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"Snowflake" Characters
Hey everyone,

I'd like to talk about the idea of a "snowflake" character. A snowflake character is one that is built with the intention of being completely original and unique. The desire to do something that isn't cliche or normal, I don't want to be just a human fighter or just an elf wizard or just a halfling rogue. I have spent some time working with a lot of new players over the past few months and I've seen this more than a few times. There are the characters that are so many different things it all becomes a blur, there are the level 1 characters that have backstories a level 20 would be jealous of, and there are of course all the different exotic race/class combinations you can think of.

Here's the thing, having a character be different just to not do the same thing as everyone else has no value to making that character special. There is one main reason, in my opinion, why it doesn't make your character special. It's something that is emphasized in the 5e Players Handbook a little bit, but perhaps not enough. The thing about making a character stand out and really have an impact can be summed up in one simple saying.

"It's not about What you are, it's about Who you are."

That's it right there, if you take a normal, cliche, boring human fighter and invest into everything that makes him who he is. He will stand out in the minds of the party every time against every dragonborn/tiefling/drow necromancer/warlock who's entire village was slaughtered by his own magic sending him into madness and making him hate humanity... but for some reason he is level 1 and still travels with a paladin and does random tasks for npc's.

Now there is nothing wrong with playing a dragonborn, or playing a wizard that focuses on necromancy, or any number of other things that are a bit exotic. What I'm saying is that playing them just for the sake of being different or unique is making that choice for the wrong reason. Some of my favorite characters have, both mine and those of my players, have been those characters that start out as a run of the mill member of society with a few personality quirks. Then through the course of our campaign the things they experience shapes who they are, or fine tunes how they were. I have a very cliche Half-elf ranger in my campaign, he was/is very good at making people not like him because he is not used to being around people. This has led to some very tense game changing moments where he has made things difficult for the party. He also is now, because of things that have happened in the campaign, deathly afraid of fire. These are the things that stand out about him, he is bad with people, afraid of fire, and just a little too trusting of items that are bad for his health. None of those things would be enhanced further if he were any other race or class. 

The other part of this I want to touch on quickly is backstory. Now I fully encourage my players to develop a backstory for their characters. I want them invested in the people they play. I just don't think they should have done more epic stuff in their life than we will probably cover in our level 1-20 world changing campaign. There is a running joke that the most dangerous profession to have in a DnD world is mother, because everyones mother has died. I played in a campaign where after everyone made their characters separate we came together and realized that everyone was an orphan. The party was actually called the little band of orphans as a joke. I don't like telling characters to reel in their backstories a bit, but sometimes you have too. It's not a bad thing if your DM is trying to work with you to make the character believable and fit well in the world, as long as the DM doesn't go too overboard with it. I may be rambling a bit here so I'll sum it up here. In my campaigns I want the interesting things to the party, not to have already happened. That's where the fun stuff is, in the campaign. Not in the backstory, the backstory is there to give the DM some personal stuff to tie in and to give you the player something to base your characters personality on.

So to sum up. Working with your DM to pick a character and backstory is key to an epic campaign, and the epic level stuff happens in the campaign. Thinking about who your character is and why they are that way is always more important that what you are playing. Not every character needs to be a snowflake.

Now just to be clear, all of this is just an opinion. I just hope to maybe give a little advice o some newer players, and veteran players if they want. If this helps out great, if you don't agree or don't want to take this advice, that's great also. The important part is to have fun in your games. If you and everyone else is having fun then you are doing it right.

If anyone wants we could spend some time on this thread kicking around "boring ol cliche" characters and working on ways to make those characters interesting and fun/exciting to play.

