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Contradictory character seems to mean a character who defies stereotypes or exhibits traits that contradict one another, in a literary sense. I wish to distinguish what I mean from round characters.

Is there a commonly used term for when a player role-plays someone radically different than the player is? Or is the ambiguous "contradictory character" as good as it gets? I'm not interested in potential terms - if there isn't any normally used term for it I'll accept that answer. DMs don't count here because we might role-play almost anyone in a normal game; What about when a player breaks away from their norm and portrays a persona clashingly different from their own?

I'm aware of the relevant psychological terms but alas no clear RPG term.

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You might describe the activity as "playing against type", but I don't know of an accepted term for this in RPGs either. – SevenSidedDie Apr 24 '13 at 1:49
up vote 19 down vote accepted

TV Tropes calls this situation mean character, nice actor (and vice versa). It's quite common in the drama world but doesn't seem to have an established term beyond acting. You sometimes hear playing against type for this, although that's more about a difference from your previous roles, not your own personality.

The specific case of an opposite-sex character is a crossdresser or gender bender.

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Interesting. Yeah, I like mixing in the concept of typecast but it doesn't seem to quite capture the meaning. I am familiar with the different gender portrayal. More focused on personality. – LitheOhm Apr 24 '13 at 2:39
@LitheOhm By the way, I cited TV Tropes because they usually tell you the mainstream name for their tropes where they exist (e.g., a stable time loop is elsewhere known as the bootstrap paradox). They note that the trope is very common but don't offer a mainstream name, which I take as evidence of absence. – Bradd Szonye Apr 24 '13 at 2:42
It would seem our closest candidate then comes from acting. At least it's closer than the literary round character. – LitheOhm Apr 24 '13 at 9:16
+1 we use "playing against type" to describe this, it may not be logically correct but... People often play to their personality as their most common type anyway. – mxyzplk May 30 '13 at 21:30
+1, "Playing against type" is the answer that sprang to mind as soon as I read the question title. – DCShannon Apr 17 '15 at 3:24

The terms I've heard most often are "roleplaying challenge" or a "stretch."

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I've heard "stretch" a few times, usually voiced as, "That character is a real stretch for him, but he's playing him well." – Erik Schmidt May 31 '13 at 22:07

We called it "the Devil's Advocate" character, after the euphemism. One of my friends is really popular with this archetype. He ran a character who rolled such a bad charisma score that he decided to make him a cowardly warrior who couldn't stand the sight of blood. Obviously, while not a great character for combat situations, the gameplay was brilliant and hysterical as one of your sword-swinging companions starts shrieking out like a little-girl "Don't hurt me! Don't hurt me!" (this situation is verbatim).

Having such a polar opposite character (another term; not great, mind you) can be a blessing if the player is all for it, and an experienced player. I would not leave this to someone new to RPGs or to the group. Usually the effect is quite humorous, but many times it was a real pain as a quarter of our party was practically useless at everything except bad commentary and stating the painfully obvious.

Our DM created a feat called "Cowards' Cry" (the opposite of a battlecry) in which, if a coward screamed in terror and the attackers failed a Will check, they would be stunned for a number of rounds equal to 1/3 the level of the coward, in awe of the awesome shriek. This actually saved us a time or two, as it was an area-effect feat tailored for that character alone.

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