So I made a new character, and as an experiment I decided to use a character quirk to make it a bit more interesting. I used a random generator and came up with

"Your character is prone to absent-mindedly dismantling things"

Now, after a couple of sessions, the other players have found my character antics to be annoying or frustrating, and are constantly taking things from me or refusing to give me anything due to this quirk.

Now, for those of you who may be wondering "how often does this happen?" - it isn't very often; maybe only once or twice a session. The GM keeps an eye on me and often when I (as the player) am not doing anything, will ask me what I'm dismantling. And so now, I'm often left with nothing more than pulling threads on my shirt or unlacing my shoes. I'm not really finding this quirk to be any real fun to roleplay, it's more of an annoyance than anything, because it's not really interacting with the story/character interactions.

Is there a better/different way that this should be handled?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, what kinds of things were you saying, that the other players got frustrated? It's one thing to say "my character keeps unbuckling his backpack straps while we're talking to the earl". It's quite more alarming to say "my character pulls the head off the Wand of MacGuffin-ness while we're walking to the Temple to get it de-fizzed by the priest"! \$\endgroup\$
    – Brian
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 5:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ It sounds like you have Dave Jones as a RPG character..."Don't turn it on, take it apart!" \$\endgroup\$
    – Shalvenay
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 11:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Speaking as someone who nearly compulsively fiddles with things, it's rarely just dismantling (e.g repeatedly taking a pen apart and putting it back together)- could your character not subsequently re-mantle things, still as part of the quirk? It's the easiest way to get more things to take apart \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 15:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ "and are constantly taking things from me or refusing to give me anything due to this quirk" that seems like a reasonable response to someone fidgeting and breaking things. Are the players actually annoyed with you, or, are they RP'ing along with your character? I have a friend who IRL 'steals' things while saying "Yoink!" We all 'play along with him' and are always saying things like "No don't let him touch it! It'll disappear!" But we aren't annoyed with him. We are playing along with his personality quirk. Is that what is happening here? \$\endgroup\$
    – Shane
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 21:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Seconding @Brian, for this question to be useful you need to explain what you have been doing. There's playing 5 minutes with a clockwork toy before wanting to see how it works inside, and there's scuttling the engines of the plane while you're flying it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Superbest
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 7:48

7 Answers 7


Well, if the player's characters are frustrated and annoyed by your character's quirk then that's just fine.

However, if the players are upset then we are heading into my guy territory and that's not fine.

In either case, your character is allowed to develop and this will solve the problem. When people have a bad habit that annoys their peers then either a) their peers start avoiding them until they are no longer their peers or b) the person recognises they have a bad habit and make efforts to change it.

As a suggestion, perhaps your character can find a 3D-puzzle (one of those annoying things with bits of wood and twisted metal) and to distract himself from dismantling the party's hovercraft (or whatever) he tries to do the puzzle. He can then start a new yet less annoying obsession in stopping at every shop to stock up on these puzzles.

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    \$\begingroup\$ ...not to mention this might hone their skills to dismantle traps etc \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 9:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TobiasKienzler: in fact, with the DM's co-operation that could become a (comic) application of the quirk. Everyone searches the room for loot, during which time they notice that quite without realising it, this PC has dismantled the trapped hidden wall-safe. That might make them more willing to take the rough end of the quirk, but really it depends on the tone of the game. I suspect that with what has already happened, and the way the players reacted in treating this PC as a danger to all their stuff, it's too late to persuade them that the quirk has an upside. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 9:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SteveJessop Let's see how their mind changes when all of a sudden the mighty Balrog has their armour and flame sword lying in pieces in front of them and the quirky character just says "I didn't do it!" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 14:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TobiaKeinzler I personally would opt for more of a Steve Urkel " Did I do that?" =P -- youtube.com/watch?v=Ya2xifdO_l0 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 0:28

Play the character you want to play

While the results of a random quirk generator can be interesting, that doesn't mean the results will be right for you. There're only so many characters you'll be able to play—ever—, and playing a character with a personality trait you no longer want to play isn't fun. If changing the trait would make the game fun for you again, ask the GM if you can pick a different trait.

A PC should, in the end, make the other PCs' lives better

If your character has nothing else to offer except the destruction of other PCs' stuff, the character isn't contributing anything but comic relief, which is usually inessential in a role-playing game. However, the Justice League would still tolerate Green Lantern or Superman even if either tended to uncontrollably dismantle the Hall of Justice's kitchen appliances during meetings. Such characters are more than that bizarre quirk. Thus, one way to manage this successfully is to make the rest of your character so valuable that the quirk can be overlooked; that's pretty much the definition of quirk, after all.

Apologize and ask to change it if the quirk's inappropriate

I've been imagining the PC's involved in a modern or science fiction campaign that has plenty of minor things to dismantle. However, in a fantasy game beyond clothes and crossbows, there just aren't that many things to dismantle without getting metaphorical (e.g. economic systems, governments, relationships). In a modern or science fiction campaign, I'd suggest the character stock up on ballpoint pens or last-gen minicomputers for hey-I'ma-bored-I'ma-gonna-break-this shenanigans, but typically industry hasn't progressed to where that's reasonable in a fantasy game, so, like being the greatest pianist of the Paleolithic Era, the quirk lacks the opportunity to develop and maybe, depending on the campaign, shouldn't even have been taken in the first place. Again, ask the GM if it can be changed.

