So you’ve written up a 3 page background for your character. You’ve researched the specific form of anemia they have. You’ve drawn up a whole family tree. You’ve filled out ton of those character Q&A surveys. You know what they wear, how they speak and what makes them tick. You know who this character is. You have become connected to who they are. The problem? The GM has something else in mind…
We all have our own distinct and varied sensibilities and aesthetics. And when we create characters, we are tapping into that inner well of inspiration to form something we really want to express. It’s only natural that at some point, your ideas are going to come into conflict with a GM. So here you are with all the research and character development you’ve painstakingly gone through and the GM wants to make changes that you feel are essential to your character. What do you do?
To avoid this unpleasant situation, the first step, even before you make your character, is to talk with your GM and to find out exactly what genre they will be portraying in the game. Many times character concepts conflict with the setting of the game. It can be frustrating to GM and player alike to learn you are playing completely different games. Always make sure to sit down with your GM and find out what the theme and setting is and also what their expectation of the game is. This may greatly help you figure out what type of character will fit.
Okay, you did that and went ahead and created your character, but now there are all these changes the GM wants to make. Changes you feel go against the nature of the character you created. What now?
Don’t be afraid to start an open dialogue. As a GM, it’s usually a primary importance to make sure their players are having a good time (Or at least it certainly should be). Take that first step to explain your concerns. Usually a good conversation can resolve any worries and both parties can come to a suitable compromise.
But what if it doesn’t? What if they seem to understand, but when you go to play you realize that your GM hasn’t actually taken in anything that you’ve said? Or worse, what if they feel the changes are essential for the character to be in the game?
In the instance where the GM still doesn’t seem to get it, it’s time for another round of discussions. Try to sit down with the GM and reiterate your concerns in a calm and polite manner. At this point be sure to go into a more lengthy discussion about your character’s ideology and details of the concept. You can even try to find close archetypes in popular media that you think your GM might be familiar with to illustrate your point (ie – “Hey Bob, I’m a little concerned because it seems to me that you are viewing this character as more of a Starbuck type character, when actually I feel she’s a bit more of a Wash but with the upbringing and background of Simon”). Break down each change they want to make and explain why it doesn’t work with your concept. But be sure to listen and be receptive to their ideas as well. Perhaps that Aunt Julie that you strongly feel shouldn’t be present has been placed there for an important plot point the GM wants to involve you in. Or maybe they don’t agree with a rationalization for a skill or talent your character has. Whatever the specific conflicts are, try to talk it out and be receptive.
If it doesn’t work out, then you might have to make a different concept. Sure, it’s not ideal, but sometimes it’s necessary. It’s difficult when we put so much effort into the creation process, but at the end of the day if it becomes clear that you are not on the same page, it might just be best to start from scratch (this time working very closely with the GM). In this way, it might be better (and less stressful) to play a concept you can both agree on rather than force yourself to play a character you are not satisfied with.
After exhausting all the options and finding you just don’t see eye to eye on your character and you don’t want to go through the process of making another one, then you may wish to consider dropping out of the game. There’s nothing wrong with this. Gaming is a hobby that should be about having fun. If you aren’t enjoying yourself there’s no point in forcing yourself to do it. Maybe the setting isn’t right for you. Or maybe you and the GM just have a different style of gaming. Just be sure to understand what your expectations are and what type of experience you are looking to get out of the game. If you don’t feel you are going to get that, it’s okay to step down and look for it elsewhere.