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I play RPGs (usually D&D but other stuff too) every week with a group of friends who I’ve known since middle school (~4 years of knowing each other and ~3.9 years of playing RPGs together). The group is me; Ecru, my best friend; Khaki, our usual GM; Desert, another friend; and Lemon, our resident problem. (Names changed to protect identities). All of us except for Lemon are part of the LGBTQIA+ community and proud of our identities, while Lemon is cisgender and straight.

Lemon wanted to GM a six-session D&D5e adventure (it started as a two-shot and the time frame kept growing as he actually wrote the adventure) set in another part of our usual setting as a break from our main campaign, and we’ve been making characters on and off for a while. We’ve all made characters with diverse gender identities, sexual orientations, and romantic orientations before, and it’s never been a problem (in our main campaign, Ecru’s rogue is nonbinary and my sorcerer is awkwardly-not-straight-and-not-going-to-specify, and even in this adventure, Khaki’s character is gay and my bard’s entire motivation for being involved is to impress her girlfriend).

Last week, we were fleshing out a backstory and personality for Desert’s character, and Desert wanted the character to be bisexual and gender-questioning. That was fine until Desert decided to put that as a personality trait for the character. Lemon was really upset at this. He started arguing that LGBTQ characters were fine, but that’s not a part of personality and so shouldn’t be written down as a personality trait.

I feel deeply uncomfortable with Lemon’s statement (as do others in the group). For me, as well as the rest of the group, our gender identity and sexual/romantic orientation have shaped our personalities, especially because it shapes how we interact with society and with ourselves. To me, it feels like he’s trying to be prescriptive and tell us what can or cannot shape our personality when he has not personally experienced any of what we have. For instance, I’m nonbinary at a bigoted school, so I have to be careful about even mentioning anything about my gender, which has made me more cautious than I was in middle school.

How do I deal with another player/GM being prescriptive about personality traits when he has not had the same real-life experiences that the rest of us draw on when creating personality traits? I don’t want answers that say “that’s not how personality traits work” or that talk about RAW personality traits, as our group prefers to use custom personality traits to help us play the characters better rather than the suggested ones for our backgrounds and Desert says that it would be a useful personality trait; I also don’t want answers that suggest asking Lemon to leave the group since that’s not an option I can bring up to the group.

Personality traits rarely come up as plot hooks in our games; they tend to be ways to assist us in playing our characters, but aside from the occasional appeal to the personality trait of one or another character as a way to get us into an adventure, they have never actually been the plot hook (that’s more likely to be a bond, an ideal, or the fact that we’re usually on the run from the law). That’s why this reads wrong to us, because Lemon isn’t likely to use it in the adventure, yet he’s still making a fuss about it.

We play online now due to COVID but we used to play in person, and we haven’t really worked out a better way to share character sheets beyond shared google docs with the basic mechanical parts of the characters (AC, HP, spells, weapons and attack bonuses, etc). Lemon has been the person who most often argues to use RAW when we play, but he’s never argued for RAW personality traits or inspiration.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What has already been done or tried to resolve the situation; How did those things go? Has anybody talked to "L" about this; How did it go? Is he against these things being on the character sheets at all (such as in a section titled "Gender, Identity, Sexuality, Romanticism, and the Lavender Community") or is he only against them being given the "title" of "Personality Trait"? Also, if he doesn't consider such "traits" to be part of a character's personality, do you know what he does consider them to be? \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Dec 10 '20 at 19:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Has the GM specified some criteria for what they do consider to be personality traits? If not, have you asked them what they expect? \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Dec 10 '20 at 21:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ "our group prefers custom personality traits to help us play the characters better" Can you describe a little bit how you use custom personality traits to play your characters better? Are your games, for example, more heavily focused on interpersonal roleplay rather than interacting w/ the world? And, by 'sexuality' do you mean 'sexual orientation', or 'inclination toward sexual activity'? \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Dec 11 '20 at 14:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question has generated a lot of noise, so I've taken it of the HNQ (and it's been protected). This is not a question about what is identity and what is personality, it is about how to resolve a dispute about that with the GM. Answers which do not attempt to help that may be subject to downvotes and/or removal. Comments going at the false issue may be removed. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Dec 12 '20 at 14:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ok, the answers to this question has generated enough noise and unpleasantness that I've closed it and I'll go through and delete a bunch of comments. For this to be reopenable I ask that the community talks out what needs doing for it to be so (read: open a meta discussion). Please also take this as an indication to not continue comment threads until we've talked this out, and I'm hoping this should be sufficient to that end. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Dec 17 '20 at 19:57

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Start by assuming the best in others.

