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Role Play 101: Character Building Part 4 – Weaknesses

By: Qai

These were originally written while role playing in WoW, but all of the general concepts and advice still very much apply. Even if you've been role playing for years, there are some things in here will likely help you develop even further.

While I take no credit for writing this guide, I cannot actually name the person who wrote it. It is a handbook that has been passed around for a little over 9 years now, the authors have changed (or at least user names) many times over. Though I thought it would be good to share for those who do actively or are interested in role playing.

Role Play 101: Character Building Part 4 – Weaknesses

Throughout these articles I have discussed the need for balance. One of the features that make a character well balanced is weaknesses. Their weaknesses will contribute to their personality, behaviors, responses to others and different situations. Weaknesses are woven deeply into everything about the character and provide a more well-rounded personality. After all, nobody is perfect. Weaknesses contribute greatly to who a character – or person – is.

Well-crafted weaknesses are just as important and interesting as any other element of your character. It would be impossible to determine a character’s strengths without weaknesses to offset them. Weaknesses can also provide something to work towards. If, for example, the character is scared of dogs, that provides a goal to work toward; overcoming that fear of dogs.

Types of Weaknesses

There are certainly many types of weaknesses, but they can be most easily broken down into two; Psychological and Physical.

Psychological weaknesses are those that spring from the character’s own mind. Whether it is a fear of heights or narcissistic tendencies, they are self-defeating weaknesses. Psychological weaknesses are, in essence, controlled by the character’s own mind, which makes them especially difficult to overcome. They may have been created by some severe trauma in the character’s past or perhaps some other event that brought it on. However it came to be, it is part of the character and may or may not be something that can be overcome.

Physical weaknesses are of the sort that affects the character’s physical appearance or abilities. Physical weaknesses can also cause psychological ones that are closely intertwined. A physical weakness might include a missing limb, sensory loss (blindness, deafness), vertigo, or some sort of disease or condition such as allergies. Physical weaknesses can be caused by injury, disease, birth defect or any number of other factors that can affect physical appearance or ability.

Severity

Not all weaknesses are of the debilitating variety. Some are small, just little quirks of a sort. Some are humorous, some are sad, some are so outrageous we find ourselves trying to fix the person we encounter with it simply to have it gone. Sometimes we give our characters weaknesses without even realizing we’ve done so. Is your character bigoted toward another race? Do they drink to excess? Are they lazy, dishonest, or scared of the dark? Do they have a teddy bear that must be with them at all times? Are they promiscuous? These are all weaknesses that help to round out the character.

When deciding the severity of your weaknesses, however, be sure that you don’t write yourself into a role play corner and leave yourself with a character that is unplayable. I have a friend that wrote a character that has issues with his foot, severe enough to keep him from adventuring. He recently realized that this made it very difficult to get anything done with the character and is working on a role play reason to make the character viable again. My friend is an excellent and creative Role Player so I have faith he will have no problem coming up with a creative and believable way to make this happen, but it helps to illustrate the point here, all things in moderation. Don’t defeat yourself and your character before you’ve even started playing it.

Reasoning

If you are going to build a weakness into your character, be sure there is a believable reason behind it. Do they dislike elves because an elf stole his ice cream cone as a child? Are they repulsed by the smell of brimstone which makes them unable to work around warlocks? Did they lose their left pinky toe in the fight with Archimonde? Be creative but be believable. The weaknesses must fit the persona, not just be tacked on because you think they are “cool”.

In-Play Happenings

Sometimes weaknesses can come from happenings in current Role Play. These can either be temporary or permanent, depending on the situation. Whatever the case, again, make sure they are believable. When coming up with other happenings that influence your character, make sure it is not something you’ve already done to death. If your character is possessed by demons every Tuesday, others are not likely to give the reaction you’re looking for. They are more likely to roll their eyes and relegate you to a forgotten corner of obscurity.

Avoid The Most Common Trap

The single most common weakness trap is “Sir Buford is afraid of failure.” Now, if played properly, this can be a valid weakness, however quite often it is seen as a cop-out for someone trying to run Mr. Perfect who never has failures, and has no weakness. Remember, weaknesses can be fun! They don’t have to be huge and traumatic. Be creative and go with what fits the character.



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