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For gaming purposes, at least three types of stereotypes exist:
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 stereotypes originate from simplistic or unimaginative
plot building by the storyteller.
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.
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
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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