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I could use some assessment of my current situation. Do you think my current behaviour falls under the My Guy Syndrome and how do I best proceed in this situation?

I have a group of friends with whom I play D&D. I like to extensively roleplay my character. Currently I am playing a most stereotypical Paladin, who already caused friction in the party, mostly due to the stereotypical Rogue. I know in-character friction can sometimes be unavoidable with two stellar opposites like in this case and might even be a healthy part of roleplay, but our party already had a lengthy discussion where one group, which included me, took an unrelated, possibly dangerous decision for nothing but roleplay purposes. (We wanted to retrieve and bury an already quite decayed corpse of a fellow adventurer, which might have been a trap and which wasn't on our way, while the rest wanted to stick to our objective).

I also previously stated, that my righteous character would act by his oath and truthfully reveal our secret mission instead of lying in accordanceto my most sacred oath. (Ofc. I am not gonna be a dunce, who just spills out every detail instantly when asked, I'll be evasive or say nothing given the chance, just won't outright lie to cover it up.)

In our next session we might quite possibly face the BBEG, who is supposed to be some kind of a terrible monster. This is the first time my character is going to face a foe larger than himself and his appropriate reaction would probably be to waver at least for some time. I'd like to ask the DM to give me disadvantage until a party member has received damage, which is the point where my character would get a hold of himself.

The DM would probably just shrug and tell me "You do you", but even if the party doesn't outright object, should this behaviour lead to a character death, I am quite sure the anger would almost certainly carry on beyond our session.

For me my joy comes form playing a multi-faceted character with growth and development, while most of the other players find more joy in having their character succeed - although they are equally invested in their characters.

Edit: I'd like to add that I don't necessarily need disadvantage, this was just my first idea. I just want it to have any kind of effect. Even if the effect is negligible, I still like the personality of my character to be a little more influential than flavour text in video games.

Now I'd like to ask:

  • Is this My Guy Syndrome?
  • Do you think this is good roleplay or am I just a masochist?
  • Is it worth to bring up this topic at all given our previous disputes or should I drop it for the sake of group harmony?
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    \$\begingroup\$ Possibly an Aside But Clarifying a Point of Friction: RE: "I also previously stated, that my righteous character would act by his oath and truthfully reveal or secret mission when asked…." Out of curiosity, is there something preventing the character when asked about a secret mission from saying, "I can't tell you," or from saying nothing? For instance, have you been playing the character as compelled to spill all the beans, consequences be damned? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 27, 2023 at 20:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Of course I won't go out of my way and tell the next guy asking "where are you headed?" "Oh yea, you know breaking in the kings castle to steal this Bucket from his treasury, that our client, the duke of youknowwhat claims is originally his.", more like I won't lie when asked and being reasonably evasive won't work. Will clarify that one in the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Azzarrel
    Jan 27, 2023 at 20:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't get what prevents your character from either telling the truth as "I'm not at the liberty to answer your question" or just keeping his foodhole shut. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Jan 28, 2023 at 0:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't get why you've decided that Mr. Pally is going to be afraid of the bad guy. Isn't the typical Lawful-Stupid Paladin thing to run in screaming "die foul creature of darkness" before everyone else is ready? And why decide in advance? You don't know the events leading up to it yet, and what mood she's in. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 28, 2023 at 17:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ personally, i'd find a tpk that's a good story more fun than winning a fight by playing generic mostly-optimal characters. i would have thought that every decision is made at least notionally for 'nothing but roleplay purposes' when you're playing a roleplaying game \$\endgroup\$
    – Silver
    Jan 29, 2023 at 3:34

6 Answers 6

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Deliberately taking disadvantage arguably starts to fall into "My Guy Territory", but simply showing fear and hesitation through roleplay would be a good thing at many tables.

Deliberately making your character underperform is likely to harm your entire group. Most groups will take a certain amount of umbrage to that if it is done knowingly. This is especially true when the way you make your character underperform is entirely mechanical.

What I mean by that is that there are some times when a choice that is theoretically suboptimal truly advances your character development. If for instance your paladin at low level and with poor equipment chooses to donate a large amount of money to the orphanage instead of buying better armor, that is clearly suboptimal from a purely combat perspective. But it does genuinely help with your character's characterization and development as a character beyond the numbers on the sheet and depending on the story and your DM might just pay dividends in some form later on. In contrast, asking for disadvantage is obviously suboptimal in a way that does not directly advance your character much or offer future story hooks. It is purely mechanical.

