Every D&D session I take notes on situations that lend themselves to good posts. Usually these center on issues either with the rules or with the other people at the table. Yesterday I got to add a whole new category. You see, I played without my character sheet.
I didn’t mean to. I took my character sheet out of my d&d bag to look over something and update my character builder file. But I never put it back. Somehow I also removed my power cards from the bag too. Since it’s been 4 weeks since I last played I assumed I had everything. Of course, I could have asked the DM to print it out since I emailed her the character builder file (which is also on several of our group sites). But by the time I realized I couldn’t find my sheet the game was already underway and I was too into it to halt. Plus, I didn’t really expect any combat since we were down 2 players. Once again, I was wrong.
The whole session was both a freeing and stressful. There is something about the visual constraint of boxes on paper and cards. By not having the numbers to fall back on, it forced me to think more in line with my characters’ motivations and not his abilities. Usually I look to my character sheet for a way out of a situation. For example, if I have fire-immunity I might try to impress a NPC by walking on hot coals. Without that ability staring me in the face, I instead can go back to “my character is adventuring to save the family farm from foreclosure” and instead try to impress the NPC with a tale of woe or my impressive knowledge of the tax codes.
The other nice thing about not having the sheet: I tried to avoid die-rolling situations. In a combat with a big bad NPC I ended the combat sooner with an intimidate check because I used up all the powers I could remember at that point and didn’t want to make something up. I also asked general knowledge questions instead of ones that would require me to look up what skills I had trained.
I was also stressed about mis-remembering stats or powers. My goal was to only use things where I was confident the number was in a range of +/- 2. Which looking back at my sheet, I pretty much was. It would have really helped in the fights for me to have had my daily powers, but we survived anyway. The Psion was a boon and a bust in this regard. Since that class has power points instead of encounter powers, I wind up using my at-will a heck of a lot so I remembered them very well. The downside is that since it is only a playtest class, my printout of the Dragon article was in my folder with the character sheet, instead of in the rule-books that were in my bag.
Anyway I learned some interesting facts about myself, my game style and my group by playing without my sheet.
- I have a pretty good head for numbers. My initiative was off by 1 (did not affect the combat). I made an intimidate check at 38, but should have actually been at 35. That’s made up for the fact that I was giving enemies -2 penalties that should have been -3’s and I did about 3 less damage on average per attack than I should have.
- I really let my character’s stats influence how I play him. This stems from my desire to maximize success at every opportunity. In the future I’m going to try to dial it back a bit and make decisions more in line with the character’s motivations instead of his abilities.
- While some of group seemed a bit annoyed at my unpreparedness, nobody was willing to say anything, so I got away with winging it.
If your GM is willing I say everybody should give this a try at least once. Just don’t all do it at the same time and make sure you know your character’s scores really well. Even better advice: stash a copy of the character sheet online somewhere and keep a print-out in your car.