Much has been written about player types. GM guides describe various kinds of players you might find at your table, gaming blogs and websites group player personalities based on similar traits, “What kind of player are you?” quizzes abound on the internet. Even the classic gaming magazines, such as Dragon and Pyramid published articles discussing player types or “classes.”
This post talks about Character Actor, the player who lives for being someone else.
There are many types of Character Actors. Some like to play the same type of characters over and over (like the player who only plays elves). Some like to recreate their favorite heroes or cool protagonists from fiction and film. Others tend to create the most tortured existence possible for their characters, and still others just like to “crawl into the heads” of their characters and be someone else for a while.
Many Character Actors love research and will spend hours scouring the Internet and reading books to help them create a character that it “authentic” to the time and location of your game setting. He may even dress like his character would, as best he can. You’ll often find he speaks in his character’s “voice” by using his accent or word choices. He Character Actor I knew created an entire slang vocabulary for her character.
A Character Actor’s in-game actions will be what he believes his character would do, regardless how tactically sound they may (or may not) be. He may have difficulty compromising his character’s actions for the “sake of the game.” When creating characters, he will often pick unusual combinations of abilities or odd powers.
These choices will be based not on what would give his character the best combat or skill advantage, but on what he thinks his character would know and what fits the backstory he’s created for it. It’s not unheard of for a Character Actor to create a PC with high scores in “useless” skills, such as History, Art, or Academics, but without any combat ability . Character Actors often love to create oddball characters, then write a backstory that justifies or explains their choices. Police your Character Actor’s choices as carefully as you would your Power Gamer’s. Remind him that without some combat ability, his PC won’t survive long enough to find his lost brother, discover the history of his family’s cherished artifact or whatever the character’s super-objective1 is.
A Character Actor is surprisingly easy to accommodate in-game: just give him a chance to be his character for at least a little while each game session. He will likely enjoy a games sessions where the dice don’t even come out of their bags, as long as there is plenty of character interaction, both with NPCs and other PCs. Have the local shopkeeper ask how his younger sister is doing or let some townswoman ask after the health of his pet or animal companion. You may not even need a whole lot of input from the NPC–most Character Actors love to have their PCs talk about themselves. If nothing else, you can always start a conversation with “What’s a nice girl (or boy) like you doing mixed up in a situation like this.” You’re likely to have more difficulty ending a conversation with a Character Actor than starting it.
Things to do and not do.
- Give him a chance to warm up to new players. Character Actors live to talk to people in the game, but many are quite shy in Real Life. It’s likely to take him a while to feel comfortable around new people. Let him interact with the other PCs first; once he’s comfortable with that, he’ll be more comfortable interacting with the other players.
- Use the people from his character background. This is a player who will be thrilled that his PC’s younger brother comes around asking for a loan, or his mother gets word that the PC was wounded in battle and arrives with chicken soup and information about a “nice girl” he can settle down with. Player may not sound thrilled, but usually that’s only because he’s speaking in character. Ask him about it afterwords, and he’ll probably tell you he absolutely loved it.
- Give him frequent chances to roleplay. Allow you Character Actor the chance to take center stage for a little while. Small but frequent “spotlight scenes” tend to work better than occasional longer ones.
- Give some control to the player. The next time he asks what a particular NPC looks like (particularly one that’s not important to the game), say: “You tell me.” Let him be a co-creator within the boundaries you set up and will probably find your minor NPCs become easier for the players to tell apart and remember.
1Super-objective: The over-arching goal of a character that governs his actions and choices; the one goal that the character dedicates his life to completing
This is an excerpt from the GM’s Field Guide to Players, the up-coming book from rpgGM.com.
- Dealing with the Socialite: a Casual Player Type (rpggm.com)
- Rules-Lawyers: Dealing with the guy who has all the answers (rpggm.com)
- Interpersonal Relationships In-Game (dicemonkey.net)
- 13 Ways to Keep Good Players (rpggm.com)
- Cheating Players: 8 Ways to Deal With Character Sheet Cheats (rpggm.com)