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I have been playing in a couple of campaigns recently as a player rather than a DM, and I have noticed a trend. I build characters that are flavorful in one way or another, memorable, fun characters. Everyone enjoys them, including me. They sometimes have goals and growth opportunities.

However, I often grow bored of a character after as little as one session, and think up another one, sometimes collaborating with my DM to kill off the old one in place of a "better" one. Even after replacing a character in this manner, I sometimes go as far as to come up with an even better idea ("better" being an opinion based on flavor) for a character, sometimes going through 4 or 5 characters in the span of as many sessions.

Has anyone else had this kind of indecisiveness in choosing a character, or dealt with it in another player? If so, how did you "fix" it? Is there a way for me to control my wish to continue switching characters?

I personally believe it is a problem with myself, not the party, or the DM, or the campaign, but I'm not sure what to do about it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello. This is a known problem. You're the other side of this question : rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/44999/… . Hope this helps \$\endgroup\$ – Nyakouai Mar 19 at 12:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the main difference between the issues is that in theirs, everyone had issues connecting with the characters because they kept being switched out, but for me, everyone does connect with the character, I just come up with a "better" concept. \$\endgroup\$ – CollinB Mar 19 at 12:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CollinB I've added that to the question, but there's a difference between "sometimes" and "usually" so I wasn't sure which word to use. Which one is it? Do they have both more than half the time, almost all the time? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 19 at 15:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you WANT to play characters you stick with longer? Or would you be happier if you could play a different one off character every time, you're just not sure if it would work with the game? \$\endgroup\$ – Jack V. Mar 19 at 17:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think its less that I am bored of old ones, and more that I find a new concept more interesting. \$\endgroup\$ – CollinB Mar 21 at 16:06
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I have (kind of) the same problem as you

I, too, like to create new, flavourful characters. Most of the time upon reading, or sometimes spontaneously, I think of a new, cool concept that I'm dying to try. I flesh it out, give it a story, connect it to the game.

But the thing that prevents me from switching all the time from a character to a new one, is that (to me) a "good" flavorful character is one you develop and make go from the first to the last page of its story.

I can't do so in the span of a party. What is gonna happen to the kidnapped princess of the adventurous plumber if I decide to play instead a blue hedgehog? Giving them a story, and goals, and relatives is how I get attached to them and resist the temptation to ask for a new character too often.

Your flavour should support a prolonged exposure of the character, and be revealed in all its epic glory over time. (Otherwise, it's probably not that deep, if you've depleted it in a single session?)

PS: Yeah, the comment linking to the other thread was meant to help you in case you find an answer in it. I was about to reply in comment, and I started arguing and... well, I had an answer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the answer. I think some of the problem is that I have a flavorful character, but without lasting goals. Much appreciated! \$\endgroup\$ – CollinB Mar 19 at 13:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CollinB I'm not saying your characters lack that, just to be clear. As you've replied in comments, they do have some (maybe not lasting enough). This isn't either a completely foul-proof method. Just thought I would share my 2 cents on how I handle it, when it happens to me. Hope it works for you and you have fun. \$\endgroup\$ – Nyakouai Mar 19 at 13:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems accurate enough!! \$\endgroup\$ – CollinB Mar 19 at 13:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ OffTopic: nice reference to Mario and Sonic :P \$\endgroup\$ – Diamundo Mar 20 at 8:40
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I've absolutely experienced this. It's quite possible that I've got it even worse than you. I can never decide what kind of character I want to play and, even if I settle on one for a moment, it won't be long before I change my mind. There's a good chance I won't even make it to the end of the session before I want to play something different!

So how do I deal with it?

For a variety of reasons, I prefer to GM more-or-less exclusively. And one of those reasons is because, no matter how many character ideas I may dream up, I get to play them all, and I can switch off easily whenever I want to.

I realize that you're currently looking for ways to rein yourself in and stay focused on a single character, but that isn't the only possible solution to your problem. You can also embrace your creativity, move over to the GM's chair, and not have to choose just one.


As a lighter-weight alternative to GMing, another option along the same lines would be to see if your group is interested in "troupe-style" roleplaying, as pioneered by Ars Magica. The core idea is that each player makes multiple characters (2 or 5 or however many your group wants) and then chooses a character to play for each session or adventure. This also helps to avoid "why is my tanky paladin a part of this stealth infiltration team?"-type problems, since you can choose the most appropriate character, or the one who would be most interested in the objective, each time instead of trying to shoehorn the same character into every story.

How did you handle XP distribution with multiple characters? Was that basically a penalty for doing this (in that you levelled more slowly across several characters?)

