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I have been playing in a specific group for some time now. I now am in a position where I am going to be the GM once more. However I have a recurring problem with the players continuously switching characters.

While we do a lot of role-playing, and don't have a high focus on combat, some of the players tend to spend a large amount of time on planning their characters. But, because they already have a plan for every possible mechanical situation their character could ever face, this large amount of planning time leads to them getting quickly bored and wanting to plan and switch to a new character.

What can I do to make the players get more invested in their existing characters, and not just enjoying the role-play with little interest in their character concept?

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    \$\begingroup\$ [Related] What are possible ways to deal with a player who frequently switches characters? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 1 '15 at 17:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ This isn't really an answer, but I feel obliged to point out that this is less of an issue in games with less mechanical advancement. Pathfinder and D&D really seem to fuel this problem (I have this problem in D&D to some extent) whereas game systems where advancement is less complex and earthshaking tend not to create this issue. Just something to consider. \$\endgroup\$ – Airk Jun 1 '15 at 19:35
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GMJoe does bring up two important points, although I fear he skipped the most crucial one.

Setting Entanglements: A player is far less likely to abandon a character if they feel that the character will be missed, that their presence and history is respected in the environment they live in.

I had a player who had a tendency to switch characters once every few sessions. I decided to put a stop to it. So the next time he brought in a character, a wandering foreign swordswoman, I had a young NPC the party usually dealt with as a contact and groom for their mounts fall head over heels for her. Suddenly, she was more than a generic cleave path fighter/paladin: she was Jimmy's Hero.

She was the one Jimmy asked to train him in combat during their down time. She was the one Jimmy's mom complained about in a conversation the rogue overheard while stealthing about town. She was the one Jimmy warned when there was an ambush waiting.

The player got more attached to the character because it was clear that the character was having an impact on the setting, that her disappearance would be noted and felt by someone, even if it was that young level 1 halfling commoner.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I don't know how I missed this one. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Mar 21 '15 at 12:34
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I've a two-pronged solution to this. It worked for me in a lesser-but-similar situation to yours, but I don't know your players, so your mileage may vary.

Story time: A player told me that he was planning a new character, because he considered the current one "done" - He'd already imagined all the situations in which that character's skills would be of use, or which which its personality would develop and change, and felt that there was no point in continuing to play the character anymore if it wouldn't result in any new experiences for him. He therefore wanted to create a new one.

"Hang on," said I, "By that logic, won't the same thing happen with your new character, and the one after that, and every character you ever come up with? If you can just imagine all possible situations a character can be in, why bother to roleplay at all?"

My player thought for a bit, then came back with the response: "Because I can't predict everything, and because seeing my character come to life in situations I didn't expect is the payoff."

He then decided to stick with his existing character a while longer, and I resolved to ensure more complicated and unpredictable situations came up in play. It's now been years since then, and he's stuck with the same character ever since.

So, the first prong of my two-pronged answer: Talk to your players, and try and figure out why they're making so many characters. Listen to what they say, even if you disagree with it, and plan your solution based on that. If they just enjoy creating characters in hypothetical space, perhaps suggest that they do that as a side activity and not use the new guys they come up with in your campaign. If they find themselves continually dissatisfied with their characters, try and investigate why that is; There may be a problem with the system or campaign that makes continually making new characters a necessary thing. If they tell you that making new characters is a necessary survival tactic because the old ones keep ending up with criminal records or enemies as a results of events, perhaps you should reconsider the way you assign consequences to actions in your campaign. And if, like my player, they simply didn't realise that their actions weren't actually addressing the perceived problem, you have an opportunity to talk it out and set things straight.

Oh, and the second prong: Be creative. If your players really do believe that they're imagining every single situation which could arise in play, it's likely that you're not going too far outside whatever they expect "the norm" to be. The solution is to occasionally introduce unexpected situations and twists that require them to adapt and come up with creative solutions. A lot of GMs reccomend politics for this, but even unusual physical obstacles ("There's a deep pit filled with water and lined with inaccessible alcoves, and the only way in is a small hole over the center of the pit" or "There's an invisible field that permanently alters the direction of gravity of anything that passes through it by 90 degrees") can work surprisingly well.

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He might just need help designing a character. Who knows everything about a new character?

From a players perspective, I don't want to know the character, I want to discover them. I start with a very basic, limited outline, and use what little I know to inform their decision. That decision gets added to the little I know, building the character 1 decision at a time.

I once played a sorcerer who came unwillingly from academia and was completely unprepared for the life of an adventurer. Couldn't pitch a tent or start a fire. "How do you know which wood is firewood?" The irritation from the rest of the party provided hilarious role play and motivated him to learn. You know, after he'd thrown a fit and spent a couple of nights eating raw food and sleeping outside.

His first fight? He ran away. "The plants were MOVING!" The reaction of the rest of the group informed his next combat. Now, he knew to stay and contribute. Except he'd mostly manifested the spells needed for the lab or classroom. The one combat spell he had was firebolt, and the smell of singed human flesh made him vomit, cry, and swear off using fire on people forever. "Oh my GOD! Acen, take this crossbow and SHUT UP!"

I got to role play someone I was just meeting and it was great. The DM gave some situations where his intellect and high level of education was helpful (modulating the parties response to his ineptitude and cowardice and giving him confidence) and he slowly, reluctantly, at times furiously, grew into a seasoned hero. When the campaign ended, I still didn't feel as if I knew him completely. Good times.

Maybe helping them think of the character as a work in progress and providing opportunity for change and development will keep them interested longer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.se! Take the tour and visit the help center when you get a chance. You'll even get a badge for it. You have a given a pretty good description from a players perspective how to avoid this problem. The OP is asking as the DM however, if you edit your answer to focus on way the DM can help his players to achieve this style of play it will be a better answer. Thanks for contributing and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Feb 21 at 22:57

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