Getting out of Character Ruts


I've just returned home from a Friday-night gaming session, and I'm too frustrated with myself to sleep. I've hunted around Gamegrene and other roleplaying websites, and I have yet to find a good discussion on the topic of character ruts, so here I am.

In preparation for a longer campaign using the same rules and setting, we played in a one-shot Serenity adventure with premade characters. The idea was to allow us to feel our way around the rules before we launch into the main gig. All of us being huge fans of both Firefly and Serenity, it wasn't too hard to get into the setting, although we had some initial troubles with the rules.

The session itself was excellent, and my frustrations here are primarily with myself as a player than anything else.

I find myself stuck playing the same personality over and over again, although he manifests in different bodies and character sheets. I even approached the game tonight with the goal that I would play a very different character than the one I'm used to, and STILL ended up twisting my premade character so that he perfectly aligned with common themes among all my characters.

I have a hard time playing characters that are reactive or passive, and characters who have questions about their own morality. As such, I tend to float towards the "leadership" and "moral authority" roles in the party, which are both things I'd like to avoid from doing every single game session.

So, do any of you Gamegreners have advice on how to break out of a consistent character rut?

Good question. If you find yourself in a personality rut try some of these:

1) Make a list of your new characters favourite expessions and rehearse them. You only need about six or seven (I keep NPC lists to two). Have these sayings imply something about the beliefs and attitudes of your character. Before responding in your "normal" way slip in an expression and it will start you down the new path.

2) Bring a prop or two. I don't go over the top here (and I am a rusty player) but I usually bring one prop to each game. For instance I have been playing in a pickup game of 3.5 with premade adventures down at the local game store. When I played a Gnomish Spirit Shaman I sewed a small bag and some clumps of fur to represent my bag of tricks. This was going to be my charcters panic reaction to tough situations. Sitting on the table it reminds me that my character is afraid of the physical world and that large lions and rhinos that the bag produces make him feel physically protected. He tends to bond with the tough fighters. The prop helps me run the character. As a physically big guy who is a martial arts instructor the lack of physicality of the gnome was going to be a big stretch for me.

3) Imagine your friends differently. One of the challenges with role-playing is that people tend to keep the same group dynamic. It sounds like you might be relied upon to provide the moral centre of your gaming group. Your friends may be accidentally sabotaging you with expectations. Explain your character to them and also change who the "best friends" are in the group. By shuffling the dynamic and re-assigning the relationships in a group you can all break out of a rut.

I've DM'd the same group of people in the same campaign, with the same characters, for 22 years. Last week I suggested that we try fourth edition with a couple of "pick-up" games with new characters to see what we like, dislike, etc. The first response by one of my players was, "but that will take time away from our characters!" When we play we play from 8am until 11PM every couple of months. So, maybe I'm not the best person to be giving advice on ruts. :) :


Singular: rut
Plural: ruts

rut (plural ruts)

1. Sexual desire or oestrus of cattle, and various other mammals
2. The annual condition of sexual excitement in deer

As non native english speaker, I'm confused. Which RPG allows you to play as a half deer and/or half calf?

From your link:

[edit] Etymology 216th century. Probably from French route 'road'

[edit] NounSingular

rut (plural ruts)

A furrow, groove, or track worn in the ground, as from the passage of many wheels along a road.
A fixed routine, procedure, line of conduct, thought or feeling. (See also rutter)

[edit] Derived termsstuck in a rut

[edit] Translations[show â–¼]A furrow, groove, or track worn in the ground
Finnish: uurre, ura
French: ornière (f)
German: Furche f., Spur f., Spurrille f.

[show â–¼]A fixed routine, procedure, line of conduct, thought or feeling
Finnish: ura
German: Trott m.

[edit] VerbInfinitive
to rut
Third person singular
Simple past
Past participle
Present participle

to rut (third-person singular simple present ruts, present participle rutting, simple past and past participle rutted)

(transitive) To make a furrow

I noticed a while back that I also tended to play the same character (personality) over and over again. In my case I tend to play morally corrupt killers who lead the group through charisma and intelligence. I planned out everything and always know what to do.

But I felt that I dominated the group top the detriment of other players but had a hard time "stepping down" from that role.

One thing that I did to change this was to write up a detailed character background before making a new character.

The background includes a physical and mental description, personality, history, motivation, and reason for leaving home.

Then I create the character sheet based on this background.

I print out the background, highlight some portions to make it easier to find, and keep it with me during gaming sessions so that I can constantly refer to it until I have the character's personality down.

This helps me stay in character, typically gives me bonus experience for extra character developement, and helps me play right.

I can provide examples if you need them.

I hope that this helps!

