The Unhelpful Roleplayer

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A while back, on the old Iwaku I wrote a series on various God-Modding tactics that people should avoid. That is lost now, so I decided that, for recreation's sake, I would rewrite it in the hopes that people would actually care, branching out a little from God-Modding to cover other aspects of roleplaying that slow or halt progress altogether in a narrative.

First off, some disturbing character types. It's completely okay to use most of these character types, but they can often be overdone to the point of being obtrusive. Also, I will use masculine pronouns, but these archetypes can be either gender.

The Unruly:

Maybe he had a troubled childhood, or maybe he was bullied, but whatever the case, this character is bitter about authority figures and other people in general, and feels no need to tolerate these annoying jerks who keep telling him to play along and be nice. In extreme cases, his goal might be to drag others down with him, making them depressed and angsty as well. Most attempts at kindness towards these characters will be repaid with insults and whining, and anytime another character acts with hostility towards him, he'll make it his life's goal to exact revenge, oftentimes to a much more extreme level than the original hostile action.

If played incorrectly, this character can make the narrative lean towards him, sometimes interrupting the plot entirely so that everything suddenly becomes about him. In the worst cases, this character might outright refuse to follow the plot, or even attack people who try to make him follow along. Oftentimes, players who purposely abuse this archetype will just claim, "It's in character for my guy to do this. I can't help it." However, that's just an excuse. There are hundreds of ways to justify a character playing along with the plot, and therefore you shouldn't blame the character for your own unwillingness to cooperate.

The Schemer

Sometimes, players want to have an advantage over other players in a plot where they have no choice but to work together. Enter this archetype. In this form, a character is written setting up situations where he'll have a bigger piece of the pie. Either through hogging all the powerful items for himself, threatening to destroy a plot-important artifact unless he gets what he wants, blackmailing other characters to make them do what he says, etc., he manipulates his way into a position where the only way to give the other players a fighting chance is to remove him from the story altogether.

While there is no problem with making an ambitious character, the big problem with scheming to be advantageous over your comrades is that the plot tends to be less important than gathering power to yourself. The most extreme form of this character type will actually scheme to destroy the leader of the party so that he can take control of the plot and lead it anywhere he wants. As mentioned above, characters of this sort are best removed from the plotline, as attempting to compromise with them or reason with them will barely work. If their power is taken from them, expect them to whine and, like the Unruly, attempt to take everyone down with them.

The Chaotic

Being evil is fun, sure, but if you're going to act evil, you'd better expect that others won't be comfortable around you. This character archetype is unquestionably wicked, killing other people in front of his comrades or joking about performing heinous acts, but then is surprised or offended when the rest of his party is taken aback by it. The character sees nothing wrong with what he's doing, and keeps on doing it, but still expects to be part of the team. Sometimes, he'll even perform something heinous against a party member, but thinks that he'll be forgiven if he stops it or apologizes for it.

This character is a bit of a mixed bag. While he can be used for comedic effect, in a more serious setting, people will very rarely tolerate his presence. If you do use a character that's unabashedly mean, expect people to call you out on it, otherwise you'll end up delaying the progression of the plot while people have to deal with a wild card in their own ranks. That's time wasted that could have been better spent with going to the next chapter or even concluding the whole mess.
I love it. >:D I want to see more of your stereotypes! I'd inject with a few of my own, but that'll have to wait until I'm not intoxicated with cold meds.
I think I'll shift gears a little, and talk about certain powers that, while valid, can be abused for not-fun roleplay times.


This is kind of obvious. If you've got a character who can read thoughts or transmit thoughts into other people's heads, then there's the high risk of removing all dramatic tension by letting you single out the villain in the first post of the story. Obviously, there's a bit of build-up missing in that approach. In some cases I've seen, the telepathic character has had the ability to know every attack about to come at him, and dodge everything effortlessly. Or in some really nasty cases, telepathic characters have made their foes either stop fighting completely, keep on missing their attacks, or kill themselves.

The big problem with telepathy is that unless you want to keep asking permission left and right, you can't use the ability without invoking at least a minor form of God-Modding, because you're not allowed to control other people's characters unless the GM or the player allows it. Naturally, this means that if people don't want to cooperate, everyone will have mental conditioning designed specifically to block it, making the power either too powerful, or completely useless, with there very rarely being any middle ground.


