Backstory Part 3: Avoiding Toxic Characters
I once led a campaign I worked hard on preparing. However, one of my players decided to play a "murder hobo". Not only did they insist on not leaving the opening pub scene until it was burned to the ground, they also managed to alienate their friends at the table. No one had fun that night and the campaign ended before it began. When we talked about it later he said, "I just did what I thought my character would do."
Dear friends, you are the ones making these characters. Don't make a character so unlikable people do not want to play with you.
"But David," you say, "My charisma is a 6. I can't exactly be Prince Charming."
True but this does not give you permission to shit all over the campaign. Here are three ways to avoid building a toxic character.
1. Conspire with your group to get around your characters flaws.
Just because your character is flawed doesn't mean you have to be. It is perfectly acceptable to conspire with your friends to thwart your characters toxic intentions. The classic example is with a LG paladin having to "investigate another room" while the rogues steals and murders without being noticed.
I once played with a dwarf with a fear of heights. We had to knock him out every time we got on our sweet Eberron air ship. The player didn't fight it. He just found a believable way or his dwarf to be looking the other way when we knocked him out. The DM didn't make it hard for us by making us role. It was just accepted, if the story was to progress the dwarf needed a reason to be constrained.
2. Allow For Growth
Characters are dynamic. Just because they are flawed in the beginning of the campaign does not mean you have to leave them there. In fact, any character worth their salt will grow as the story unfolds. Use your flaws as something to overcome. In the end that dwarf eventually found his courage. He became the ships mechanic and loved the ship and flying. It was a fun long story that lead from one point to another. A story totally worth telling.
3. Give your character a higher charisma score.
Simply put, don't make a character with a built in reason to be gross. No one is forcing you in to making the character, build something else. Anything else.