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Mary Sue: An Introspection in the realm of RP. - GROWL — LiveJournal
Mary Sue: An Introspection in the realm of RP.
So, I was on hold a very long time this morning with an insurance company. Which meant I had to entertain myself.

Which brought me to reading bad_rpers_suck. I often just pass posts by as there are far too many per day, but like I said, I was bored. So I read all about how this application sent in to a GM was so very awful, blah blah. But what got me was that she was immediately deemed a Mary Sue because her character was beautiful and went into a bit of a physical description.

Umm... Look, it's not that I don't think Mary Sues exist. Hell, Anita Blake is the biggest Mary Sue I've ever read about.

But really, is describing how a character looks decidingly Sueish? Personally, hawt or ew, I'd want a description of what a person looks like so I can visualize them. This is why I make it a point to always describe my female character's cup-sizes. *Nods sagely*

Anyway, so I looked up the exact definition of a Mary Sue was with wikipedia out of curiosity. I'm... really glad they discuss why a lot of this is bull shit at the bottom of the page. But still, it started to make me wonder: Just how many people that I role-play with have deemed one of my characters a Sue because of some of this crap?

Okay, so I have this thing. A quirk, if you will. I like my characters pretty. In fact, I like my characters VERY pretty. It became somewhat of a funny with gailadora and me when we RP together. (We had loads of fun making Vampire: The Dark Ages vamps that had 6 in appearance.)

Thing is, a lot of friends I RP with that aren't gailadora are absolutely horrified at this. I lose depth, they think. I put too much weight on the physical, they say. Don't you get tired of this angle, they wonder.

No, I don't. Just like wearing all black has become somewhat of a trademark of yours truly, I thought it would be fun to have a trademark in RP. So this is it. I feel no shame in it. Nor do I find this to be an insult to women because I'm short-changing the average-looking woman. Look, I'm a woman. I'm not a +5. I don't want to be a +5. And the idea that women who are prettier than most causes them to be superior makes me want to smack people around with a fish.

And that's what I always found a Mary Sue was. Someone who was just... better. At everything. Could take on anything without anyone's help. Could persevere through SUFFERING and DEATH and ZOMG HOW ON EARTH DID I LEARN THAT POWER, BUT OH WELL A-HA NOW I CAN BEAT YOU UP, EVIL DOER. And basically, was just there to be awesome and use other characters to make theirs develop.

This leads me to another observation about Sues that seems to hit with what I do a lot in RP. And that's have a tragic past smacked down on my characters.

So, I made this character once. Her name was Shina. She was a bard. She had a great home, loving family; she just wanted to share her yay with the world through story and song! Yeah, Shina got booted after a couple months to be replaced by Kahri - probably the funnest character I've ever played. Sure, she had a slight touch of tragedy in her past, but it's what gave her FLAVOR. It's why she did what she did. And, well, because I enjoy being mean to those that I create.

I tried making another character with a vanilla background... and got so bored that I was so very thankful the RP never got off the ground. *Cringes just thinking of it*

But what it really comes down to is - people have tragedy in their background. In their current lives. It HAPPENS. And it happens a lot. Who wants to play Joe Smith who had a perfect childhood and beams at everyone, singing a dity of how wonderful life is? I mean, sure, it might be fun to try it for a day or two... but then I'd be done.

Now, I'm not saying that Grumpy Bear characters are YAY. Because, hey, people have layers. And so just because someone had something bad happens to them doesn't mean it's going to be stamped on their forehead. But it shapes them. Hell, the positives shape them too.

*Cough* Wow, this was quite a rant.

I guess what I'm saying is... there are Mary Sues out there. But geesh, shouldn't the fun of RP be character interaction with plot from the GM as a guide? If a person plays a character well, and people enjoy what they give to the game, even with their perfect hair and nifty talents, then isn't that what counts?

Current Mood: geeky geeky

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malakim From: malakim Date: July 19th, 2006 07:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
One of my favorite RP characters actually is one I'm currently playing in a Star Trek pen & paper game. Lt. Commander Hsargren Pyx, chief engineer of the USS Enduring (NCC-1863). Very skilled at what he does, not so much at other things (but due to character creation process, one of the best damn runners out there--which is his preferred tactic in combat). Not a tragic thing in his past. Closest he gets is a -1 Dark Secret flaw, but at the -1 level it's not really much more than, "You did what in the Academy?"

Currently well on his way to getting a reputation I'm working towards where when a ship of his (either his design, or one he's been allowed to modify) arrives, it causes both the enemies and the Federation to have the fear!

Already when he gets an idea for something new it makes the XO worry. :D
ifritah From: ifritah Date: July 19th, 2006 08:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
You know when one has played too much WoW when they read the line Currently well on his way to getting a reputation and the first thing that comes to mind is: "Reputation? Is he trying to become friendly with the Klingons?"


Sounds fun though! I'm not quite sure why I never did a Star Trek campaign. Most likely because no one owns any books for it!
malakim From: malakim Date: July 19th, 2006 08:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the one we're using is currently out of print. ^_^; But my friend that is running it got like 4 copies of the main rulebook for real cheap when a local gaming store went out of business.
ifritah From: ifritah Date: July 19th, 2006 08:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's probably a good thing! I already have three RPGs going right now. There's no reason to make myself crazy with a fourth!
betacandy From: betacandy Date: July 19th, 2006 09:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't RP, but the whole concept of what exactly constitutes a Mary Sue interests me.