A PC's quirk shouldn't dominate the action

If a PC's quirk dominates the action, it's not a quirk anymore but an actual full-blown disadvantage. If, during a 4-hour session, the GM takes the time twice or more to remind you to play your character's quirk, that's serious. This GM tends to imagine sessions as television episodes, and something that happens at least once or twice every episode and makes other PCs walk on eggshells has gone from quirk to issue to problem. If the quirk is really supposed to be mildly amusing and not overwhelming, ask the GM to dial back the quirk's intensity: Explain how the character's not an anarchist or a nihilist who's sole desire is destruction, but instead, how the character is a relatively sane and functional member of society who, when stressed or bored, takes things apart. Little things. Like ballpoint pens. Not, like, starships.

If you want to keep it, make it so it's not annoying

I can imagine the other PCs and players being annoyed at the PC if the PC's dismantling the other PCs' stuff. That shows (pop psychology alert!) a disregard for boundaries extending into actions-despite-consequences behaviors that indicate deeply rooted control issues. Seriously, if the PC is dismantling the other PCs' spacesuits, vehicles, and weapons, the other PCs should stage an intervention so your PC doesn't get them all killed. As in real life, the character needs to manage his quirks so that he can continue to interact with the world and make it so the world won't murder That Dude Who Breaks Stuff. The PC needs to give himself proper and reasonable opportunities to dismantle things and, when the PC has those opportunities, dismantling things should add to the other players' enjoyment of the game, not detract from it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "Play the character you want to play." This player is annoyed by his own character, not by the table reactions when he plays the quirk out. "I'm not really finding this quirk to be any real fun to roleplay" \$\endgroup\$
    – Beanluc
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 19:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for quirks shouldn't dominate. I just wrote most of an answer saying that, before I realized it was contained herein. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 20:37

What does the DM/GM say? If they don't like it, then stop it. If the other players don't like it, and they complain to the DM/GM, then stop it. If you don't like it yourself, then stop it.

The real question and point is: Does it make the game more fun and enjoyable? If not, then don't do it.

Note: It may depend on the ages of the various players and DM/GM. As people get older, their goals and methods change. It maybe very fun and interesting for a younger group, and not for an older group. People now game from 5 to 95.

Personal anecdote: I was playing and was 'cursed' to being randomly arrogant and belief that the were the best ever. So, about once or twice per session when doing something 'great' like rolling a 20, I'd get to play the arrogant card. But, more often than that would be annoying.

Have fun gaming!

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 Does it make the game more fun and enjoyable? If not, then don't do it. It is a wonder that people need to be told this, but some people do. Good answer, and good example of how to actually use a quirk. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 16:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Combining my example with the OP quirk, maybe it comes out on a roll of a 1 for a skill check that they failed because they broke something. Then, the quirk is an explanation for the crit fail rather than an on-going issue. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeP
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 19:09

I'm not really finding this quirk to be any real fun to roleplay, it's more of an annoyance than anything, because it's not really interacting with the story/character interactions.

And this is the real heart of the issue. What is happening here is a fundamental lack of proper integration of the quirk, not the quirk itself.

Quirks, disadvantages, etc. all generally intended to open up roleplaying opportunities for the character. Not just in the abstract but often in real mechanical terms as well.

As others have noted, this quirk needs a purpose:

  • You should be able to distract NPCs by fiddling with their things while you companions do something they couldn't do with the NPC watching.
  • With respect to the comments by @TobiasKenzler and @SteveJessop, you should be more adept at finding/dismantling traps. ("XYZs aren't normally put together like that! I know. I have inspected them... ahem... closely.")
  • You should be able to take apart locks and figure out what bars are loose in the local jail window.
  • Ancient puzzles with complex interlocking pieces that don't even look like puzzles should be child's play even if your actual INT score is nothing special (you rain man, you! =P ). Just don't unwittingly solve any puzzle boxes leading to hell. ;-)
  • You should have the ability to extrapolate near instantly what an unfathomable war machines on the brink of destroying world actually does and have a good idea of how you might stop it.

In short, you are not a person who takes things apart -- you are a mechanically-inclined engineer. And breaking stuff is only half the person you are. Eventually you have to put things back together. Your other half is the guy or gal in every movie that, when the hero is completely stumped by the villain, you have "an idea" (at least if it involves anything McGuyver-like.)

You, my friend, are an indispensable asset to the group. And with your great luck who is to say that you might not "absentmindedly" break something which, on further inspection, reveals something interesting (a hidden object in a clockwork, for example, or a lever mechanism for a hidden passage).

Talk To Your GM

The GM keeps an eye on me and often when I (as the player) am not doing anything, will ask me what I'm dismantling.