Let's be honest here, nobody likes to kill the same identical enemy a hundred times in a row, and you ought not to force the same thing on a player. When you clone your character, it means that beating you will have no satisfaction to it, because you'll just come back and force your opponents to go through the same grind all over again, especially if you keep your phenomenal powers even after cloning yourself. Other areas in which this power applies involve sending in a body double, an identical twin and creating robot doubles.

Another big problem with cloning is that it cheapens your character considerably to give people the realization that any dramatic death scene won't count. A death scene should have closure, a sense that something intense has just transpired, for better or worse. When you make roleplaying life like a comic book, all that people will say in response to a death scene is, "You are dead. 10 seconds to respawn."


Obviously, getting hurt is bad, especially when you're in the middle of a frenzied sword fight. So how do you make sure that your character won't tarnish his girlish looks by the end of the battle? Why, give him a force field, of course. This is the perfect solution to all those pesky bullets and blasts of magic that are the regular happenstance of combat, and allows you to continue doing your awesome but improbable sword fighting without interruption. Or you could just skip the whole shield nonsense and just make everything miss you by a mile because you're just that awesome.

The problem with having a shield is that if you don't define how much power it can take or what it blocks, you're effectively just making yourself invincible, and who wants to read about a character like that? People want challenging opponents, sure, but there's no entertainment value in watching a guy flex repeatedly while shrugging off atomic bombs. If you must have a personal shield for any reason, consider having it short out after absorbing, say, half a clip of assault rifle ammo. The scars from the other half will go away eventually.

Being Very Very Very Rich

Because how else are you going to explain having your own personal fleet of battlecruisers with giant laser guns and a built-in minibar? Having a large air armada, army, and/or navy makes for some amazing fight scenes, to be sure, but there's a considerable logistical problem inherent in many of these big groups of husky guys with giant guns and powered armor: outfitting a whole army of these dudes would require either purchasing the components from a supplier for a ridiculous sum, or making them yourself in a large plot of land dedicated solely to factories, power plants, and fleets of supply trucks.

The major beef I have with this power is that most people seem to think that super soldiers grow on trees. Whenever the plot calls for it, they just churn them out at an infinite pace with absolutely no regards to how they got there, how they're staying supplied, where the communications arrays are for talking to home base, when the soldiers stop to eat, drink, or do #1 or #2, and a number of other issues that real-life armies have to keep in mind. I'm not against armies, per se, but there's got to be a really good justification for their existence.


This is a very flexible power, and therefore very easy to exploit. The following powers are usually assumed to fall under necromancy: stealing people's souls, creating sentient darkness (often tentacles, for odd reasons), raising the dead as your servants, and raising yourself from the dead in the off chance that somebody kills you. Most of these powers can be twisted towards unfair ends, especially considering how in most RP's that allow necromancy, there's typically a high body count.

One good rule of thumb is that necromancy should follow logical rules of exchange. If you kill Farmer Bob and raise him as an undead soldier, he will not become Ultra Omega Death Mecha Zombie Bob. He will still just be Zombie Bob, because he had no power as a human. Similarly, it should be a considerably larger strain of will to turn a powerful or strong-willed human into an undead being compared to Farmer Bob there, meaning that you can't just kill one of the party, instantly turn him, and sic him on his old comrades.

Finally, necromancy shouldn't fall into the same pitfalls as the guy with infinite resources. Unless your character actually is shown overturning a graveyard or two, he shouldn't spontaneously be carting around a load of skeletons. On a similar note, undead warriors wouldn't have working weaponry with them, as it would have become completely dulled or worn away entirely if they were buried with it, so you'll have to raid an armory if you want your skeletons hauling around cool-looking swords that do anything more awesome than forcing your foes to take a Tetanus shot.
This lays so many of my fears to rest. I'm always worried I'm being to assertive in a rp then winding up going the opposite road and not being any good to the plot cause I'm just standing around waiting for someone to talk to me. Thank you for this reference!
I have to say, Telepathy and Shielding are the two I've had player issues with the most. x___x Shielding especially, because people don't want to take a hit and have their character be injured or even lose a single fight. Which... doesn't make for very dramatic scenes. A character that goes through the whole roleplay always being the victor and never getting a scratch doesn't really BUILD that character. It's way more awesome when they have to struggle and earn their victories. >:D

