Single Dimension Roleplayers (and How to Fix Them)  

Posted by Michael Donaldson

Sometimes you run into "one of those guys". It's the guy - almost always male - who makes an endless string of characters that are essentially statblocks with a single, overwhelming in-character trait that their entire character is based on. This single trait could be anything - from a Paladin that yells the word "HONOR" in every sentence, to a Wizard who acts just like Vizzini from The Princess Bride - but eventually it becomes clear that no depth exists and that this character's gags will always be the same.

More often than not this player's characters will be extremely aggressive when roleplaying this one trait, and after the first few laughs a party can quickly become sick of the perpetrator. The problem with this sort of roleplaying (although in my eyes preferred to no roleplaying at all) is that it detracts from the general atmosphere of the game and is very likely to stifle players that have problems getting in character. Newbies who feel very uncomfortable being in character are more than happy to let the Orc Barbarian chest pound to no end about how much he hates elves until the next combat encounter starts.

There are a number of ways to deal with the problem - as a DM and as a player:

  • Talk to Him (Out of Character!) - This option may seem too obvious, but since the offending player is obviously not shy of social situations it may be as simple as casually telling him that he might want to consider adding a little more depth to his character and that, yes, we understand that he enjoys wenches. He probably doesn't even realize that he's doing damage to the flow of the game. (Note: It's important to distinguish this from scolding the character in an in-game scenario - often times this will only feed the problem as the player receives the attention he wants for his antics.)
  • Help Them Develop a Backstory - Sometimes it's not a cry for attention at all - some people just don't understand how to act like someone they're not. Their idea of "someone who isn't me" usually ends up being "me plus one absurd trait". Talk with the player about their past. Sometimes just bringing it up can cause them to think about who they are as a character. As a DM, providing multiple motivational points can give them a variety of interaction choices based on their past experiences.
  • Integrate The Antics - Part of what makes it so easy to get away with making a character that acts in entirely absurd, unrealistic ways is how the DM handles the characters within the confines of the world. What can make single-trait characters so obnoxious is the tendency for their traits to be socially disruptive. Is the character rude? Does he seem to have no idea that his antics are socially unacceptable in the court of the local Baron? Throw him in jail for the night. Reduce his share of the reward. Just make sure the damage isn't lasting or entirely too serious - we don't want him to stop roleplaying or feel unfairly singled-out.
Keep in mind that sometimes players just occasionally enjoy playing absurd characters. This isn't a bad thing - in fact, if done well, can often make for the most memorable moments. Try and keep an open mind when eying your players or peers and give them a chance to add depth before taking it into your own hands.

This entry was posted on October 13, 2010 at Wednesday, October 13, 2010 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Post a Comment