This is a helpful attitude to maintain when you want to make peace out of conflict. The first step in resolving this conflict should not be "How do I convince them they are wrong?". Rather, we should first try to see if we are misunderstanding them when they are actually trying to help.

Allow me to explain a possible, positive motivation behind this ruling.

Sexual and gender identity transcend what the game calls "Personality Traits".

Up front, I must affirm: make the character you want to make. As a GM, my goal is to facilitate fun at the table, and I'm not going to tell you who your character is. That isn't my job. It is the GM's job to tell you who the NPCs are. Characters uniquely belong to their players.

That said, gender and sexuality are things that are fundamental to the identity of the character. They are a large part of who the character is. These things influence how your character relates to and interacts with the rest of the game world, all of the time.

But these things will not necessarily make your character unique.

If I am the DM helping you work through character creation, by all means, make the character you want. But I would suggest that you are losing out on a way to set your character apart by writing your gender identity and sexual orientation in the Personality Traits section of your character sheet. These things are as fundamental to your character as your character's name, yet you wouldn't write, "My name is Bardic Wizard" in the personality traits box. The Personality and Background section of the Player's Handbook says this about personality traits:

Personality traits are small, simple ways to help you set your character apart from every other character. Your personality traits should tell you something interesting and fun about your character. They should be self-descriptions that are specific about what makes your character stand out. “I’m smart” is not a good trait, because it describes a lot of characters. “I’ve read every book in Candlekeep” tells you something specific about your character’s interests and disposition.

Personality traits might describe the things your character likes, his or her past accomplishments, things your character dislikes or fears, your character’s self-attitude or mannerisms, or the influence of his or her ability scores.

The things described here are not fundamental to the identity of your character. They make your character unique in relation to other characters, but these things are not your characters fundamental identity. As a DM, I would encourage you not to reduce your character's identity to what is described here in the Personality Traits section. Sexual and gender identity transcend this box. Use this box for something else.

This separation of personality and identity is probably intentional: sex and gender are addressed in a separate section of the character development chapter. In particular, the Player's Handbook has this to say:

Think about how your character does or does not conform to the broader culture’s expectations of sex, gender, and sexual behavior. For example, a male drow cleric defies the traditional gender divisions of drow society, which could be a reason for your character to leave that society and come to the surface.

You don’t need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender. The elf god Corellon Larethian is often seen as androgynous, for example, and some elves in the multiverse are made in Corellon’s image. You could also play a female character who presents herself as a man, a man who feels trapped in a female body, or a bearded female dwarf who hates being mistaken for a male. Likewise, your character’s sexual orientation is for you to decide.

So in a strictly rules as written sense, you can be whoever you want.

Even if this is not Lemon’s motivation, I hope this can give you a positive outlook on how to digest the situation.

Have a conversation with Lemon: character sheets are not characters.

Maybe Lemon's motivation is less positive than what I described above. Either way, we need to have a conversation with Lemon.

Lemon needs to understand something fundamentally important. Character sheets are not characters. Character sheets are a tool used by player's to help them interact with the game. The character is the person that you bring to life at the table.

It doesn't matter what your write on your character sheet. The Personality Traits section of one of my characters only has two words: fire and sarcasm. These are just little things that set my character apart and hep me inform my roleplaying in little ways every now and then. This is how the character sheet should be viewed. It's just a tool for the player to use to relate to their character and the world.

Now, how you approach this conversation is critically important. Again, we aren’t explaining to Lemon why they are wrong. We just want to share our perspective so that they may understand where we’re coming from. And invite Lemon to do the same. Mutual communication is what we want here, and a gracious and humble approach from you will go a long way to reaching resolution.

You may have to just show Lemon what maturity looks like.

If Lemon refuses to budge, and insists on not being allowed to put your sexual or gender identity in that box, just move on. It's just ink on paper. At this point, Lemon has not told you your character cannot be who you want them to be. They're just trying to micromanage words on a page. Is it stupid? You betcha. Is it worth getting upset over when you can otherwise create the character you want to create? Probably not. Maturity will see a peaceful compromise in picking out some other personality traits and being the person you want to be at the table.

