Characters you couldn't play


We’ve all got them. Characters we wanted to play but, for one reason or another, you couldn’t. Maybe the game never got started, maybe it did but fell apart too soon. Maybe you managed to play them, but couldn’t get them quite right. Either way, you’ve got unfinished stories and I want to hear them. Here’s two of mine, to start with:

Gwynn Halfhand was a goblin knight, in service to the legendary Goblin King - a powerfully magical King Arthur-like figure who secretly ruled over all goblins with honour and fairness for all and definitely wasn’t just David Bowie in Labyrinth. Unfortunately, no-one else believed he existed. Gwynn had been scraping together a living in a city when she was knighted in a dream and charged with bringing the light of the Goblin King back to the world. She claims she had a sword sitting next to her when she woke up, though the sword does look suspiciously like a common guardsman’s sword. True or not, Gwynn definitely believes in her mission and will do everything in her power to complete her self-proclaimed mission.
Gwynn was going to be my character in a D&D4E game back in university, but the GM flaked out after the first session and just never scheduled a second one without giving a reason. Never did find out why.

My second example was a 13th Age character in a game that I was invited to by someone I knew who sadly later revealed he was secretly a dumbass redpill motherfucker, so I quit before even starting. Sadly, she didn’t get to the stage of giving her a name (I’m terrible at names so they always go last) but I still liked her concept:
You know that one curse that was super in vogue for a couple centuries? The one where evil copies of any intruding adventurers appear and fight them? And it got put on like every tomb and dungeon even though it never works? Well, one time it did. As the shadow stood over the original, an elf knight, she gained all the original’s knowledge and memories - and also a crystal clear understanding that these were not hers.

Tell me about your characters, friends of the Discourse Zone. Feed my need.


The first time I played DND, I was joining a campaign with long-time friends. I forget the character class, but I chose the ability to talk with plants. I asked the DM if that was a useful ability and he said yes. After leaving town, our very first enemy was a talking tree. I said I wanted to talk to the tree and everyone, including the DM, groaned. They all said to just fight it and stop wasting time.

Now, I understand that I was joining an ongoing campaign, but I had literally just asked the DM—who got a Bachelor’s Degree in the Performing Arts—if talking to plants was a useful ability and he had said yes. It became abundantly clear that my friends were not as interested in the “Role-Playing” side of things and I never played DND with them again. Through most of my twenties, I played board games with these folks every week. But yeah, I never played DND with them again, and I still haven’t played a tabletop RPG since (unless you count those pre-built board game campaigns like The Legend of Drizzt or Arkham Horror).


I’ve occasionally tried to play in forum play-by-post games, and it’s never worked out (I’m not good at driving things forward, I’m a very ‘support role’ guy), but I’m very attached to some of the characters I’ve created nonetheless. (All D&D).

Turtle Heart, Warforged Druid. They worked for a noble family as a household guard before being sent out/abandoned in the wild likely for political/economic reasons. They were found by an elf, who named them, and eventually inducted them into the druid circle. They had a badger animal companion (which they just called Badger. When asked, they didn’t really understand why they would name it anything else) and moss growing on them.
We never reached them learning to shapeshift into animals, but I like to think it would have freaked them out a bit. Breathing, eating, just… having living bodily functions.

Galatea, Human Sorcerer. For a campaign where all our characters died, and the first session started with us all being raised/reanimated by unknown means for unknown purposes. A noble girl who’d had been engaged seven times. One of her fiancés died, one vanished, one was banished, etc. The last one was a vampire, who killed her. (I think we’d maybe been given new bodies and I liked the idea we might eventually fight Vampire Galatea)
She was haughty and arrogant, your standard noble girl stereotype really. Chose spells leaning towards a ‘witch’ archetype, curses and polymorphs and stuff.

Leif (Newfall), Half-Elf Druid. Half-Drow, his mother and grandfather (the lord of Newfall) fled their home with him when he was born with grey skin. They travelled a lot, rarely staying in once place long, never entering large settlements. Druid in the sense of focusing on shapeshifting, he liked to fight in bear form.
He was tall, and broad, but tried his best to be inconspicuous, probably unsuccessfully most of the time. Very very shy/nervous.

Ah my poor children. I miss you.