I dislike criticizing anyone's technique but it feels like the GM is expecting a little too much imagination from you in this case and is failing to help make opportunities for your character to put your quirk to use in a way that will satisfy everyone.

I would have a talk with him or her and brainstorm some ideas about how the quirk could be useful (as mentioned) and politely ask that they make an effort to integrate some of those ideas into future sessions.

If they decline or the situation remains the same, well, that's that. You can probably drop the quirk. But hopefully, if things go well, you all may be able to have a little more fun.


you have my IRL (In Real Life) personality quirk! I absent-mindedly dismantle/deconstruct/destroy random things all the time, and rarely am I aware of it until I damage something beyond easy repair.

I just have to do something with my hands (Don't take that out of context), regardless of what it is. Even if I am reading a book, quite often I am also bouncing my leg or twirling some small object in my non-book-holding hand.

In my teenage years, this was pretty destructive (relatively speaking). I had binders and backpacks accidentally torn apart constantly, and I would peel / break random things at the school.

Now I have learned to cope with it by having specific benign object that are not too distracting but I can easily access. At work, that means I have hundreds of random piece of tape folded and taped together; as well as a ruler I might twist around (although I've broken it more than once by accidentally bending it too far). On the more destructive side of things, I have a tendency to break or tear small things. At a restaurant? You can bet I'll have that straw wrapper or napkin in hundreds of pieces by the time we're done. Hell I tend to carry some extra napkins in my jacket pocket just in case.

Simply put, I have found ways to control those impulses towards less destructive purposes. Hopefully your character has learned to control them to a degree, too. After all, it's quite difficult to be completely absent minded when you have a chair completely torn apart by the time we get back to you.

A few random ideas that come to mind:

  • Whoops! That statue that you were standing near might be missing a few toes after you absent mindedly leaned on it.

  • While waiting in ambush for some enemy, you absent-mindedly start snapping small twigs. Let's hope you weren't heard!

  • You start twirling your spyglass around while you wait for a visitor. One thing led to another, and you quickly realize that a bent spyglass is useless!

Side-note: I'm not sure how entertaining RP'ing an absent-minded quirk might be, especially when it's rarely (if ever) constructive. It might be worth having a trade-off; such as your character tends to randomly break things, but this lends itself to being better with your hands (somehow). No idea how you would incorporate this, but maybe that's something you could discuss with your GM.


Keep it fun for everyone.

This is a theme in the other answers, but it bears re-iterating. Any aspect of an RPG can be a burden rather than a benefit, if it isn't fun for everyone.

With that said, think about WHY your character is dismantling things. There are two primary reasons I can think of, and they can have advantages in game. While you do not specify what game you're playing, I'm a D&D Player and will use that as a basis. You may have to try and find ways to adapt the ideas to your platform.

Figuring out how things work
As a mechanical engineering major, figuring out how things work drives many things I do, including dismantling things in my spare time, and even reassembling them in other ways to see if I understand the individual components properly. I don't always take sufficient notes when tearing things down, and thus the "extra screw" problem does occasionally crop up. But that can add an element of randomness that can be REALLY fun to roleplay.

(DM Rolls d20 when reassembled object is next used)

  • on 1-4, reassembled object is completely broken and does not perform the function it was intended to.
  • on 5-9, reassembled object functions, but to a lesser degree than expected. Less damage, for example.
  • on 10-18, reassembled object functions normally.
  • on 19-20, reassembled object performs BETTER than expected.

Keeping your hands busy
Gosh, my hands hate being idle. REALLY hate being idle. I am always doodling on paper, folding paper, tearing paper into geometric patterns... dismantling pens just to re-mantle (is that a word?) them... but there's lots of things a character can do to keep their hands busy:

  • Play with a piece of yarn
  • Practice sign language (perhaps with another party member, make a secret language)
  • Carve, or whittle. This can lead to bonuses - your character can now make crossbow bolts by sharpening straight sticks. Or you can make more intricate carvings and sell them when you get back to town.
  • count, recount, re-re-count your gold... (the clinking may annoy others)
  • draw - can do portaits in town, for gold. Can even contribute pictures of local flora and fauna to academics for their books and study.
  • In a dungeon? Be the map-maker. Not moving? Embellish the map with 'here be dragons' and whatever other doodles come to mind...

As you can see, WHY your character has a quirk can lead to many other uses and implementations of the quirk. It may start off as the dismantling of things, but as the character comes to these realizations and other things he can do to keep his hands busy, it can find ways to benefit the party, or at least himself.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Please take the tour and visit the help center for a look at how this SE site may differ from your other SE sites. Thank you for your answer, and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 1:53

From your description it looks like everythings fine. They are roleplaying their characters, their characters know about your characters quirk, their characters started to take things away from your character which is perfectly reasonable behavior in a situation. I cannot see anything wrong, and I especially cannot see how "the group won't let you use your character's quirk".

They are not letting you use it in the same way as they are not letting you to use your characters gun skill by refusing to be shot in the head.

So just enjoy roleplaying experience and next time think in advance how your character's quirks can affect the group in game and what other characters can be reasonably expected to do about them.


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