Unlikeable, incompetent, and inactive: Can these characters work in an MU?


  • Pitcrew

    I got roped into a trial of Skillshare by a Youtuber and I watched a course on writing characters. (Because making characters is life) Without blowing the guy's whole course, he presented a simple three-point method in creating characters.

    Likeability: How likable are they? Asshole? Saint? Just plain affable?
    Competency: How good are they at what they do. Sherlock Holmes? Bumbling oaf?
    Activity: How active are they within the story? Hip deep in the action? Lazing about the bar?

    He goes on about how a character can arc and grow out of their weaknesses but something else came to mind in relation to this particular hobby. We engage in cooperative storytelling. It's not writing in a bubble. So, in my mind, this whole method has issues. If I create an unlikeable, will anyone want to play with me? If I go low on activity, can I even play within plots? On the flipside, an incompetent character can be really fun and even a competent character on paper might roll terribly and come off as a failure unintentionally. (My psychic was stacked as fuck but rarely rolled well. I wound up leaning into it and having him think he was way more amazing than anyone ever saw.)

    So I'm sitting here, wondering to myself: Can I make an unlikeable character? Can I make a low activity one? Is this viable in roleplay and if so, how do I make this magic happen?



  • Why couldn't you? A lot of people make unlikable characters. Or they make a character they think is likeable but is not. The only real issue I have is people basically make them static or go to far into the 'unlikable.'


  • Pitcrew

    @goldfish said in Unlikeable, incompetent, and inactive: Can these characters work in an MU?:

    Can I make an unlikeable character?

    Yes, but you have to be very, very careful. These characters are best done, in my opinion, when the players KNOWS they are unlikable and manages that carefully. An unlikeable character probably shouldn't be unlikable to EVERYONE. They should have some likeable qualities. They should have some characters they can mesh with. Otherwise you're just going to have a headache all the time trying to play with people.

    They are also best done within some context wherein other characters have an excuse to interact with them. That is to say, they work in a job, they are in a faction, etc. So that if my character suddenly realizes that yours is, surprise! unlikeable, I can still manage to RP with you, a player who presumably I like playing with.

    PS: If you play an unlikeable character, it's super important that you be pleasant, realistic, and willing to do a bit of extra labor to make scenes 'go'.

    Can I make a low activity one?

    I mean, I think also yeah, but you probably are going to get left behind on plottage a lot. If I were doing it, I'd make up a reason for a character to be in and out a lot. A busy job that has them traveling, a demanding family, or something along those lines.


  • Admin

    In my opinion and experience a good player can make just about any character type highly appealing.


  • Pitcrew

    @goldfish
    I think it entirely depends on your definition of 'working'. You could certainly create an unlikeable character, or a lazy one if that is something you have an interest in RPing out. The real test is going to be how you interact with PRPs or Metaplot stuff.

    As an ST I would adore having a foil like a cluelessly incompetent PC to bounce things off of, as long as I would be able to work with them on how it plays out. If the player is game to use those weaknesses in a logical way that would still be fun for them and not have unrealistic goals, it would be a delight. Like... for sure, someone who is terrible at something will sometimes be handed a lucky win, but if this is the expectation every time, that'd get old fast.

    I think there would totally be potential for such a character. RP is all about give and take. The most fun scenes are the ones where everyone is contributing and riffing off one another. PRPs are great as long as you have an ST that can work with people and react on the fly when the plan inevitably goes off the rails. So having an inept PC should be a tolerable hurdle. Especially if the player knows their character is a huge dingus. That is the key, I think. Good luck! I would love to know how it works out!



  • @goldfish said in Unlikeable, incompetent, and inactive: Can these characters work in an MU?:

    So I'm sitting here, wondering to myself: Can I make an unlikeable character?

    Yes. @Coin does this all the time without even trying.

    Can I make a low activity one?

    No. I mean, yes, but when the chips are down you have to involve the character in events. If those events are "hanging out at the bar" then you're already active.



  • @goldfish In my experience, unlikeable characters lead to people disliking the player behind them.

    If the character is just a dick, some players might not feel they have the energy or not be interested in an antagonistic or rivalry based relationship IC. If the character commits immoral acts, there are even players that will call you, the player, gross, and avoid you. It doesn't matter if your character believes they are doing the right thing, or if the character is just an actual unrepentant monster; there are folks in the hobby that will take it as a reflection of your character. That's why I personally gravitate more towards white hats these days, and I think that's why a lot of MU players tend to gravitate towards white hats.

    If you can find a good group of players that you trust, and have a solid OOC rapport with, or that you feel have the requisite sort of maturity, though, I think you can totally make a very unlikeable character.

    I think as you said, competency doesn't much matter. As long as you are secure in your incompetence, you can show up to a big fight scene with your firearms 0 character and enjoy yourself.

