Who gets to say what your character does

There are a few ways someone else at the table can directly interfere with your character’s actions. By “directly interfere” I mean flat out verbally denying your plans meta-game, and not by putting a physical obstacle in your character’s way or countering an effect with an in-game action.

Some of those ways are:

  1. Flat out telling you that your character “wouldn’t do that.” In my experience this happens pretty rarely. Most gamers are good about letting you control your character’s motivations and how those manifest themselves. In older editions with stricter alignments this usually took the form of: “that’s a morally complex act, a Paladin would never do that.” This is very annoying but most people can be told to cut it out.
  2. There’s a more subtle form of #1, where there is a crafted world with social norms that the DM or other players want your character to conform to. For example: demanding elven characters be mean to dwarves or expecting rogues to always pickpocket or back-stab. As a DM I once (rightly) to a player he couldn’t play a Centaur because all the townsfolk would be afraid and try to attack him. In these situations you can guilt the offending person to leave you alone with the “I’m role-playing a unique and non-conforming character” excuse.
  3. And then there’s “making helpful suggestions.” In my group during a normal session fight we’ll come up with a strategy before a fight and then promptly disregard it and do our own thing. When this happens someone might give a suggestion about what your might do in a round to best benefit the party. Where this becomes a problem is when the other person either demands that your character do something, or worse, performs that action for you or jumps in and takes over for you. I usually wind up exploding those situations by acknowledging it in the moment. I’d love to hear suggestions for defusing rather than escalating intra-party violence.

In these and similiar situations the best thing to do is remind yourself that you’re playing a game and you are all there to have fun. Your non-malicious DM and teammates want the best outcome for the party. Not everyone gets the chance to solve the puzzles all the time. However if you find the balance not equitable, it’s best to speak up, and get the group on the same page.

Remember to look out for your character and make sure you’re the only one playing him. After all, each of the other players get their own characters and the DM gets all the NPCs. I’ve found that it’s easier to establish role boundaries in-game, so if the meta-game discussion gets too much or is unproductive: don’t “roll with it”, but instead RP it out.


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