Topic [Guide] Avoiding Mary Sue Tendencies in RP
Edited by Danellos on 22/02/12 17:00 (GMT)
Welcome to the new and improved version of my guide to avoiding Mary Sue tendencies in roleplay! If you'd like to read the old guide, it is here:
(Note, it was locked and unstickied by request!)
First of all, it goes without say that everyone has a different opinion of this subject. As such, you are more than welcome to disagree with some of the information that I have put here, as long as you remain constructive and back your arguments up as well as you can. Everyone's style of roleplay is different, and this is part of what makes playing on roleplaying realms quite thrilling!
The purpose of this guide is to help those who are new to roleplay strike a balance between the good qualities and bad qualities of their characters in their character concepts. When one starts roleplaying a character and attempts to make it stand out from the rest, it is quite easy to deviate towards themes that may otherwise make the character seem rather unbelievable, like a "special snowflake", or too heroic. In fanfiction writing, characters such as these are commonly referred to as Mary Sues, and the concepts that apply to this word in fanfiction writing could very well apply to roleplaying as well.
What is a Mary-Sue Character?
Taken from http://wow.joystiq.com/tag/mary-sue/ , here is the definition in terms of roleplaying:
A Mary Sue is a character who essentially is an idealized projection of the author's self, serving as a sort of fictional wish fulfillment. Mary Sues run rampant in roleplay and are nearly universally hated. They're not great characters, and they tend to disrupt other people's fun.
So in essence, these are the "too-good-to-be-true" type characters that more often than not causes one's eyes to roll during roleplay. In some cases, if you have a Mary Sue, then you may even be flat out ignored by other roleplayers. I've seen this happen, and its not fun for either side.
Below I have outlined some guidelines taken from the old version of my guide, and also newer parts added in from the helpful feedback of the players who commented there. I have also done some additional reading, and found some more pointers that could be added in.
Please note: Not all of the below-mentioned parts may apply to your character. Remember, an anti-Sue is just as bad as a Mary Sue. The whole idea is that you need to strike a balance between the good and the bad in your character... to make him/her seem more believable, more interesting, and fun to roleplay with from the perspective of other roleplayers!
It is also important to remember that character development is essential in roleplay. Over time, your character should improve on its bad qualities or even regress on some of its good.
Edited by Danellos on 21/02/12 21:30 (GMT)
Outlined below are various tips you can follow in order to make sure that your character does not deviate towards Sue tendencies. Some of this was copied from the old thread (maybe rephrased a little), and others come from the helpful pointers provided by fellow roleplayers in that thread.
As has been proven many times in the designing of character concepts in a universe that is not your own, this is the most problematic part.
I know it is sometimes tempting when you are, for example, playing a paladin of the holy light who is to set an example for the rest of the world to follow, but don't go over the top with this. Give your character some flaws which makes them imperfect, and make sure that those flaws are as obvious (if not more obvious) than his/her good traits. This way, your character would seem more believable, and your fellow RP'ers (or audience if you are writing a fanfic) can relate with them in some way or another.
It’s okay for your character to be good at something, or to be a hero for that matter (as being a hero is exactly what Blizzard's quests call you), but do your best to balance out the strengths of your character with the flaws. It is very easy for a heroic character to deviate towards Sue tendencies, but if done tastefully, I am sure there'll be many who'll be pleased to roleplay with you.
Do not over-describe your character either, especially in an overly-poetic manner.
Examples of very real flaws are: impatience, impetuousness, unfriendliness, phobia, etc. This DOES NOT include stereotypical flaws such as a sin'dorei being addicted to magic. Those don't count!
This is best explained with an example. If I create a blood elf mage, and I call him "Fandore Sunstrider" (fictional) and make it so that he is some long-lost brother of Kael'thas Sunstrider, then I am basically saying that my beloved character is related to one of the main characters in this game's lore. What makes me so special that I can relate myself to a core character within the Warcraft universe? Do you get my drift?
I don't see this very often myself, but I have seen it before. This is definitely something to avoid.
The pity-beggar Mary Sue is a common one, often leading a painful life with hateful parents, perfect siblings/friends or no friends at all, no lover, no man or woman taking a fancy to them, and the list could go on. The worst part of this is that the character who has suffered these injustices would have little or no reaction towards these experiences.
Pity-begging characters tend to spend a great deal of time talking about their awful pasts as well, and this is not something that people really always enjoy in roleplay. Don't dwell too much on these things.
I am not saying that giving your character a horrible past is necessarily a bad thing, but I am saying that basing your entire character concept around it would be dangerous. In real life, we've all suffered some degree of injustices. Its just the reality of life. Over-emphasizing it on your character is more often than not going to cause eye-rolling.
