'Outer Worlds', Dungeons and Dragons, and the joy of roleplaying in RPGs
I only started playing Dungeons & Dragons little over a year ago, but as my experiments with tabletop role-playing games blossomed, it fundamentally changed the way I approach all role-playing games. This sounds like a no-brainer, but having created perhaps a dozen different D&D characters in the past year, something changed for me when I began the character creation process in hot-new-video-game-of-the-week The Outer Worlds — and I’ll never go back.
Just like Obsidian’s beloved Fallout: New Vegas and more recent entries like Fallout 4 and the online Fallout 76, The Outer Worlds offers the tantalizing promise that you can be whoever you want in an enormous sci-fi world full of danger and excitement. Because most of my roleplaying game experience growing up came from railroaded Japanese RPGs like Final Fantasy games or the binary of Mass Effect’s paragon vs. renegade system, I had very little genuine role-playing experience until I began playing D&D.
When I played Skyrim, Fallout 4, or even when I created my first D&D character, I defaulted to a “Basic AF” character build. I was always the good guy, the hero who would rush into any conflict with a flashy weapon, ready to meet every challenge head-on. But I never did beat Skyrim or Fallout 4. Is it because I set myself up for a bland, repetitive video game experience? Given how much I’m loving my weird Outer Worlds character, the answer is clear.
Given my affinity for first-person shooters, my gut reaction with The Outer Worlds was to invest everything into Intelligence and Perception attributes under the Mind category, boosting my skills with guns and the damage they’d deal. But then I thought about how it might transform Outer Worlds into just another first-person shooter for me, one with combat less exciting and more repetitive than polished shooters like Overwatch or Destiny 2. What if I really role-played this thing?
Almost on a lark, I instead dumped everything into Charisma, chiefly Temperament, which drastically increased my automatic health regeneration. It also made me extremely adept at lying, persuading, and intimidating people.
In my very first encounter with a human being in The Outer Worlds, he was wounded and hiding in a cave. I lied to him, saying that I was the rescue party. Then I bullied him into giving me his money and weapons. Then I blew up the tanks blocking the local wildlife from infiltrating his hideout.
In the same session, I bluffed my way into forcing a few local soldiers to fight the nearby raiders for me. When I chastised one soldier for being rude to me, she gave me the contact information for her superior officer!
Why wasn’t I always playing Fallout and Elder Scrolls games like this?
I have my D&D experience to thank for this drastic change in how I approached a new video game. It came from watching my high-charisma friends interact with the gaming world as “The Face” of our parties.
D&D has you typical party roles like tank, healer, and DPS (the damage dealers), but “The Face” is another one that will usually overlap with at least one other role. Typically a bard, rogue, or even a sorcerer, these characters have the highest charisma of anyone in the group. They can talk the party out of dicey situations with pure guile, or coerce non-player characters into doing things for them. Any Face with compromised morals who disregards laws and their own conscience can have a lot of fun being an agent of pure chaos.
In D&D alignment terms, my Outer Worlds character is a high-charisma chaotic neutral bard-inspired woman who wants to disrupt the status quo in big ways, coercing her way through the solar system one calculated lie at a time — and as a result, I’ve never had more fun in a game like this before..
The Outer Worlds is currently available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC with a Nintendo Switch release due at some point in the future.