When I've done this in D&D-type games, it's been in West Marches-style campaigns, where it's an explicit expectation that characters will advance at different rates, based on which players show up more often and which characters a player chooses to run more frequently. I have also seen web pages describing troupe-style play in D&D in which the character you play in a given session receives their normal XP award and then you also receive an equal number of XP to distribute to any of your inactive characters; in this model, you could have two characters always advancing in lockstep at full rate, or spread the XP across more characters at the cost of the less-played ones advancing more slowly. And I've talked to people from groups which don't worry about it and give full XP to all characters regardless (or ignore XP entirely and advance all characters based on milestones) so that everyone is always the same level.

In any case, I would never consider it a "penalty", because I don't find it important for all characters to be the same level, but I realize there are others who do. Which method of handling XP/leveling when players switch off between multiple characters will vary from group to group depending on their preferences.

And how did the DM handle the 'switching'? DId you have to say you were using X for Y sessions or did you pick and choose before each session?

Also as part of the "West Marches" model, we ended every game session in town or some other "safe" location which all of the characters (active and inactive alike) could be presumed to be at. When the next session started, the players would then choose which characters to play that night.

Of course, for groups who find it too restrictive to have to end every session in town, you could also choose characters per-adventure rather than per-session, allow switching whenever active and inactive characters are in the same location, or adopt any of the typical methods used to deal with characters belonging to players who are absent on a given night (assume all the inactive characters are there, but just not in the spotlight; a blue bolt drops from the sky and suddenly Alice is standing there instead of Bob; etc.).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How did you handle XP distribution with multiple characters? Was that basically a penalty for doing this (in that you levelled more slowly across several characters?) And how did the DM handle the 'switching'? DId you have to say you were using X for Y sessions or did you pick and choose before each session? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 19 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch - Edited to answer your questions, but I also seriously considered just removing the aside about troupe-style play, since that section is now longer than the main "have you considered GMing?" point. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Mar 19 at 14:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ You might consider submitting two answers. I think this approach is okay, but it may be easier for you to separate them. Totally up to you - but +1 for your feedback and tableplay experience to back it up! \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 19 at 15:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaveSherohman: They're both valid solutions, no need to remove one :) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 19 at 19:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch - Good suggestion on two answers, but now there are enough upvotes that I think I'll leave it alone. I'll definitely keep that in mind in the future, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Mar 20 at 7:42
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Stop viewing level one as the end of character creation

I understand your pain, creating characters and coming up with amazing concepts is heaps of fun. How do we prevent this from being more fun than playing the game with the same character for a long time? I'm not suggesting we make character creation less fun, instead how do we transfer some of that enjoyment to a longer character arc?

Start at level one

Level one is exactly that. It is the start of your charater's journey. Too often we create backstories that are more interesting than the missions we play in, I have been guilty of this in the past. You get bored playing your ex-solider with a tortured past because for them fighting a goblin isn't a big deal. Usually I find that my backstory makes more sense for a level 4-5 adventurer than a level 1 wannabe-hero. By making a backstory full of awesome details we set ourselves up for a disappointing campaign.

Instead create backstories that are a starting point for your character. Don't write a character who already knows all the answers, write the questions and answer them in the game. Instead of playing a "brave knight, fearless in the face of danger, champion of the realm" you start as "a fresh faced knave, out on his first real mission. Hoping he doesn't mess up too bad." During the game you grow from one to the other, this growth is still character creation. Just on a slower scale.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Real characters are multi-dimensional, they can't be described by a single stat sheet or abilities on a page. They have goals, dreams and a vision of the future. Create a character with a driving purpose to achieve something. Then enjoy the journey of getting there.

If you are roleplaying inclined these can be in character goals for story progression. Save the girl, get revenge, obtain the McGuffin, anything of that sort are good. Better are less tangible things, I want to make a difference, I want to be someone my father would be proud of, I want to find myself, these kinds of goals aren't things that you can achieve in a session or two. They are journeys that have no clear end and grow with your character.

If you are more mechanical minded you can make a higher level version of your character. Think about how cool it would be to play that character, then enjoy the process of slowly unlocking their abilities to become the Knight you knew you could be. A word of warning though, this won't work for everyone. You may find that this simply frustrates you as you want to level up faster.

Put more of yourself into the character

Instead of playing characters that you find entertaining or cool. Play characters that you empathise with. Put yourself into the world, what kind of character would you be? Find an emotional connection with your character and you won't be so quick to set them aside. This isn't always going to work but if you put the effort in you may find you really care how this characters story ends.

If you have trouble getting to know who your character is, try using some of the technique that writers use when creating compelling characters. Some that I like are:

  • Interviewing your character; ask questions and answer in character
  • Take a personality quiz in character; not for the result but to force you to think about their personality
  • Cast your character; who would play them in the movie of their life? Why?

