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Foxfire and Afira's Handbook to Role-Playing

For gaming purposes, at least three types of stereotypes exist:

Character Character stereotypes are conventional or expected repetitive patterns that develop from conforming to a known behavior, psychological disposition, verbal word choice, or physical appearance.
Storyline Storyline stereotypes originate from simplistic or unimaginative plot building by the storyteller.
Mechanical Mechanic stereotyping is derived from either the abuse of standard game mechanics or the overuse of game mechanics, this can either be a perceived or a real abuse.

Character Stereotypes
One of the largest problems that individuals have to overcome in role-playing is creating dynamic and unique characters. Individuals tend to stick to the things they know and feel comfortable with. The problem here is threefold:

1) People learn what to expect from you and will therefore be able to manipulate your character with ease
2) Storylines and other characters donít progress as intended with similar characters being driven by the same exact motivations, and it tends to be destructive to the gaming environment
3) People will get bored of playing with you and will make excuses to avoid playing with you

From a Player's Perspective:
When you make a character, you want to be able to have fun with it, but you also have to look at the rest of the players in the game. It is not just about nailing down character growth, but also about being able to progress as a role-player each time you experience something outside of your thought pattern or physical prowess. Strong role-players are capable of manipulating multiple concepts to provide more diversity, a fun and interactive RP environment, and the unexpected twist to a storyline that might be lacking. In order to facilitate that play style, you as a player must look at what types of character stereotypes occur, the motivations to create similar characters, and how to avoid those traps.

At first glance, the issue may appear to be a simple one, any person that creates a character that is a similar copy of one they just played should be guilty of the character stereotype, correct? Well, not exactly. Oddly enough, stereotypes are also produced when the opposite occurs, when individuals, who are tired of playing the same exact character, produce the exact opposite of one they just played. This ping-pong effect is just as easy to predict as the similarities can be. In addition, players who always play brainy or stealthy characters to achieve their own ends are also guilty if they manage to make a barbarian, which could normally not reason his way out of a wet paper bag, able to talk to his Royal Highness and pass himself off as a Wizard without some massively stupid rolls or a personal Genie in a lamp.

In its purest form, role-playing incorporates the utilization of a playerís ideas transformed into flesh and bone copies of a mythical character or creature. The reason why individuals role-play is varied, but it stands to reason, that because each individual is throwing some part of himself into the character they make, they will attempt to do so with every character. Smart, crafty, or witty individuals tend to make characters with high intelligence, fast tongues, and a method of getting out of the madness. The motivation is to play something that one knows, and that one can easily manipulate as his or her own. Another reason why players like to play similar characters is that they want to have an easy way out. Some game masters are incredibly gifted storytellers, but they are inclined to make things hard on the players. Those that tend to be less intelligent tend to die rather fast in many of those plots, and so, it ends up being the GM, not the player that drives stereotypical character building.

This directs our attentions to the third point: How do we avoid these traps? Always be frank and responsive to your game master, assert any problems and compliments his or her way so that you can have a better gaming experience. Be aware of the archetypes you tend to choose for your characters. Vary it up by switching attributes and motivations, and potentially hiding your strengths and weaknesses from other players. Ensure that you as a player are always making character growth or stagnancy, in some cases, your priority. Focus your attention on not only filling gaps leftover from other players that may refuse to play certain classes, but supplementing them with similarities as well.

From a Game Master's Perspective:
As a GM, you must look at three different things in relation to players that affect character creation and development. How old or experienced is the player that you are having issues with? Is the player aware of what that they are doing? Can you reward or deny certain character builds or influence the way in which characters are selected?

To address the first issue, age and experience are critical to understanding why a player has certain motivations to do something. Younger players tend to want to be brawny and blast their way through the problem by playing Soldier style archetypes. While this is a stereotype in and of itself, the reason behind it is simple: players without experience or at a younger age want to solve a problem fast, hard, and with big blazing guns because it is easy, cool, and they may not know any better. Itís not a problem that they wish to do so, but as a GM you either need to separate them out and provide them a game that rewards that style of play, or inform them that for this campaign, it is not acceptable for them to play that type of character.

Which leads us to the next problem, is the player actually aware of what they are doing? As a GM, it is your responsibility to ensure that they comprehend the issue at hand. A player, even one with experience is just as likely to fall into the trap. To avoid the pitfalls of doing so, always provide constructive criticism and updates on a personal level. Talk to players after the game, make yourself available for post-session wrap-ups, and allow the players to give you feedback as well. Regardless of how it may make you feel, this is YOUR game, and YOUR responsibility to make it run smoothly for the players and yourself. Tell them what you like and donít like about their play style, always couple negative remarks with positives, and tell them you do want them to continue to play with your group as long as they arenít so incapable it hurts the game progression. Sometimes as a GM, you have to know when to cut the losses and gather the fold. Ask what you can do better as a GM, and what they might like to see as well.

Lastly, can you as a game master, reward or punish certain types of character classes? If they just donít seem to get it, or refuse to play something different, maybe it is time to step forward and provide that extra push or that brutal slap across the face to tell them to STOP. Offer incentives to players that come up with unique variations on characters, reward players that delve into their persona and surprise you with insight, show the other players this is what it means to be part of a RPG, or conversely, punish those that sink back into a character stereotype, remind them of the motivations of their character, and allow them the freedom to discover their mistakes.


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