It's really easy to get stuck in a rut, especially if you're a new player. When I fist began role playing, the first few games I played I had, essentially, the same character in every one. In one game it worked really well, but it wasn't long before my group, and our usual DM especially, got frustrated with me. Even looking back at some of my more recent games, after a 3.5 year break, I feel like I was still stuck in the rut with a few of my characters. So here are a few suggestions for what a player can do to keep from getting stuck in a rut, or to get out of that rut:
1. Someone creates a character for you.
One of the characters that I enjoyed playing the most was one that my DM had created. My three past characters had been male fighters or Knights. Imagine my surprise when the DM hands me a female mage. Yes, it was a challenge, but looking back, I enjoyed playing the character and it did stretch me into playing a completely different character. No longer could I run into a fight, sword blazing, now I had to stand back and think a little bit more. The character had to change too, no longer a good, tough guy, but I was inspired to go with a "valley girl" type of character with some questionable, and sometimes contradictory, morals. There have been other games where the DM made the characters for me, and every time I've had more fun playing them than characters I had created myself.
2. Pay attention to your dice.
This can be the hardest one to follow through on, but the best players are able to roll with their dice (I know, that one was pretty bad). We've all been there, you want to make a Rogue, but you just rolled an 8 on your dexterity, or a fighter and got a 10 on strength. Well, there goes that pipe dream. Now what? The temptation would be to force it, see if the DM will let you switch your stats around so you can salvage your dream. Or, you run with what you've got. Maybe you've got a great intelligence, or charisma. Ever tried being a bard? Neither have I, though I've heard it can be amazing fun. Or perhaps you become a Mage. Right away, the character that you always played is completely changed and something new and exciting can step forward. Now, this does mean that you have to listen to those dice that just killed your character, and you’ve got from the time that you created the character sheet to your first game to flesh out the character a bit. A challenge? You bet, but come on, you can do it. It all starts with that back story (and we’ve got another post in the archives that can help with that too). Don’t be afraid to go in a completely new direction, you never know, you might actually like what comes out of it all.
3. Ignore your favourites.
I know you really love swords. And I know you love calling on the animals to do your every bidding. But this time ignore it all. It doesn't exist. Picture just a big white space where those options are in the book. Don't even look at them. You're working on something new, remember? Go with a character that has completely different items, weapons, spells, etc. This gets you into a different frame of mind, out of your comfort zone, and now you have to figure out how your character is going to use these things, what kind of temperament that's going to mean for him or her. I used to pick fighters all the time. The first game I played was called Rifts (a Palladium RPG, if memory serves), and I picked a Cyber Knight (I wanted to be like a Jedi). It didn’t go so well, by the way. I was told Cyber Knights are hard for rookies to play for a reason. Then I was a fighter in a D & D game. Then, it was a monk, in D & D 3.5. A little different from a fighter, but still a fighter. So next time, I went off the grid, a cleric. This guy wasn’t going to be a meat shield, a big fighter, or stuck in that “strong, silent type.” He was a spell caster, a healer, with some combat skills, yes, but he couldn’t even last one round against a paladin. He was a rotund spiritual leader with bad breath (like really bad, and he always stood close to talk to you) and chanted his spells. I enjoyed that character, and it got me into new territory that I hadn’t treaded before.
4. Read, read, read, read. Read books a lot.
You can find so many characters in those books. Good writers will provide you with a wealth of characters that you can imitate and draw from. This has the advantage that you don’t have to come with something all on your own. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel, if you want to look at it that way. You can find a character right there in the pages of a book and plop him into your game. I found character in reading that I would love to play. He’s a wizard, but not the brave, “I can face anything with my strength of will, intellect, and quick thinking” type of wizard. No, this wizard’s a klutz, his feet are too big for his body, he’s uncoordinated, he’s bashful, he’s got absolutely no confidence at all, and has a habit of fainting in pressure situations (like random encounters, or when challenged violently). Unfortunately, he’s a quite powerful wizard and usually finds himself the wrong place, at the wrong time in order to do just the right thing. This character is totally different from anything that I’ve ever played before and I would love to have the chance to put myself in that character’s skin.
You could do the same with TV, or movies, only there are likely to be a lot of people who will notice exactly what kind of character your playing, and who you’re basing that character of off. That can cause some groaners around the table, but if you can take it, by all means go ahead. But if the character is unique enough, and most of people at the table might not recognize him or her right off the bat, go ahead, give it a try. You might even find you can breathe something new and different into that character over time that makes him or her your own, and all of a sudden, you’ve got something incredibly brilliant.
I've always admired other players who can create so many characters that are all so different from the other. I’ve found that I’ve struggled with that, not just in my role playing, but in my writing as well. Thus, I've created these tips for myself in order to get me out of my own rut and into a new kind of character. That way people don't get bored playing with you or you yourself getting bored with gaming. And then, after a while, you can go back to your favourites and breathe new life into an oldie from times past. And if you find a character that your DM pulls out for another game, you know you’ve found a winner, and the group will love to have that character come back for one more game, one more adventure.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.