I've used all of these techniques in the past, and they have worked to varying degrees. But fundamentally you have to care about the future of your character. If you view character creation as complete once you have filled out the sheet you will play a static character. It's hard to care about the future of a static characters since it's going to be the same as their past. Instead create a dynamic character with a future, a journey to go on, an emotional struggle. Whatever it is make it compelling, and make it fun.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Reading this answer, I was reminded of people (mostly in 3.x/PF) who found they lost interest in their characters because they started by planning out their entire "build" from level 1 to level 20 up front, leaving them nothing new (mechanically) to discover about their character as they played. Superficially, at least, that seems to me like it's contrary to your advice about planning the character's future. How do you see those experiences relating to your suggestions? \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Mar 20 at 7:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaveSherohman I don't have experience beyond my own but I can't play a character if I don't know what is coming next and have to plan the 1-20 journey fully. It is partly the power-gamer in me (That I reign in for D&D to most extents) so there are certainly people who it applies to. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Mar 20 at 12:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaveSherohman "A word of warning though, this won't work for everyone" is my response to that. I have definitely seen the behaviour you describe, for some it works, others it makes it worse. My advice should be summerised as plan a character that has a future rather than plan your characters future. I'm not suggesting you know everything about your character, just have an idea of where you want to go next. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Mar 21 at 2:43
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I love creating characters. As a GM, I get to make all sorts of characters, from evil villains to bumbling, lovable goofballs, for my players to interact with - and occasionally recruit. That love of creating spills over to characters I play as a player, too. I find myself after a few sessions realizing a hole my character has, or wanting to do front-line instead of support, or any number of other things.

What you should do is this: get engaged with your character's future.

  1. Write a backstory. Something with some good plot hooks. Tie your character to one or more of the other PCs (or NPCs) in the game. It doesn't have to be complicated; maybe you're the rogue's cousin, and can share some family in-jokes with him, or maybe you had a part-time job where the paladin trained, and can tease her about her first choice of armor. Or, maybe one of NPCs that died earlier was a friend, and you're taking over his adventuring in his honor. Whatever it is, make it memorable - to you.

  2. Talk to your GM. You've got these plot hooks in your character; ask if they can be used. Offer to let the GM tweak your backstory so he can spring something super cool on you from your past... and also make sure you didn't do anything that disrupts his storyline.

  3. Now use them! That merchant contact? Talk to them! Start a side business selling monster parts, and encourage your team to hunt specific monsters! Squashed a crime ring? Get a contract with the local constabulary, and work on eliminating that ring from every city you pass through! Find a hobby, your own special side-quest, and follow it. Don't be disruptive, just pick something interesting, and work on it.

  4. Play in character. You are keeping this character for a while. What will she do in the next town? The next secluded forest? Get in character, and make her decisions, not your decisions. Maybe she has a fear of being replaced, and will thus make herself indispensable to the team. Whatever it is, keep your character in character.

  5. If you really want to make a new character... do it! - and then hand it to the GM, and see what happens with it from a fresh perspective.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm...not sure what you are advocating here as a solution. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 19 at 20:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch It appears they are advocating making new characters but then giving them to the DM to actually play. Then they can interact with them using their current character. (I did not vote, as I do not know enough to know if this is a good idea or not. It sounds similar to what sometimes happens on Dice Funk, a D&D podcast--usually characters described in the PC's backstory, but also sometimes fun one-offs that are no longer important after that one session. But they also trust each other enough to sometimes let the players play an unimportant NPC, so they may be atypical.) \$\endgroup\$ – trlkly Mar 19 at 21:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ More accurately, it sounds like they're explaining how to make a good/compelling character you want to stick with - and only point #5 says "if you want to make a new character... make it, then hand that new character to the GM to use as an NPC". \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 20 at 4:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast The question was "how do I stop making new characters", and the best way I can think of is to become invested in your character. If you really, really can't stop making new characters, go ahead and make some, but don't give up on your own character to do so. \$\endgroup\$ – ArmanX Mar 20 at 5:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ArmanX: I understood; I was just clarifying your suggestion to the other commentrs, who seemed to have interpreted it slightly differently. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 20 at 5:20
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Play them in one-shots

I have had this problem in the past as well. I love storytelling and creating characters that tell their stories right along side me. Its the creative writer in me and when I'm not DMing my PCs tend to have this same open ended flavor...but then I get bored, or I find an idea in literature that is just itching to have me create an analogue.

Our party decided to start running some one shots and I found that it gave me the license to create the fun characters that I wanted to try out without the pressure of having to stick when that character through thick and thin. Running one-shots also gave our party the opportunity to try new DMs out, new games and play styles. It was a fresh look at gaming and when we came back to the standard campaign we were all a little more jazzed to get back to the main storyline. I also had gained a bit of perspective and distance from my character and had fun running that story again as well.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder! It also gave me a chance to playtest alternate styles and stories which also improved my play on my main. Win-win-win!