Both characters were for 13th Age campaigns that never went anywhere.

Valexhrial aka Val was a tiefling ranger that lived inside a living dungeon and ran a nice little slime ranch. She had all sorts of slimes; blue slimes, green slimes, rainbow slimes, topiary slimes, cubed slimes, wood slimes, whatever slime you could imagine, she could get. Just a nice lady minding her own business and raising slimes.

Val’s actual identity is they’re the heart of the living dungeon who one day decided “Gee, wouldn’t it be nice to see the world” and gave itself a form. They’re at least several thousand years old now, changing forms depending on the natural lifespan of their current form (or taking a break for a few years if they’re killed), and has decided hey, people aren’t so bad after all.

The slime ranch is simply the weirdness of the living dungeon. But hey, everyone needs a hobby.

“Corva” was a corvidmancer (reskin of the necromancer class) of indeterminable race (high-elf, for the sake of racial abilities). Her hands were curled claws, her hair long turned to iridescent black feathers, a gait too long, ancient in the way of old trees left forgotten in the forest.

Her true identity was a relic of the Fourth Age, a time when Gods still walked the earth and Icons were a passing thought (but growing in power). She was the avatar of Death, and sometimes Mercy. She was a force of being, necessary in the way forest fires are needed to clear the way for new saplings.

The end of the Fourth Age came when Peace and Life decided to usurp Death and Conflict, sealing the two avatars away and seizing their powers, rebuilding a world where no one had to die and no one ever fought. As they wished it anyway.

Corva slept in her tomb, which was eventually lost, than swallowed by a living dungeon, and eventually rediscovered by adventurers in the 13th Age.


Butterfly was a highly chaotic creature that had realised he must be a butterfly dreaming himself to be a man and chosen to endeavour to return to his true nature by alighting briefly in one place or another before moving on. I was thinking he would be a mage of some kind and probably have a really cool coat, but although I had ideas about the character and what would make him fun to play, the group he would have fitted into kind of fell apart and I sort of stopped playing that LARP system a while after, so I never got around to it.


We were going to run a restaurant that catered to monsters and adventurers. I would have been the waiter. Then the GM decided he would rather make homebrew world of darkness-like games that cover the same stuff as world of darkness, but use his just as, but sometimes more, complicated system instead and the game went bust after one session. so rip in peace, kung-fu waiter :confused:


The stupid but true answer would be almost every character I make because I’m usually GMing (I love it though). I usually try and create a character in every system I learn just to get an understanding of how to do it though, so I’ve had a few cool ideas for PC’s htat just never came to fruition.

My favorite though was the character I made to learn 5th edition that I nicknamed “The Dude Perfect Wizard.” The basic idea was that he was going to be a very cocky obnoxious wizard who was always trying to do the toughest trickshots and the like (like aiming spells over his shoulder from 100 feet away etc.). I might make him an npc in my next campaign though!


I can never stick with a character which is one of many reasons I always GM and generally am a bad player. Most of my characters I really like get worked into some games, but there are a few that never showed up because the games ended or moved in a different direction before they could. The first one that came to mind was in a East Asian-themed Hunter game based in NYC. The game opened with the players investigating the death of their boss’s brother who was obsessed with Sun Wukong (the Monkey King) and was convinced that he actually existed. As the game progressed the players realized that a magical bamboo staff they found in the guy’s apartment is just like Wukong’s staff and they were supposed to eventually actually find the brother’s spirit was inhabiting and powering the staff and he was going to be a hardcore Wukong fanboy. Unfortunately, the game died before then.