    Activity is another matter. I think it depends on the game and the kinds of plots that intrigue you? But, that said, its easy to make a character that is, conceptually, the sort that folks go to for help under rare or specific circumstances, the kind that only reaches out to help once in a blue moon, and isnt in the public view for very long. A hermit, a reclusive black market arms dealer, a mysterious homeless man with a lot of battle scars and an encyclopedic knowledge of the city's history - more so than four professors of history put together could offer - these are the sorts of characters that can weather periods of inactivity or absence and still have a lasting, interesting impact on a story.


  • Pitcrew

    In my personal experience, the answer can be Yes to all of them. I have played more than my share of cranky curmudgeons that stay at home when the Hero's are getting their armor dented. Or those that go on (or are forced on (damned Ghoul lyfe)) adventures but are just THE WORST at things. I mean right now I'm planning a character that is just going to be awful at what he is 'supposed' to do.

    As mentioned above, I think it comes down to portrayal and self awareness. You still have to be entertaining. It has to be IC, usually with a lot of snerking and giggling ooc.


  • Pitcrew

    @ziggurat said in Unlikeable, incompetent, and inactive: Can these characters work in an MU?:

    @goldfish In my experience, unlikeable characters lead to people disliking the player behind them.

    This is my fear when creating. I have a hard time out there making friends and contacts as is, I don't need to be accused of being anything I'm not.

    That said, I have been sneaking unlikeable traits into my characters. Insecurities, raging tempers, inflated egos, sexism, etc. I only have one who has likable, what I call, bones. He's meant to be likable by many and that's in his core. The rest...well, I reveal these traits as the character gets closer to another or in times of stress. It is my hope that by that point, the other players know I'm not an asshole and I can get away with my character being an ass. Fingers crossed.


  • Pitcrew

    @arkandel said in Unlikeable, incompetent, and inactive: Can these characters work in an MU?:

    In my opinion and experience a good player can make just about any character type highly appealing.

    and having a dick never hurts



  • @kanye-qwest said in Unlikeable, incompetent, and inactive: Can these characters work in an MU?:

    @arkandel said in Unlikeable, incompetent, and inactive: Can these characters work in an MU?:

    In my opinion and experience a good player can make just about any character type highly appealing.

    and having a dick never hurts

    Unless you run into things wrong. Like a table corner. Or someone's boot. Just sayin'.


  • Pitcrew

    @goldfish Sometimes i'll even play with some metapose if i know my character is being a dick.

    "<Some assholish statement>" Did he just? ... yes, yes he just said that, with a straight face even, he's gotta be sarcastic right? RIGHT? Alas, No, Grover is just a prick, apparently.


  • Pitcrew

    I think people can truly adore unlikable characters based on how they're written (or like in the case of a TV show, how they are portrayed), in a love to hate way. For me an example would be John Smith in the latest TV series of Man in the High Castle. Do I like him as someone who I'd love to hang out with? NO. But he IS one of my favorite characters on that show because the way he is written and more importantly the actor's portrayal of him really make him enjoyable to watch on the screen. Do I feel the same way about dumbass Joe, who was probably meant to be more likeable/compelling? Nope. The chemistry or writing and portrayal just isn't there for me personally.

    On a mush...I think that is trickier.

    For one thing, some people who think of their PCs as protagonists actually come across as antagonists because of the way that they portray their PCs in actual interactions with others instead of just what's in their head. So if they decide to take on an antagonist it may be even more unpleasant/over the top. Or people may have to do that just to stand out from the crowd. It can be isolating. Sometimes you can do subtlety, but not very often in general on mushes. Which means someone who took on an antagonist thinking that they'd get a wide variety and depth to their play may be very disappointed. That can be super frustrating. Sometimes there is not enough going on outside of player-initiated play that white knights and do gooders are understandably starved for any kind of action they can finally get to exercise their own protagonism that they swarm. Even if you have someone who is happy to play up difference in goals/motivations/class/social status that is meant to play well in building RP tension that is thematic, it is often a lot of OOC labor to make sure that everyone else is having fun/not feeling pressure to be for or against/feels empowered to exercise what they'd feel IC even though it's not happy happy joy joy towards your PC, ect. I have found when I have played fringe PCs (never antagonistic, just...half-caste or other groups that the NPC society looks down on or fears) that kind of consideration/checking in to make sure I'm having a good time rarely if ever occurs. SO people gloss it over for fear of offending, or they go full tilt all the time in a way that can sometimes cross over into OOC.

    I think if you're building a PC you actually want to play long term in a game, you /cannot/ have "antagonist" as your main core of what your character is. Like so many niche characters, that is super fun at first, but unless you have a lot of support sustaining it is probably going to be a problem. Definitely don't have antagonism be your "specialness". That's just a recipe for frustration or boredom for a variety of reasons.



