Despite what experts tell you, there are really only five types of characters in every single pen and paper RPG ever.
And I’m not saying something silly like “The Attention Whore.” Or “The Rules Lawyer” or “The Mary Sue.” Because those sorts of lists are the ones typically written by game masters that need to vent and bitch about a group of players they hate.
No, today I’ll talk about the five characters you see in every RPG. Period. These are characters you see in games that run for years as well as the one night only events. Most, if not all characters, are variants of the five you see below.
And to help (and for a possible meme transfer) here is the cast of the upcoming film Guardians of the Galaxy to help.
1. The Death Machine
Because if you know you’re going to kill hundreds of orcs, ninjas and cyborgs, well hey; why not enjoy your work? This character’s first response is killing and deep down, man or woman they really do like it. Sometimes stoic, sometimes jovial, the death machine is here to murder and not matter what that alignment says, the only settings on that dial in their brain is murder and resting up for murder.
2. The Back Story
This character has a deep and often traumatic past that motivates them. It can be genuinely compelling and by god the GM will rely on it for a plot hook (because lord knows no one else put this much effort into their history). Sometimes they come with a trauma switch but they are here to lay down a hurt on someone.
3. The Joke
This is a character that was created because the player thought the idea behind it was funny. Either they are short, have a funny voice or are just a bit touched in the head. There is always something very unusual about the joke character that NPCs aren’t sure how to react to. Despite this the joke character is often as effective (if a bit specialized) as the rest of the team.
4. The Min/Max
This is a character that’s taken some small penalties (like not talking or low appearance) to get some wicked payoffs. These things are freaking indestructible and are often strange (but not in a funny way). They are going to get a lot of strange looks but by god will the group rely on this character.
5. The Self-Insertion
This is the character that is just a representation of the player in the same situation. Not to be confused with a Mary-Sue (who is often made over-important) this character is on par with the rest of the team but they are, in essence, an everyday person stuck in a fantastic situation. That they will issue commentary on, frequently. A lot of the witticisms come from this character and they are often a source of great humour.
So there you go. The five characters that you end up seeing in an RPG. I hope that this doesn’t discourage any of you from making your own characters or even playing pen and paper RPGs. I think that this list tells us something: no matter what happens on any table anywhere in the world, five jackanapes are all having a damn good time.
And so too does this work exist.