This is a site for discussing roleplaying games. Have fun doing so, but there is one major rule: do not discuss political issues that aren't directly and uniquely related to the subject of the thread and about gaming. While this site is dedicated to free speech, the following will not be tolerated: devolving a thread into unrelated political discussion, sockpuppeting (using multiple and/or bogus accounts), disrupting topics without contributing to them, and posting images that could get someone fired in the workplace (an external link is OK, but clearly mark it as Not Safe For Work, or NSFW). If you receive a warning, please take it seriously and either move on to another topic or steer the discussion back to its original RPG-related theme.
The message boards have been upgraded. Please log in to your existing account by clicking here. It will ask twice, so that it can properly update your password and login information. If it has trouble recognizing your password, click the 'Forgot your password?' link to reset it with a new password sent to your email address on file.

Author Topic: "problematic" PCs - what have been your experiences?  (Read 831 times)

Arminius

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7270
    • View Profile
    • http://ewilen.livejournal.com/
"problematic" PCs - what have been your experiences?
« on: October 14, 2010, 03:50:23 PM »
Have you ever had a player (or been a player) who created a PC that posed significant problems for fitting into the campaign?

The one that stands out for me was in a game 20-odd years ago that never actually got played, where a friend wanted to create a woman whose reason for leaving home was to search for a lost lover. The story was that the man had shown up at the character's village, badly wounded, and that he seemed to be some kind of foreign knight. She nursed him back to health, he got her pregnant, and before the child was born, he left.

This character was a problem because I had no idea what to do with the backstory--whether to make it resolvable, and whether to fit it into the campaign by placing "clues" or whatever. It was also hard to integrate the character into any conceivable beginner scenario, particularly as the group I was playing with tended to play in a manner reminiscent of published scenarios. That is, there was at least the germ of a plot that was developed independently of the characters, but premised on the basic adventuring tropes that would cast the party as opportunistic drifters or mercenaries. On top of that, mechanically, the PC wasn't very "adventuring-ready" and therefore seemed likely to die quickly. (The rules I had in mind were Runequest, which might be relevant.) And I don't think the player would have taken that very well.

These days I think I'd have several options for making the character work in a campaign, from mechanical stuff like fate points to deciding to use the character as one of the key focuses of the campaign. Looking back, I missed a huge opportunity--she practically handed a set of motivations to me on a platter, that could have been used for anything from epic railroading to a web of factional conflict. But I was stymied.

Any other examples of problems like this, that you either solved, figured out later, or still can't see a solution?

kryyst

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1682
    • View Profile
    • http://www.forgedrpg.com
"problematic" PCs - what have been your experiences?
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2010, 04:18:46 PM »
Similar issues I can't think of specifics.

But 1st level characters that players create 30 years of background information for them that is usually completely ignored because it's so far outside of the planned campaign.  Yet they keep trying to bring it up.  You know the I killed a dragon when I was 16, got disposed of my fathers lands, blah blah blah now I'm a 1st level fighter...

The other type are characters that are mechanically broken just due to some weird combination.  I had a 3e shifter psychic (forget which one) that was just disgusting he so far outpaced all the other characters in power level that unless the GM specifically targeted adventures for me everyone could pretty much sit back and just watch the light show.
AccidentalSurvivors.com : The blood will put out the fire.

Benoist

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 22049
    • View Profile
"problematic" PCs - what have been your experiences?
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2010, 04:21:03 PM »
Quote from: Elliot Wilen;409745
Have you ever had a player (or been a player) who created a PC that posed significant problems for fitting into the campaign?
Not really. I make a point of having at least a casual social meeting (having a beer at the local pub, playing a boardgame, having dinner or whatever) with all the future players before the characters are even generated. We talk about the game, what people want out of it, I throw ideas against the wall, see what sticks, and players start talking about characters they'd like to play. The end result is that everyone's on the same page.

This completely avoids these sorts of situations where you have characters that do not fit the campaign at all.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2010, 04:24:02 PM by Benoist »

Benoist

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 22049
    • View Profile
"problematic" PCs - what have been your experiences?
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2010, 04:27:51 PM »
Though now that I think of it, years ago, I had a bunch of characters in my Paris by Night that were completely out of place. Bozo Patsis and Bubastis Patsis were brothers. One was a Clown and a Mage, the other was a Bastet. Both were Vampire hunters. In a Vampire game.

I allowed the characters, with the understanding that there would be some damage involved. A near TPK but for the last surviving Vampire, an Assamite Antitribu, which basically killed both brothers after a long chase on the highways surrounding the City.

A great game, but a bitter game also. It's just as famous as it is infamous, and usually, when you say the Patsis names with my friends back in France, you can see people shake heads and sigh at the memory.

I don't think I would do it again. But then again, my methods changed since then. See my post above.