And if this is the route you take, don't announce it to Lemon. You don't have to say, "I'm going to be the mature one and move on." Your graciousness and humility will say everything that needs to be said, and hopefully, fun will be had by everyone.

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    \$\begingroup\$ First part feels spot on! it would sound totally strange to me to put "straight" as a personality trait. So what? Green eyes too? It's not that it's not part of the character/person, it's that it says nothing about the personality, i.e. how they behave. It just doesn't fit the category.Wouldn't put it under talents or skills either. Same reason. \$\endgroup\$ – Frank Hopkins Dec 11 '20 at 23:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ The “have a conversation” part was the method we used to deal with this; he wanted personality traits to be more about how the world perceived the character rather than the character’s internal identity, and we came to a group compromise where all of us are decently happy with the result (even if it means that we lost a full quarter of the session to discussion). It was also great advice to act mature; as a group that’s not always our strong point (K and L are always bickering about something and the rest of us get drawn in) and so it was a good reminder. \$\endgroup\$ – Bardic Wizard Dec 12 '20 at 22:18
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Elton John. George Michael. Sir Ian McKellen. Stephen Fry. Jeffrey Dahmer. Andy Warhol. George Takei.

All of those people have completely different personalities. All of them are gay.

"Straight Male" is not a Personality Trait. "Flirts with every attractive female they see" is. "Gay Male" is not a Personality Trait. "Flamboyant and Camp" is. So too are "Metrosexual" or "Obsessed with Bodybuilding and Wrestling".

You say

our gender identity and sexual/romantic orientation have shaped our personalities

Okay, how have they done so? I doubt they've all been shaped in exactly the same way. "Bisexuals" are not saddled with identical cookie-cutter personalities. Much like the classic GM tactic of "So, what would you like to do?", Lemon is asking "So, how does that make you behave?"

Does your bisexual character follow the Hollywood stereotype of flirting with anything that moves (à la Captain Jack Harkness), or do they just shoot appreciative glances at limited numbers of all genders? Does your gender-questioning character dress in an androgynous manner, such that their gender cannot be determined? Do they vary their presented gender each day, however they feel like dressing that morning — staid male waistcoat & trousers one day, frilly dresses the next? Or, do they outwardly dress like their born gender, secretly wearing underclothes of other genders underneath for a sense of thrill?

Using your own text as an example: you are non-binary. This is not a personality trait, this is an innate aspect of your being. On the other hand, you are cautious, and careful about even mentioning anything about your gender, both of which are personality traits, which derive from your non-binary status.

Yes, "bisexual" and "gender-questioning" will shape the personality, but that's just the chisel — your GM is asking what the sculpture looks like.

In short: If I asked you "what does so-and-so act like", and you said "well, they're bisexual", that gives me about as much information about their personality as if you'd say "well, they have brown hair".

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Chronocidal I disagree with this answer. It doesn’t solve the problem, which is that almost all of the group considers it a personality trait, L doesn’t, and we have problems with this. \$\endgroup\$ – Bardic Wizard Dec 11 '20 at 18:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Please reframe this from presenting itself as fact, to being an explanation of perspective (which you are assuming is what Lemon is coming from) and then use that advice how to resolve the dispute. Also, it would probably be beneficial to reformulate some of this to be guidance for Lemon, say the part about "So, how does that make you behave?". From my reading of the question they didn't frame it like this, which would likely have gone a long way to not make it an arguement. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Dec 12 '20 at 14:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Assuming I've understood you correctly, that's why I would like this answer to teach and to make their assumptions about the other side clearly marked as such (and ideally give guidance on how to test those assumptions). \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Dec 12 '20 at 16:47
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This does sound like a disagreement over the rules and can probably be fixed by relocating relevant information on the character sheet.

You say you don't want answers that say "That's not how personality traits work", but it sounds like the entire issue is that you and L view how personality traits work differently. It doesn't even come down to which of you is right, just that you disagree about that specific reading of the rules.

As far as I understand from your question, L is fine with you playing as a non-binary character and that it's a core part of your character. But, L is saying it cannot be listed as a personality trait.

L is probably expecting you to list "small simple ways to help you set your character apart from every other character". He is probably expecting you to list minor quirks such as "Always counts the stairs while using stairs" or "Habitually strokes beard while thinking." or "Loves the works of William Shakespeare" These are not core parts of a character's personality, but they are exactly the type of "self-attitude or mannerisms" that he may be expecting.

