Been thinking about this rather excellent observation for a bit. And it’s been awhile since I did a good, old-fashioned listicle here on the blog. Okay, it’s been awhile since I really did much of ANYTHING here on the blog, but I’m a high-school teacher at the end of the Second Semester Of COVIDS and a Dad planning Christmas with 3 school-age kids, so give me a break).
There are always players — and, I think, writers — who confuse characters that are fun to play and write with characters that are fun to play WITH and fun to read. I’ll also admit that I haven’t always been innocent of these. So with that in mind, I’m going to dive right in to Characters That Are Dickishness In Disguise.
The Character That Can’t Be Told What To Do aka Contrarius: Most of these characters are power fantasies (which there’s nothing wrong with as such: that’s kind of what RPGs are for.), and this one is no exception. You kind of get the impression that the player is someone who is never allowed to say “no” to anyone in real life and he’s by all the gods gonna make up for it now. Often comes right out and says, “My character doesn’t like being told what to do,” and every experienced player cringes. It doesn’t matter how good a suggestion that your character makes, or some other character makes, or the NPC giving advice to your party makes, or how good an idea is. If it wasn’t Contrarius’s suggestion, that’s reason enough to fight it tooth and nail. Often, Contrarius gets his way because of Don’t Split The Party.
The Character Who Deliberately Annoys NPCs aka Impertinens: Impertinens doesn’t like it when the party has friends. To Impertinens, the rest of the world consists solely of people who aren’t good enough for the party. Gods help the king or duke or wizard who has the temerity to summon the party, pay the party, or warn the party. They are in for a heaping helping of mockery and abuse simply because Impertinens’s player finally gets a chance to say what’s on his mind. Impertinens can’t really be shut out, because he’s at his most annoying at the safest parts of the game, i.e. when the DM is desperately trying to actually establish a plot, and doesn’t really want to, for example, have Denethor tell the Guards of the Tower to throw Pippin off the Citadel for being an ass.
The Character Who Is Deliberately The Opposite Alignment Of Everyone Else In The Party aka Spoilerus: Spoilerus loves being the party pooper. Everyone else is a champion of law and good? Spoilerus is going to be the chaotic evil sorceror that’s hanging back to eviscerate and torture the fallen. Everyone wants to do a thieving dungeon run? Spoilerus will be the worst example of the stick-up-the-ass paladin, looking for ways to give away the party gold. Spoilerus is basically Gollum, except that he’s not trying desperately to keep the rest of the party safe so he won’t lose his shot at the Precious.
The Character Who Can’t Be Told The Odds aka Kamikaze:
DM: “Okay, you’re squatting outside the Black Gate of Mordor, honeycombed with caves full of thousands of orcs, bolstered by flying Nazgul. The Orc patrol gets closer and closer to your hiding place…”
Kamikaze: “I CAST FIREBALL!!!”
Kamikaze doesn’t believe that anything worthwhile happens in D&D that doesn’t involve attack and damage rolls, and believes that combat is the first, last and only option for dealing with anything. And Kamikaze always has an excuse for fighting literally everyone. They’re too strong? Well, they need to be taken down a peg. Too weak? Easy kill. You’d think that Kamikaze would get his throat cut in short order, but the problem is that he’ll take the rest of the party down with him.
The Character Surrounded By Theme Music aka Energizer Bunny: The Energizer Bunny NEVER STOPS. Is he a rogue? Well, he will steal things all the time. From other party members if nothing else is around. Is he a necromancer? He will animate everything that is dead, up to and including dead squirrels the party runs across. Is he a warrior? He will challenge shopkeepers to duels for haggling with him. The dead giveaway for this character is that he asks the same question in every room in the dungeon: “Is there a <object my character is obsessed with>?” Then he pouts when people get tired of him.
The Character That Hates Another Member Of The Party aka Nemecyst: Nemecyst is as much fun as a huge boil you can’t get rid of. He hates orcs. Or paladins. Or just YOU, because you know more about D&D, or you had an idea the party liked better than his idea, or because Fuck You, that’s why. Nemecyst my plot your death, but is more likely to simply argue with you at every turn and/or degrade your character gratuitously. Essentially, the character is a bully, and often a racist bully at that. Not that there aren’t sometimes moments where being a “racist” in D&D can’t be realistic (being racist against, say, vampires, can be a survival trait), but it sure as hell isn’t a fun thing to hang around.
Of course, confronting the players with these things tends to get a defensive response featuring the chorus, “I’m just roleplaying,” or, “Well, that’s what my character would do!”
If you’re having to say these things more than once a campaign? Yeah, you might want to examine why that is, and whether one of these “characters” applies to your play style.
Your party and DM will be glad you did.