CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Being Unique

My Dislike of the Term Special Snowflake

Illustration by Luis Perez
Over the years I’ve learned that there are a number of terms that get used in the gaming community that I don’t like. Words that appear to me that try to separate gamers into the group that is doing it right and the group that is doing it wrong. Most of these terms go against those who enjoy the mechanical side of the game, and we call them min-maxers, munchkins, rules lawyers, and assorted other derogatory names to suggest that because they like the numbers aspect they aren’t playing the game as it was meant to be played. Now I’m a story gamer for the most part, although I don’t believe mechanics are a bad thing, but these terms really grate on me these days. One term in particularly really irritates me to no end and that is “special snowflake.”

Like most of these terms “special snowflake” means different things to different people. For some it only applies to pretty extreme cases, e.g. a half-dragon, half-celestial lycanthrope template with five different classes. For others it can be as simple as a person who multiclasses into what others believe are two incompatible classes. Just choosing an oddball race like an Aasimar or a Catfolk can see cries of the dreaded “special snowflake.” Even non-mechanical, although usually overly-done tropes, story elements can also be called out for their snowflakeness. The lost prince, or the last of his tribe often get labeled as such.

My first question is why does it matter? Most of the time when I see this outcry of being a special snowflake it comes from the community and not even from the player’s own gaming table. “I wouldn’t allow such a special snowflake at my table,” will call one of the posters. But it’s not your table so what difference does it make? It’s a character that this person found interesting and that his table allows. Maybe they’re asking to help spruce it up mechanically or story-wise but out of the woodwork have to come these naysayers. Why can’t we just understand that different folks are going to have fun different ways and leave it at that? Apparently some people are just right and others are just wrong.

What is so bad about having a unique character that interests you in the first place? A lot of this outcry comes from fantasy games. Some games don’t have this problem because of the way characters are made in them, but fantasy games usually allow a lot of leeway. And I get that the multiple template characters can be a little over the top, but some folks like to hype up their fantasy to an extremely high level. Not everyone wants to play Bob the fresh-faced farm boy who just picked up a sword yesterday. There was a sidebar in 1st edition that I can’t find just now but it was written by Gygax and it said if the players want to play dragons let them, the game is made to be fantastical; if you find it fun then go overboard.

I always find that when a character that doesn’t stick to one class people claim that it is a “special snowflake.” Classes are an external construct that the characters within the game do not understand. As I’ve mentioned in the past your character is not your class. Class is just a rules chassis to build the type of character you want and sometimes the type of character you want requires more than one class to achieve. If I want to be a duelist there are hundreds of ways to achieve this including the duelist PrC. But maybe I find one ability in a class interesting enough to add to the arsenal of my duelist so I take a level or three in that. I’m not a fighter, I’m not a swashbuckler, I’m not a rogue. I am a duelist and how I build my duelist is to pick and choose the abilities “I” think a duelist should have. This doesn’t make the character any more or less special than staying straight one class for twenty levels.

Personally I think all characters should be “special snowflakes.” They should be unique and interesting. They should be enjoyable to play and fun to run for. I don’t need to see my thousandth heavy drinking, Scottish accented, dwarven, axe wielding fighter. If you have a fun character idea as a GM I want to help you realize it and bring it to life. So you want to play a gnoll spirit speaker. Sure we can find a class or classes to help build this concept for you, no problem. I don’t think snowflakes should be decried I think they should be embraced and we should watch the characters and the players flourish.

Have you ever had your character be decried as a “special snowflake”? What character was it? As a GM what kind of interesting unique characters have you allowed in your games? Tell us your experiences in the comments.

The CRB aims to help you feel special as a player and a GM. This holiday season consider helping me feel special by becoming a contributor to my Patreon or throwing a little holiday cheer to my Paypal. Join the holly jolly CRB community on Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, and Twitter. My mail bag is always open to comments and discussions, so feel free to drop me a line.

The opening illustration was created by a fine artist Luis Perez. You can find him on TwitterTumblr, and on Instagram at luisperezart.

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