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Nerdarchy > Dungeons & Dragons  > Character Builds  > What’s Your Type as an RPG Player?
Playing 5E D&D Games RPG tank character

What’s Your Type as an RPG Player?

Every Tuesday evening at Nerdarchy Live the team gathers for a weekly tabletop roleplaying game session at 8 p.m. eastern. While preparing for our next one with Nerdarchist Ted running a dungeon delving reality game show with fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons I realized something about myself — I like playing tank characters. This led to an intriguing discussion tying in nicely to a recent video over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel where Nerdarchists Dave and Ted zoom through a conversation about the fastest 5E D&D character. So let’s get into it.

RPG character types

First things first we recently revivified Nerdarchy the Subreddit where I asked what type of RPG characters people like to play. I don’t know how this subreddit will develop but if you’d like to share your thoughts about this topic or anything else going on you’re welcome to check it out here. When I posted the question I expected to see familiar RPG character types like a tank but the replies came in with a lot more nuance than I anticipated, which is really neat to see.

There’s a lot of different ways to consider RPG character types. The most familiar for me are tank, healer, striker and controller. You might know these by different terms but generally there’s common assumptions related to each of them. A tank soaks up damage and keeps enemy attention on them. A healer keeps allies in the game either by straight up healing them or mitigating damage with buffs. Strikers dish out the damage in spikes focused on single targets. Controllers manipulate the battlefield and enemies engaged with their party, which can include debuffs and environmental changes.

Why I dig the versatile RPG tank character

Being in the thick of the action appeals to me no matter what sort of RPG I’m playing. It’s probably fair to say I’ve come to enjoy tank style characters as a function of simply getting myself into trouble regardless of the character I’m playing. For a long time I played a dungeon delving campaign as a svirfneblin Circle of Spores druid and wound up in the melee mix more often than not. This particular 5E D&D druid subclass doesn’t exactly scream melee tank but in retrospect I sure played like one and enjoyed the campaign immensely.

In our current Cypher System campaign inspired by things like Thundarr the Barbarian and Flash Gordon I play a Resilient Adept who Separates Mind from Body and they wound up falling into a tank type role too. This amuses me to no end since I explicitly created a character without any interest in combat and explained this to the group during our session zero. Nevertheless my ghostly psychonaut proves tremendously tough and gets knocked around quite a bit, which I love!

With the Cypher campaign wrapping up soon we started working on the next game. Ted pitched us his idea for a 5E D&D reality game show featuring goal oriented dungeon delves interspersed with behind the scenes drama. For this game I mulled a number of characters in a cascading flow of ideas and settled on some choices I not only haven’t played yet but particularly one I thought I never would because it seemed so bad. I’ll be playing a variant human Undying warlock.

This will be my first human and first warlock character for 5E D&D and the Undying Otherworldly Patron is one I’ve persisted just plain sucks for years. It’s worth noting for their 1st level feat I chose Hollow One from Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount. It’s not actually a feat and more akin to a Supernatural Gift but Ted was cool with it. Settling on these character choices came about through trying to represent a popular NPC from my homebrew setting as a player character. She is a revenant with amnesia always seeking to find out what happened to her (she was a knight in life — spoiler alert!). I’m really happy with the way things panned out and can’t wait to play this warlock tank! It was while developing the character when I realized tank is an RPG role I seem to naturally gravitate towards.

The White Lord of Blades is one of the illustrations from a Pinterest board of inspiration for a 5E D&D character. Looks like a sword burst spell to me! [Art by Mikhail Palamarchuk]

Other RPG character types

This discussion relates to the video Fastest 5E D&D Character video through the very first reply to the thread on the subreddit. I expected to read replies more familiar to me like crowd control or even more specific things like skill expert but the very first one shattered those expectations. Here’s a summary of what’s been shared over there.

  • Quick and mobile characters so they can get where they need to go
  • Waiting to make choices in order to account for features other characters lack
  • RPG characters exclusively inspired by other media
  • Gish characters who accumulate as many bonuses as possible
  • Spellcasters with a bunch of different kinds of spells
  • Characters with low scores in primary abilities who work to achieve competency
  • Any character who dishes out a lot of damage
  • Characters balanced for combat and social interaction

I’m very curious to learn what sort of approach people take to character creation in 5E D&D or any other RPG they enjoy. It wasn’t until developing this Undying warlock character I realized my own habit for playing RPG characters who can take a licking and keep on ticking. Even when I play traditionally squishy character types very often they incorporate tank qualities although not every time. Thinking more about it those deviations swing all the way to the other side and usually I play them as very, very violence averse. I guess when it comes to RPG game play I like being where the action is and doing what I can to make sure my friends are safe and okay.

Now how about you? Do you have a preference in the types of RPG characters you play? Please share your thoughts and characters in the comments or contribute to the growing discussion at Nerdarchy the Subreddit here. And of course, as always stay nerdy!

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Doug Vehovec

Nerditor-in-Chief Doug Vehovec is a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, with D&D in his blood since the early 80s. Fast forward to today and he’s still rolling those polyhedral dice. When he’s not DMing, worldbuilding or working on endeavors for Nerdarchy he enjoys cryptozoology trips and eating awesome food.

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