Don’t Wipe Your Feet Before Coming In - Doormat MCs and How To Avoid Or Improve Them

If this gets absorbed into a different thread, that’s all good, I just want to open the floor to discussion on this matter. If it ends up being deleted on the grounds of being inflammatory or provocative, then I sincerely apologize, as that’s not what I’m trying to do.


I’m sure I’m not alone in noticing a rise in the prevalence of a certain topic of discussion lately - the topic of “Doormat MCs,” or more specifically, MCs which seem to lack in agency, self-worth and self-reliance. It’s briefly taken over my thread (I’m Sorry, But I Think We Should See Other People - ROs You Hate), and it cropped up over in the Disliked Tropes and Storytelling Elements thread, as well, and the conversation has gotten pretty passionate lately.

To give a brief overview of the situation, as I’ve understood (and added to) it:

A. Doormat MCs, as mentioned, are characters who seem as though they can barely breathe without needing professional medical assistance. In spite of being player-controlled and ostensibly the (or one of the) main protagonist(s) of the story, a doormat MC is paradoxically the least effective, least respected, and least autonomous character in the entire cast.

B. Doormat MCs have seen a rise in popularity in IF stories in recent years. For me, personally, I started noticing a sharp uptick back in the early part of 2022, but it may have been going on for longer and I simply haven’t noticed.

C. People are starting to get a bit fed up with MCs constantly being the weakest link all the time.

It’s clearly a topic that needs to be discussed, and I think it would do people some good to be able to safely vent and talk about it. However, as it stands, there’s not really any space dedicated to this particular discussion, with the closest alternative - the Disliked Tropes and Storytelling Elements thread - having been briefly flooded with the conversation already, to the point where some participants in that thread started asking to move the conversation along so that the thread wouldn’t be completely inundated with just this one topic.

Ergo - provided this thread doesn’t get absorbed into a different thread - I’m hoping that I can maybe provide an outlet for this conversation, like I did with the ROs You Hate thread for people to have a safe space to discuss ROs they didn’t like, without the risk of people piling up on them for their opinion.

But if not, and it winds up getting split into an already existing thread, that’s fine too, at least I can say I tried.

In case anybody is confused on what constitutes a doormat MC, it’s a flexible issue that depends on the context of the story in question, but there are a few agreed upon themes:

  1. Lack of self-reliance - the MC is never allowed to accomplish anything on their own merits. They are never able to pull off any feats of any level of difficulty without needing help from others. They frequently wind up being defenseless in the face of danger, needing to be saved from bodily harm. Even if a player succeeds at the necessary skill checks, the MC is only barely able to act upon that success, oftentimes leaving it feeling like a different kind of failure.

  2. Lack of self-worth - the MC refuses to stand up for themselves. They suffer heaps of abuse in silence or ineffectual complaint, with the most that can ever be done to speak out against it being whining and consequently being looked down upon for having bothered to speak up. Other members of the cast disrespect, belittle, demean, or otherwise antagonize the MC, and receive no comeuppance or disciplinary action of any kind, and in fact don’t even tend to realize, or care, that they’re being so needlessly abusive. If the antagonist is an RO, the MC, for no good reason, is left forever begging their forgiveness and favor, even in spite of being wronged.

  3. Lack of autonomy - the MC can never act alone. They can never think for themselves. Any opinion that does not align with the agreed upon perspective is wrong and will be called into question. If they don’t agree with the other members of the cast, they’re treated as the bad guy, even if they’re objectively in the right. Other cast members will go out of their way to argue the MC down if they try and make their own voice heard. Any action undertaken solo, if the option even exists to try, will almost certainly be met with failure and ridicule, or will require skill checks that range into the ludicrous, expectation-wise.

  4. Lack of value - the MC will forever be second fiddle to everybody else. Their accomplishments are mere drops in the bucket compared to how much better the rest of the cast is at everything they do. Anything the MC succeeds at is considered a shock, because nobody has any faith in their ability to do anything. The narrative will spend far more time bragging up the other characters, if it’s not spending as much time beating down the MC.

As I said, other themes are flexible from story to story. Those are just the big four that crop up most frequently.

To address a request by @HannahPS, I’d like for this thread to be about the the Why and How of things - Why do people believe doormat MCs are so popular/frequently employed, and How could they potentially be tweaked in such a way as to allow players to be more flexible, while also not compromising the story they’re in?


I have no idea why the quote isn’t doing the thing properly, but this as well, please. (Ah, there it goes, finally.)

Thread rebranding credit:


I can think 3 possibilities for this trend:
A) Authors probably don’t want put effort into a character meant to be out of their control, at least partially.
B) It’s a weird reaction to power fantasy/mary sue MC.
C) Authors go too far with a starting point for character growth, or don’t make them growth enough.


that makes a lot of sense to me. i think that’s a reason there’s been so many doormat MC’s lately, but also angst.

i can’t find a single IF these days that isn’t full of angst, angst, angst all the time. and a doormat MC would allow angsty stuff to happen, by having a RO be an asshole to them and only be sad about it, for example.

oh, yeah, there are definitely a lot of games that aren’t like that, but they’re usually the ones i’m not that interested in because i do play mainly for romance lol. and the romanced focused games seem to be all about angst now. should’ve made that clear


I feel like people here are more aware of the problem than in Tumblr community… actually, that’s where a lot of IFs with that mc come from, and people don’t seem particularly critical. On the contrary…

It’s discouraging. Sometimes I find IF with an interesting plot there, but I don’t like the way MC is written, so I have to give up reading.


