One of the channels that keeps popping up in my YouTube feed is Puffin Forrest. It’s a guy who animates stories from RPGs he has played or run. For the most part I get a laugh out of these or shake my head at the shenanigans he has had to put up with on both sides of the screen, and then I move on. But recently I came across a video that I just had to write something about. Take a look here and hopefully you will see exactly why I’m calling this out as badwrongfun:
I’ll sum up if you can’t slash don’t want to watch it: Narrator was sick of his DnD character (the healer) and wanted to play something else. He brought it up with the game master and other players and they told him he couldn’t because “It wouldn’t make sense in the story”. Cue shenanigans with the narrator trying to suicide his character in combat, finally succeeding, only to have the game master fiat him getting a free rez from his goddess. In the end the narrator concludes that “I shouldn’t have tried to force his (the GM’s) hand by being suicidal. I still want to play with the group and it’s not my game. It’s their game. It’s not my place to try and sabotage it.”
To that I say: BULL. SHIT. Absolute BULLSHIT.
Yes, gaming is a collaborative effort. Yes, that game belongs to the other players at the table and to the game master. But it also belongs to you just as much as any other player at the table. Yes, not every second of every session has to be something you’re absolutely nuts about, but something as fundamental as your character is yours and you should be happy with it.
First, the excuse that the narrator changing characters a year into the game “wouldn’t make sense in the story” is a bullshit excuse.
- There are plenty of stories where a main character disappears halfway through and gets replaced and more than enough ways and reasons to do it. Maybe the character:
- Falls in love and settles down
- Gets a promotion in his priesthood and has to tend a congregation somewhere
- Decides to devote himself to his power in a non murder-hobo fashion
- Is kidnapped and the rest of the group (plus a new addition) has to hunt him down and save him but by the time they do the character has had enough and retires
- Is turned eeeeeevil by a devious alignment changing trap!
- Maybe he even falls down a hole and hits the ground so goddamn hard he turns into a swordmage, like what happened when the tiefling warlock in this very same party (I assume) wanted to change his character. I shit you not.
- This is the entire point of a retcon. It is 100% completely within the power of the game master to wave his hands and say “Yep, Ben’s character is now and has always been . . . I don’t know . . . a dragonborn monk.” Done. Finished. Story unbroken and contiguous from the beginning.
- Given that the story excuse is obviously garbage, you can’t help but assume that the real reason was the old “every party needs a healer” excuse. But frankly, given how hard it was for the narrator to suicide his character while actively trying (It took an obvious grudge monster slash plot clutching to do it), that excuse clearly doesn’t hold water either. Not that it ever does.
So then what do you do if you are in the narrator’s shoes: You want to change your character and the group has collectively vetoed it?
- You could always stop playing with assholes that are interested in making you play something they want you to instead of something you enjoy. That’s always an option. But assuming the game isn’t awful and you like the players more than you’re uninterested in the game, this won’t work.
- Pitch some short plot arcs that get your character off the roster and a new character in their place. Come prepared with a list like the one above and pitch them to the group. See if anyone buys into one or more of them. Start a brainstorming session with the group. After all, you don’t care all that much how the character exits, just that they do.
- Bring in and start training your replacement. Hunt down and hire an NPC or start taking more ownership of an existing NPC. Increase the spotlight time they get. As they move into the spotlight, move your old character out. Eventually step into the NPCs shoes and relegate the old PC to an NPC. Just get buy-in from the game master first. Set a timeline while discussing with the game master too, otherwise you may find this taking far longer than you’d like.
- Worst case, start transitioning the character to something you’d like to play more. Riff off an event in the game and start roleplaying a shift in attitude. Maybe the narrator’s priest becomes disillusioned with a non-violent approach, heads down a more merciless path and starts multiclassing into paladin. Maybe they start hearing voices and having visions after being exposed to an outsider, starts speaking in riddles and multiclasses into sorcerer.
If you’re the game master in this situation, same deal. No amount of “important to the story” is something that can’t be worked around for a player to have a character they can enjoy. You may have to weave in a subplot, you might have to scale back encounter difficulty for a while till you get a hold on the way a new character clicks with the group, but those are things you’re doing anyway. Don’t be a big jerk.