Arminius

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7270
    • View Profile
    • http://ewilen.livejournal.com/
"problematic" PCs - what have been your experiences?
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2010, 04:33:48 PM »
Don't know much about WW games, so you'll have to translate a bit. Was that last vampire a PC, so it was an immediate player-vs.-player setup?

Otherwise how did the Patsis brothers fit into the rest of the group? (On what grounds were they working together or whatever?)

But going back to your earlier post, in the pre-game discussions, do you ever see a character concept that's difficult or challenging? Did you have to exclude it, or did you find a way to include it?

Benoist

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 22049
    • View Profile
"problematic" PCs - what have been your experiences?
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2010, 04:50:18 PM »
Quote from: Elliot Wilen;409756
Don't know much about WW games, so you'll have to translate a bit. Was that last vampire a PC, so it was an immediate player-vs.-player setup?
It was Paris by Night. So if you want, an urban supernatural sandbox primarily populated with Vampires, with a whole set of factions, locales and particular NPCs to interact with (I had more than 120 fully fleshed out NPCs at one point, and more now with my NWoD reboot). The new PC basically shows up for the first time in the City, presents itself to the authorities of the region (like the Prince, Primogen etc for the Vampires) and then may decide to do whatever the hell he wants. Investigate the city's mysteries, blackmail other PCs or NPCs, carve a domain for himself within the city walls, and whatnot.

The last vampire in my example was a PC, yes. Assamites are assassins amongst vampires. "Antitribu" means that he was a rebel to his clan and a member of the Sabbat, the huge anti-Camarilla sect of the vampires in the WoD.

Quote from: Elliot Wilen;409756
Otherwise how did the Patsis brothers fit into the rest of the group? (On what grounds were they working together or whatever?)
The rest of the players were Vampires. So right there, you had a Mage and a Bastet (werepanther, actually) who had no ties to their respective supernatural worlds, and were working against all odds together to hunt and kill Vampires as a character concept. So right off the bat I told them "you know what you guys are doing, right? These characters aren't going to survive this session." To which they laughed and said "Oh yes, sure". I mean, they didn't care. And at the time, I was very much in a "I'm completely neutral, and you guys can kill each others' characters so long as you're not asking me to take part in your fights" kind of frame of mind.

And so, the two of them killed all the other PCs of the table save one which basically killed them after a long chase scene in a very Matrix kind of way, decapitating one as he jumped off his bike and sword fighting on the busy highway the second one, finally getting him crushed by a passing truck, if I remember well, and finishing off with his blade.

Quote from: Elliot Wilen;409756
But going back to your earlier post, in the pre-game discussions, do you ever see a character concept that's difficult or challenging? Did you have to exclude it, or did you find a way to include it?
No recent examples are really coming to mind, but talking in broad terms, if I identify a character idea I find out of place or wonder what to do with it, I'm going to say it point blank to the player. "What would you like me to do with this?" or "I don't quite see what we could do with that because of such and such. Or maybe if we tried that?" Usually doesn't take long to agree on basic character concepts that mesh well with each other.

Arminius

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7270
    • View Profile
    • http://ewilen.livejournal.com/
"problematic" PCs - what have been your experiences?
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2010, 04:58:57 PM »
Thanks, that's an interesting example with the vampire killers. As an aside, did the other players have any say, or even input into whether those PCs should be allowed or not?

About the recent experiences, of course you can reach agreement by talking. If you can't think of any examples, I understand, but what I'd really like to hear about is the part that follows "What would you like me to do with this?" or "I don't quite see what we could do with that because of such and such. Or maybe if we tried that?"

Benoist

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 22049
    • View Profile
"problematic" PCs - what have been your experiences?
« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2010, 05:05:47 PM »
Quote from: Elliot Wilen;409760
Thanks, that's an interesting example with the vampire killers. As an aside, did the other players have any say, or even input into whether those PCs should be allowed or not?

No, they did not, though everyone was on the same page in that regard. It was a Vampire: the Masquerade game after all. PCs cooperating or blackmailing, blood-bounding and killing the shit out of each other was part of the deal.

(more about the second part of your post in a few minutes)

Benoist

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 22049
    • View Profile
"problematic" PCs - what have been your experiences?
« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2010, 05:23:36 PM »
Quote from: Elliot Wilen;409760
About the recent experiences, of course you can reach agreement by talking. If you can't think of any examples, I understand, but what I'd really like to hear about is the part that follows "What would you like me to do with this?" or "I don't quite see what we could do with that because of such and such. Or maybe if we tried that?"
The last example of this for me was with my wife. I was basically gearing up towards a very old school sandbox (originally based on Praemal, then becoming the Dunfalcon setting) for solo play with her. So, we're discussing about the game a bit and she starts coming up with the idea of a Geisha. My wife has a passion for Japan, and Geisha in particular. I tell her "well, the setting I'd like to use is really stock medieval in feel. That wouldn't quite fit. What about a courtesan?" We start discussing some more and she is very interested in playing an Asian character. I realized it was important to her, so I decided "the hell with it, I'll find a way to make it work for the game". So she created an adventuring Tian Ch'in courtesan (a rogue at first, then a thief, and later a Fighting Lass when we went with OD&D in the end).

