It Is Surprisingly Hard To Create An Incompetent Arse-Clown In Dungeons & Dragons

It Is Surprisingly Hard To Create An Incompetent Arse-Clown In Dungeons & Dragons
To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, features and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Kotaku Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a news fix.

The great escapist fantasy of Dungeons & Dragons is that you are not a salaryperson shovelling handfuls of gummy bears into your mouth and rolling 20-sided dice. Rather, you are a singularly important hero with a singular capacity to disarm some impending plot bomb. It’s a time-tried formula, one that basically spawned an entire industry (see: role-playing games) — but let’s take a pause on that and consider a less-trodden way to play Dungeons & Dragons: being an incompetent dimwit.

This article has been updated since its original publication.

Sucking in totality is just not something Dungeons & Dragons readily accommodates. And yet playing an idiotic character tests everything you knew about Dungeons & Dragons, from the core of its mechanics to the way you navigate your dungeon master’s plot.

On Sunday, I made Vicco “The Veech” Vadalucci. He’s a Dwarvaan acquirer-of-things, a man of business, a hobbyist gambler with a New Jersey-Italian accent. He’s the kind of guy who says he can get you anything — whether it fell off the back of a cart somewhere or he knows a guy who knows a guy with some connections in rare potions. “The Veech” might leave a room for 30 seconds and then come back saying he’d just consulted with “his buddy outside,” who told him to ask the quest-giver for more gold. In truth, the only “product” he can reliably come by is toy dolls for his beloved little daughter, and he has essentially no business connections at all. He’s full of shit. He can’t do anything — at least anything epic.

Lest it come off like I was purposefully sabotaging the campaign, allow me to defend myself: Dungeons & Dragons changed the world in 1974, in part, because it was a game that could not be won. It’s a storytelling game played using tactics and strategy. Yet battles must end, information must be extracted, and campaign adventures must come to a close.

Inventing an incompetent stooge and inserting him into a party of sharpened blades with lofty personal fitness goals runs a high risk of making everyone have a bad time — if they’re focused on taking down baddies and amassing treasure. That wasn’t our vibe on Sunday. We were all about role-playing dummies and telling a good story. “The Veech” was in-bounds. The only problem was making sure his stats matched his unskilled character.

In Dungeons & Dragons’ player handbook, the player-character is described as someone who can “solve puzzles,” “battle fantastic monsters,” and “discover fabulous magic items and other treasure.” This is how the game is designed, and making a character who can’t do these things is surprisingly tricky. For example, first, a player must choose a character class like Sorcerer, Ranger and Bard. By even falling into one of these classes, each of which demarcates the player as someone with special capacities, the player-character is immediately assumed to be a little more powerful or have a little more potential than the norm.

“The Veech” is a phony and a plot catalyst, which made it hard as hell for me to fill out abilities and statistics on his Dungeons & Dragons character sheet. I made him a Cleric of the trickster god Tymora, also known as Lady Luck. (I couldn’t think of another class that made sense, although I’m willing to admit there may have been better options.) He was someone who had to rely on his Charisma statistic to keep up the charade.

But he definitely was not a powerful sorcerer, an artistic bard or a holy paladin warrior. As a devotee of Tymora, “The Veech” could gamble to his heart’s content. He could disguise himself with magic and make mirror images of himself. That all fit. Alongside all that, he also had this whole “intermediary between the mortal world and the distant planes of the gods” thing going on. He could proficiently battle with a warhammer and could casually turn undead.

After choosing a class, I needed to fill out his stats. Players in Dungeons & Dragons can either roll their scores with six-sided dice or assign predetermined scores to their stats. I wanted “The Veech” to be bad at everything — just a very sad man — except maybe Charisma-based things, since his bullshit being believable made the game more fun for everyone. The predetermined stats — 15, 14, 13, 12, 10 and 8 — all indicate that the player-character is, for the most part, well above the average, which is 10. So I wanted to roll the dice, like my man “The Veech,” hoping he would find no success.

The way you do that in Dungeons & Dragons, though, also assumes higher-than-average capacities: You roll four six-sided dice, drop the lowest score and add up the others. Alas, “The Veech” turned out to have ridiculously high stats in every category. He was as wise as the oldest monk, as formidable as a brick wall. He was persuasive as a seasoned used car salesman and as strong as, well, a guy who was pretty strong. His lowest stat was intelligence, which was just one point below average. “The Veech” was too capable, and we hadn’t even started the game yet.

The Dungeons & Dragons player’s handbook says that it’s fine to break whatever you rule you want in pursuit of a good game with lasting memories. Yet at the core of the role-playing game are some truths: Your character is special, and their class and stats make them more special. There are other role-playing games out there that facilitate overt buffoonery and shittiness, but I wanted it to work for my little man, “The Veech,” in Dungeons & Dragons.

In the first hour of the campaign, “The Veech” spent more time arguing his quest rates up with increasingly elaborate hoaxes than murdering goblins. This was expected. Though as the campaign went on and as I kept trying to up the ante with his ridiculousness, I ended up tapping more and more into “The Veech’s” Cleric-specific talents: Taking a mission off a police officer, he duplicated himself and put on a mustache to pretend he wasn’t, in fact, that “Veech,” a known criminal. In a temple dedicated to a more pure and good god who despises undead, “The Veech” bragged that, in fact, he’d turned a couple undead in his day.

He wasn’t about “ghost ships,” “cursed bones” or “cults amassing increasing power across the realm.” “The Veech” was there to play the fool to my friends’ more focused heroes-in-training, and even if I wasn’t role-playing completely true to his capacities, some of what made him super-powerful made his super idiocy just that much better.


  • When I used to play, we experimented with the idea of kept the character sheets and rolls hidden from the party (GM had copies)… the idea if we liked it the format we could include a sabateour/betrayer mechanic to a story where everyone has their own win condition.

    So I rolled a Thief with the lowest luck and dexterity… one hidden trap turned into a three stooges act as I game failed every roll and no one knew I was Unlucky and Slow.

  • Well, the thing about D&D is that it does let you create dumb characters, but in the end it’s going to be up to your party and DM as to how that shows through. A lot of it comes down to improvisation and creativity and if your DM is good then they’ll know how you want to play and work it into the narrative. By the same token though, if they hate your character they’ll kill them off and make you reroll.

  • You could just, you know, put what scores you wanted to in the stats? They are just scribbles on a piece of paper after all.

    • This. The problem here was the DM either not adapting to or not wanting to adapt to the character concept. The standard char gen process makes heroic chars. The DM should know that the stats for ‘normal’ chars are much lower. More importantly, chars don’t need to be classed if they’re normal. Straight out the gate, a cleric has a mess of spells he can use. Just use the stats an NPC peasant would using, with slightly higher CHA. Easy peasy.

      • People still seem so hamstrung by the “rules” of D&D when the entire point was they were just there to make things fair if you wanted them.

  • There are lots of other ways to roll characters that are standard or semi-standard, anyway.

    I’ve run short campaigns where I made players roll 3d6 for each stat, once, in order (picking their class afterwards) for example.

    Or, if you’re playing 3rd Ed. or 3.5 (these are the only versions I’ve run – haven’t had a game since 5th ed. came out and there was no way in hell we were playing 4th ed.), simply make your character a Bard. Boom, useless. Job done.

  • Wow so many cool d and d stories about characters that do stuff, what an amazing concept.

    Cool post ign thanks for sharing.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!