The Right Player
First published 5/15/2000; last edited 12/22/2004
I'm sure it's happened to you before. You described your favorite character to someone you don't game with, and he got That Look in his eyes. He might have even accompanied it with "oh, no," or maybe something a little more tactful. But the upshot of it is, he thinks the character sounds ridiculous. Too powerful, or too angsty, or twink-bait, or god knows what.
Two weeks later you talked to him again. He described his favorite character to you, and you got That Look in your eyes. Maybe you kept your mouth shut; maybe you said, "gee, I dunno, that sounds a little weird." But there it was. You thought the character sounded ridiculous. Maybe it was too angsty, or too powerful, or too something else. Regardless, you thought it sucked.
I'll let you in on a little secret.
Any character can be interesting and fun if you play it well. Yes, even that uber-angsty, uber-powerful twink-bait thing you thought up the other week. The right player can make any character fun, and the wrong player can make any character ridiculous, over-done, and unbalancing.
Try not to judge people's games by character or plot descriptions. If their group is enjoying itself, then they must be doing something "right," even if it isn't something you agree with. Besides, that character you're so proud of might sound just as ridiculous to someone in a different group. I once saw members of two different gaming groups describe their characters and plots to each other. Each group had the "oh..." reaction at one point or another. Not because either group was "bad," or because either group had twinks in it, or any other such thing. In fact, both groups very much enjoy their spread of players and plots and it turned out that they even had very compatible playing styles. It's simply that plots and characters that sound infinitely abusable can still be gorgeous when played well.
Now I'll let you in on another secret.
"The right player" isn't a quantifiable entity. The right player is a different person for every gaming group. The player who wows you with his character-acting would be called melodramatic by another group. The player whose characters always seem to save your ass at just the right moment would be considered a twink by yet another group.
Rather than accuse people of being "good" or "bad" roleplayers, why not concentrate instead on finding the players that fit well with your gaming group? I suspect you'll find it much more productive, and much less likely to lead to pointless arguments that can never be resolved.