On Cannibal Dwarves and Other Character Problems

So, I’m sitting in a living room with a bunch of people I know only marginally, next to a friend of mine that I’ve known for years. This is a role playing group my friend has been a part of for years, and the campaign has been long established. In an effort to speed things along, I’ve inherited a player character, a dwarf, who seems awesome on the page, then I’m told, “And he eats his own kind after they’re killed.”

Um. Okay.  I can roll with that. I mean, I don’t have to play it that way. It’s my character now, and that little oddity was far outweighed by an ability to kick serious bootay.

I should have known, though. I really should have.

We proceed to play the game, and I start to realize that my character’s cannibalistic tendencies are the tip of the iceberg.  The next clue came when the game master brings in a non-player character who is supposed to be the group’s guide, the priest of some god…and he hates everyone.  And I mean everyone.  Come to find out, this guy is the group’s guide because they are cursed by said god for defiling its temple.

I figure, okay, I can roll with that, too. I like non-heroic characters. This could be fun.

And then one of the other players decides that his character is going to go perform basically a home invasion on a farm nearby. A couple of other players decide to go with him, and about half the room toddles off to have their jollies, and just when I think I can roll with that too, the first guy decides he’s going to rape the women at the farm.

Yes. He insisted on role-playing it. And yes, the GM let him.

I don’t know about you, but…seriously?

A few years earlier, I was playing D&D with some friends I’ve known for a long while. The guy running that game was laid-back enough to let us play any type of character we wanted, including non-heroic verging on evil characters. And then he proceeded to try and have a normal, epic-type fantasy campaign that requires characters other than non-heroic verging on evil. Just getting these guys to get together into the same room required one of the other characters to go completely against type (this irritated me). Never mind becoming a cohesive, cooperative group. In the end, we were all fried by a dragon, and some god or another gave us all a choice to either change into lawful good characters or die (this made me get up from the table).

After these experiences, I’ve come to learn a very valuable lesson. Well, three lessons, really, the first of which is never role-play with the first group–like, ever. The second was that role-playing evil characters can be, shall we say, problematic. The third was that forcing characters to behave against their nature is frustrating to the point of uselessness, but letting them run roughshod over you won’t get you anywhere.

The same is true when writing, I’ve found. Characters should always be true to their nature, and if you find you’re having to wrangle them into the plot, it’s possible they don’t belong in that story. On the same token, characters who decide to go their own way and get away from you can easily derail the story and probably lead everyone on a tangent that will mostly likely turn into a giant waste of valuable writing time.

And take if from me. Stay away from cannibal dwarves. Nothing good comes at the end of that road.


5 responses on “On Cannibal Dwarves and Other Character Problems

  1. Evan Braun

    I’ve never participated in an RPG before, and I really want to. A few months ago, a friend came to stay with me who has become a game master with his group back home. Anyway, he just got me *really* intrigued about the whole thing. It sounded awesome. And your post only made me more intrigued. I’ve got to find some RPG buddies of my own…

  2. Leigh Galbreath Post author

    Thanks, Evan. I do have to say that up to the home invasion point, that particular game was pretty fun.

    Though I have to wonder what in those train wreck instances make RPGs intriguing.

  3. Evan Braun

    Yeah, the home invasion stuff… very, very bad. Sounds like you were playing with a bunch of sociopaths. But as for train wrecks, well, they’re horrible *and* intriguing. In the “you just can’t look away” sense.

  4. Frank Morin

    Very interesting. Guess I’ll make sure I know the guys I play the next RPG game with to avoid any problems like that. If I’d been there, I probably would’ve just decided to go brain the guys doing the home invasion. We’ve had games that have collapsed into free-for-alls before – and they can be a lot of fun, if a lot shorter than we might have preferred.

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