The organised minority on any forum will always be more critical (not necessary in negative sense) than fandom on social networks. It’s not so strange.


Without a mod hat on: I think there is a lot of interesting discussion to be had about this!

With a mod hat on: if possible, please explore ways in which PCs can be written in different ways with different kinds of agency, and the effects that can have on play experience, etc, rather than simply complaining about particular games’ PCs - otherwise it ends up being just another Disliked Tropes thread. If it veers into that, it will likely be merged.

I want to avoid multiplying the spaces that are focused on “venting” as that is an atmosphere that quickly becomes overwhelming.

I wonder if it is worth reframing to consider the varying ways in which PCs can be written, rather than “here is a particular type of PC that some people do not like, let’s discuss this phenomenon”.


To me “doormat mcs” exist because:

  • they are used as device to move plot forward
  • they are supposed to serve as some sort of narrator for a story
  • a way to make other characters stand out more
  • author doesn’t want anything to intervene with plot
  • perhaps to make self-insert/headcanoning easier

I did not think of that at the time, but that sounds like a perfectly good idea to me, so I’ll see if I can convey that a bit better.

Worst case scenario, maybe this thread would help not overcharge the Disliked Elements and Tropes. Since Doormat MC is becoming frequent discussion.

  • Sometimes an author just loves their OCs and wants to show them off by giving people the opportunity to interact with them. MC isn’t that important in this case :person_shrugging:

These trends seem to be cyclical, not only in one type of media, either.

The anti-power fantasy urge of many authors leads them to try to write alternatives, but often the nuances get left behind, and I believe that is why authors’ protagonists start to blur into an experienced typed-cast of “door-mat” or “average-joe”.

I understand not wanting to be another power fantasy urge, but in these stories I would love to see protagonists that can be capable without being the chosen one, or the anti-chosen one.

Some ideas:

  • The power behind the throne
  • An elder that comes out of retirement
  • One of a team, but not necessarily the team leader
  • A side-kick that is still capable on their own

It is my belief that if authors explore these types of protagonists, they would avoid many of the pitfalls current trends commonly fall into.

I think a title change might facilitate this… of which I leave to @Zyrios and others to suggest


This is something that definitely contributes to the trend, but i think in doing this, many authors lose sight that the protagonist is much more powerful of a vehicle to explore main themes and topics that they often wish to do so.

A complimentary cast member may become a stand-in for the protagonist and cause havoc in the integrity of the story telling. (imo).


I’ve never changed the title on a thread before, but I’ll definitely see what I can do, provided I don’t find a way to stuff it up somehow. (I assume it’s not too hard, I’ve just, you know, never done it before now.)

Could just switch it up a bit and go with “Don’t wipe your feet before coming in- avoiding/improving doormat MCs”


Looks good to me!

(Going radio silent for a bit because I don’t want my poor phone to explode, also I’ve been sitting in my boss’ parking lot for over an hour working on this and I’m pretty sure he’d like for me to screw off and go home already. XD)

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Yeah I’m gonna be That Guy™ and say maybe don’t imply that tumblr is somehow a monolithic community or unable to critique media

Not to mention the framing of it as a problem and not simply a tool or stylistic choice


I’ve thought about writing a game wherein PC is the regent for a child monarch in a middle fantasy world. Part raising sim and part intrigue game.


I think imo from what I can recollect, the reason why mc can be a doormat in some IF’s is due to narrative reasons. For example; they start off weak but then by the end have their own voice.

I played one a long while ago about an mc who was second in line to the throne and the mc had a sister who was just HORRIBLE to them. Yet there were little to no options to say something back. Idk if you could tell the sibling off in the end as I didn’t buy the full version of the game lol.


EvilChani is going to pounce on this thread like a starving cat on tuna. But Imma beat her to the punch on at least one point.

The Wayhaven MC is this, especially on the A route, and I’m like 96.37% sure that it’s because Wayhaven’s A and N routes (but especially A) are, not to put too fine a point on it, a bodice-ripper.

A considerable chunk of complaints don’t even arise from the fact that the ROs can be incredible asshats at times, but from the fact that you don’t get to do any pushback. If you want to avoid a doormat MC, you don’t need to have your characters be nice to them. They can be jerkasses all they want. Just give the players the option to tell them to fuck off when they do.


I think that PCs that lack self-worth, or some of the other criteria mentioned, don’t necessarily lack entertainment value or even agency.

Different games with different themes use different approaches that will suit that theme, if done successfully. A lot of PCs derided as being second-fiddles are really popular. I also sometimes see complaints about games having “weak” PCs in which the story is about the PC developing their strength and autonomy - in cases like that, surely starting from a low point and making your way up is part of the fun! I don’t think it’s as simple as “PCs must have X level of autonomy or strength in order to be fun to play”.


Is thaaaaat… Arcadie? Sounds like Arcadie. I think that’s over on now?