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Good evening, afternoon, or whatever time it happens to be there, ladies and gents! I happen to be Andy, who happens to be a freelance web designer, musician, writer, and whatnot.

Roman Catholic, student of tabletop gaming, and someday soon I'll have my own designs in the field!

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Death to Teal and Orange

If you haven't heard of the "Teal and Orange" effect, please do behoove yourself and read up on it, also being aware that it will literally tint your entire experience of movie-watching. Whenever this cheap trick is employed, it'll stick out like a sore thumb to you. At any rate, I have plenty of ranting about that, but it misses the real point I'm going to make, which uses Teal and Orange as a handy analogy. For what? You'll see...

What's Wrong With Teal and Orange?
I have a friend who's annoyed by my beef with this coloring scheme. She points out that it's there to provide contrast (blue and orange, in color theory, are opposites), and I don't disagree. The main problem with T&O is this: it's tacky. It shunts contrast to an extreme value, losing all subtlety in a very blunt way. Plus, it locks contrast in: for any given color, there is only one acceptable pair--the exact opposite.

When you think about this, it's very silly. When you allow for pairs beyond the opposite color, you get a much more subdued palette: blue and brown, blue and green, blue and purple, blue and green and brown...you get the picture. Good color schemes go above and beyond the obvious, blending in colors that aren't quite opposites, but different enough to keep things interesting. After all, having sameish colors can get boring or overbearing. So, here's what you should take away from this part: contrast does not mean absolute contrast.

Teal and Orange in the Party
So, what does this have to do with roleplaying games? Well, thinking upon this color scheme, my mind wandered to party composition. The makeup of a party can make or break a game, and a well-tuned party makeup can really help provide a rewarding experience. Where teal and orange comes in is this: relationships among characters can fall into heavily contrasting niches. The wizard is the brains, the barbarian is the brawn; the rogue is lawless, the paladin is a paragon. Even more so, there's the traditional fighter-rogue-wizard-cleric roles, especially as you move into 4th Edition.

I know that many groups eschew strict opposed dynamics, but I think there's still a lot we can learn from the teal and orange fiasco. Instead of making characters that contrast strongly with one another (strong and silent character, for instance, contrasting with the chatterbox), give your characters more nuanced differentiation. Allow for overlap between classes and types, and explore how characters can be both similar and different. Give characters some common ground, or make them a little less extreme, but in ways that work together.

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