Steal My Idea: Learn from My Failure

Giving up is easy. Staying with it is worth it.

We’ve all had those moments in RPGs where it didn’t go how we thought/hoped/planned/prayed it would go. You took time crafting a twist that no one cared about. Players derailed your campaign. The GM railroaded the campaign. The new group didn’t gel. The list goes on. If we all gave up when we failed, none of us would still be playing. Here are some tips I’ve learned from my own failures.

There’s a lot to cover, and I’m going to break this up into separate parts for separate posts. Here’s one that I’ve wanted to talk about for a while:

Making a character you were really excited about… that turns out to be no fun.

This one has happened to many of us… or maybe it’s just including me and a few others. Either way, sometimes, you get a great idea for a character. You know her strengths, weaknesses, background, worldview, etc. You know it all. You plan and plan and then one day you finally break her out and start roll playing…. And you find out she’s no fun to play.

A few pitfalls that lead to this is at one of the first steps of character creation: Make your character’s motivations open-ended, and make sure they have several.

Don’t make a character around one concept or idea. Not all situations will allow you to explore or further that idea or goal. While good characters often have one or several important goals, their lives don’t revolve solely around that. They have other dreams, ideals, and desires.

For example, don’t make a character with a limited scope of options. Avoid doing something like this:

Elvis is a human ranger whose family was killed by a band of barbarian/wizard elves when he was just a boy. Now he hates elves, wizards, and barbarians, and he always tries to kill them when he sees them.

If Elvis always kills elves, you’ll quickly find yourself in a situation where you’re either a thorn in the group’s side or you have to not do the thing you built your character to do. Instead, think of it like this:

After a wild band of barbarian/wizard elves killed his family, Elvis was always weary and distrustful of elves, wizards, and barbarians.

Is Elvis still racist and classist? Totally. But now Elvis has the chance to do many things when he encounters someone he predisposed to hate. The open-ended way for Elvis to react to something gives Elvis room to grow and change as a character.

If we focus on what the character will always do, that limits the character’s options and keeps him from gelling with the group. If Elvis always threatens to get his way, it won’t take long for the party to actively keep him from any sort of negotiations that don’t solely rely on that. It’s annoying to the group to have to babysit him and it’s not fun to be left out.

Instead of thinking about what Elvis will do, give Elvis some parameters of what he could do, why he would do each of those things, and why he would bend his own rules. Elvis needs the flexibility and a person when you bring him into the game. He’s had a life where he hasn’t gotten his way and he’s suffered from making stupid or selfish decisions. Let him already have some of that flexibility and adaptability so Elvis can be a more well-rounded character.

In addition, be aware of what other people are doing and be willing to tweak your plans.

One time, the GM’s story had two warring factions involved in the plot. Unaware, another player and myself chose opposite sides to support. This could have made for some good conflict and moments of understanding. However, we both chose to be too dedicated to our particular faction. This was a constant source of unenjoyable tension. We repeatedly got in arguments over what we should do and it just slowed the game down do to our character’s inability to agree. If we could have adjusted our stances or offered some way to find middle ground to work together, the game would have been much smoother.

Related topic: Steal My Idea: Having “That Moment”

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Twitter: @RexiconJesse

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