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I've been playing a character in a long running campaign (2+ years) that consists of a relatively large number of players (approx. 6 regulars and another 2-3 semi-regulars). Due to the number of players, the GM introduced a player who is more or less the 'leader' of our party. This was mainly because in the beginning we would take a long time to come to a decision, so it fell to our 'leader' to sometimes make an executive decision on what to do next. This leader is seen more of a first amongst equals and has had his decisions challenged in-game on more than one occasion by other characters which has led to some nice role-playing.

Early on, I made the decision that my character would respect the authority of this leader and have been playing this way for a while. The problem now however is more related to me as a player instead of my character. The leader knows he can rely on me to take his orders (and follow them!), however this sometimes results in 'boring' gameplay for me as a character. For example, due to being a mage/bard, I am generally asked to stay behind/cover the rear when other 'sneakier' characters go on investigations or on cracking skull expeditions because I am 'reliable'. I am often overlooked unless some magical ability is required of me. My character has above average abilities in areas other than magic (rogue related mainly) - in fact, the only area where I cannot hold my own is melee combat.

The question is, how do I change this situation whilst still staying true to my character? Openly challenging the leader of the party would be seen as dramatic change to my characters behaviour.

I didn't tag the system as I don't believe it is relavent, but for the record, we are playing using a homebrew version of Rolemaster FRP and MERP

N.B. I am not happy with the question title but could not think of something else! Suggestions appreciated :)

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After the leader gets killed (however that happens) let your character become fanatically dedicated to exacting revenge for their fallen lord. –  Joe Feb 25 at 20:41
    
Your character may follow orders, but that doesn't mean you can't suggest alternatives that are more appealing to him/you –  Mooing Duck Feb 26 at 0:06

7 Answers 7

up vote 27 down vote accepted

My first rule of changing something you don't like about the game...

When you'd like the game to change, talk to the group.

Take what you just explained here and explain it to the group... you feel like you're getting the short end of the stick and would like more interesting duties once in awhile. I would be surprised if they reacted badly.

If you really want to keep this in the context of the game...

...have your character do the same thing with the leader. This is exactly what I deal with at work... I have to sit down with my boss and explain that he's giving all the "interesting" work to junior members of my team while relying on me to keep the infrastructure running by doing the "boring" stuff. It's not a challenge to authority, it's just pointing out that the leader's decisions have side-effects that he's probably not aware of. You really don't want your "trustworthy and reliable" guy to become "disgruntled guy" when he's supposed to watching the party's back, and a good leader (or manager) should recognize that. (And if your character is bored, it might not be so dramatic a shift for him to start resenting the leader's decisions.)

It's basically the same conversation, except you can have it in-character and get some interesting roleplaying out of it. And if the leader doesn't get it ("But you're the only one I can rely on!"), I expect the players still will and you can have that out-of-game conversation if necessary.

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+1 for talking about the issue out-of-character; I've seen whole parties almost fall apart because players didn't think to discuss in-character issues away from the game table. –  GMJoe Feb 25 at 3:11

Loyal Does Not Mean Mindless

Your leader may say to hold the back lines, but if your character (via your own ingenuity) comes up with a good idea for how to use his powers then bring it up. You can be the 'voice' of the leader in social situations, you could suggest your abilities as a non-violent way to infiltrate an enemy castle, and all sorts of things that relate your skills to the task at hand. Yes you're reliable, but you're also a PC and as such you have a mind of your own and should be expected to apply problem solving abilities to the game. After all, leaders can't keep all their trustworthy people back and send the wild cards in. Someone reliable needs to keep an eye on their interests.

You Are a PC, Not an NPC

I think a discussion with your GM is the way as suggested in other answers. As a player, even support roles require a bit more activity than you might write them off in an actual story/show/movie. This is because you still have to be there the entire time as a person when your character is idle and thus it seems you're watching the game pass you by. You don't need to be brash to be in the action, but who knows? Maybe the enemy ambushes your party expertly and the attentions of you and another magic user have to be split between previously single front objectives.

Conversely... Pick Up an NPC

This requires some GM prep but maybe you should create an alt that is prepared for the more active roles and thus when your bard/mage gets put on standby you have a proxy NPC (that you shouldn't be too attached to) to take the reigns of until you can resume your character for more dramatic events. So assume control of that faceless soldier Carbon Spears when the party is on a mission to thump some craniums and plant a spear or two. Is this a perfect or permanent solution? No. But it is a tactic I've used on occasion when players insist on splitting up no matter what I say.

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Maybe you want to introduce a change in your character's personality.

Talk with your DM and your leader. Explain your situation. Maybe all you can arrange some events in the game that lead your character to be disappointed with your leader (I call these things good metagaming).

If you don't want to arise a conflict between players, maybe some traumatic experience leads your character to change his behaviour. Maybe a woman despises him for being just a follower.

Another option is to wait for a mistake of your leader and overreact to it. Then, your character starts to question his leader and if its ok to obey the orders blindly.

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I don't know the specifics of the game system, but it may be interesting to have your concerns as a player mirrored by your character. The character, itching to do more, might start developing his capabilities in new directions so his talents wouldn't be so easy to overlook.

Carl's suggestion to talk to the "leader" is excellent. You may also want to see if you can bring some in-character discussion between your character and other members of the party, such that they start realizing how much of a burden being "the reliable one" has become. In time one or more of them might start stepping in from time to time to take on the necessary but less stimulating tasks. The out-of-character discussion would be about how perhaps it's time for some of those characters to mature a bit. That way it's less about you and your character and more about the party as a whole.

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Just because you are loyal doesn't mean you are capable. ;-)

(I'm talking about the character here.) It could be interesting for you to have your character full of good intents, but misinterpreting orders or having bad results at whatever he does.

Just make sure that all the players are aware that your intentions and those of your character are not the same (you wouldn't want them to think that you want to sabotage the game), and that your GM is OK with this (and that he will let you choose to fail).

Your character may lose some charisma in the process, but this can lead to good roleplaying and fun situations.

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I suppose it depends on what you feel is the bigger problem - that you're left out making tactical decisions, or that your character isn't seeing enough action. The latter case is simple, just speak to the leader (probably out of character) and ask for more of a role in combat.

To the former, my response is maybe the obvious one: you, the player, are fed up with the situation in spite of having made a choice a long time ago you wanted to stick with. Therefore why is it unreasonable for your character to have the same feelings? In general it would be good to unpack your character's thoughts and motivations for loyalty in the first place. Were you hoping to be recognized a second-in-command or receive a greater share of the booty for your loyalty? Are you bound by a code of honor or conduct to be loyal? Whatever it was, perhaps it's time for that to come into conflict with your character's expectations or other obligations; some of this may involve coordinating with the GM, but some of it doesn't.

Another thing is that your character need not turn traitor overnight (although if you are playing the stoic, quiet type, you could just reach you boiling point abruptly). You might start out by being a little bit disobedient or making suggestions. Then if your desires continue to be unmet, you can be a bit more contentious, gradually escalating things instead of all at once. That is possibly more realistic, and makes the relationship between your character and the leader a dynamic one.

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You could be tasked with escorting a particularly annoying and troublesome prisoner safely back to their family in return for hostages held by them. Your loyalty would prevent you from reneging on the task, but the prisoner might easily try to kill you at any moment, or others seeking to dispatch summary justice on the rogue might come into conflict with you. You would have to potentially fight people who are also loyal to your leader's cause, to defend the prisoner, who you hate & who hates your leader, because your leader has ordered you to take care of them.

(Yeah, I'm thinking of Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones, but there are other examples of this trope)

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