Take the 2-minute tour ×
Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have had problems in the past with players who are serial character creators. What I'm referring to are the players who cannot seem to stick with a character more than two sessions at a time without finding endless reason to complain about, dislike, or grow bored with their current character.

I'm guessing the common causes are boredom, dissatisfaction, or simply a short attention span. The effects, thus far, have been players never connecting with the other players or their characters because they know the player will stop caring after a few session or will switch; and it leaves me not wanting to bother creating plotlines for them.

So what are some solutions or compromises that could be proposed to such a player?

share|improve this question
1  
Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/24420/… –  AceCalhoon Jul 24 at 21:54

6 Answers 6

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I can understand switching to a different character once, like, you didn't understand the system or the campaign, and you didn't realize what kind of character would be a good fit for you. But repeatedly doing it, after just a few sessions?

It's time to sit down with the player and have a hard talk.

"What do you want from this game? Here is what we're doing with the game. The other players are on board, and getting what they want from the game, so it can't change too much to meet what you need, but it's clear you keep changing characters because you want something that you're not getting. What is it? We might just have to accept the fact this game isn't what you want."

If the player isn't getting what they want, and it's impacting the rest of the group, it's really better to not play with this person. It may be they don't know what they want, or it may be that they'd be better off playing with another group that will give them what they're looking for. But it's very clear your group isn't providing it and it's wasting their time, and for your group, wasting your time as well.

share|improve this answer
3  
Some players have the most fun creating new characters on a regular basis. It may not be a case of a player not finding what they want, so much as it's a case of a player wanting to change up characters on a regular basis. –  AceCalhoon Jul 24 at 23:03
5  
-1 for 'this game may not be what you want' right out of the gate. Step 1 is 'what do you want', step 2 is trying to give them what they want, step 47 is 'maybe this isn't for you'. –  Jack Lesnie Jul 24 at 23:50
3  
I'm not sure why this question is getting such a bad reaction. If a player is trying to play in a way that's incompatible with the style of game that the GM is running (assuming all the other players are happy with that style) and they're doing so in a way that is making the game less fun for the other players (and the GM is a player in this context) then that has to be addressed. I don't know about @JackLesnie's 47 steps; I see three: You try to accommodate their play style; if you can't, you ask them to change their play style; if they won't, then maybe they shouldn't be part of that game. –  anaximander Jul 25 at 8:21

I am this kind of player. I know it all too well, and more than once my GMs have talked to me about it.

In my case, I "grew up" with DnD power-gamers, the types of players who dedicate themselves to creating the most powerful character possible within the rules, often bending said rules all the way to the breaking point. As a result, that's how I know how to build characters: power-gamer style, sometimes game-breakingly so.

The problem for me is that I'm not a power-gamer -- I'm a role-player. I play for the narrative, not merely1 the dice-rolling with maximum possible bonuses. When I create a character for power-gaming, most often I have no concept of "who this is", and thus fail completely to connect to it from an RP point-of-view -- which leads to me getting bored and scrapping the character.

When my GMs spoke to me and discovered this, they sat down with me and together we figured out a character concept I wanted to play -- one that I could connect with RP-wise -- and then helped me power-game it within that concept (this part was so that I could actually contribute, as any character that wasn't power-gamed in these games was basically just scenery). In most cases this ended my constant character-switching.

The takeaway here for you isn't that your games are for power-gamers and your character-switching player is an RPer. I can't know either of those things. The takeaway is rather that you should sit down and talk to this player and find out why he does this. Maybe he's a power-gamer that feels ill-fitted to your RP-centric game; maybe he's a (non-power-)gamer here for the dice-rolling who gets bored in your RP-centric game; maybe he's an RP gamer who finds himself unable to connect with his power-gamer builds.

The point is that sitting down and talking with him is how you figure out what the problem is. From there, work with him to solve it, up to and including potentially helping him build a character he'll be happy sticking with -- or, if he's just that type of player who constantly likes trying out new things2, maybe it's time to politely suggest he find a group more amenable to that -- or else adapt to it yourself, for instance by crafting a plotline for the group as a whole that explains their high turnover rate, and/or accepting that this player will only have generic plotlines fitting for whatever character he brings with him today, or no plotlines at all (this should be part of your discussion, of course).