It is very easy for players to make their characters out to be this individual that “just seems to get everything right the first time". Like a druid mastering his flight form on the first try, for example. Fighting skills, special talents, strong relationships, and any special powers of some sort should not have come easily to your character in the beginning.
For example, this current character I am posting with struggles endlessly understanding the branch of druidism related to curing land corruption. In fact, he may never fully grasp the concept at all, and this may in turn prove to be a disadvantage to him!
Give your character some weird habits, like nail-biting or alcoholism.
The God-Mode Mary Sue is rarely found alone. Oftentimes they can be located within the mind of a "perfect" Mary Sue or a Plot-Stealer Mary Sue. These creations are usually ultra-powerful, often not even knowing they have the powers that they use up until the first time. The powers themselves are generally numerous, or strong enough to chase away the worst of the villains out there.
Edited by Danellos on 03/05/12 14:06 (BST)
You are not a canon character, no matter how much you may want to be. Plot-stealing Mary Sues tend to come about when the player or writer is unhappy with how a specific character in lore is being portrayed. And as such, they'll put their own characters in that place.
For example, I may be unhappy with Maieve Shadowsong's lack of appearance in the game since TBC. So as such, I will create a night elf rogue called Máieve and add Shadowsong to the end with an RP addon plus a normal "a" letter. Then I'd get some gear that looks somewhat similar, and roleplay as her.
Please don't do this! You'll very quickly find yourself being ignored.
Could in fact be summarised as 'Avoid special abilities' full stop. If you must have them, at least explain them. Special abilities would be sensing auras around other players (not including sensing undeath as a druid / shaman / paladin or sensing demons as a druid / shaman / paladin / warlock), or being instinctively able to sense if someone is lying or not. In fact, such 'senses' are often used to make metagaming legit. "Yeah, I can sense you're a warlock" or, "Yeah, I can sense you're a warrior" (to a warrior wearing day-to-day cloth clothes in a bar). Don't ever say anything about being able to read minds!
It should be noted that this does not always apply to characters adept in the arts of magic, as someone has quite rightly pointed out in this thread.
However, similar to avoid unexplained abilities, avoid giving off 'auras'. For example, "Sephirof gives off an aura of power". What, can you smell it like you can smell when someone hasn't washed? Can my half brainded forsaken rogue sense it?
Auras can be pulled off pretty well if done tastefully, but generally, it should be avoided.
Avoid being unusual for your species. This means anything other than fel-green eyes on a Blood Elf, silver/amber eyes on a Night Elf, white eyes on a Draenei, or natural human eye shades on a human, etcetera.
(Just a note regarding the example with the eye colours - this does not apply to all races. Dogs can have heterochromatic eyes, and so can humans at times. If done tastefully, a worgen or human roleplayer can pull this off pretty well. Maybe even other races!)
This is a classic. Demon hunters, Death knights (before WotLK), Apothecaries, etc. Classes that you cannot choose when you create your character. It can be done and it can be done well, but it takes practice and a lot of reading. It is not to recommend. Give your rogue demon hunter some pretty heavy flaws and you might get away with it if you are friendly enough to ask for advice.
Always be open for feedback. If someone tells you that your character is questionable, it probably is and you should be ready to listen closely to tips and tricks from other people, it can help you a lot. And if you are unsure, don't be afraid to ask someone for directions.
Roleplay is teamwork!
Always remember that.
Edited by Danellos on 28/03/12 09:24 (BST)
Just remember one thing as well guys,
Edited by Danellos on 18/06/12 20:31 (BST)
I'd expand on the "roleplay is teamwork!" quote a little and rephrase it as a key point, because in general a lot of the awkward and misplaced RP I see happening (even if it isn't a result of roleplayers who are necessarily "bad" at what they're doing) comes as a result of people treating roleplay as a means to and end for their character, as opposed to a group activity.
Roleplay is a social thing, when you RP it's very easy to think of your character as the hero of the story, because the connotations it has to traditional storytelling are so engrained in us that it's difficult not to think of the character that we're playing, and who we care about most, as the protagonist of the story we're getting involved in.
It's important to always consider what'll be enjoyable for the group though, not just what's enjoyable for you. While it might seem like the most awesome thing in the world for you to meet your long-lost evil twin in the middle of a party event and throw yourself into a fight to the death on the dance floor, chances are everyone who's watching is only going to roll their eyes and turn back to their own conversation.
That's not to say that personal character stories aren't important and engaging, but they're best kept within their own context, or confined to a close circle of roleplaying friends who're willing to get involved in them.