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Invest in your characters from the get go

The best way I found to deal with this issue, both in myself and my players, was to start off invested in the character. If you care about who your character is in the world and their family, friends and goals, you are less likely to jump on board of a different stat stick.

To do this, you (and potentially your GM) need to approach your character from a more narrative angle. Set aside your dice and character sheets, and think about who he/she is.

Create Backstory

  • Grab a map of the world and pinpoint where they were born and what growing up there meant for them. Save a ( not necessarily just ) mental picture of that area. Ask yourself how much your character is reminded of home by the new places that they travel to.
  • When a major geographical / political event occurs around your area, ask yourself how your character feels about it. Are they maybe worried?
  • Have parts of your backstory present in your adventure!

Build cornerstones

In Vampire: The Masquerade(V5), in the character creation section, every new vampire has to have some human acquaintances that they care about, each one representing a value that they hold close at heart to hang on to their dwindling humanity.

What this feature does is force you the player to create a character that is intimately and intrinsically a part of the world of your adventure. So build relationships. (You will need to work with you GM on the who, what and where since they control the NPCs)

Set Goals

  1. Why is your character taking a part to the plot of your campaign?

  2. What do they hope to get out of it?

  3. Do they want to open a bar, and need some form of privileges? Contacts?

  4. Are they in it for the fame?

    Setting personal goals, and actively working towards them during your sessions is bound to give you something to look forward to that is about that character, and you can't get it by playing some other character in the same campaign

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you elaborate on your cornerstones point as it applies to 5e? Have you ever used it in a 5e game to help with this problem? Since that is not a standard rule for character creation in 5e I think it is worth talking more about the point. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 25 at 13:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Especially since, in 5e, this would likely involve working with the DM to create this NPC if they wanted to make it part of the world. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 25 at 14:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose Actually, it sort of is, since the character is ideated before the dice are rolled if we look at the character creation section. (Though I wish they had put character background earlier than character class ...). What Mister Amen describes is almost exactly how I have created each character in my D&D 5e campaigns. This answer is a nice way to port in a useful feature from another game during character creation by working collaboratively with the DM. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 25 at 14:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I get the logic behind it and think it is sound. I am just interested in actually hearing their details and results about how importing this technique worked for them in a different system. Not every good idea translates well between systems and sometimes details about how you import the idea can be very helpful for someone looking to do it themselves. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 25 at 14:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose he opens with how he does this at table. That's in the first paragraph. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 25 at 14:12
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The advice so far about having goals and intending to develop a character beyond the initial idea through play is sound, but to add to that, I recommend a character Backlog.

  • By backlog I mean this: a collection of characters that are ready to play in future, and specifically a personal rule about the length of time that they must be on the backlog before you allow yourself to play them.

Your situation is slightly unrelatable to me in the context of games and character creation. I actually get very attached to the characters that I create and am happy to play (and even re-play) them time and time again. However, with a slight change of context, this has a very familiar ring to it.

I love a good project and I always intend see them through, but I find coming up with and starting them so much fun and so rewarding that the next one often seems more tempting than this one! One way that I stop myself from dropping each project to start the next one that's burning a hole in my mind-pocket is by keeping a project backlog.

I have a number of projects (some of which are RP campaigns) that sit, often partially started, in my mind or on paper or whatever. And purely to stop myself from dropping every project that I start, I won't ever start one that hasn't been floating around in the idea aether for at least a good month or two.

As much as it makes my brain itch to not start each project, the backlog helps to keep me focused on my current project, if only because I'm still scratching my creative itch, and because with each idea I feel like "I'll definitely do this one eventually" even though I never start many and some are cannibalized into other projects!

And while my projects often end up falling off the face of the earth, in your case, you can always inject characters that have sat in the backlog for too long and may never graduate to PC into your campaigns as NPCs if/when you GM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ By character backlog do you mean just catalogue them ready to play in future? \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Mar 20 at 12:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri That's exactly what I mean, but specifically with a personal rule about the length of time they must be on the backlog before you allow yourself to play them. \$\endgroup\$ – Brent Hackers Mar 20 at 13:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ I actually do this, but I keep my backlog down to 2 or 3 characters, but I don't (Much) have the problem in question. I actually suspect this may make it worse, because the root of the issue is poor impulse control, but for some people it is a good idea. I can't vote for it, but I won't downvote it either. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Mar 20 at 13:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Brent, I took your comment and serious bri's comment and tossed it in to clarify what you mean by that. If Bri had that question, other readers/users will want to know what you mean also. (And I do the same thing!) +1 (Please edit again if I didn't get your definition just right). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 25 at 14:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I see the sense in that and you got it spot on. \$\endgroup\$ – Brent Hackers Mar 26 at 10:00

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