1 I don't say this to disparage this play style, just to differentiate my own from it.

2 In other contexts I'm this player, too -- in Skyrim, for instance, I have a dozen characters, only one higher than level 20, because I constantly stop one to try out a different type of character.

share|improve this answer

I would recommend figuring out what he wants from the game, instead of trying to make him play the game your way. Maybe he isn't interested in having plots revolving around him, or in building up a narrative around his character. Perhaps he enjoys being the guest hero of the week.

In that case, plan around him changing characters. Let him know where the game is going next, so that he can be the 'local hero' for the small village there, or some bounty hunter taking care of business in the region, or a wizard in the area hunting down a rare ingredient for a magic item. Make a one-shot story around why he's there. Let people look forward to who will be showing up next and what local story will be showing up, instead of just feeling like he's never part of the story.

share|improve this answer

Inevitably the best solution in these situations is

Talk It Out

If you've been experience a common problem at your tables but haven't been actually asked the players what's up (as alluded to when you say "I'm guessing"), you're failing in one of the primary duties of the GM; which is to make sure everyone is having fun. Now, it might be that this player is just a poor fit for your game style but you can't know unless you talk about it.

If, by chance, you find that the player simply has lots of character ideas that they're itching to try out or something similar, give this a try...

Play a game that supports it!

There are a number of games that support the idea of playing multiple characters, or even have a system-explicit lack of ownership. This will give you the opportunity to experience how this play style can still be used to develop a story and also give you an opportunity to encourage the players to go back and give an old character another try. Here are a couple of examples.

Specifically, Capes is a great game for this kind of gameplay. The default setting is a super-heroes game but the core mechanics are exceedingly light and easily hacked to fit other games. Players are still free to play a single character as much as they want (at least in theory) but your other players may find they enjoy the opportunity to "step outside themselves" once in a while.

Ars Magica has a setting geared around European mysticism and encourages "troupe-style" gameplay, where each player may control one of several personal or "pool" characters depending on the requirements of the scene. Letting the "problem player" handle creation of new "pool" characters as they come up (with supervision, of course) could go pretty far toward satisfying the players creative itch.

share|improve this answer

When I've engaged in this, it's usually because I've made a series of NPCs.

When not thinking, I tend to form character requirements for maximum conflict-safety. (Not to say invulnerability within the mechanics of combat, but boring characters who don't want anything and thus have no reason for drama or narrative engagement.) Thus, because they are boring, they are boring. Serial recreation can be a desire to be not-bored without attacking the source of the problem.

It took me quite a while to admit to this tendency, even when confronted by it. My recommendation therefore is before the next character is made, sit down and work out the requirements for the character, by focusing on the narrative-dramatic1 2. Once the narrative-dramatic requirements are there, then work out the mechanical requirements to support the narrative requirements, then build the character jointly. By weaving in reasons to care and reasons to want through the mechanics of the character, they grow richer, more interesting, and are given means to interact with the story.


1 See the chat here for a particularly frustrating example that may resonate.

2 Brian Ballsun-stanton, Samuel Russell (2012) Constrained Optimization in Dungeons and Dragons : A Theory of Requirements Generation for Effective Character Creation.

share|improve this answer

Player Satisfaction

Generally character remodeling is a symptom of either dissatisfaction or boredom, both of which indicate the player is not receiving what they wish to receive from the game.

Talk to them about their expectations, and also look at your own GMing skills, especially in things like spotlight time and player agency. If necessary, do a quick theme/genre list to see if they are interested in the same things as the group or different things than you thought they were.

Sometimes players want vastly different stuff to the rest of the group. Other times, they lack the required social skills to play a cooperative roleplaying game.

In that case, no matter the character, they will not work in your game and their is no real solution to the problems they are having.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.