An RP event that's all about people watching while your character plays the hero from start to finish isn't engaging, and neither is hijacking an event or gathering for the sole purpose of getting an audience for your latest escapade.
Roleplay is a social activity. Nobody likes the friend who spends all night talking about themselves. ^^
Very good thread, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Especially the bits about giving characters flaws aswell as strengths.
For example my character is a mage, however he has a handicap because he finds himself only limited to the use of fire magic, he is hopeless at the other four schools of arcane.
Not only that but he has phobia's of Spiders and Heights. So in order to get around he tries to stick to the main roads and stay away from Flight Master's ICly.
Not only that he also tends to have a charismatic personality with a good sense of humour. I get along great with people who have a lot of character to them, as long as they don't go over the top.
Edited by Jahra on 21/02/12 19:34 (GMT)
A good guide, I think you need to mention half-breeds as well though.
A good half-breed character makes sense both lore-wise but also time-wise, (A half-human half-NElf who is only about 10-15 years old is fine as that is when the races started mixing. Anything older and I have to stop you right there and then.) and they also make their character have other interesting traits. And they don't rub it into everyones faces that they're a mix of races.
A bad half-breed character makes no sense lore-wise or time-wise (I met a 30 year old Troll/Tauren...eh, what? Not only does this not fit into the timeline but I'm fairly certain the two races cannot breed. Though this leads me into...) and the fact they're a half-breed is the only trait they can show.
What races can interbreed though? Good question...As a personal rule I think the two races need a genetic similarity in order to breed, Orcs and Draenei seem very much physically different but they have proven to both be modified by fel-magic, HOWEVER it was fel-magic that was used to make the offspring.
This is why I dislike any Tauren half-breeds, tauren seem physically way too different to almost every other race to be able to interbreed and they frown upon the use of magic greatly so the odds of them reproducing successfully with another race is...zero.
Anyway I've ranted enough now; Half-breeds are pretty much reserved to the very best of RPers and even then being a half-breed blocks you from most of the RP community. (Even me unless your back story is solid and believable)
Oh and weakness are very important, Jahra has the strength that surpasses a regular male Tauren greatly and is resistant to pain. But the latter acts as a double-edged sword, while it allows her to keep fighting it has on several occasions resulted in near-death. (She gets electrocuted by a shaman, refuses to get healed until she is blackmailed into it where the healer finds her lungs have been damaged where if she had avoided healing for a few more hours she would have died.)
Edited by Aesura on 21/02/12 20:11 (GMT)
This is a very good guide, an enjoyable and important read for those looking to learn the ropes.
Just a comment:
I believe that having amber eyes as a Night Elf was considered a rare and an omen of great power in their future. Both Stormrage brothers and Queen Azshara are reported to have had them. In light of this, despite the in game model for male Night Elves I would suggest that non-amber eyes should be the norm.
85 Worgen Hunter
Edited by Cecíl on 21/02/12 21:16 (GMT)
For the Pity-Beggar section I'd suggest emphasising that you should avoid having them talk about their awful experiences purely for pity. No one does that, would you run up to a stranger on the street to tell them about your deepest darkest secrets for sympathy? I'd hope not. You should also not expect that right off the bat that a character is going to feel sorry for them or that the audience will. Almost everyone in Azeroth has had craptastic experiences on the scale of enslavement, people around them dying, almost dying...Etc.
I'd argue that Apothecary is more of a profession than a 'special class'. Its not really that special, though you should do research into it eg Wrathgate.
Edited by Danellos on 22/02/12 10:29 (GMT)
Thanks for the feedback guys. :)
Aye, night elves are not normally born with amber eyes. However, druids can develop these eyes over time due to gaining an affinity to nature. Since most kaldorei males follow the path of druidism in lore, Blizzard gave them this eye colour.
However, being born with this eye colour is where the Sue tendency may creep in if not balanced properly with other qualities the character may have.
A very good thread and I agree with pretty much all of it. As far as 'auras' and stuff go, I think a powerful warlock would give off a strong fel-taint which could be picked up by most people. I've definitly heard the term "stink of fel" many times, so I think if someone ICly guesses someone is a fel-user when they are one, it's not too bad. Obviously if they haven't used fel-magic in a long while and/or are using something to 'mask' the taint, then it shouldnt be picked up on.
Likewise, a Death Knight (With their eyes covered and who isn't speaking), would likely give off an aura of undeath or necromatic energies, as i'm sure has been mentioned in quests or somesuch.
Obviously most other classes, unless they are wearing very stereotypical armour for their class, should be fairly 'safe'.
An interesting read! Though I have some questions in regards to this whole thread, as a community do we universally draw the line at Mary-Sue's or is this your opinion?
