Home > Play-by-post discussion > 18 ways to spot a Mary-Sue in your PBEM

18 ways to spot a Mary-Sue in your PBEM

So you’ve got a PBEM game, and you’re recruiting for new members. You accept members based on the character biographies they’ve provided to you, but how do you know that these players are going to be any good in your game? Well, you can’t really tell until you see them post.

A Mary-Sue character is a stereotype of RPG games

A Mary-Sue character is a stereotype of RPG games and fanfiction

There is a stereotype character called a Mary-Sue. This is normally a female character who is so perfect that she’s annoying. She resembles all the many character stereotypes all rolled into one. A Mary-sue character is normally a player’s first character, when they don’t realise that they are creating such a stereotype.

Mary-Sue’s aren’t always female, as male characters can have all of these stereotypes too, as well as some more of their own. A male Mary-Sue is sometimes called a Marty-Stu.

The name Mary-Sue comes from a short Star Trek fanfiction story, written as a parody of fanfiction.

Look at the points below to see if you have any Mary-Sue stereotypes in your own game. Maybe your character is one and you didn’t even realise! Take each of these points with a pinch of salt, some of the points mentioned actually make good character traits on their own. But a typical Mary-Sue will use them all.

Character’s Name

1. The character is named after the player, this could include their nickname, first name, last name or all of their names.

2. The character’s name is a noun or word that isn’t normally a name. (Angel, Moon, Chaos etc) This could also be a name of historical/mythical significance that doesn’t relate in any way to the character or the setting of your game.

Character’s Appearance

3. The character’s biography describes her/him as being extremely attractive, without her/him having to work at it. The character might also have a disproportionate amount of description about their appearance compared to other characters.

4. The player describes in their first post that someone (or multiple people) find their character attractive, and try to pursue him/her.

5. The character has something unusual about their appearance, like an unusual eye colour, skin colour or hair colour.

6. The character dresses in such a way that is unusual to their job or setting. E.g. Jeans in 1703, a white flowing dress in caveman times, or a beautiful expensive dress when she’s a peasant.

7. The character has a clone or identical twin.

8. The character has a striking scar, birthmark or tattoo.

9. The character always wears black, leather, or a trenchcoat or other long coat. This especially applies if it’s all of these.

10. The character is a hybrid of two or more species.

 

There's something about Mary Sue

Character’s Personality

 

11. The character is related to royalty or nobility. Possibly from a far away or lost kingdom. The character might also be incredibly rich, but doesn’t work. They might also discover they are heir to a large fortune.

12. The character is the last surviving member of their family/clan/tribe/species.

13. The character has amnesia and doesn’t remember anything before a certain time in their lives.

14. The character was born into poverty/slavery and had to overcome all odds to break free. They might have ran away from home and left their family behind.

15. The character is unusually accomplished for their age or intelligence. E.g. They are a master swordsman at 17, or have many years of University training at only 19, or are an accomplished pilot at 12. The character might also be well educated despite living in a time or place where education is not widespread.

16. The character has a faithful pet, animal or small robot as a friend.

17. The character has a special ability or superpower that doesn’t fit into the setting of your game.

18. The character has hobbies and interests that are the same as the player’s. But the character is significantly better and more skilled at those than the player is.

How to tell if your character is a Mary Sue

(Image by Windfalcon)

Conclusion
Don’t be put off by some of these character traits, as not all of them are negative! There are actually get some good character-building out of stories that have become so over-used that they have become stereotypes.

Also if a player has created a Mary-Sue character, it’s not the end of the world for that character. They might be a genuinely good writer and have some good ideas, they just might be inexperienced and not realise that they have a character with so many stereotypes. As a GM (or a fellow player) you can help them through and give them advice on how to create a more unique character.

A player who writes about their Mary-Sue character might also be a god modder, see my article about god modding here.

More about Mary-Sue characters here:

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  1. Holly
    October 20, 2009 at 2:35 pm | #1

    Yep, an RPG Player’s first inexperienced flight of fantasy will usually see them live out their dreams of what a super person they would like to think they really are. Transposing all the positive traits they would like to possess onto their cyber alter-ego: Mary-Sue / Marty-Stu.

    On their own, one or even a couple of the character traits can be interesting. Especially when overdone, so as to become a caricature. This is what makes the character and their reactions memorable.

    But the number of traits should be used in moderation. You cannot be all things to all people in real life, nor should you be in a RPG. RPG’s are fantasy games, but to make them enjoyable there needs to be enough of an element of reality for the other members / players to identify with. Characters keep it real – allow the story the characters are in to be the feature, not the characters themselves.

    And yes, an experienced player can have a big impact by assisting a less experienced player. Go forth and educate…

    • October 20, 2009 at 8:14 pm | #2

      Wise words! Both in life, and RPG-life!

  2. Anna
    February 11, 2011 at 1:34 pm | #3

    This is all very good. But how can I actually TELL that GM that her characters are completely Sues? Without insulting her.

    • February 14, 2011 at 8:00 am | #4

      So it’s the GM that has Mary Sue characters? I think there’s more of a tolerance to allow the GM to use a more powerful character because it might help them push the story along, although I bet it will make it infuriating for all players if they’re warned for godmodding themselves – it’s a “one rule for them, another rule for us” situation I suppose!

      I think that’s a difficult situation and one that I think you just have to talk about. It should be possible to approach your GM and discuss openly without them getting insulted. If they’re really hot headed you might want to consider leaving the game, because a hotheaded GM won’t be fun anyway!

      Let us know how it goes!

  3. SciFi Ideas
    March 24, 2011 at 7:24 pm | #5

    A lot of these traits describe Captain Calhoun in the Star Trek: New Frontier books

    • March 28, 2011 at 9:08 am | #6

      I haven’t really thought about Captain Calhoun fitting this criteria before. It still remains that he’s awesome!

  1. November 8, 2010 at 8:08 am | #1
  2. March 23, 2011 at 9:21 pm | #2
  3. April 5, 2011 at 10:45 pm | #3
  4. April 10, 2011 at 9:37 pm | #4
  5. April 21, 2011 at 7:40 pm | #5

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