Let me know.
I think that a lot of what gets lost in backstories are the small, mundane details that make characters (and people in general) interesting. I have a lot of fun thinking about character's morning routines or what they do on a normal day before they are called to a life of adventuring. Lets say, my half orc might have a typical intelligence of 8 and may like to bash in faces with unnecessarily large weapons but I'm not going to write about that in his backstory. I'm going to write about how he loves to eat strawberry pastries for breakfast and how gets them for free because he makes school clothes for the local children. Sometimes we can lose their character in the larger backstories and it can get to the point where we don't know anything about the character other than "protagonist events" that have happened to them.
My pet hate is people who think it's playing weird prestige classes that make a character interesting even when it doesn't fit storywise or with how the character has been played for the rest of the campaign.
Or how evil characters are always murder rampage psycos? That's another pet peeve of mine. You can be a self serving evil jerk... and still be a functioning member of a party and not kill everyone you meet.

And as for characters and their daily routines I totally agree. For me the personality is first. I try and figure out how the characters will act and what their lives are like, then I hash out the rest. The class and everything is all part of the personality but not the main focus.
~Mental - DM
(11-07-2015, 08:58 AM)mentalburnout Wrote: Or how evil characters are always murder rampage psycos? That's another pet peeve of mine. You can be a self serving evil jerk... and still be a functioning member of a party and not kill everyone you meet.

PREACH. I get so tired of people thinking every evil character has to be the Joker. Steel Brightblade, from the Dragonlance novel Dragons of Summer Flame is a great example of an evil character who still worked with a largely good aligned cast. Granted he did sort of become less evil as the story went on, but at the start the dude was straight-up a servant of the most evil of Krynn's gods, and yet he still valued honor and some trappings of the knighthood's chivalrous traditions, and so stuck to his word to aid the good aligned mage deliver the bodies of his two brothers home.
Or the obvious one. Raistlin. He played in the party doing good things because it served him. He was very selfish and ultimately evil. But he was far from chaotic. His moves were elegant and he had character development, and depth.
~Mental - DM
We have a lawful good cleric wanting to become a Malconvoker completely out of the blue when he's already known to summon celestial beasts to help us and he's always been concerned about risking harm to innocent or good people. I'm finding it really difficult to see why my bard would continue to associate with him if he starts summoning demons/evil hell beasts, very frustrating.
In my time role playing across all manners of table top games, adding up to over a decade of experience, I have found that very rarely does making a character with the goal in mind to be different or unique actually pan out.

Many of the most memorable moments and most believable characters come from the run of the mill and ordinary.  It is the decisions made throughout the whole of the adventure that is communal story telling that molds said character into what they are.  The quirks that manifest themselves are what add up and create the uniqueness and at the end of the day make them special.  Even the most boring human fighter can become an icon that is reference in your groups table top history.

I cannot tell you how many times you'll read someone asking for help creating a character and they neglect giving them flaws. All there stats are 14+ and they are starting with forged weaponry, straight out of the gate.  They come up with some back story about them hailing from a land where their people are the jailers of the damned, and are on a quest to hunt down a powerful occultist that escaped who seeks to sew the vile seeds of undeath.  Oh and by the way, they are level 1.

I would challenge everyone to take at least one negative stat, not to optimize their race + class combination, and just have fun.  Any and all successes will be all the more greater as a result.  When you fail, you fail gloriously and not throw a hissy fit that you are supposedly some master assassin that fell off a roof while running across it (at level ~3).

It is a very common saying, especially in the d&d world, from those who have played the same character for years; but it goes a little something like this... "eventually your character plays themselves."  Meaning that as you play them, and hopefully embody them over the course of the session, adventure and story; the decisions they make become natural.  Their thought patterns, while not like yours, are what you pull from.

If you seek to power game and min-max then go for it.  But try to keep the mindset that d&d is a table top story telling adventure, and no a video game.  Sorry I may have gotten off a little on a tangent.  I would be more than happy to worth with anyone to help them come up with ways to spice up their character.

This. So much this. Resonates everything this post was about.
~Mental - DM
(01-28-2016, 01:08 PM)mentalburnout Wrote: This. So much this. Resonates everything this post was about.

    Lets hope it helps people try said approach or take up a similar perspective rather than the one which is all to commonly shared amongst the vast majority.

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