There might be some argument as to whether it is "My Guy Syndrome" as that is traditionally defined. But I think many groups would object to you doing it since it harms the whole group and the objection would be, in my humble opinion, reasonable.

On the other hand, you can add non-mechanical flourishes during combat to help with your character development. (I alluded to this in a previous semi-related answer about roleplaying fear).

Instead of asking for disadvantage, simply say "[Character] reluctantly attacks, pushing through his terror at this foe". Or "[Character's] heart is pounding as he confronts the situation, but knowing he must, he strikes", etc. The GM might possibly assign disadvantage, but at least then you aren't asking for it.

Later, when it changes, you can announce for characterization purposes that the fear and hesitation are gone and change your descriptions accordingly. There is no need for this change in characterization to affect the mechanics.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Once again, TimothyAWiseman proves that he is indeed AWiseman. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 28, 2023 at 0:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Additionally, if you miss attacks in the combat, you can add narrative flavor along the lines of "<character's> fear causes them a brief moment of hesitation, so that the strike is too slow and only hits where <enemy> was." \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Jan 29, 2023 at 20:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ a great answer, and I like the suggestion of @ESCE to take the dice rolls as they come, and then roleplay the consequences. You'll get much more range, and some more interesting character interactions if you do so \$\endgroup\$
    – lupe
    Jan 29, 2023 at 22:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ESCE I think it would be both easy and really cool to combine this with the original idea: convey to the DM the idea that the character is nervous/afraid, so the DM can use that to flavor the results of rolls, making the action feel more smooth and giving it a cause-effect feel. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aos Sidhe
    Jan 30, 2023 at 15:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Coordinate with the team/party, then roleplay being afraid before combat in addition to what this answer and comments suggest. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2023 at 16:25
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Yes, this is My Guy Syndrome

The hallmark of My Guy Syndrome, as stated in the linked, top voted answer is that it gets in the way of actually having fun in the game or being able to play the game at all.

So what is, and what is not My Guy Syndrome depends on what your overall group enjoys and how it plays, not just on you. If you were in a group where everyone would be into playing their characters like this, and enjoy it, consequences be damned, then this would not be an issue. However, it looks like that your group is much more on the "we want to win" side of things.

You already are concerned and state that "I am quite sure the anger would almost certainly carry on beyond our session." This is clearly getting into My Guy Territory -- you are doing things, and disowning the consequences even though you know they might destroy the enjoyment of the game for the others because "my guy would do it like that".

This has nothing to do with good or bad role-playing. It may be appropriate for the role you are playing, but that is not worth it if it kills everyones fun. I would recommend to play out the trepidation without actually asking for added mechanical Disadvantage that nothing in the rules says you should have. If your Paladin is failing a saving throw against the opponents Fear aura, then the rules tell you is the appropriate time to take Disadavantage on your attacks. Not before. At least not, if not all of you are into it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This should be the accepted answer, in the end, the only rule that matters is that everyone is having fun. That is everyone's responsibility, not just the DMs. The only question you ever need to ask yourself is "is my playstyle compatible with this group?" \$\endgroup\$
    – Turksarama
    Jan 30, 2023 at 3:18
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What you propose does not really make sense.

Let's think about it mechanically: Combat rarely lasts 10 turns or more. So you would be able to "show off" your character, what, maybe 7-ish turns if the combat takes that long?

However, if your character really had disadvantage 7 turns, then why??? Clearly nobody of your party would have been injured. And you would have beaten the enemies handily. Without injury. And despite the paladin shivering with every attack. How does that make sense?

However, again, chances are that somebody would be injured, right? That is what is expected from a more challenging encounter. So, how long would it take for somebody to get injured anyway? Very likely within the first turn. Or at most the second. Again, it is supposed to be a challenging encounter. Thus, depending when you act in the initiative order, maybe an ally would be injured before you get to act. Thus you never get to "show off" how afraid your character is. Or at most there would be two turns where you would have disadvantage.

That does not really amount to much. Let's say you miss on two different turns as your character cannot get over the dread of facing the enemies.

Instead of just adding extra special mechanics to portray something you could just not attack. Or just roll the die anyway and if you miss (also probably quite likely) just blame it on having the shakes.

Would it really change anything if you had disadvantage instead? Ultimately, it serves nothing.

