Lately I’ve been having some really good RP with characters who have atypical powers. Running down a bit of a list, here are some of the things people I’ve RPed with have given themselves:
- An exceptionally skilled hunter with trapping and animal control abilities far beyond what I think would be typical.
- A Highborne priest with mind shaping abilities.
- A human from Winterspring with a mind soothing, lyrical voice.
- A kaldorei jewelcrafter with the ability to melt gems to mold into various bits of jewelry.
- A kaldorei priestess who is a telepath, passively picking up on thoughts and actively able to plumb the depths of Jana’s mind.
- An ancient kaldorei druid who, in my estimation, is about five hundred times more powerful than the typical level 90 player.
From the list above I think it’s pretty obvious that I like playing with people who have granted themselves powers beyond which the game supplies. I think in some ways I have done the same with Jana, inventing spells that don’t exist in her spellbook but are reasonable extensions or modifications of spells that do exist. The difference with Jana is that her invented spells are primarily for the benefit of roleplay, and roleplay atmosphere. They would not make her more effective in combat or adversarial RP, at least not generally. The powers these other people have granted themselves can fall into this category or go well beyond it, in one case to the point where the character ICly would be able to defeat powerful raid bosses on her own.
From my experience, it’s usually considered a no no to have powers far beyond that of your typical adventurer. There are two reasons for this. First, it gives the powerful person an unfair advantage over other people who have chosen to keep their characters within the abilities suggested by the game. Second, it is a “Mary Sue”ish trait designed to draw attention to the character unjustly. Let’s take these in turn.
I think the first problem stems from an idea that one should be willing to RP with anyone that comes along. This was certainly the case on Thorium Brotherhood, where despite its RP realm tag, roleplayers were few and far between and you could not be picky. On Moon Guard, however, this is not so; there are hundreds if not thousands of people looking around for RP. Someone who is bothered by the idea of someone else being overpowered has the option of simply never RPing with that person. And even if circumstances arise where one feels strongly encouraged to RP with that person (because a friend is doing so, for instance), so long as the overpowered person doesn’t violate the consent rule (and you don’t let him or her do it), nothing horrible will happen to you.
The second is more troubling. I don’t like the term Mary Sue. I think it tends to be thrown about like a bludgeon, forcing people to conform to some stereotype of a character and not stand out in any way. But there is a legitimate concern expressed by the term. My idea of a Mary Sue (damn whatever the internet says) is that it’s someone who has superficially unique and interesting characteristics to draw attention to themselves, and those characteristics never really come into play.
My prototypical example of a Mary Sue would be a person who is RPing as a dragon in human form. The story behind why such a being would be wherever it is I confront them is rarely ever told, and in my experience many (but not all) behave exactly as humans would. In other words, the “dragon” bit is a label that comes into play only when reading the MRP, and has no effect whatsoever on anyone’s RP.
I’d like to contrast that with the RP I had with the kaldorei telepath the other night. In that RP, she actually peered into Jana’s mind, delving its depths. And, when she confronted vivid imagery that was too much for her to handle, she freaked out and lost control. Jana was forced to creatively figure out a way to bring her back to her senses. It was tremendously fun, and it was possible only because she had that extraordinary power to begin with.
That, I think, is the key to determining the propriety of the extra power. Is the power something that would be the focus of the RP, or at least an influence for the RP? Or is it something that you have no intention of following through on? Is it something that creates some balancing weakness for your character? Or are you doing it to be above it all?
One friend of mine who I talked to about it seemed almost apologetic about the whole thing. She kept claiming that in adversarial RP, she would behave and act as a typical sentinel, despite her character having vast powers. Undoubtedly this is because someone berated her for being unfairly powerful arbitrarily. I told her that as far as I was concerned, she could use all of her powers in whatever RP we ended up with. One of the things I quite like on Jana is figuring out how to beat or at least escape from someone who is far more powerful than she is. The RP proceeded in a consistent way, and indeed Jana found a way. It was quite satisfying.
If you do feel like giving your character extraordinary powers, I would encourage you to try. But keep those guidelines in mind. Do it because you’re interested in RPing the power, because people like me will expect you to. If it’s just to draw attention to yourself, people who are looking for that sort of thing will be disappointed.