Personally, I think L is being pedantic and if one of my players listed that I would accept it and move on. But, for someone being a bit pedantic, a valid reading of the rules is that truly core issues of identity do not in fact belong under personality traits and he wants other things he can use for flavor description later.

There may be more to the story, but based on what you have so far, it sounds as though a full solution is to list the non-binary status under the description, fill the character's back story with details about how the non-binary status is key to their history, and then list quirks under the personality traits. If you really want the non-binary status listed under Personality Trait, then list specific quirks relating to non-binary status. Being non-binary is a very personal thing, but just as possible examples there could be specific traits such as "Ears turn red if they are referred to by the wrong pronouns" or "Specifically insures that clothing choices would not suggest a specific pronoun."

You suggest that this should be addressed in a system agnostic way, but my suspicion based on what you have said so far is that this issue is very much tied to the system and the way D&D 5e discusses "Personality Traits" in the book. L has said that L has no problems with non-binary characters and I think the issue would not exist in a system that did not ask for a list of personality traits or even one that described their personality treats differently.

Of course, having a gamemaster refuse to allow a non-binary character at all is a best a misunderstanding and at worst a toxic group that should be avoided. But it sounds like that is not what is happening here. Based on what is provided so far, it sounds like L is not being bigoted, L is being pedantic about what he wants listed as a "Personality Trait". While I think he is wrong to be pedantic and that being pedantic in a way that is unnecessarily hurtful here, his view is somewhat supported based on the way "Personality Traits" are described in the core books (though I suspect none of the authors expected that phrasing to be used in a way that is this hurtful).

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think your examples of specific traits are roughly the right direction. The question mentions that "our gender identity and sexual/romantic orientation has shaped our personalities", and I think specific examples of those shaped personality traits is more fitting for that section (given existing samples from the PHB backgrounds), as identity and orientation can shape people very differently based on what their actual experience is- imagine trying to infer individual character personalities if the entire party just had the same identity and orientation written down as their only traits! \$\endgroup\$ – CTWind Dec 10 '20 at 23:42
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Lemon has the correct interpretation of the rules.

Simply put, you're wrong, and he's right, and I think that the best way for you to deal with that is to think about what the rules actually are and why they were designed that way. Details about gender and sexuality go under the part of your sheet labelled "Gender". Details about Personality Traits go under "Personality Traits", and gender and sexuality are not among them. This isn't because gender and sexuality don't affect the personality of your character, but because Personality Traits are a game-mechanical construct with game-mechanical implications; they are not purely role-playing "fluff".

Every Background has a list of example Personality Traits for you to pick from, and the game expects you to either pick or roll two of them from the table for your Background. Gender and sexuality, by contrast, are not listed on any table, but rather addressed in a separate section of the chapter (which basically says "play whatever you want"). As a result, Personality Traits are a much more restricted category than a character's gender or sexuality are; Personality Traits are defined and listed on tables, while gender and sexuality can be whatever a player wants them to be.

This is because they have a mechanical impact on the game: when a character acts in accordance with a Personality Trait, they get awarded Inspiration. If you allowed a character to have their gender or sexuality listed as a Personality Trait, then that character would either always qualify for Inspiration, or they would be incentivized to portray their gender and sexuality in an over-the-top and stereotypical fashion in order to earn it.

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The issue is a non-issue for the game, but an issue for the group

You stated that the DMs at your table don't use the personality traits as plot hooks or for anything related to DMing.

Because of that, there is absolutely no reason why the DM needs to have a say in what's in there. And that also seems to suggest that the issue is larger than you may think.

From a gameplay perspective, it really doesn't matter at all what's in there for the DM, because they're not going to use it anyway. Therefore, it's more about each player fleshing out their character, for themselves.

If the DM has an issue with this, then the heart of that issue needs to be determined. I'm not going to make assumptions about intent, but if this is coming now with the cisgender straight player is the DM, it may indicate their lack of comfort with running a game where sexuality and sexual orientation plays a big role - and that's okay!

But they need to talk about that with the rest of the table so that everyone gets back on the same page. Clearly y'all like playing together, so this is a bump in the road. And the best thing to resolve bumps are steamrollers is communication. It's not going to be a comfortable conversation, but if y'all are friends and like to game together, it'll work out. And if it doesn't, then this was eventually going to come to a head anyway.

