Behind the Screens – Snowflakes in Space!

The term “special snowflake” is often leveled pejoratively at characters whose wacky design doesn’t quite fit into the confines of a narrative’s setting, campaign, or background. This broad definition can be specifically applied to strange or out of place character concepts like dragon-ferret-mages, or exiled princelings of half-angel and half-daemon heritage. They might even be tired tropes such as wandering warriors from far off lands or dark-skinned elves from down below.

These might stem from a player’s desire to be unique or stand out. After all, a PC an exceptional individual, but he or she also shares the spotlight with a party of equally exceptional individuals. Or it might be the result of a player deliberately trying to break from common adventuring stereotypes by creating a strange and farfetched amalgamation of backgrounds, character traits, and modifiers. Worse still, a player might seek out mechanical advantages by layering one set of bonuses on top of another at character creation and utilize bizarre background narratives to justify their power-gaming.

A single such character can mean trouble for even the most seasoned GM. A whole party of such characters can be a nightmare. But… what if it wasn’t?

Let me pitch a party line up to you:

  • An irreverent half-human maverick with more luck than skill and some serious daddy issues
  • A low IQ warrior prone to violent outbursts – literally killing things to death
  • A master assassin/femme-fatale who just so happens to be the daughter of the The Bad Guy
  • An 8-ft tall sentient (probably immortal) plant-monster with a 3-word vocabulary
  • An equally sentient, foul-mouthed, gun-toting raccoon (certified GMO)

Sound familiar?

Strange? Out of place? Wildly disparate? Yes. Yes. And Yes.

But it works. But why is that?

Because it’s a cosmic adventure.

The whole point of expansive campaign settings like Planescape, Spelljammer, and (most currently) Aethera and Starfinder is that they’re all inclusive. When dealing in settings where worlds collide or PCs can literally travel the galaxy, tropes and odd-ball concepts can – and should! – intermingle. The return to popularity awareness of galactic or multi-universe adventures is a boon to groups with players who have a fondness for off-beat or unique character concepts. Indeed, such weird character concepts can help a canny GM define their vast universe by incorporating the player into background fluff and cooping their backstories into the broader narrative.

To reiterate from the last post, in a campaign setting with a galaxy’s worth of material, it’s important to keep your game focused on what actually matters – the PCs and their experiences. And the more things that stand out in the party to latch on to, the easier it is to keep the focus on those things.

 

What are you wackiest ideas for characters? NPCs? Have your players every thrown you for a loop with a special snowflake concept? Let me know in the comments section below!

Anthony Li

Anthony Li has been pretending to be someone or something else for about as long as he can remember, which some people might consider a problem. He cut his teeth on 2nd Edition AD&D when he was 14 years old and his only regret is that he didn’t start rolling dice sooner. Due to an unhealthy addiction to Magic: the Gathering he missed the entire cultural phenomenon that was the 3.X era of D&D. After a brief stint with 4E, he was dragged kicking and screaming into the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game where he has since acclimated, adapted, and thrived. Most of his roleplaying experience has been behind in the GM screen where he has trained his dice to confirm crits on command. He always roots for the bad guys.

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