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In our group, where three of my friends and I play, one of my friends—let's call him John—always plays characters like himself, and always the same class: a swordfighter with psychic abilities.

John has been playing himself for 2 years, through 4 parties.

  • We have tried to convince him to change the class, to have a different atmosphere around his character. He said, that this is the only class that interests him.

  • We tried to have some roleplay practice night, where the GM assigned some predefined roles for a quick roleplay game. In one of these games, he had to play a fat butcher with some predefined traits: gullible, stupid and strong. He upright couldn't play it, stating that he "thought of everything there is, but he is out of ideas". We tried to encourage him with some ideas, but he rather not played it.

  • We tried to be forward with him and told him, that he plays himself, bringing up situations where he reacted the same, the way he talks (trying to sound "deep" and concerning), that he is always plays polite (except when woman NPC is around). But he denies it...

  • It's like he only likes to focus on solving the quest, rather than playing the quest.

All of this wouldn't be a problem if his character would be fun, but it is not that case.

How can we help him accept that he plays himself, and help him be open about trying out other characters?

In short

I feel like he didn't improve his roleplay while roleplaying for two years. How can I make him see that by trying things differently, he will improve?

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You offer three non-definitive clues as to why John always playing a particular character type is a problem (emphasis mine):

he is always plays polite (except when woman NPC is around).

And it's like he only likes to focus on solving the quest, rather than playing the quest.

All of this wouldn't be a problem if his character would be fun, but it is not that case.

There are a lot of things to unpack here, but in short, it sounds like you do not consider John to be a fun or pleasant person to be around, whether or not he's playing a character. If he's always playing himself, and characters based on himself are rude to women, bossy, and unfun, the implication is that John is rude to women, bossy, and unfun.

Let me first say that you cannot make a person play a game in a way they do not want to play. At best, you can force temporary compliance, but it's likely to lead to resentment and even worse behavior.

People play RPGs for a variety of different reasons, only one of which is to roleplay a character different from themselves. If John's motivation for playing, and/or the way he gets his fun from the game, is to be himself but with fantasy powers, then John is doing exactly what he wants to do and has no reason to change. Whether or not he might enjoy a different way of playing is irrelevant. After all, you might enjoy his way of playing if you tried it, but you likely wouldn't appreciate John trying to change how you play.

All that said, it sounds like the actual problem here is that you do not enjoy playing with John. Your options, therefore, are pretty straightforward:

  1. Remove him from the group. If the rest of your group agrees John is not fun to play with, but continues to hang out with him, you're probably suffering from one or more Geek Social Fallacies. You're not obligated to hang out with someone who is rude and unpleasant to be around.

  2. Politely tolerate him. If you are the only one who dislikes playing with John, and the rest of the group genuinely enjoys his presence, and you otherwise enjoy spending time with this group, you may need to accept his presence. This doesn't mean you need to be buddy-buddy with him, just polite.

  3. Remove yourself from the group. If you don't like being around John and can't be polite to him, but everyone else enjoys having him around, you may need to find a different group to play with. This doesn't necessarily mean ditching the entire group of friends - just that you'll need to find other activities to do with them that don't involve John.

You cannot force John to change how he plays. You can only change how you react to him.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That is a much nicer and better organized version of the answer gurgling around in my head. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 25 at 2:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ This was a hard pill to swallow also... I see that your solutions are logical, but I think (hope?) that there is other way. I doubt that you cannot change a person's attitude regarding anything. Just because his way of doing this is "x" right now, it doesn't mean he wouldn't like "y", if he become accustomed to using "y". \$\endgroup\$ – Dolers Jul 27 at 9:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Let's put this into another context, over-exaggerating for the purpose of illustration. "Just because in don't do drugs doesn't mean I wouldn't like drugs if I become accustomed to using drugs?". Talk about a hard pill to swallow, right? What you are trying to do here is coerce someone into doing something he doesn't want, because you think you know best what's good for him. \$\endgroup\$ – M'vy Jul 27 at 11:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dolers While it's possible John might enjoy a different way of playing, you have given no indication in your question that he wants to change how he plays. Until he wants to change, you cannot force him to change. \$\endgroup\$ – thatgirldm Jul 28 at 0:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dolers Another way to think about this: What if John came to you and said, "You should try playing my way! If you become accustomed to playing my way, you might like it!" I doubt you'd appreciate this very much. But that's what you want to do to John. \$\endgroup\$ – thatgirldm Jul 28 at 1:41
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Why?