Setting Expectations

It's clear that the table has been using Personality traits differently, but that has been their choice. The table expectation is that the rules they've played by will continue to be played that way. If Lemon, as a new DM, wanted to change anything about their houserules or table play decisions, then those changes need to be communicated so that the players know what to expect.

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Preface

To be honest, I'm having a hard time trying to figure out why a DM/GM would be against almost anything in the personality/background section of the character sheet. Short of conquests that a level 1 (or whatever level they start at) couldn't have created, uses items/concepts not in that world or something that lends itself to a lot cheese in a non-cheesy game.

Even the background section of the book says to create traits for your character, choose from table or roll on table. Anything a player writes down on that section is there to inform/remind that player how they intended to play the character, or let the DM/GM use as world building fodder. I would rather have more than less.

Communication

Communication can only start from common ground. If someone immediately attacks digging in their heals, the natural response is to get defensive. Instead, approach the situation in an attempt to gain understanding by asking open ended questions to gauge their position.

  • "Why do feel strongly about what goes in that section of a player's character sheet?"
  • "What mechanical problems do think arise from listing identity aspects on the background section of a character sheet?"
  • "How does that affect the way you DM to the table?"
  • "How do think that will affect game play at the table?"

Then, try to put yourself in their position, and without saying "I get it" or "I know" parrot back to them what you read their position to be... "You are the DM for the game. You've put all of this work into writing out the adventure. Then, Desert joined and ... [whatever Lemons feelings about it sound like]" You're looking for "That's Right" kind of moment, where they see that you do "Get it." Then, stark contrast with a 'but': "You are not going to like this, but I think the rest of us understand where Desert is coming from. We feel it is really important to Desert to list it on the sheet because..."

Then turn it into his problem. "So, Desert really want it on the character sheet as part of their personality traits. How can you accommodate that happening?"

A good book on this kind of negotiating is Never Split the Difference. It was written by a former FBI International Hostage Negotiator.

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One thing nobody has mentioned yet is the difference between Sexuality and Personality Trait on the character sheet.

Your GM has told you that they are perfectly okay with your character being LGBTQIA+, as long as it's sexuality/romance and not a personality trait. Why would they want that? Why can't they just let it go, why are they so pedantic about where to put it, what is the difference?

Well, the difference is that Personality Traits have in-game mechanics.

Inspiration, the in-game mechanic covering personality traits, is meant to balance roleplay and gameplay. Your character might behave non-optimal in game terms because of who they are and how they act, and this mechanic is meant to offset that by rewarding players for playing their role well instead of playing the game well.

But there are no hard rules about this. Whether your character is worthy of inspiration is a judgement call of the GM. If they think you played your role well even though it was not the optimal game strategy, you will gain inspiration.

Now, why might that be a problem? Well, for the first time, you have asked the only straight person at the table to please judge your characters LGBTQIA+ness. Decide whether you are "doing it right". Decide whether you were playing your character LGBTQIA+ enough to be worthy of an ingame advantage.

That is a sure way into disaster. Not only do they not have the experience to do so, there is a good chance you will also take this personally, as it's not only your character, but you. If the GM decided Elves had blue hair and dragons had 5 legs and a single wing, you would find it strange, but that would not impact anything but this strange adventure. Certainly not your out-of-game behavior or friendship. It's all make believe anyway. But if the GM told you that doing this thing is not "LGBTQIA+ enough" to grant inspiration, you will be in a real world discussion really soon.

So when your LGBTQIA+ friends are GMs, they may feel more comfortable, their calls may be more accepted, even if they are wrong. But the one time when the straight person is leading, maybe spend a minute and think about whether they are comfortable with what you are asking of them. Whether you are actually comfortable with that person making judgement calls on your characters sexuality because of where in the character sheet you put it.

They said they are okay with your characters being LGBTQIA+, but they don't want to be the judge on that topic. Why not be happy with that, it sounds pretty good.

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"What do I do"/"How do I deal"?

Your options when dealing with a DM ruling are usually:

  • Leave their group, perhaps taking players with you. Nuclear option: appeals mostly only to drama llamas. "Deal with" by not dealing with any more.
  • Accept their ruling (unpleasant for the player, but in many cases a very good life lesson). "Deal with" by "just deal with it".
  • Suggest something they might accept (reaching an arrangement or compromise). "Deal with" by making a deal with.