I would suggest a combination of both Calamar's and Gilgamesh's thoughts. I don't really know if I have a problem with ruts (people fascinate me, so I try to play lots of different types). However, I do know that all of us tend to let our personalities filter a little into the way we play, whether we want to or not (hopefully that's not the case with you Calamar...). A really good way to get into a character whose personality is different from yours is to rehearse it. Put the character in a particular situation. Then decide what you would do in that situation. Then decide what the character would do. Note the difference and focus on it. One thing I often do to help me remember the state of mind of my characters is to assign them a song. This can really be any song. For instance, in an upcoming Serenity game with my group, my character's song is "A Beautiful Lie" by 30 Seconds to Mars. This helps me keep in mind his strange look out on life and has also provided me with his primary expression: "This is just a game." I listen to this song often and have built the entire character around it. Another good idea might be to play a character of the opposite gender. It makes you think in different ways, as you both try to play the other gender accurately and try to play your character accurately. Or, you could try a different ethnicity. Just try something where your character starts from a completely different place and out-look than you do. That changes a lot of things. Also, you NEED to tell the group you're trying to get out of your rut and ask that they remember your character, not you. For instance, if you find yourself in a moral situation, but are playing an immoral character or one who is unsure, then just shut up and let the "moral" character of the group talk their mouth off. It might even be a good idea to push the position onto another player. When it's time to decide what to do, or if people are wondering about the morality of an action, look to that particular player and maybe even ask them directly. But don't put in your own opinion, even if their choice seems incredibly wrong or stupid to you, unless, of course, your character would feel the same. I think a lot of your problem is that the group has come to expect it of you. Make it clear you won't play that role anymore.

I think your best line of attack, Lorthyne, is to tackle your weak spots head-on. If you know you have trouble playing a reactive character, create one. If being morally uncertain or even self-contradictory is strange to you, push yourself to investigate the mind of such a persona.

By way of example, my default is almost always toward a highly principled, altruistic type. Through dozens of characters and NPCs over the years, I've explored almost every shade of that model, and I have found that the ruthless-seeming-but-strongly-principled schemer is very rewarding.

Thus I recently challenged myself with a reactive, you-do-the-thinking-and-I'll-do-the-smashing bruiser with a worldview so peculiar it was incomprehensible - and irrelevant - to most who met him. This was a memorable character in many ways, in habits of speech, philosophical outlook, and fighting style.

Another approach that has worked well for me has been to take a difficult personality template and use it as a starting point. Being a fan of Firefly myself, I quickly selected Jayne as perhaps the greatest challenge among the crew of Serenity for me to play: pragmatic, cynically funny, and almost completely amoral.

Hope these suggestions help.

Good comments all, I don't think that anything has really been left out.

To me a way to approach a problem like this is to look back on why you always play those types of characters. I'm not saying that the group it not to blame, on the contrary, groups have a huge influence in who and how characters interact with each other, its just that ultimately it is the players decision. Trust who you play with, it might surprise you who will step up for you.

I understand that sometimes playing with the same group can at times be frustrating because you get a feel for how each other play and you know that no one is going to step up and do what you do. In cases like this i would suggest that you simply talk to who you play with. Perhaps if you were to explain your frustrations and ask for their help in expanding your horizons, one will step up to the plate for you. You never know until you ask.

Other than that I think that its all been said.lost of good ideas of how to create and play different types of characters. Oh, i would add however that you shouldn't be beating yourself up, especially over a pre-made character. Pre-made characters are hard because they are so impersonal and impossible to feel comfortable with. When you create characters you create them with an idea and a purpose in mind. When they're made for you, its hard to find something that you can feel for, which in turn makes them almost impossible to play. They're two dimensional and cookie cutter, you could've totally been assigned the moral one of the group, in which case its not your fault that you were stuck in this predicament in the first place.

so yeah... thats my two cents worth.

I do not have much to add to this discussion, but I'm glad it's taking place. I hope we get more of these here in GG.

My particular rut is caused by the fact I'm a talkative, outgoing person. I find that I cannot play introverted, quiet types as that just means I talk more OOC during a session, which isn't very conducive to immersion.
I think both the prop and rehearsal suggestions essentially help you to distance your character from yourself and help establish a different personality for him/her.

Wow, I leave this conversation for a few days and it explodes. I'm happy to see that Gamegrene is still alive.

Thanks for the advice, all. I'll put it to the test as soon as possible, and throw out some feedback once I have some.

Every character I play turns into the comic relief no matter what kind of class I'm playing whether necromancer or barbarian. Many of the reasons for the rut were hit upon here. People expect you the player to act in a certain way. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I have been playing with the same group for 6 years now and we have all known each other from highschool. In a social dynamic like a group of friends getting together to play DnD you fufill a role like that of a character in a game adventure. Maybe you're the funny one who diffuses tension or the outgoing one who starts the conversations. Trying to break out of these social roles destabilizes the group and so we get into these ruts.

My only suggestion is to play non-human characters who are extremely and morphologically different from humans (if the game world allows that). The strong visual image will build a character in the minds of your fellow players. If you just play a human they see it as a blank slate that they can fill in. Don't know if this helps. Kinda just making observations.

I understand that they all end up becoming the same character, but do you not like that character? How do the other players feel about that? Some players are just more comfortable and therefore have a better time playing comfortable roles. Don't think, feel!

You're right, I like the character a lot, and that's why I keep returning to him. However, the problem is that this recurring character is very, very similar to my own personal, out-of-game personality.

Fundamentally, I think my frustration and desires here come down to a desire to empathize with other people more. One of my big character flaws (I'm talking me as a person, not in my RPG characters) is that I have a really hard time understanding and accepting opinions that are drastically different from my own. I'm hoping that making decisions based on a different worldview, even if it's only for a few hours each week, will help me to understand where other folks are coming from.

What I really want out of this is to experiment with other methods of thought, and by so doing learn about how different philosophies look at things. seems we have a lot in common, personality-wise.

Huh, who woulda thought?