28 August, 2019
Another thing I’ve run into in my more intensive introduction to RP in FFXIV is a lot more “special snowflakes”. People who want to stand out from the crowd so badly that they stick out more like a store thumb than a well-written character. I thought this was interesting enough to look at a little more in depth.
Unique characters are expected
Now, not every character that stands out is bad. In fact, I think that a well-written character should stand out by its own merits in many cases. Most people don’t want to play a faceless, nameless character that is easily forgotten. RPing is a creative effort, and most people want to show off that creativity. Not to say a generic guard can’t be interesting! I think a great RPer could make a guard something memorable because that’s what great RPers do.
But its when the character stands out a bit too much that it starts to overshadow other characters. If that generic guard suddenly sprouts wings and has the might of One Punch Man, well… not only does that beggar belief, but it also starts to make other people feel a bit out of place.
Hogging the limelight without melting
Part of the problem with the special snowflake character is that they want more attention on themselves. RPing is a team activity, with people helping each other to build a collaborative story. When someone makes their character too special, it overshadows other people who don’t do the same thing. Suddenly it’s not about the group story, it’s about how the special snowflake stands out from all the rest.
Worse is when you get an arm’s race between two special snowflakes trying to one-up each other. Suddenly the snowflake has competition! When snowflakes fight, we all lose, because the story has no chance to survive under the weight of both of them.
And this isn’t unique to MMO RP, either. Tabletop RPers also have special snowflake syndrome. In university one of our friends was known for going through the monster manual to make new characters. He wanted to stand out because he was a hill giant more than because he played a character well.
Examples of snowflake characters
In the podcast this week, Maulgrim talked about a character in SWtOR who played a weasel-like character who decided to turn into a weasel demon and crawl through the ventilation system. He said that this distracted all the RPers going “WTF?” to each other instead of telling a story. Someone went beyond the lore of the setting to feel special.
Stick around long enough and you hear stories of “void magic” users in FFXIV. Void magic is a very bad form of magic where you deal with voidsent, creatures from another realm who feed off of life energy because there is none where they come from. The lore has such creatures bound by magic to do great things. But the lore now says such things are forbidden, because of the abuse it leads to and that it destroys the user’s very soul. But that doesn’t stop people from wanting to use it, pulling out the ultimate “I win” trump card with something most people don’t understand in depth. I actually walked away from one combat RP since someone pulled out void magic and essentially said there’s no way to stop them.
The last example comes from my friend Maulgrim again. He plays people who play tribal RP for Seeker of the Sun characters. Sometimes people from other races want to come by and join the tribe, even though the tribe is only made up of cat people. There was a lizard who wanted to join, got frustrated about not joining fast enough, and and then went off to another group. Instead of contributing to the RP and coming up with ways to make the character fit into the group, they wanted the group to adjust to them.
Standing out in good ways
As I said, a good RPer can take an average character and make them stand out without feeling like a special snowflake. One way to do that is to give them an unforgettable quirk. Maybe they swear like a sailor, or maybe they are a saint. Accents can be tricky to do right, but those can help a character stand out. And failing that there’s letting actions define a character; instead of assuming the character is special, let them do something special. Make a risky move and if it succeeds.. then you become known immediately. Even the most average person can become a hero in the right circumstances.
Have you run into any special snowflake RPers?