My favourite character I’ve never played except in a one off was a female half-orc warlock. She came from a small nomadic tribe, humans, orcs, half-orcs, a mix of castoffs and outsiders. as a child she was apprenticed to the tribes sole magic user, a shaman, a medicine woman, I dunno, I never found a term for the role that I didn’t feel kind of weird about. an elder I guess. Anyway the elder would help the tribe with her knowledge of nature and medicine, generations of accumulated wisdom and also a connection to ancient, deep, deep magic, magic so old it has developed an intelligence of it’s own, living magic.
So this half orc is apprenticing with the elder, learning all this wisdom and slowly learning how to wield and control the ancient magic before she eventually becomes the new focus for it and the new elder of the tribe.
But of course something goes wrong, one day the tribe is set upon by raiders and in the middle of channelling a spell the elder is killed, with the magic untethered now the half orc tries to bring the spell under control and use it to save her tribe, she manages to focus the magic through her as the elder did, but she doesn’t have the same control, the entire field is swallowed up in a writhing mass of eldritch energy, Destroying the raiders and the whole tribe with it.
Now completely alone in the world except for a terrible power she doesn’t understand she wanders the land seeking to better understand magic and to, in some small way fulfill the role she was being groomed for and make peace with her past.
the high concept pitch is that I really wanted to play like, an origin story for the classic fairytale witch with plenty of inspirations from Discworld and Fables who have both done a lot in really fleshing out the fairytale witch archetype.


My first-ever Dungeons & Dragons character was a charging hellion of a dwarven fighter named Rhodra. She was part of a large campaign in which 12-ish people with 18-ish characters rotated in and out on various missions around a central hub. We were often low on healers, so I ended up rolling up her imperious twin sister, Weldril, and I would play one or the other depending on party composition. I ended up playing more Weldril and less Rhodra as time went on. The running joke was that they kept taking jobs to get away from the town (and thus, their twin.)

It was an interesting experience to play two sisters who couldn’t stand each other, but whose slow character development as individuals–one becoming less impulsive and judgmental, the other becoming less frigid and more affectionate–could certainly have facilitated a repaired relationship over time… except that both of them were me. It’s weird, but I still feel a twang of sadness that I inadvertently doomed them to never reconcile.


I feel you, bronson. I’ve DMed one session of DND E5 so far with a group of friends and family who’ve also never played it before. The role-playing was very fun, but I underestimated the length and at times tediousness of the turn-based combat. It took up one thrid of our entire play session and in my mind it was just going to be this 20-minute-long encounter.

At the end of the session the stuff that sticked with the players were the conversations they had with NPCs and the interactions their characters had with each other, so I’m very glad our interests align when it comes to what we want from these kinds of games.

Ever since, I’m very allergic to the number-crunching in table-tops. I hear 5E is relatively light in number-crunching compared to past edition, but it still felt too long. I can see the appeal, most of the people I’ve had brief conversations with really enjoy the various combat-mechanics.

The way Austin DMs in Friends at the Table has been a revelation to me and if I ever do a second session, The way he includes his players into the world-building is really fun and giving them this much input over the details of the world as they emerge, makes it a lot more interesting, and leaves room for the DM to be even more inspired by the input of his players along the way.


I’ve got a few characters sitting in the back of my binder that are either basically one-offs or unused but the three that stuck with me are:

  • Cyrus Gray who was a Paranormal Investigator who was contracted by Lone Star Security Systems in Seattle to deal with magical crimes. The character was only ever meant to be a throw away, since I made him for a one-off game that my GM was running for me to teach me how to play Shadowrun. And then after that our games weren’t set in Seattle, the GM thought it would be interesting to use our local IRL area as the setting but extrapolated into Shadowrun, and we were also generally playing shadowrunners so I never really got to return to Cyrus. I liked him enough though that I decided to cement him in the canon of our game by making one of my other SR characters a direct relative of his.

  • There was also a point where that same GM was trying to run sort of general WoD games (normally we had only really dealt with Vampire) so a friend and I decided we wanted to try Mage and thus enters Agent Johnson. We both made Technocrats that worked for the N.W.O. and played our characters with the concept of “What if the Agents from the Matrix were members of Men In Black?” which was fun but only lasted about 2 sessions. I think it was because playing a WoD system made the GM want to go back to the Vampire game that we had put on hold for like a year since summer break ended and people had to go back to school, but I don’t remember exactly. (That game also had a character a couldn’t play, but for the opposite reason? They had essentially reached the point where they had “won the game,” AKA achieved their ultimate goals, and I didn’t really know what to do with them anymore.)

  • Finally we have Race Berand, Fighter Pilot extraordinaire who flew for the Rebellion in a Star Wars FFG game that was essentially “What if Top Gun, but Star Wars?” The fact that this game never went anywhere actually kind of makes me sad, because everyone wanted to play it but the GM ended up needing to move away unexpectedly so we only got 3 sessions out of the concept. We went ham on this one too. I had even crafted a custom X-Wing ship (in-game) with a slick paint job and drawn up the logo painted on his helmet and had code names everything. Really bums me out sometimes.