I talk about this is the Jade Lantern Campaign Wish List. This inspired the whole Jade Lantern approach to our solo campaign, which I explain there.

You can also see the influence it had on St. Makhab (and beyond, the Black Abbey) in that thread, by reading the Level 2 Background and the entry for area 1 - Tomb of the Builders.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2010, 05:50:05 PM by Benoist »

Arminius

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7270
    • View Profile
    • http://ewilen.livejournal.com/
"problematic" PCs - what have been your experiences?
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2010, 05:54:30 PM »
Thanks, that's also a good example, along different lines.

Back to krysst, any particular examples of this? Specifics are more interesting and more useful than generalities, even if they seem commonplace.
Quote
But 1st level characters that players create 30 years of background information for them that is usually completely ignored because it's so far outside of the planned campaign. Yet they keep trying to bring it up. You know the I killed a dragon when I was 16, got disposed of my fathers lands, blah blah blah now I'm a 1st level fighter...
What happened then? Did the player care that the background was completely ignored? And by completely, does that mean they never had contact with or drew resources from their place of origin, or people they knew?

Spinachcat

  • Toxic SocioCat
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • S
  • Posts: 13862
    • View Profile
"problematic" PCs - what have been your experiences?
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2010, 07:32:36 PM »
Depends on the group.

Usually, I like to present the concept of the campaign and then I expect the players to build characters that fit into my concept.  I give a page chargen expectations and some backhistory of the campaign.   Sadly, I have learned that few players read more than a page.

If I know the group loves chargen and does a great job creating fun characters (usually a bunch of GMs), then I let them go wild (with encouragement to talk to each other) and then I build the campaign around their characters.  

Also, I make it clear how much backstory I want on characters...and that depends on the campaign, the system and the type of player group.  But I usually want only a single page at maximum.

Arminius

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7270
    • View Profile
    • http://ewilen.livejournal.com/
"problematic" PCs - what have been your experiences?
« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2010, 07:50:28 PM »
Can you think of any particular examples of players coming up with an idea that was difficult or challenging, that you had to shoot down, or which conversely, you ended up bending the campaign to accommodate?

Cranewings

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3520
    • View Profile
"problematic" PCs - what have been your experiences?
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2010, 12:31:34 AM »
I have one player that hates European or Greek and roman fantasy, but I've games with him for over a decade so he puts up with it when he has to. In 3e and pathfinder he will only play a monk.

It is a kind of side project for me to come up with reasons for him to be there. One time a princess summoned him as a bodyguard using a scroll. Another time he was an exiled prince. Another time I had a monastary with eastern monks hidden high in the mountains in the normal game world.

IceBlinkLuck

  • Eternally sleeping
  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 388
    • View Profile
"problematic" PCs - what have been your experiences?
« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2010, 05:22:56 AM »
I was running a RuneQuest game set in Earth's Dreamlands. The players were the real inhabitants of the Dreamlands and not adventurers from CoC who had been transported there and I was running it with the approach of a fantasy RPG with just an unorthodox setting.

One of the players approached me about playing one of the talking cats of Ulthar. At first I was very reluctant, even though the stats were easily available. However, the player had in the past played very interesting characters and agreed that if it was too silly we would just drop it and he would roll up another character.

Amazingly enough it worked really well. He developed as a sorceror and it was interesting to see how he worked with the limitations of playing a cat (no hands, small stature, not taken seriously outside of Ulthar). There were several rather tense moments in Caiaphas where someone assumed he was another party member's familiar. Also because he was playing a cat it gave me even more of a reason to run an adventure or two where they went to the moon to help repel a moonbeast invasion.
"No one move a muscle as the dead come home." --Shriekback

Gruntfuttock

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • G
  • Posts: 293
    • View Profile
"problematic" PCs - what have been your experiences?
« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2010, 06:53:24 PM »
If you set out as GM your expectations for the sorts of characters you expect to see in the game, and what they will be doing - then (assuming you are not too prescriptive) all the players should be on the same page and there should be no problem.

If you favour the collaborative approach to game world and character generation, then again there shouldn't be any problem.

Some people never sem to get it though...

1920s Call of Cthulhu - the GM is worried about characters dropping like nine pins before we find out anything about the cultist's plot.

GM: "I want everyone to roll up two characters."

Player who didn't get it: "I want to play conjoined twins."

He wanted to put loads of points into Sneak so they could "...follow people without being noticed."

He was surpised when the character concept was vetoed.
"It was all going so well until the first disembowelment."