View Full Version : Player Character Backgrounds and Players Sticking to Them

9 May 2002, 02:29 PM
In my games, I ask player for a background/history for any characters that they want to play. Included in this is usually a brief discription of the character's personality.

I have a player who created a character, a Soldier and gave me a background for him. The character comes from a family with a long military tradition. The character's personality was discribed as a serious soldier of few words who views most things from a warrior's point of view (ie, always aware of his surroundings, looking far all exits, etc). When the soldier was introduced, the player played his character completely different then he had discribed. 8o His character goofed off, pointed his weapons at NPCs and joked about which was more valuable to the current mission and which was not, his character constantly bragged about his ability to "drop" the other characters before they could react, etc.

The player is new to our group, but has played RPGs for the past 10 - 12 years. Most of the stories that I've heard about other games that he's played invole him having the most powerful character. His current D&D character (in someone else's game) is a human with a "natural" Strength of 21. I think its more then a power gamer thing. I think its an ego thing with him. When he thinks one of the other players' characters has done something fun or cool, he gets slightly jealous. A few days later, he even told one of my other player "You guys hate my character, don't you? You guys think he sucks. ". I'm not sure what to make of all that.

Back to the post...
I reminded him several times with "Are you sure that's what you want your character to do? You said that he was this way....". He'd "correct" things for a few minutes, then it was back to doing it again.

I'm not sure what I should do about thngs. I've thought about just ignoring what he's written out for the character's personality and going with the one he's been playing. Or next time his character acts up, let one of the other players' characters or an NPC "deal" with him next time he threatens any of them.

So, how would you suggest I handle this? Thanks.


9 May 2002, 02:43 PM
The other characters could, if offended by his attitude, confront him with it IN GAME, and give him consiquences for acting like a jerk. The player might take the hint. If your lucky. If not I have had a few players that rubbed the entire group wrong, and had to ask them to leave.

9 May 2002, 02:55 PM
I always discuss the "problem" with the player. Try to do this either before or after the game session, and not in front of the other players, as the offending player will become all defensive if others hear.

Explain to the player that when you have them write up a background and a way for the character to act, that you expect them to try to play close to what they wrote down. Explain that character acting is PART of ROLEPLAYING. Then explain that if the player continues to play the character contrary to what was written down by the player himself, he won't receive appropriate experience for each session.

IMPORTANT: Back up this threat with action. If the next session goes by with the player acting the way you described, when you give out experience or CPs (whichever system is used), give the offending player 1/2 or 1/4 of the amount that he should normally have gotten. Explain to him, when handing out the experience, that he would have received more if he would have played more along the lines of how he wrote up his character. If the player makes a good attempt, and really tries to stick to what he wrote up, don't penalize him. It sounds as if he's always gamed that way, so this isn't something that he'll be able to kick the habit of in a single session. If he makes an honest effort to try to change, don't penalize.

If he tries for about 5 minutes, and then reverts to his old ways, make some sort of reminder in the game for him (ask like you have in the past..."do you really want to do that, it's not something your character would probably do?") and if he still doesn't catch on, penalize him. Eventually you should be able to bring him around to playing to what he writes.

IMPORTANT: Pay attention to other players as well. For darn sure, this player will. If other players don't play their characters to what they've written down, make mention to them as well. If other people are doing it, and this player notices, you'll look like a hypocrite for penalizing him and not anyone else.

Just remember that most players will never play their character EXACTLY how they wrote them, so as long as he's making an effort, that's all that matters.

Everyone's acting ability varies, so it's hard to always stick to what you wrote for a character. Some people, however, have to realize that their basic personality just isn't conducive to play a certain type of "strong silent type" or what have you. Explain this if necessary the next time everyone makes characters.

Disclaimer: There's a player in my group that is almost the exact opposite in personality types, but always writes up his character descriptions in a type that he just CAN'T play. The player is quiet, short tempered, and hates authority. He tries to play characters that are loud and boisterous, brash, or "works well with others". I finally told him outright that he can't play the characters he normally writes up, so he might as well start writing into his character background something that he can play. Since then, he seems to like his character more, as it's more like him, and I don't have to grit my teeth at the way he's playing his character.

Hope this helps.

10 May 2002, 03:35 AM
Yes, yes, to Grimace you must listen.

Talonne Hauk
10 May 2002, 06:33 AM
I used to make my players write up their characters personalities. Now I've found it to be a waste of time. Those players that can and want to roleplay, will. The others won't. Those characters that roleplay receive greater bonuses, of course. But if the whole point is to sit down, play, and have fun, why penalize a player for something that he's not ever going to be good at? It seems counterproductive. Let the players play how they want. Reward those who play closer to how you like. Achieve harmony.

12 May 2002, 01:35 PM
I've found by playing and GMing (DMing also) that when you write out a personality rarely do you play up to that personality. Instead your true personality comes out and sometimes over rides what you want to play. As for background I always leave something open so the GM/DM can develop it later in his own way to be campaign friendly or just make my background real normal to the point of boring so that I can just go with the flow.
However, it seems like you may have a problem with the player instead. You may have to explain to him that you want to run a balanced game which is fun for all. If you have a character that runs around threatening everyone, usually the other players will tire of it and find the game to be too hostile and actually start fading away from playing. Remind him that the game is supposed to be fun and no one is having fun right now, especially you. If all else fails, you may have to jettison him

Just a few thoughts.

13 May 2002, 06:20 PM
Thanks for the advice everyone. I think I'll have a talk to the player to the before the next game. I'll let him know what's happening.

I'll let you guys know what happens.

Bjorn the Stout

22 May 2002, 07:19 AM
For my purposes I think a player's background story should provide a GM with hooks, not define personality. A good background is going to tell the GM and fellow gamers where a character came from, whether he has friends or family that can be relied to provide help, comic relief or serve as a weakness (for baddies to kidnap etc..).

evan hansen
22 May 2002, 08:08 AM
Ooooh! *Great* topic! I didn't notice it before.

Once in a game, it's hard to correct this problem. One solution is to have NPCs confront him at multiple times with similar actions or propositions. If he reacts differently, call him out on it. Tell him that you believe he needs to be more consistent. If he objects, DO NOT spoil your game over one idiot. Just say, "Very well. But before your next game, we're going to have to modify your character write-up to be more detailed so I know where you're coming from."

Personally, I find it most helpful to avoid the problem all together. How? Well, when I GM, I take ultimate control over PCs. I let PCs do whatever they want, but they *must* meet my standards for descriptions of motives, background, history, etc...

There used to be an "interview" form that was floating around the internet. That was a good base, though I used something different. I'll try to recreate something along those lines and post it tonight when I get home from work. Basically, it outlines a process by which you sit down with each player in a session before your campaign ever starts, and you hammer out all the nitty gritty details that all too often disrupt a campaign with bickering and arguments.