If you like the type of game but don’t like the numbers I would definitely recommend following the FatT example and plying Dungeon World as an alternative - it looks like D&D but it plays out in a much more fun and story-focused way.


I’m listening to Counter/WEIGHT right now. It’s blowing me away and actually making me want to play Zone of the Enders again. Where is that PS4 port? Argh…


I was in a cyberpunk game once, can’t remember what system it was, but the mechanics kept it from working out how I’d hoped.

I’d wanted to be a holographic rockstar, and use the laser lightshows and special effects in combat, but the system didn’t really allow for me to execute what I had in mind, and the game didn’t have legs anyways.


This is very abstract but in thinking about the potential of Bluff City I found myself imagining from whole cloth some sort of RPG about smallish animals like rats and racoons (is there even a system like that? there should be) and I developed this real deep urge to play an owl who is a bit too casual about the fact that it would happily eat every other member of the party under different circumstances.


Mouse Guard is about playing as tiny mice, sorta like Redwall. I haven’t played it yet (story of my life) but it seems fun.

As for your owl character, I love that idea, and might steal it for some NPC in my current campaign!


I was in a homebrew setting (or maybe it was just a Planescape setting, I don’t really remember) but we were playing 3.5 D&D rules. I was a member of a race of what were essentially giant cockroaches who, in an effort to blend in, constructed mechanical suits to pass for human. The only trouble was, I had a very loose idea of how humans worked, and so I saw nothing wrong with rigging my robot body to shoot its arms at people - you know, like all humans do. Totally common and normal human behavior.

This meant I also started most of my conversations with some variation on “Hello fellow human! Is it not excellent to have a skeleton hidden away by a fleshy exterior?”

We only managed a couple of sessions, and then due to problems finding a space to play (the group was part of the college roleplaying society) we never managed to get much further than that. But even nigh ten years on I miss my dumb bug child.


The mouseguard comics are super-adorable and well worth reading. It’s certainly a little Redwallesque, but it has it’s own atmosphere and all the mice have huge ears.


I had a few characters I always wanted to play, but they never quite fit the tone of the game. One of my favourites was Hammond Goodwheat. The story goes that when he was just a baby, a powerful druid passed by his family’s farm and was appalled by the poor conditions of the animals. In order to teach the farmers a lesson, he harnessed ancient and powerful magic to imbue the animals of the farm with sentience with the aim of having them rise up against their cruel masters and then he went along his merry way.

The animals, now fully aware of their lot in life did in fact rise up and kick out the owners of the farm. They then set themselves to running the farm with far more acuity than their former human masters. The farm became quite successful very quickly, and soon began to thrive. Being based on the fundamental principles of profit above all else and ruthless capitalism the Animal Firm was founded. Unfortunately, they had no way to sell their goods to the outside world.

This is where young Hammond Goodwheat came in. The animals had kept the young baby around and raised him to young adulthood for one reason and one reason only. Acting as the public face of the farm and moulded by the animals to be the ideal young executive, he became known far and wide as a young business genius, albeit one with some strange eccentricities. No matter where young Ham Goodwheat went, he always had at least one dog with him. But people were willing to overlook this minor peculiarity, working with the Animal Firm was always exceedingly profitable.

Nobody suspected the truth, that young Ham Goodwheat had no taste business and really wanted to be a bard and travel the open road. The true source of his business acumen were in fact the various animals that briefed him before each meeting, and the dogs that kept him on message. One day, while closing a deal to open a new large wholesale store, there was a robbery at the bank he was meeting at, a robbery which quickly went bad and soon the whole place was up in flames. Amidst all the smoke and shouting Ham managed to slip away.

Now a travelling bard, he’s on the run from an entire corporation of sentient animals who either want him back as their trusted public face, or want him dead before he can divulge their secrets.
Ham Goodwheat of Goodwheat farms, a musician who sings about the oppression of living within the stifling confines of an unfeeling trading company run by capitalist animals. Most people assume that the animals are a metaphor, or that when he says he was raised by a farm he’s just being poetic.