Absent-Minded Professor
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Basic Information

The Absent-Minded Professor is a Stock Character of a brilliant scientist or professor who's terribly unorganized and forgetful. They're also frequently a poor judge of character - they may be brilliant and a master of several disciplines, but they don't understand people.

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Game and Story Use

  • Works great as an NPC, especially a sympathetic one.
    • Players will get the concept right away, during the first scene of interaction. We're all familiar with the Absent-Minded Professor archetype.
    • As a Mentor, he can give you lots of information, invent things that are needed for the plot, and yet be of absolutely zero help in situations that the PCs need to solve on their own. Even though he's a highly-skilled genius, his impractical and forgetful side will keep him from outshining the PCs. He can never be a crutch.
    • When the plot demands he screw up, the GM can make it happen without the players feeling shafted or railroaded. They'll shake their heads, and say "I should have seen that coming."
  • As a PC, this character concept can be a little more problematic, as you're constantly going to feel like playing your character "right" means making sub-optimal decisions. Not only does this mean you have to "be up to the challenge" of playing this character, but you need to consider the rest of the play-group. Some players get really annoyed when their fellow gamers intentionally screw up. If you suspect that's how your group will react, or if you're new to this play-group, you might want to reconsider whether or not this is the best character concept at the moment.
  • Many a plotline can get started by the Absent-Minded Professor screwing something up.
    • He invented a dangerous machine, and forgot to build in obvious safety features.
      • It's even possible he doesn't know how to turn it off. "I didn't think I'd ever want to."
    • The government hired the Professor to work on a project. Now it turns out they want to use it as a Weapon of Mass Destruction, but the Professor intended it as a source of unlimited free energy (or some other altruistic purpose) - and is shocked to realize there might be a Government Conspiracy or Secret Weapons Program at work.
    • The A-M P forgets some important social function, and it causes serious ripples.
      • Perhaps they forgot about the King's birthday - a perceived snub that will cost them patronage (or have far worse effects if the King is The Caligula).
      • They may have forgotten their own wedding anniversary, and are now in hot water with the spouse.

Building This Character

Character Level

  • If just a background NPC for a scene or two, he can be really low level.
  • NPC Mentors, PC Absent-Minded Profs, and characters like "The Royal Physician" or "The Guy Who Invented Hyperdrive" need to be pretty high-level.


  • Mental Attributes are of primary importance for the A-M Prof, but it can be tricky depending on exactly which attributes your game uses. Intelligence / Smarts / Technical should be rated pretty high, but Perception / Wisdom / Wits can be very low.
  • Social Attributes and Physical Attributes should be very low. He's the bookish, academic type.
    • Charisma may be an exception, but you'd just want enough to be love-able inspite of your flaws, not enough to actually talk yourself out of disasters.


Flaws and Hindrances

  • Duh, you're Absent-Minded… If there's any options you can choose that make your character Easily Distracted, Forgetful, Socially Challenged, etc, they'll be appropriate. If the flaws themselves have enough mechanical impact, you might not ever have to make an intentional poor decision while playing the character.
  • It's pretty common for the A-M Prof to be past their prime. Does your game have rules for Aging?


  • A Player Character A-M Prof needs the basic skills and abilities any PC needs to survive, which probably includes at least one decent attack, or at least a way to boost other PCs in conflict. Combat is pretty common in most campaigns - and if you're not actively help win the battle, all you're doing is slowing down the action - so make sure there's something helpful you can do.
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