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The Curse of Mary Sue 
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Malekith's Personal Guard
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Joined: Wed Jan 25, 2012 8:16 pm
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There's a great guide which was put together by a WoW roleplayer: http://wow.joystiq.com/2008/03/10/all-t ... -mary-sue/ which I've shamelessly plagiarised and tweaked to reflect Warhammer, to help you avoid the clichés!

Mary Sue is extremely unpopular with roleplayers. She comes along pretending to be the only daughter of Hellebron and Malekith's one-night stand, secretly spirited away and raised by the Temple of Khaine until she underwent a mysterious transformation that turned her into an all powerful sorceress, seduced Lokhir Fellheart and became the sorcerous queen of a druchii corsair fleet.

In fact, Mary Sue isn't just one person -- she is a demon-spirit possessing all those characters in roleplaying and fan-fiction, both male and female, who rely on clichés, melodrama, and/or supposed intimate relationships with one or more characters in the original story to such a degree that they actually try to upstage those characters, their fellow roleplayers, and indeed, the entirety of the original lore. Other roleplayers often see this sort of thing and get frustrated out of their minds.

And yet there's something about Mary Sue: she keeps reappearing all over the place, from seductive witch elves who claim to be the Witch King's secret lover, to angst-ridden black guards who insist that they are demonically possessed half High-Elf offspring of Caledor I . What is it that continually attracts people to these ideas, couched in phrases like "tragic past" and "missing one eye" and "emits a deep sorrow that makes you want to cry?"

The answer is darker, more disturbing, than you can possibly imagine.


An insidious demon

Many of us roleplayers hear the horrific "Call of Mary Sue" within our minds without even realising it: "What is it that will set you apart from all the others?" she asks us in her sultry voice. "What makes your creative expression better than theirs?" Mary Sue thus infects and inflates one's ego until she is ready to hatch, then burrows her way into a person's brain, and once there, begins to spin complicated webs of melodrama, cliché, and super-sticky wish-fulfilment about the mind of its host. These webs are especially dangerous in dark and damp places of the mind which have only been exposed to bad television programming, cheesy Hollywood movies, and the surface level of classic fantasy fiction. They mix and match a few of these elements together in order to create the semblance of complete originality, when in reality they are mere imitation.

It is important to remember that even experienced roleplayers who have read lots of good stories and thought deeply about character development are susceptible to unwitting possession by Mary Sue. In fact her easiest victims are those who believe they are immune to her influence. Otherwise capable roleplayers can go for ages without realising that their character lacks originality and plausibility, and can sometimes use their breadth of knowledge about lore or storytelling to help them find excuses to play a trite character. Mary Sue is a threat to anyone who wishes to be creative, especially within the context of fan-fiction and roleplaying.


The path to freedom

Indeed, to be truly Mary-Sue-free, a roleplayer must embrace a humbling reality: your character is not the centre of the Warhammer universe. He or she is a footnote, a side-story, one of those people shouting in the background, the one whose face you can see as a kind of blurry fuzz for half a second in the upper left corner of a cinematic screen. Whatever stories your character has to offer to the world will neither be earth-shaking nor extraordinarily climactic, nor even necessarily interesting to anyone except you and your circle of roleplaying friends in the game.

Although your character is just a small participant in the overall Warhammer story, this is where your greatness lies. Your character is intertwined with all the other characters in your circle of roleplaying friends, each one of you mutually dependent upon the others. By exploring these connections between people, developing relationships, getting along and doing things together, you flesh out the world behind the big climactic story that Warhammer is trying to tell. As all the canon characters from Karl Franz to Morathi go about changing the world completely outside of your control, it is your character's being there, doing things, and reacting to it all that makes their story meaningful. If you roleplay a typical druchii character, the turbulence of war and life in Naggaroth will affect you, and your response to it will be what makes it a real story for you.


Dancing on the brink

Now, having said all this about the danger of possession by Mary Sue as well as the proper insights for removing her from your mind, there are some exceptions to the rule when loose relationships can be made with characters in the Warhammer lore, especially where there are gaps in the lore which you can fill to your character's advantage.

It is perfectly feasible that your character can be of noble birth. They have "friends" in high places. They would treat those beneath them as inferior, and also there would be tensions or allegiances between various druchii houses. You can have a little fun with the interplay around this. To avoid problems, don't RP that they are the son or daughter of Malus Darkblade, or Morathi's great niece. Make something up, and avoid name dropping in relation to family lineage.

Dark elves are cunning, cruel, and scheming. In a society where the weak are not tolerated, it is a backstabbing world where loyalties are tenuously held together, and will and hate is everything. They are considered the most evil race in Warhammer lore. Try not to go over the top though. Being subtle is far more interesting and keeps people guessing.

The most important thing is not so much who or what your character is, but how you intend to make use of your character in your interactions with other people. If your character is driven primarily by a desire for attention, then people are going to reject it as a Mary Sue, no matter how plausible it is. But if you sincerely just want to play your own part in creating a fun atmosphere, fully ready to step in and out of centre stage as appropriate, then chances are people will help you improve a clichéd character so that it is more plausible and enjoyable for everyone.


Sat Feb 04, 2012 5:45 pm
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You know, this could also work in the friction section for both new and veteran writers.

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Sun Feb 05, 2012 3:12 am
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