It is not needed to make up new mechanics to show off how a character feels or acts. There is a term for trying to portray a character in a game. It is "role playing". You could lean on that if you want other players to know what your character is feeling.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd add that "just not attack" still allows for various ways to role-play it. For example, "[Character] moves up to the boss, but feels too overwhelmed by fear to attack. He takes the Dodge action." (Some groups would be annoyed by this, but many wouldn't.) \$\endgroup\$
    – user56480
    Jan 28, 2023 at 8:24
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I think you have two related questions and a misconception.

The two related questions are the two distinct behaviors you're asking about in terms of My Guy Syndrome, which don't seem closely related to each other. Let's talk about those until the misconception becomes more clear.

First, is playing your paladin so rigorously honorable that he won't lie even to save the mission and may in fact put the rest of the party at risk by these actions a "My Guy" situation? Arguably, yes, but My Guy determinations require some subtlety, some nuance, and above all some degree of insight into the other players' reactions to all of this.

In the groups that I play with, this would be at least on the borderline depending on how far you take it. But this is because, based on bitter past experience, I will always raise the issue of overly honorable paladins and rogue stealing from the party during a Session Zero. I will do this whether I am the GM or a player if I have to, to get the conversation started on just how much and what types of party friction are acceptable. So in my case I know we are not much into those sorts of archetypical, baked-in frictions.

I don't think there's enough information in your post to make a determination on that behavior. And if you personally don't have that information, then yes I would encourage you to talk to the group at large about it.

Second is the issue of whether you can arbitrarily decide (or ask the GM to impose upon you) the disadvantage part of 'frightened' condition, which is where the misconception starts to come in. You're using the System Agnostic tag, but I don't think it's appropriate. Some games have rules and frameworks for psychological disadvantages inherent to the character. I will show my age by saying that GURPS comes to mind first. Some games, like 5e (which it seems likely you're playing-- certainly some D&D variant) keep those as effects which monsters or magical effects impose from without.

I thought about this for a few days, since you posted the question, and ultimately decided that, no, I would probably not even allow it as a GM unless and until I knew that there was affirmative buy-in from the rest of the table. They deserve to know if they are in a group where one of the main melee combatants has a significant penalty in effect, because it affects them, too. Or put another way, they deserve to know that in a minor but real sense, you're not playing by the same rules as they are. It's a non-trivial modification to the rules, and again this pushes directly against the idea of System Agnosticism. It doesn't rise to the level of a My Guy question, because at my table, it wouldn't happen.

But in fairness, you have stated that you're not hung on the particulars of the disadvantage mechanism. So, as other have said, there are other ways of role-playing a cowardly character that don't require the imposition of special rules. Others have brought up the idea of interpreting adverse events (you missing an attack, you getting his) as the results of cowardice.

I'll point out that your Paladin can also change tactics. For instance, he might adopt (or insist on) hit and run tactics, or hang back behind the front lines using missile attacks to demonstrate fear. As a GM, I consider this to fall under your agency as a player.

Does that constitute My Guy behavior? Again, it is hard to say, because we do not really know how your fellow players will react, unless it results in someone's death. But I will suspect that if they don't know this is coming, then suddenly finding out that one of the expected frontline combatants is twenty feet back, slinging away from behind his tower shield might be an unpleasant shock, even if it works out in the end.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate the emphasis on the fact that ** you're not playing by the same rules as they are**. This isn't role playing, it's arguing that the rules should be different than they are. You're really breaking the implied contract of "we're playing this game together by the game's rules" there, in my opinion. \$\endgroup\$
    – msouth
    Jan 29, 2023 at 22:06
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It sounds as if everyone knew about this inter-party conflict going in. A Lawful-Stupid paladin is a known trope, and other players often have fun handling her — hiding all of the illegal stuff they do while the Paladin vouches for you to the city guard. And a rogue who steals from everyone not in the party is also a known, even worse problem. Their shenanigans are going to get everyone else in trouble — kicked out of town, enemies with the noble whose jewels they tried to fence. Even more so, having characters with opposite moralities is yet another known problem. Basically, whether you had a session-zero or not, your group signed up to play in a campaign with lots of distractions, and not so much "let's do the adventure in the order the GM wants us to". And those campaigns can be a lot of fun.

My Guy-ism is about ruining the game (and adding insult to injury by giving a pathetic excuse why they had no choice). If people expect the game to involve sometimes dealing with the crazy Paladin and Rogue's issues, then being a crazy Paladin isn't ruining things.

