Home > Character Development > Give your characters flaws

Give your characters flaws

The weakest link

Most of us want the character that we roleplay to be badass. It’s our childhood fantasy to be the hero of the story, to be the person who helps rescue everyone else from danger, to defeat the badguys, and for everyone else to look up to. But be careful you’re not making your character too perfect, or they might turn into a Mary Sue.

I’ve been creating a Rolemaster character recently, and they have a great system that allows you to pick special abilities for your character (they call them ‘talents’), and you have a limited number of points to spend on these talents. To gain more talents you need more points, and to get these you have to choose the equal number of points worth in ‘flaws’. You can choose these talents and flaws from the book, and there’s many of each, and it’s the flaws which really inspired me.

Characters need flaws

Realistic characters need flaws. Look at characters in TV and movies, the best characters have some limitation or phobia that makes them more interesting. Without a flaw, they’d just be too ‘perfect’ and it’d be hard for us to relate to them. Just as Indiana Jones has a fear of snakes, or Superman has his powers removed by Kryptonite, your character could equally have a flaw that makes them vulnerable or makes them act in a certain way.

I’ve always felt that flaws are what give a character depth. Explaining physical or emotional imperfections can really bring a character to life and make them more relateable to the reader, while they may not be able to relate to that particular flaw there’s always a struggle in one’s life that they can relate to, and that’s over coming something personal. When storylines fail to bring something powerful up against the character a player can always resort back to that personal strife in order to keep that character’s personal story blooming.

Cîty RavenCrowe, GM of Era of the Triple Moons RPG

Flaws affect your character, characters affect the story

By ‘flaw’ I don’t just mean a vulnerability like an ‘Achilles heel’ like in the example of Superman with his Kryptonite, (although this is essential in a roleplaying game otherwise you’ll become a God Modder ) a flaw might also be something that will affect the way your character behaves. This could be an obsession or desire that will always be present in your character’s mind, nomatter what is happening in the current plot. Here are few examples of character flaws:

Obsession

  • In Lord of the Rings, Gollum is obsessed with the ring, it’s something his character cares about above anything else and drives him mad.
  • In Babylon 5, Londo Mollari’s obsession with restoring the Centauri Republic back to it’s glory days gives him a drive to succeed, and forge an alliance with a superior but dangerous alien species despite everything pointing to it being a bad idea.

Impulsiveness

  • In Family Guy, Peter Griffin is extremely impulsive and constantly gets himself and his family into trouble.

Jealousy

  • In the classic fairy tale Snow White, the Queen becomes jealous that Snow White is more attractive, and this causes her to try to kill her.
  • In Star Wars, anger and jealousy causes Anakin Skywalker to go off the rails, turn into a badguy and become Darth Vader.

Phobias

  • Phobias can also be fun because it gives your character a fear they cannot control and might make them act against their own desires. In the A-Team B A Baracus is afraid of flying, something the team have to overcome when they want him to get onto a plane.
  • A phobia also gives them extra challenges to overcome. In the film Vertigo, the detective played by James Stewart is afraid of heights and has to climb a tower.

Flaws give you more opportunities

Where talents give your character a reason to do something, a flaw gives your character a reason not to. Without character flaws a story would be pretty dull, all the goals the characters are working towards will be achieved easily with no great challenge. With each character having their own flaws, it gives the story lots more to happen, and in some cases many more challenges to overcome.

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  1. May 25, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Loved this one, truly. Flaws are such a huge part of creating a character, their strengths and weakness, and the most fun is RPing that out, or explaining it in their history and biographies. I have the most fun developing quirks in my characters.

  2. SciFi Ideas
    May 26, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    I agree. If I met somebody without flaws in real life, I’d want to punch them in the face. We also wouldn’t have much to talk about

  3. May 29, 2011 at 2:00 am

    I also think we tend to like flawed characters more, or at the very least I do. Maybe this is why sidekicks are so popular even when the heroes are boringly perfect. 😀 Good post!

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