RP Character Guide: Tips for Balancing your Character

An important aspect of role playing is making a nice balanced character. No one likes Mary and Gary Sues, and if you god mod, that’s a one way ticket to Bandom City on the RP wagon. Everything starts with making a nice character, but how do you know if your character is overboard on super powers? What if super powers aren’t even involved and someone still called you out on having a Mary or Gary Sue? How do you know and how can you make it better? All these questions will be answered in this guide, including some tips and tricks to get you into that RP you really want to get in to.

Review Your Character
Sometimes looking through your character again can make some of those things you didn’t see before, pop out again. “Oh hey, this power is far too strong!” or “Wow I made that backstory sound way too much like Batman’s origins…”. Try to find things that may seem far too cliché, or way too stereotypical, and see if you can make some changes so them. It’s okay to play a certain type of character, be it a quiet individual or a bold leader, but don’t copy and paste personalities already made with other characters belonging to other person’s or franchises. If you’ve reviewed your character and you still can’t seem to find why it may [or may not] have been denied from a role play, let’s break the steps down:

Pros and Con’s
Every character has pros and cons, ranging from personality flaws to power drawbacks. It’s important to show both pros and cons to show that you not only have a balanced character, but you know how to use both to add to the story you want to add to. Using cons of your character? You may be asking, as it does seem like a rather odd idea to think of. Having flaws is what makes your character seem more believable, and such flaws can add to how a story progresses. It can add everything from storyline depth, to creating openings to continue the plot, create action and intriguing character development. Remember, no person’s character[s] should know about your character’s weaknesses within the role play. That is called abuse of OOC [Out of Character] information, and is often, if not always, against the rules of the vast majority of role plays. You do not have to make every little flaw about your character known, but if a flaw or weakness is pretty big, it’s probably a good idea to mention it.

You may be wondering how exactly someone goes around finding some of these cons when it’s probably the last thing you think about. What if super special abilities aren’t involved at all and it’s just a normal kind of human being? Not to worry, there is always something you can find!

Chances are you’re going to need to fill this out in every Sign Up for any RP you join. Just to refresh, Personality is the behaviour, mental stand point, and or quirks of your character. How they act, how they feel about certain things, why they hate their sister nibbling their nails etc. From the strong silent types to the bubbly and outgoing, every personality type, stereotypical and non, has its positives and negatives. For example, let’s look at one of my characters, Jingka:

Jingka can be found to be incredibly odd and rather whimsical in the mind. She always seems to be thinking or watching something, though it isn't always clear as to what or why. Jingka is at first, questionable, often talking in confusing metaphors or using old sayings, proverbs, and such. However she has amazing analyzing abilities that let her extract information from just listening, seeing and or observing the slightest detail in mannerisms.
So here we have an analytical character, who is very good at what she does. Her drawback is how she talks confuses everyone else around her unless they are a 60 year old Chinese monk. This makes it difficult for her to express what she discovers to other people. Her positive has a negative. A few more examples could be that a very intelligent person could be lacking in the social skills department, someone who is used to having a lot of friends isn’t able to cope well with being alone for long periods of time. Asking yourself, “Why does my character act this way?” is often the easiest way to find these drawbacks for your characters personality. This way, you can avoid Mary and Gary Sues, and people rolling their eyes at you.

Also, if you’re unsure of how to be original, try mixing and matching some flaws together. Maybe your character has a hard time talking with anyone, even themselves, but they have a good judge of character? No one will stop you from thinking outside the box, in fact it is encouraged! There is a difference between outside the box, and ridiculously so out there we can’t even see it.

Powers and/or Abilities
Powers and Abilities of a character is something that can be a bit more obvious to see as something being over powered or not. Some powers seem to have no drawbacks at first glance though, things such as controlling fire, being able to run really fast, or being able to fly even. However even the most basic of things have natural flaws and negatives to them that are often common sense. Looking at our fire example, say you have someone who can control fire. Setting aside the how, fire itself has its own strengths and weaknesses, such as being extinguishable by water and not all substances can be lit aflame. Also, most often fire has to be present, as controlling fire, and producing flames are two entirely different scenarios.

Since powers, magical or non, and natural abilities have an endless well of options, sometimes people don’t see one ability stronger than another. Sometimes even a simple ability can be seen as overpowered in comparison to what the other characters are capable of doing. Always make sure to check what your character’s capabilities are, and again, figure out why they can do that. Even if you figure out the why, there are times where there isn’t much way around it: some powers are far too powerful and should be avoided to be used without alterations. Such abilities include but are not limited to the following examples:

  • Invincibility
  • Mind Reading/Control
  • Being able to control time
  • Having flawless dodging capabilities
  • Infinite knowledge of things that shouldn’t be known
  • Being able to One-Hit-Kill anything

A lot of thee powers fall into the category of God Modding and people will probably be incredibly unimpressed with you. The above are usually frowned upon in most types of role plays. If your character has some of these abilities, it’s often best to rethink how they work. An example of how to tweak some of these over the top powers is to give it a great limitation. If someone has an infinite wellspring of knowledge, it may take them a very long time to sift through all their knowledge to find the right bit of information they are looking for. Maybe they don’t have conscious access to it all either, only limited amounts while they are awake? If someone can manipulate time, then that takes an incredible amount of energy, so perhaps they can only slow it down for a minute, and only slow it down so much? Special powers aren’t only affected by this as well, natural abilities due to a character’s race, or inherited by some third party, are also affected by these factors.

There is also the factor of, “does this ability make sense on this character?” This part is a grey area that works for both the positives and negatives of ability. If you can make the ability make sense to other people, then awesome job, you’re on the right track. If not, then you’ve got some questions to answer so that the person running the role play, and your fellow role players have a clear explanation of how your character works. If you have a phoenix, a mythical creature associated with fire magic, not be able to use fire, but is associated with water magic instead, why is that? Sometimes you need to explain originality like this so that everyone understands. If you are unsure about someone else’s character, there is no harm in asking questions about it!

Compare with other Characters
Something else to look at is comparing what your character can to, with what another's character is capable of doing. Is everyone a magic user in this world? Are the characters all given the ability to Hulk Smash the way out of their problems? Is Fus Ro Dah going to be a regular thing with everyone? Are they all on the same level of being able to outspeed light and shoot a god dead in a single bullet like Batman? Okay maybe not that last one. Looking at what other characters can do often gives you an idea of how far you can put your character in terms of power. Look at accepted Sign Ups in the Role Play you are about to join to give you the best idea. Often times it will even be put in the Role Play's rules what is allowed, and what isn't allowed. Remember not to copy a characters abilities. No one really likes it when you copy their homework do they? Well maybe if the person was really nice... let's be honest that was a bad metaphor.

If you factor in checking your character against others, making sure your character has pros and cons, and is balanced, you should be alright and on your way to fantastic Role Playing here on Crossroads. Remember:

  • Look for Pros and Cons, and make some if you can't find any
  • Avoid over the top stereotypes
  • Make sure special powers and abilities have a drawback, and make sense
  • Compare what your character can do, to other characters

Let's not forget the most important thing: Ask the person in charge of the role play questions! There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking even the simplest of questions. It's better to ask than to assume, and we're all here to help each other out.