  • @wretched said in Unlikeable, incompetent, and inactive: Can these characters work in an MU?:

    @goldfish Sometimes i'll even play with some metapose if i know my character is being a dick.

    "<Some assholish statement>" Did he just? ... yes, yes he just said that, with a straight face even, he's gotta be sarcastic right? RIGHT? Alas, No, Grover is just a prick, apparently.

    That, and being willing to roll with the consequences of one's prickishness, tend to go a long way in establishing OOC goodwill towards a 'difficult' character. Showing character growth over time helps, too.

    @mietze said in Unlikeable, incompetent, and inactive: Can these characters work in an MU?:

    I think people can truly adore unlikable characters based on how they're written (or like in the case of a TV show, how they are portrayed), in a love to hate way. For me an example would be John Smith in the latest TV series of Man in the High Castle. Do I like him as someone who I'd love to hang out with? NO. But he IS one of my favorite characters on that show because the way he is written and more importantly the actor's portrayal of him really make him enjoyable to watch on the screen.

    There's a lot of pathos that can be mined from nonverbal reactions that offset, undercut, or inform people's villainy; Rufus Sewell is a master of that, but we RPers can do so as well, yep.


  • Pitcrew

    I've played unlikable characters. The trick is that they're likably unlikable (John Constantine). Acknowledging in meta that you understand they're being absolute dickheads when they're doing that goes some way toward smoothing ruffled feathers. It doesn't always work, because some people are going to be upset about any conflict or disparaging of their character even if it's entirely IC. Some people are not able to deal with those things, ever, no matter who it comes from or why or how deserved or not it might be. Some people are people I don't care to play with.

    I've played characters that were antagonists at their core, too. The trick is understanding that antagonists who aren't sympathetic must be temporary, and that sympathetic, longer-lived antagonists still need a character arc with growth and change, ideally one that responds to how whitehats influence them, so that people can see they've had an impact -- and that you're just straight-up going to have to lose sometimes. (Some people will want you to lose all the time. Some people want that regardless of whether your character is an antagonist or not. Some people are dumb and also selfish players.)

    I have played inept characters! I don't understand the question here so much. Most people love playing beside an inept character, because it makes them look better by comparison.

    I have played inactive characters. ...uhh, not so much by design as just, you know. Because I saw something shiny and got distracted. I am curious as to the purpose of this though.

    Ultimately I agree with @Arkandel and a couple of other people in this thread -- a character's success almost always boils down to execution and audience, and I think the common thread isn't so much what the character is like, as it is the OOC perception/feeling that the person who's playing them is interested in other people's characters and stories, and will invest the time and effort in raising other people's characters up, as much as they do their own.


  • Admin

    @juke said in Unlikeable, incompetent, and inactive: Can these characters work in an MU?:

    Ultimately I agree with @Arkandel and a couple of other people in this thread -- a character's success almost always boils down to execution and audience, and I think the common thread isn't so much what the character is like, as it is the OOC perception/feeling that the person who's playing them is interested in other people's characters and stories, and will invest the time and effort in raising other people's characters up, as much as they do their own.

    Possibly not for this thread's scope but it's also why attributes like Charisma or Status don't work very well for MU*. A great player might be playing some baseborne peon yet that's gonna be a baseborne peon with a goddamn following before long, just because it's fun being around them... while Leaderman McStatus might struggle to find anyone to come to his party.



  • This post is deleted!


  • I’m pretty sure that I have made a career of playing dislikable PCs.

    Yet somehow people fall in love with them.

    Guess I’m just Pop-U-Lerr.


  • Pitcrew

    @ganymede said in Unlikeable, incompetent, and inactive: Can these characters work in an MU?:

    I’m pretty sure that I have made a career of playing dislikable PCs.

    Yet somehow people fall in love with them.

    Guess I’m just Pop-U-Lerr.

    So popular you posted it twice. ;)


  • Pitcrew

    @arkandel On one hand I agree with what you are saying.

    On the other hand i think it's also partially the payers responsibility to have their character 'stay in their lane' based on stats. So If I'm playing a shitty peon that always fucks up, and i do it well, i might have a fuckton of RP partners, but they should still see them as 'bad for the job'. I mean unless I can make my Ghoul the Prince... or the power behind the throne... but then yer not actually playing an incompetent anymore. Incompetent people never reach the top. RIGHT?! See i'm starting to agree with you again.

    But of course at the same time, it's really really hard to be 'but i have all the stats I should be the leader!' if you cant Rp yer way out of a wet paper bag and every time your PC show up people groan and leave.


Log in to reply