When I was writing Star Wars fanfic years ago, using the Timothy Zahn novels as a base, Zahn had two somewhat Mary-Sueish characters. Winter, who was ridiculously beautiful, with a crazy shade of white-platinum hair, with a perfect memory who knew everything and everybody and could do anything. And Mara Jade, a villain who reluctantly came over to the good side, but was also ridiculously skilled, able to stay awake for days on end, had "red-gold hair" and the most startling green eyes evah (real good physical traits for a covert agent, by the way, roll eyes), etc. All that was fine, as she had the Force and training from the Emperor: the problem came when Zahn went to a lot of trouble to incapacitate the main characters just so Mara could save the day. It just felt contrived.

And I decided: that's what makes someone a Mary Sue. Winter could service any plot because she was so uber-mega-global-capable - a contrived plot device. Mara had that contrived redemption-heroism thing at the end - a contrived hero.

So when I wrote them, Winter used her perfection as a shield to keep people at arm's length, because she was so used to her image of Miss Perfect that she was afraid to let anyone close enough to maybe decide she wasn't perfect. I also gave her a wicked dirty sense of humor for when she was around close friends. And for Mara, I dug into her questionable motives, found some strange pockets of naivety in her otherwise savvy personality, etc. I also had her mention that if she hadn't changed her hair and eye color for a lot of missions, she'd never have survived past age 20, because I thought that was true.

What was my point?

I guess just that I don't consider a character a Mary Sue just because she's So Pretty.

One original screenplay that I wrote a long time ago featured two cute women and a ludicrously beautiful man, because I find IRL that really gorgeous men occupy a whole different dimension than the rest of us, benefitting from (or being cursed by?) the privileges of both maleness and beauty.
ifritah From: ifritah Date: July 20th, 2006 07:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I completely agree with what you're saying about how a character is used. And that was pretty much my point. Creating a character is only the beginning step of a process. The big sha-bang is in the execution.

I think it's awesome that you were able to take a badly executed character and turn them into something far better.
From: laechim Date: July 19th, 2006 10:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Mary Sues are always subjective, and unfortunately a lot of very valid characteristics are associated with them (What, I can't ever have wings? Thanks a lot!) You know I'm on the bad past background bandwagon too. Good looks is never enough for a Mary Sue. 'SPESHUL' looks, however, are a larger clue. But just a clue.

And you also know I think you should play a char who isn't a max appearance. Especially in BESM, where Max Appearance is defined to be essentially Aphrodite. ^_~ I appreciate never having an Appearance 0 (especially in a Buffy or Anime game: How many people aren't attractive?) but max appearance... becomes character defining. That's usually the issue I have with it. Someone with that high an appearance will have a very common set of experiences. People will think they're sluts, or snotty, or elitist, or fawn over them... basically, you've defined the first impression of your character and it's going to be polarizing if the people you play with actually think about it. They'll get a lot of attention at puberty. If they know of their appearance (and they'd better if it's that high) they will have to deal with it. Etc, etc, etc. It'd be like always playing crippled people, or blind people, or men, or tall people, or gay/straight/bi people. You set up a common set of experiences every single time. Deviate once and a while! Ahem.

If max appearance is relevant, it's character defining, and if it's not, it's a waste of CP. That's my take on it. Once in a while, it's nice to have a character who isn't defined in a multitude of situations by how good they look. ;)

ifritah From: ifritah Date: July 20th, 2006 06:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Come now, I do believe we discussed how even I wouldn't fling my points in making a character have the appearance of a goddess. ;P

Well, I think you have to consider some of the GMs I've had. Most of the time, appearance is looked over and it's mostly just for my amusement. Every so often an NPC would wink at PC X and that'd be it.

Though, I will say, I am a bit regretful of giving Ivy +5. I really think I should've only given her +4. But at the time I didn't want to budge, as I was feeling pressured to not make her so pretty.
From: laechim Date: July 20th, 2006 07:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I dunno... that BESM catgirl princess was awfully shaky... o/~

That is true. GMs don't often play up the appearance angle... although I can never decide if that's because the GM doesn't know how, just doesn't bother, or they're afraid that the game will become tough to progress because everyone's really really pretty and getting laid all the time. ^_~ (*hums 'Everybody Gets Laid Tonight*) Sadly, I haven't really gotten to experiment with this much, since my prettiest characters seem to get kicked out of games or just have them never start. ^^;

I will note, however, that I mainly meant character defining in the character's pre-game past. Even if the GM doesn't think about it, I usually do. I am reminded of Cham's Gideon, who wore makeup to look less pretty than he did and has an obsession with the concept of beauty. (Of course, that was in a pretty silly game, but!)

Aheh. Well, just get a vamp to break her nose! Nothing like getting in-game defects. *beat* Okay, maybe that's not the best plan if we ever want her to speak. Perhaps just a rogueish scar? ^_~

ifritah From: ifritah Date: July 20th, 2006 08:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hey now, I wasn't the one taking the flaw of having every guy in close radius suddenly falling for me! *Eyes gailadora*

I think it's a combo. Some GMs don't want to deal with it period. Some don't want it to detract from the game. And some manage it at an appropriate level.

And I am not having Ivy get a broken nose or facial scars! The girl's nuts, I figure that gives her negatives to appearance right there!
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