But maybe there's a spotlight issue. The group could be going on too many side-missions just to make the Paladin happy. And every combat could involve some issue where the Paladin holds back because of some made-up not-being-honorable problem. That could get old fast. So be aware, and if dealing with your issues has used enough time already, then cut it short. Let the other players convince you that the decayed corpse isn't going to get any worse and they promise to retrieve it later (which also gives the GM a heads-up if she wants to prepare more of an adventure for the corpse-retrieval).

But also check with the group. Maybe it's fine. I've had games where one character was constantly getting everyone into trouble, but that pretty much drove the game. My characters constantly complained about them causing trouble, but in character, not for real. Think how many Firefly episodes were about Simon and River's problems and how that made the series better.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It's not clear whether everyone knew about this going in, in fact the annoyance they've already shown suggests that they didn't and OP describes the group as one that likes to win rather than screw around with pointless antics so it really doesn't seem fine \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Jan 30, 2023 at 11:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AnnaAG The thing is, no one's shown any annoyance (I had to read the Q 3 times to check), The only event -- the "burial" -- had someone else on the same side and it was only a "lengthy discussion". It seems 50/50 to me. They got some answers guessing that they're being a problem player. They should get one guessing that things might be fine. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2023 at 18:10
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No.

'My Guy Syndrome' (it's not really a syndrome) is vaguely defined. It describes effectively any instance of roleplaying (doing what the character would do) and then adds the qualifier - when this gets in the way of fun or when it makes it impossible to play the game.

The qualifier is what is important. It doesn't differentiate between the player having fun and the rest of the table having fun. Someone playing a jokey character in a game full of otherwise serious people might be having fun at the cost of other people's fun. Someone playing a serious character in a jokey game, likewise. Someone playing a realistic flawed character in a game of people trying to win the scenario, likewise.

The problem with 'my guy syndrome' is that it doesn't really differentiate between these. People who know a lot about ttrpgs pick up on that subtext, but people who don't don't. If you're assuming that any loss of fun at all means 'my guy syndrome' aka 'bad' then that might be true in this case. If people in your group are having less fun because you are wanting to roleplay a character with flaws rather than an emotionless tactically perfect killing machine, then by that very narrow definition that ignores the ttrpg context, sure.

However that's a bad response to the situation you are describing. If you are not on the same page as the people you are gaming with, that doesn't mean 'you are bad' or 'my guy' or whatever. It means you should get on the same page as them - perhaps that means you shelve your plans to roleplay a person and instead play an emotionless killing machine so they can have their fun of defeating monsters and gaining experience points. Perhaps that means you discuss it with them and come to a compromise. Perhaps it means you find people who have expectations closer to yours in terms of what game of Dungeons & Dragons entails.

A more reasonable interpretation (and how I originally saw it used universally, although that's changed over time) of what 'my guy syndrome' is used to describe is egregious cases of expectation mismatch or even trolling. Where someone who has differences in expectation made clear to them, and then refuses to change the way they are playing their character even as it deeply lowers the fun of the group. A gang of serious roleplayers and the guy who names his characters after dragonball characters and always tries to kill the party, etc. It implies a lack of care about the rest of the table and unwillingness to even compromise. Under that definition this case is nowhere near egregious enough, doesn't show lack of concern, and doesn't show an attempt to compromise that has been refused.

Expectation mismatches happen. Same page tool exists for a reason. If you start labeling normal situations like that as someone trolling, being incredibly obtuse, or showing great lack of care about the experience of other people at the table, that's incredibly counterproductive and generally, a terrible idea.

From just your description it sounds like you want to roleplay a character that has flaws and makes mistakes. That's very normal and most people playing D&D do that. There are a lot of 'doing anything that isn't optimal is The End' players, but far fewer than people who want to play a character with strengths and flaws and etc.

Like any situation with a mismatch in expectations, you basically have to decide if you'll back out of the situation and go find a different one or if you'll modify your expectations, either to meet the group's, or for you and the group to meet somewhere in the middle. Whichever you do, clear communication and understanding of the situation are likely to be far more useful than blaming yourself or other people for likely nonexistent malfeasance.

If you decide to stick with the group, there's something i've used to good effect in some similar situations; Minmax the shit out of your character, so they contribute as much as anyone else while still allowing you to 'freeze in terror' when you see a giant yeti or w/e occasionally. If you're starting at 150% effectiveness, the -50% you do for roleplaying reasons is much less likely to upset other players.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Plenty of downvotes but no comments, anyone care to support their downvote with a comment which might, in their view, improve the answer? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 31, 2023 at 11:30

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