some feedback. Contact me at my twitter @jake_hutton, or on the Around the Geek facebook group. For longer questions or comments email me at