I assume you want the last option, as none of the others make much sense. But what might bring a rational GM to accept "trans" as a character trait? Because, normally it'd be a far more important aspect than a mere character trait.

Character traits are HOW you are.

My character's courageous and loyal, but tight-fisted and greedy, driven by money. That's HOW I am. My personality, not my identity.

Identity aspects are WHO you are.

I'm an adult trans male goblin warrior of the Boojum tribe. That's WHO I am. That's my core identity.

Identity aspects are things like race, age, gender, character class, etc. They can be used as identifying nouns like the Man, the Goblin, the Trans woman, the Warrior, the Child, the Boojum... not just modifying adjectives like "greedy".


That said, there could be grey areas to explore, things about HOW a character is about their gender and sexuality, adjectives that could arguably be acceptable character traits for any reasonable GM.

Are they overly obsessed with gender and sexuality? In what way? What adjective would you use to describe how this affects their personality? Are they sexual? Self-conscious? Gender-focused? How does that affect their behavior? Other peoples' perceptions of them?

When someone describes the party with "the greedy goblin and the _____ elf", what's the term they used to describe the main trait of the elf's personality? "Gender-questioning" doesn't really sound like something someone would use to describe someone else's personality.

Consider whether you would make a personality trait out of a gnome who was very into gnome heritage, slipping it into most conversations, dressing in traditional attire, etc. Is that a personality trait, or merely good roleplaying of an aspect of their identity?

What of the goblin who adopts halfling mannerisms and dress? Is that a personality trait? A quirk or a flaw? What adjective could be used? Should this instead be part of their Background?


TL;DR: if you can find a good brief adjectival phrase for how this affects your character's personality and how he is perceived, I suspect your GM will have a lot less of a problem with it being listed as a personality trait in addition to being listed under gender.

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You need to simply ask Lemon if he intends to use standard rules for Personality Traits and Inspiration, then work with him as your GM if he does.

Given that you have stated that Lemon tends to argue for RAW, him arguing a position consistent with RAW is likely based on intent to use the rules in this way.

It does not matter that your group(Lemon included as player) has used variant Inspiration rules previously, and it does not matter that your group has used homebrew Personality Trait rules previously either, what matters is that Lemon(as GM) wants to try standard Personality Trait rules.

Understand, I am not saying Lemon's opinion is all that matters, your opinions as players matter too, but you need to step back and look at the situation objectively: is he saying your characters cannot be as you want them? No. Is he saying you cannot have the info you want on your sheets? No. He is simply saying that sexual interest and identity dont go in the Personality Traits section.

Also understand, you can differ of opinion with Lemon on the discussion of sexuality and personality in real life, and have that discussion be completely irrelevant to the rules and structure of the game. Remember: this game is not real life.

Further, consider how jarring it is to change mediums in communications. You encounter situations which are frustrating, and that frustration can lead someone to acting more aggressively for a time. Not to mention, everyone handles different mediums and circumstances differently, some people are very clear in person, but have difficulty online, others are the opposite. Perhaps Lemon is just having more difficulty from this.

Last, consider that there may be circumstances in Lemon's life which could lead to more confrontation, whether he recognizes these or not. (Think of how it feels when you are persecuted, and consider that Lemon may be feeling similar).

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Before answering, I have to repeat the first sentence of Thomas Markov's answer, because it's so important:

Start by assuming the best in others.

You write, that Lemon has not had the same real-life experiences that the rest of you draw on. So help Lemon! If you were a PC, I presume Lemon would accept "careful about even mentioning anything about own gender, which is non-binary" as personality trait, but would refuse simply writing "non-binary". Remember, Lemon does not have the same amount of information you have.


So now to your PC, ask yourself the question:

How has the gender identity and sexual/romantic orientation shaped the personality of your PC?

Or more generally:

What has how shaped the personality of your PC?

Then write down the answer(s) and ask yourself and the GM (calmly) whether it would be ok to put the answer(s) as personality trait. So you all can finally start playing the game you love :)

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L is wrong and being an ass. You already knew that and don’t need us to tell you about it.

But what I sort of suspect is going on—and explanations are not excuses, do not take this as my excusing any of L’s behavior—are a combination of two miscommunications between L and the rest of the group.

