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tl;dr I think one of my players is appropriating a character I've had since 2012, is this ok and if not can I get some help?


I'm running a new system that quote-unquote "came out" in November (tl;dr we got a starter kit, no character creation rules - everything's homebrew). It's a superhero themed RPG - you know, comic books, nemesis stuff, etc. So if some of this doesn't make much sense, that's the context.

One of my players has been really kind of forceful about one of the NPCs. The NPC in question is a werewolf berserker character, to give a short-hand: she fights people because she enjoys it, and she's kind of rash but knows how to control herself despite her rules. I've been working on her since... 2012? She's a problem but not in the same sense that several of my other NPC plans are - she wouldn't aim to kill the players and she's almost friendly despite the fact she's being paid to be an antagonist.

I ran a test to see if I could even really GM (I still don't feel like I'm doing a good job lol), and since then this one player got very 'attached' to the werewolf NPC. He kind of thrusts on her his own agenda/characterization and tries to twist her into a being that's falling to her instinct for the sake of being a foil to his own PC who combats her instincts. He also uses said twisted characterization to imply the two should fight frequently and often when asked to explain he uses an old, phased out character trait of Werewolf Girl that I brought up in passing once to justify himself, as well as a currently non-canon scene to our campaign that was from the test campaign. It came to a head yesterday and thus why I'm nervously posting here - he, out loud, wondered what it would take to break her despite the fact he acknowledged she wasn't his character.

He is, by the by, playing a hero character in a Superhero RPG.

At worst during sessions, this guy is your standard inactive player who doesn't do much unless prompted and honestly comes off like he doesn't pay any attention. I don't want to player kill, but I also feel steadily uncomfortable with the fact he downright implied he wanted to maim an antagonist for what comes off as "just because", coupled with his constantly confused behavior as if he doesn't quite understand what's going on. I believe he's new to pen and paper RPGs, so I want to know what I should do about him. Any advice?

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closed as unclear what you're asking by T.J.L., Sardathrion, Anne Aunyme, Wibbs, indigochild Jan 31 '18 at 16:44

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth asking why you're not having fun. I think you need to state why it's making it not fun for you. And do you mean by "appropriating" simply that the player is making statements you have judged to be non-canon? \$\endgroup\$ – Doctor Kill Jan 31 '18 at 16:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems to be a rambling wall of text, rather than an answerable question. Maybe there are two questions here... One about "appropriating" a character and one about the player's behavior. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Jan 31 '18 at 16:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ I read: "One of the player intends to torture a nearly nice NPC just to know how she would react, when he is supposed to act heroic." Is this a good sum up of your issue or did I miss something? \$\endgroup\$ – Anne Aunyme Jan 31 '18 at 16:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you new to tabletop RPGs? That is, the question says, "I ran a test to see if I could even really GM," yet you say that you've "been been working on [the werewolf girl NPC] since 2012." Folks can help you more if they know how much GMing experience you've had. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 31 '18 at 17:14
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Best I can tell, a player is making statements about an NPC that the OP (GM) judges to be inappropriate. It is not clear why you (the GM) think these statements are inappropriate. It is clear that you have become attached to this NPC, and have a certain amount of resentment toward players who make unfair statements about them.

Let Them Think What They Want

It is not within your authority to dictate what a player or a PC thinks about, or says about, an NPC. It is within your authority to make the NPC respond to PC behavior in whatever manner makes sense for that character. More importantly, only you have this authority. No player can make their statements about your character true without your say-so.

Use It to Your Advantage

More to the point, the fact that your players have vehement opinions about your NPCs is in itself a good thing. It means you've made a memorable NPC that the players want to react strongly about. You can leverage this toward a memorable campaign, especially if you use this NPC as a villain.

The player has certain preconceived notions about your NPC. That's fine. How much fun would it be if you decided to subvert their expectations? If they think the NPC is evil, what if the NPC is secretly working toward a good purpose, e.g. protecting a group of unarmed civilians, or leading a resistance against the real Big Bad.

Head Canon

You mention that the player keeps referencing back to facts that occurred in a test campaign, which were changed for the current campaign. You can talk to the player and tell them why you changed the NPC's traits, and how you want the NPC to be characterized.

But it's difficult to let go of past information. After all, all of you spent some hours of your lives establishing these facts. For the slate to be wiped clean, in whole or in part, invalidates some of their time spent. It's like a reboot of a movie series. You can't help but think of these "new" characters using the old characters as a reference. For example, when Vampire: the Requiem came out, it was very difficult for many to think of the "new" clans which used the same names as the old ones, without remembering their old characters.

So, the point here is just be understanding of the difficulty in wiping the slate clean.

Don't Become Attached to NPCs

Your NPCs lives are forfeit. Protecting one of them can lead to a situation of unfair adjudication for a GM, e.g. when they become upset that the PCs don't like their NPC, or have succeeded in killing the NPC. NPCs should serve to move the story forward, not be put on a pedestal. Follow the principle of Be A Fan of the PCs. This game is about the them, not your favorite NPCs.

Squick

If torture is not fun for you (makes you feel uncomfortable), it's in your authority to take it off the table as a PC option. It can be the sort of thing that happens elsewhere in the world, but is not done to, or by, the PCs. Or it can be the kind of thing that does happen, just doesn't ever happen "on camera". Ideally, this is a conversation between everyone at the table, GM and players together.

See these related questions:

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A player has no control over NPC behavior

Even in games that give narrative tools to players, the GM can always veto anything a player wishes to establish (that is not a direct action of their PC). A PC can state anything in-character, it will not make it true. As GM, you are in absolute control of NPC-s. Regardless of his statements, you can have the NPC show up and clearly not behave according to his claims. You can have other NPC-s state their observations too (eg. a newspaper or police inspector). After a while the PC in question will seem delusional or paranoid if he holds onto his ideas.

If the player brings up anything along the lines of "but she would not do that", you have every right to state "yes she does". This is not even an argument (and should not be). The GM has the authority to declare NPC choices and actions.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is not a hard rule of games, it depends on the kind of game you're playing. Many games do indeed allow/encourage, either with rules or with recommendations, letting the players guide world/NPC decisions. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 1 '18 at 0:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk It'd probably be helpful if OP had mentioned the game system they were playing. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Feb 1 '18 at 4:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk Guiding and deciding are not the same. I do not know of any system that would let a player overrule a GM on issues like this one. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Feb 1 '18 at 9:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Then you’re not familiar with the various games that do! Shadowrun:Anarchy is a large press example. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 1 '18 at 13:48

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