John has been doing this for 2 years and, as far as I can tell, he's enjoying his time playing this unnamed RPG. Why do you want him to stop having fun?

Going through your points:

  • You specifically want him to play classes that don't interest him. Why?

  • He played the butcher to the best of his ability/limit of his comfort zone. Kudos to John for trying something he doesn't like/isn't good at just to make his friends happy. I hope you put yourself out for John on occasions too.

  • Many, many people play role playing games to address the question "What would I do in this situation." Others like to ask "What would this persona I made up do in this situation." Neither group is wrong.

And it's like he only likes to focus on solving the quest, rather than playing the quest.

I think there is something that goes to the core of your problem in this sentence but I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "playing the quest" because it could mean a lot of things. So, unless you clarify I'm not going to delve into it because if I focus on what I think you mean and I'm wrong, I don't think it will help.

All of this wouldn't be a problem if his character would be fun, but it is not that case.

John plays John. John's character is not fun. Therefore John is not fun? If so, why do you hang out with him?

John isn't the problem

John's having fun. You aren't. Don't look to John for the solution to your problem.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Damn, that was a hard pill to swallow...There is truth what you are saying, I maybe don't like John that much. By "solving the quest" I meant that he is always looking for solution with all his might the problems we face, rather than thinking with how the character suppose to think. By "playing the quest", I meant that living in this world, created by the GM. Letting you and the others feel that your character is with us, not just the player standing next to me. \$\endgroup\$ – Dolers Jul 27 at 9:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dolers not all game players come to the same game table with identical expectations and tastes for the same kinds of fun. You can review the 8 kinds of fun in an RPG or take a look at Robin Laws' article on player types. This may help you see things through a different lens. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 27 at 19:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ I do believe this should be the accepted answer even if the pill is hard to swallow. You are trying to change a player, fundamentally. In my book, that is a mistake just as it is when lovers do the same in their relationship. \$\endgroup\$ – Catar4 Jul 28 at 21:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Catar4 If you could just convince my wife of that ... 8^D \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 28 at 22:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast If I could do that for yours, I could do that for mine xD. I wish we could manage love relationships like we manage gaming relationships ! Unfortunately, those two converge only when it's about "fun", which is only parts of love relationships. Damn, I sound like Agony Aunt... \$\endgroup\$ – Catar4 Jul 28 at 22:57
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I agree with Dale M's and thatgirldm's answers and believe you should not force this player to change his style if he does not want to.

That said, no matter the reasons and the potential impacts of thinking this way at a D&D table, the question still is about "How can I try to encourage him to do something different". Let's put aside the more negative aspects of your context and be more general about what you are asking.

Suggestion: never tell him that his characters are boring.

There may be a roundabout way to talk about it without insulting him. I would try to be subtle about it but try asking him a question like the following (important that it be a question to smooth the start of the discussion).

"Since we know you as a friend and you are playing characters very similar to yourself, isn't it a bit boring for you at times ?"

Maybe I would hope for his answer to open the door for me to tell him:

"Well, I for one know you enough as a friend to be able to predict how you will act in game. I will admit that sometimes, it is a bit difficult / boring for me to be able to guess in advance what you will do. That forces me to not use my OOC knowledge about you in-game".

Of course it is also important to stress the point that, no matter what the player chooses to do, it is his own choice and is legit. Stress that you believe it would also be funner for him to challenge himself more by getting out of his comfort zone.

The psychology of gaming is something that did not exist or was very hard to put your hands on, when I started playing. But showing him articles such as this one might give him things to think about, maybe even ideas (I explicitly chose one which tackles 'playing a different persona" as an important point in the article, but there are others).

I would also offer this player my "help". Maybe next time we roll new characters, I would approach him to ask him if he wants to create characters that already know each other ? I sometimes did that with players that are shy, who find difficult to come up with interesting background and/or have troubles remembering their backgrounds once the game has started (which was my situation, long ago).

Having a supporting player character that they have to "take into account" because they made a deal with its players surely is a way to change the dynamic, which might help a player get out of his comfort zone more easily.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The other player and I tried to ask around this topic, trying to be not too specific with the questions. Last week, I've asked him what is the reason behind playing himself. He said that he likes when things in control and he thinks he cannot deal with situations where feel helpless (like out of ideas - helpless). I proposed him that it is the most confined place to try out something new, but I don't think he liked the idea. And one more thing, we asked him what he likes in rpgs and the said, that he enjoys playing himself with supernatural powers. So I guess thats that. \$\endgroup\$ – Dolers Aug 15 at 14:36

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