Telepathy just ticks me off. I have no problems with telepathy as a power for characters (I've even used it myself) but people keep using as an excuse to allow their characters to know "omgimportantplotdevice" WAY too early in the story, and effectively cock-block any drama developing. If Luke knew Vader was his father in the first fifteen minutes of the movie thanks to the force, it wouldn't have been near as awesome. >:[
Here are some more powers and weapons that I forgot to mention the first time:


I consider this power to be either incredibly cheap or hilariously useless, depending on one important factor: Whether or not the other players are clued in to the fact that what they're seeing isn't real. There's a distinction there between players and characters. Characters can be not clued in at all, so long as you make sure to include at least a brief mention of there being illusions afoot for the players to see.

There's a problem with this power, and it's that it barely ever works without people complaining about it. You see, if you mention that it's an illusion, 9 times out of 10, everybody will immediately make up an excuse for why their character can easily see through the lie, making the power completely worthless. But if you don't mention it, and only reveal that it was an illusion all along after the players stumble into the trap, then they'll accuse you of making up stuff as you go. It's a no-win situation, and so the best way to use illusory power is to either find a bunch of people willing to cooperate with you, or simply not use it at all.

Unusually Specific, Ambiguous, or Impossible Weaknesses

Every character's got to be weak in some area, right? Most RP's don't accept characters who don't have weaknesses listed, because they want to make it balanced and fair. So what's an aspiring power-player to do? Why, make his weaknesses so arbitrary or unusual that it's highly unlikely that he'd ever encounter something he's weak against in the course of the RP's plotline. He's allergic to mushrooms, so he never eats any and makes sure to discard mushrooms beforehand. He's weak to laser guns in a medieval setting. That sort of thing.

Most of the time, GM's require their players to provide justifications for their weaknesses, or even prohibit any weakness that doesn't seem to fit in with the plot or the era. This is a very good idea for all GM's. An even better idea is to encourage players to make their weaknesses fairly broad. For example, having a character weak to being chilled rather than weak to being tossed into a frozen lake. That way, you allow other players to make their powers broad as well, otherwise it leads to:

Ridiculously Specific Powers

There's a tendency in all roleplayers to have an ability that they can use to combat other players if the plot calls for it. It might never happen, but it's good to prepare for it. So how do you negate one of the aforementioned bozos who is only weak to, say, having copies of Mein Kampf thrown at him? Obviously, you have your character equipped with a copy of Mein Kampf at all times. He's weak only to Hawaiian girls? Surprise surprise, your new character is from Hawaii, and female.

While this sort of reaction is perfectly logical, just because someone else is being silly doesn't mean you have to lower yourself to their level to compensate. Instead, let the matter be known to the GM, and most of the time, they'll take care of it.


I'm not against poison. I'm actually a big fan of poison in stories. Watching a hero fight on through intense pain creates truly stirring moments and allows the character to demonstrate his strength. However, most people don't seem to think that poison works that slowly. In most occasions where poison is used, it seems to be assumed that if even one drop of poison gets into your bloodstream, that's it. The fight is over, and you should just commence with the uncontrollable spasming.

With these people roaming around, it's no wonder that players don't want to get hit. By forcing other people into a situation where it's suicide to follow the standard pattern of "Miss Miss Hit," you're effectively limiting players' ability to create dramatic battles. Moreover, this expectation that poison is an instant KO creates problems for people wanting to use it legitimately, because nobody will allow a hit, causing that person to be as ineffective as it gets. As a rule of thumb, it's good to define what your poison actually does so that players can be at ease when facing off with you.
Uh, can these things actually happen in practice? Iwaku seems like the sort that would immediately court marshal such a RPer.
Iwaku is very good about these sorts of things, actually. For most of the time I've been a member, players have stayed honest, and GM's have been very competent. I'm mostly discussing roleplaying in general with these.