It's What My Character Would Do!
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**By **

The Colonel

Under normal circumstances the cry of "It's What My Character Would Do!" is one to strike fury into the hearts of most roleplayers - coming, as it usually does, in the deathly hush after one of the players has just had their character do something highly disruptive to the progress of the game. It's generally considered to be a mortal gaming sin on a par with attempting to seduce the boss monster … but is this really the case?

Red Flag means danger!

All too often, fury is the appropriate response - by default TTRPGs are a collaborative experience and it is incumbent on all participants to either make an effort to participate or to go and find something else to do. Many of the characters that would do … whatever it is … are like that because the player who created them has not made the effort to ensure that they fit into the party and/or the setting. Edgelords and murder hobos are common offenders in this regard, as are other expressions of social deviancy, but otherwise functional characters who simply do not belong in the campaign can also achieve this - whether the four-colour high fantasy paladin in a grimdark thieves world, or the combat adverse immoral rogue in a two-fisted heroic fantasy. Even a character with modern attitudes in an archaic world can disrupt play. In short, it is the player's responsibility not to create characters who would do things that disrupt play.

So raise the scarlet standard high!

By default TTRPGs are a collaborative experience, but as it says on the tin they involve ROLEPLAYING that is, playing the role of an imaginary person. As above, it is incumbent on the player not to create a character that is inherently disruptive to play, but unless you are content to operate something that is little more than a combat-role with a sheet of associated stats (not thinking of any particular RPGs…) then that character should also have a personality. Again, if that personality is going to consist of anything but wet cardboard, there will occasionally be things that that character will balk at, and situations where they will respond to violence. Likewise, the aforementioned stats should have a bearing on a character - if they have, as generated, the intellect of casu marzu, playing them as a rational, analytical person who takes carefully considered actions is bad roleplaying, however much it benefits the party in a gamist sense. It is not reasonable, immersive or beneficial to expect a character to always respond in the manner which is optimal for the resolution of the game plot. This is not an excuse to paddle your douche canoe across the gaming table - as above, it is the players responsibility not to create inherently disruptive or incongruent characters (and the GM's not to build unreasonable hidden surprises into the setting that make an apparently reasonable character incongruent) - but neither must (or should) a player be expected to "play" a faceless cypher solely dedicated to the mechanical success of their group.

Further Game and Story Ideas

  • Some systems can actually build elements of character in mechanistically - if you want a bad tempered, violent character the system will allow you to buy these aspects as character flaws, and not only trade the points for some benefit, but actually have a valid reason for saying "no, actually my character headbutts the guard in the face". It may derail gameplay from a purely meta perspective, but in a very real sense, it is part of the game, in the same way that a series of lousy dice rolls might be.
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