Handling Oddball Characters

Just a thought prompted by a new campaign I’m starting. I’m not talking about obvious “joke” characters, those are easy enough to handle (usually), but well-meant…but odd…PC choices.

How do you handle them as GM? Just say no? Work to integrate them? Do you make them aware of the potential problems they’ll have with authorities, other NPCs? Or do you make it easier…

Bar Patron A: “Look. A Minotaur’s comin’ into the bar.”
Bar Patron B: “Yep.”
Bar Patron A: “How are your crops this year?”

or

Bar Patrons (all of them): “AAHHHHH!!! WHERE ARE THE TORCHES???”

(Question prompted by a player deciding to run a Bugbear Monk.)

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This should trigger @Sean rage as it’ll bring up some Cure of Strand memories for him :slight_smile:

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I like to find out WHY the person wants to play that oddball choice. Sometimes that conversation will get everyone on the same page, or adjust the choice to something that everyone can go along with. Like if it’s just the stats and options instead of a grounded character choice maybe work out those bonuses in a less gonzo way.

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After I took a few deep breaths I did ask. It wasn’t to leverage some type of mechanical advantage, made some sense, so I let it roll.

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To me, the more “oddball”, the more I tell the player that they are signing up for some heavy role-playing and charcter-background building. Honestly, I find them exciting - their very existence in an adventuring party is a plot-hooks-goldmine.


How about a Goblin-Rogue that was raised by an old Goblin wizard that stole an artifact from a dragon and ran away only to face the results of her sins during the campaign??

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Or, even more oddball: A Kobld Paladin of Bahamut, now a Kin-Slayer

In my games, those choices have consequences.
If we’re playing a dungeon crawl, and you want to play a centaur… how do you plan to navigate the rope ladder?
Pixie Farie? Sure, but you are going to be a curiosity everywhere you go (one town she was followed and many kidnapping attempts.)
Enjoy finding clothing and armor for your minotaur.
Etc.

What @LaramieWall said pretty much. My thougjt is always what game and story are we trying to tell? @Harrigan and I have discussed the Kitchen Sink Fantasy RPG. If your game lacks a focus and it is everything goes fantasy then yeah minotaur wizards, bugbear paladins, goblin bards, etc all should be fine. If your telling a focused story or the world is built a certain way its perfectly fine to say up front “OK so Minotaurs in this world are just straight up evil or are kill on sight. This story is going to be about a group of humans, or elves and dwarves, or whatever the story is going to be.”

There is nothing wrong with kitchen sink fantasy rpg or human centric. So in this case how would like the world react to the Bugbear? Why are they a monk? Do they have to hide their Bugbearness? What is the reason for the bugbear? How does it fit into what we are playing? What about the other players?

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Yeah, for me this is all about tone and theme and what you’re all after with the game. Joke characters are just fine in some games, and completely derail the whole affair in others. I do think there’s a difference between unusual characters who might be playing against type and characters that are straight up anachronistic in the setting, or built as one-note FUs to the vibe the GM and other players are after.

As for how I’d deal with it? I’d say nope when it was appropriate (if we’re playing a human-focused low fantasy game, sorry, no other races need apply) and “Sure!” if the game was such that dropping a whacky idea into it won’t harm anyone’s fun.

I ran a Tiny Supers game a year or two back, intended to be a four color affair where the heroes wear spandex, have secret identifies, the works. A good friend of mine made a little old lady who could summon and talk to ghosts… and that’s about all. Wasn’t in-keeping at all with the original intention of the game, but I figured a comic book reality could withstand that weirdness… and it did just fine. In fact, those ghost would foretell of terrible things about to happen in obtuse ways, so it ended up being pretty cool.

Set expectations up front. Talk about it. I’ve found that generating characters in a vacuum before session zero isn’t always a great idea. I also choose the systems I run carefully – many of them come with guardrails and methods to “protect” the genre being emulated, and I’m personally a fan of that.

Edit: And forgot one thing… I just have the campaign world and the cast in it react believably, in-keeping with the internal logic (or lack thereof) of the game. I’ve just gone from running The Rad-Hack to Delta Green, and the shifts in presenting the world to the players have been a bit mind-bending. (I’m actually using DG as a refresher to clean all the gonzo out of my brain. I’m a little tired of gonzo at the moment.)