Monday RP: Uncommon, yet Ordinary

“You shall be ordinary” was the curse/blessing a somewhat worn-out fairy godmother pronounced over royal infant Amy in M. M. Kaye’s The Ordinary Princess. It made sense, you see, to the fairy godmother. She was positively sick of all the dull (yet beautiful) golden-haired, blue-eyed princesses.

I was a big fan of the Ordinary Princess as a kid, so it makes some sense that I largely prefer “ordinary” characters in roleplay situations.  Yet, at the same time, I know my characters are never going to be normal. They’re not merchants or farmers, and they’re often out slaying world-ending dragons.  I don’t even know that I would want to roleplay a farmer! So, I’ve ended up favoring the “Uncommon yet Ordinary” concept when working with my characters.

You see, it’s perfectly possible to be ordinary and yet uncommon at the same time. That was the whole point of the Ordinary Princess — because there is NOTHING ordinary about being a Princess, no matter how brown your hair is or how freckly your face! So, your character is “The Ordinary Paladin” or “The Ordinary Shaman” – you temper the extra-ordinary with the, well, boring normalcy of life.

Even the most heroic of heroes probably has some everyday concerns – does he have money woes? a broken heart? childhood fear of snakes? – and supplementing your character with these “normal” thoughts brings the common back into the uncommon.

Rhianon, my shaman, has some pretty amazing things going on for her. She’s a spirit-walker, ferrying dying souls to the Beyond, and she participated in the final fighting against Deathwing. Yet, she has low self-confidence, tends to be shy and quiet, and worries about boring, normal things: family, friendships, and so on. Conversely, she owns a bakery (normal, right?) that just so happens to be haunted!

Anatevka came from Argus and has survived thousands of years – but still gets annoyed when her sometimes-boyfriend uses her fancy soaps to wash up.

Gilberte might be writing amazing romance novels, but she still has to keep her day job as a secretary to stay on top of her bills and be close to her baby daughter.

I look at my characters’ stories from one side and I’m constantly worried – Are they too boring and normal???. And then I look from the other side and think – “Wait, are they too much? Is this talent/ability/success too over-the-top?”

At that point, I know I’ve struck pretty much the right balance!

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Posted on May 14, 2012, in roleplaying. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. This is something I have long thought about. MMOs, especially the more recent ones like The Old Republic and World of Warcraft, go all out to try to make you feel extraordinary, unusual, and unique. You are supposed to be the legendary hero fated to change the course of history.

    But that is rather boring. Yeah, I don’t want to be a farmer, but I don’t want to be the hero either. The blog I started for the Newbie Blog Initiative doesn’t necessarily deal with this problem directly, but it is always in the back of my mind when playing new MMOs. That’s why it is in the name (contraheroics).

    I like the approach you are taking to normalize your heroic figures and at least make them seem relateable rather than loose copies of Hercules or Geronimo or Joan of Arc. It is definitely a good way to get around the problem of forced heroic narratives.

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