I find it a pity really that for people who do read these forums already KNOW about things like this and that this thread is aimed at people who DON'T read the forums as they lack both the intuition to not be a mary-sue as well as lack the intuition to not read the forums, if ya' catch ma' drift?
Would it be acceptable in Lore to claim that you killed Deathwing, for example. This is justified by the fact that you may have the achievement and his ("shard", I think it its a shard) now is hung in Stormwind/Orgrimmar? By kill, I mean with friends - not solo...etc.. Sorry for the vagueness.
Unfortunately, we as community don't really have a universally drawn a line as to when a character becomes a Sue or not. This thread merely outlines some of the more pominent examples of when others may start thinking of your character as a Sue. Some people are very quick to jump the "you are a Sue" gun the moment they see something that is out of the ordinary with another character, which is actually wrong in various respects, and others are just more tolerant.
In my personal opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with your character if there is something unique about him or her that makes the said character stand out from the rest (a quality in other words). However, it is extremely important that the balances are being made in order to avoid resentment from your audience and to allow roleplay to be a fun experience for both you and them.
Although this can be quite difficult to pull off, the answer is yes as this purely depends on how well it is done. In lore, Deathwing was vanquished with the aid of various heroes and you can be one of those heroes as well. However, if not done tastefully and with balances in mind, this could very well tend towards a Sue. This is partially why many people prefer to avoid the theme of "I helped kill Illidan" or "I helped vanquish the Lich King" and such like - their audience becomes easily resentful to such great feats.
Let's just say though, I'd not do this. I am by no means proficient enough in roleplaying to be able to pull this theme off properly, and I openly admit that. I like being in the safe zone, standing out of the spotlight of great events in Azeroth. However, that's just me. I am sure there are quite a number of players out there who would do this pretty well, and for them I harbour a tremendous amount of respect!
Danellos. I think its quite clear why you're an MVP.
I think its a shame really that as a community that we fail to have universal agreement on things like this. I mean, at the same time its great - but there shouldn't be controversy about certain things, like 'Mary-Sues' for example.
I whole heartedly agree with everything you've written. One Hundred percent agree. Nice work!
Hey Danellos, another suggestion. It might be useful to put examples up say for people using MRP or FlagRSP so that they know from your knowledge what is acceptable.
I guess by the reserved places you may be using them.
I did make reference to RP addons in one part of my guide, but I agree that perhaps I should reference it more. I'll go over it later.
Different people use a different set of RP addons though, so I didn't want to be specific on them (i.e. mentioning MRP, TRP, and such). ^^
I'd like to comment on the use of descriptions. This is of course just my personal preference.
Please don't put background information into the description field. Not only is it "telling" what you should be roleplaying, it's also liable to be TL;DR.
My personal preference is that the description field is to enhance on the things you can see, not what your character is about. It's been a long while since I used an RP addon, but this is pretty much all I had as a description:
There is an intricate tattoo around her left eye and tendrils of green fel energy twirl around her face.
The tattoo often came as a surprise to other roleplayers. It seems that the facial tattoo as part of belf lore is not widely known. The fel energy tendrils are (or should be) obviously class related. It's meant as a hint, but preferably not confirmation of her class; warlock.
The above example is also, I hope, an example of how to pull off an aura. Keep it subtle, and try as hard as possible to make other people have to guess what the aura actually is. A holy paladin might give off a faint glow of the light - or maybe just the eyes. With the caveat that I've never dug into the light or holy lore:
There is an unmistakable but faint glow from his eyes.
That the glow is the goodness of the light is something the character should be roleplaying, not spelling out. Even with such a visual hint, the character might be thoroughly evil and the aura is a disguise.
If you do not already have plans to, I would suggest entering a section on co-operation and how that goes as deeply into creating a character as in other forms of RP.]
The creation of a character along co-operative lines is important as it speaks volumes about the player's skill and willingness to adhere to the necessary handicaps that we put on our characters to make them fun for others to RP with.
Co-operation in things like abiding by the lore and the commonly held beliefs so that everyone is creating their characters from the same primordial soup. In abiding to the logic and physics of the RP world like not carrying ridiculous weaponry that you not only have no IC way of ever being able to obtain them. (and this goes for a great deal of unusual weaponry, not just ones with stories.)
Recently I encountered someone with a very large 2-h axe in one hand, the Bulwark of Azzinoth in the other and coated in plate armour. I think it is important that it be stressed how gravity still applies in this world (although it would seem that a great number of flying creatures seem somewhat exempt to this rule) as having a remarkably strong character is also a fairly common sue tendency and will even end up losing you RP when your character isn't a sue at all.