  1. L may be making a distinction between “Personality Traits,” and “personality traits.” That is, he may be referring to the specific game term defined on Player’s Handbook page 123, which says in part

    Personality traits are small, simple ways to help you set your character apart from every other character. They should be self-descriptiosn that are specific about what makes your character stand out. “I’m smart” is not a good trait, because it defines a lot of characters. “I’ve read every book in Candlekeep” tells you something specific about your character’s interests and disposition.

    Assuming D’s character is not the only bisexual and gender-questioning character in the world—and they’re probably not—then that description arguably doesn’t quite fit the Player’s Handbook definition. The description goes on to focus a lot on ability scores, as well, which might be something L has in mind as an expectation for Personality Traits.

  2. Personality traits should ideally communicate something important in a simple, self-contained way. “Bisexual and gender-questioning” communicates a lot, but it’s not in a self-contained way—it keys off of the reader’s understanding of what those words mean. As someone who is cisgender and heterosexual, L may not have any idea what’s actually meant by those words beyond their literal definitions. What he may be looking for isn’t to change anything about the character or about how those aspects of the character are documented, e.g. in a Personality Trait, but rather that he is looking for that Personality Trait to be “unpacked.”

And both of these things are... sort of vaguely maybe arguably nice to have, but not really any of L’s business on someone else’s character? Even as a GM, he should take a large step back from any kind of real oversight on the characterization of player characters. So again, see my opening comment. But L’s concern here is presumably something along the lines of “I don’t see how that can be turned into plot hooks, which is the whole point of Personality Traits.” And as a GM, that could be a concern.

All of this runs into that perennial problem of minority–majority relations, namely that people in the majority have an obnoxious tendency to be ignorant and expect the minority representative in front of them take responsibility for explaining matters to them. As a cisgender heterosexual male myself, I’ve been there, done that, and have to very carefully monitor myself to avoid putting that burden on those around me whose life experiences are very different from mine in ways I should try to understand, but who aren’t responsible for teaching me.

Which could be your answer here, you could say “look, we’re all in agreement here: this is absolutely a Personality Trait, and we don’t appreciate you dictating to us that it isn’t. None of us is interested in playing that game. So either you need to do some homework yourself, and figure out what this means, or maybe we should spend our time in a different way.” Problem is, he’s very unlikely to respond well to that, and even if he agrees and tries to “do the homework,” there’s a pretty good chance that what he comes up with isn’t actually going to match what D had in mind.

Which means the alternative here, which is more likely to result in a successful game for all, but frustratingly puts the onus on D here, is for D (and the group, perhaps) to work on “unpacking” the personality trait into what L considers a proper Personality Trait, or at the very least understands how to use appropriately for plot hooks. I would say that there can be real benefits for D and the rest of the group here, even though it absolutely is appeasing someone whose ignorance in this regard is hurtful and that sucks. But being more specific and detailed, being more fleshed out and articulate, can help bring D’s character to life for D and the rest of the group, too, rather than just being for L’s benefit.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Before you suggest an improvement to the answer, please see the messages in the linked chat room first to see if your suggestion has already been made/declined. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 18 '20 at 20:25
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Put it down anyways.

That's how you deal with it, and that's what I would do were I in your situation. Whether I r Lemon agree with you on sexuality being a personality trait or not is moot. If Lemon doesn't like it, that's too bad.

They may be running the game, but it's your character sheet, not theirs, and one of the rules of D&D that I hold firmest is that while the DM controls and describe the world, but only the player it can control and describe their character.

One of two things will happen, either they'll be so upset over what you wrote down in the one of the description boxes for an imaginary person that they shouldn't have any say in anyways that they'll stop being your friend (unlikely, but if they do, then they're a pretty shit friend), or they'll get over it. Maybe it'll take a few days, or a week, but they'll get over it.

At the end of the day, it's just words on paper. It shouldn't be something that's worth getting into a fight over, and whether or not they agree with you doesn't matter.

I've been in a similar situation a few times before. Sometimes it works out, sometimes I stopped playing with particular people. Once I decided that I was going to make a character that was opposite gendered to myself. Got some flak for it, did it anyways, the rest of the group got over it after a couple sessions. Another time, I decided that I wanted a CE alignment for my character. Once, I multiclassed, (which was apparently the worst offence I could have ever made), and I don't play with that group any more because of how mad the DM got that I multiclassed.

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