Typical or atypical character profession?

Howdy everyone,

It turns out I have a lot of time to muse while sitting at my desk at work. Anyways, I’m still solidifying my ideas before I go ahead and post my concept for a story, but I’m honestly a little unsure of how to go about the PC’s background. This story is set in modern times, and I need a reason for the PC to end up at the location of the setting. My original idea was for the PC to be a student, but the idea later became a little… lackluster to me. There’s just so many student PC stories, you know? While it would certainly allow the player to define their character better, it doesn’t offer as much potential to the story as a set profession. So that brings me to the question of the topic: would it be safer to stick with a typical character origin that offers more fluidity when it comes to defining the PC (i.e. college/high school student studying x, y, or z), or is it worth the risk to restrict the player’s choice to just one profession?

Well in the end it would come to how it fit in the story. If being a nuclear scientist (or any uncommon jobs) make more sense to the story then by all mean go ahead with that but try not to make it central too much. Choice by gaslight approached this very well by making our character a surgeon without having to be a surgeon if you see what I mean. We could be an amazing just as much as a pathetic surgeon and I think if you have a fixed uncommon job then make sure its a bit customisable and make it fit in the stats.

Depends entirely on the story. Maybe having origins counter to the path they take is often an amusing path. Like a medic forced into violent situation.

Or using ones background to define stats.

But without knowing anything about the story making a suggestion is difficult.

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Well without more details I don’t know how this’ll fit but…

A while back I read about how in America there is a community of people homeless either by choice or circumstance that live in camp sites and do odd jobs, stowing away on goods trains when they get hit with wanderlust again.

So given that knowledge maybe a PC who is an orphan and a member of one of such communities and being hit with that wanderlust could be a start of an interesting adventure?

I think it is worth restricting the player’s choice to one profession, unless choosing the MC’s profession is an important part of the game (like it is in Choice of Zombies).

If the profession is going to be important to the story, I would rather play a game by an author who knows that profession well enough to make it convincing. Stephen King wrote about this, and it always stuck with me. Too long to quote in a forum reply, so I’ll just link to it. It’s a couple of pages.

“People love to read about work.”

Also, I’m with you on the issue of student MCs. There are too many. Just too many.

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One of the things to consider is to give the players an option to feel a particular way about the “forced” occupation.

Like Cyanide’s suggestion of a nuclear scientist:
Did they became a nuclear scientist because it was their dream?
Or was it because they were pressured into by their parents?
Do they have no particular emotional attachment and just kind of stick around?

How good are they at the job?
Are they wonderful and ending up at Site X was a job reward
Or do they suck and are hoping to redeem themselves at Site X?

having these kind of interactions in the character creation/introduction part will help readers feel like they’re still building “their” character while getting them to where they need to go

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Well that’s a generalization and a half… Nobody wants to read about accounting, or scrubbing a floor. I would say that it’s not the dreary norm we like to read about, but the exceptions which create a contrast.

Exactly this! If a job is forced on the player he will have an emotion, positive or negative. Giving the option to the player to show they dont like it help if they really dont and give a deeper feeling to the game. After all many peoples have jobs they hate but stick around for the pay or because of the pressure and sometimes just because thats what they’re used to do and it can even be used as a story element.

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But they do want to read about lawyer stuff. If you aren’t a lawyer, lawyer stuff is boring as hell. And yet John Grisham is a household name. There’s some stuff about accounting in The Firm that had me on the edge of my seat.

Same for working on a submarine. I knew a man who worked on a nuclear sub. It’s so boring that it requires psychological screening to see if you can handle the boredom (and the stress, but mostly the boredom). So, for that matter, is intelligence work. And yet we have Tom Clancy.

You know what’s more boring than sweeping floors for a living? High school. I’ve done both. I prefer the floor sweeping (not by much, but still). And yet, we’ve all read lousy stories that took place in high school and we liked them even though they were lousy.

I see your point, but I think the exceptions and the contrast can work within the character’s daily work life, not just outside of it. If @WaterOracle is right, the actual job might not matter much. It’s the questions you ask.


@cyanide @WaterOracle Very true. Honestly, that’s one of the things I’d been considering. I was considering having the MC be a police officer or sheriff’s deputy and choose why they wound up here. Is it their first real posting? Did they screw up big and get assigned to this backwater town? Did they request to move somewhere quieter? Things like that.

For some context, the MC is going to find themselves in a region their bloodline has no business being in. There’s an old curse in place, but somewhere along the line, the MC’s ancestors stopped warning the following generations about the dangers of returning. It’s a kinda scenic town. Not much happens except when it’s tourist season and you get all the nature aficionados visiting, so I need a profession that could explain why the MC wound up there. Part of the reason I was leaning towards having the MC be some sort of law enforcement is because I want to be able to have the MC meet some more colorful NPCs. The kind that don’t exactly wind up on the right side of the law most of the time, but they can prove to be valuable allies if you get on their good side.

I’m kinda digging your suggestion @LordOfLA . I think I might’ve seen a documentary about people who take up that kind of life before. It would certainly explain why and how the MC winds up in this picturesque rural town. It also opens up the opportunity to choose why the MC is running off on their own.

Honestly, @BabbleYaggle , since I’m still not sure about what job (or lack of job the MC) might have, I haven’t come to a decision on how important the MC’s job will be to the story. It might be more than a bit difficult to get work done when there’s something out to kill you. Of course, the story won’t start off with the MC being in danger. It’ll be a progression. By the time the MC realizes something’s wrong, it’ll be too late to hightail it out of town. It’s definitely something to muse about. The actual job could provide options that can only become available if, for example, you build enough rapport with your coworkers and such.


Indeed, and with your further background I’d suggest allowing an option for the MC to be on the wrong side of the law too, maybe let the player choose whether this is by choice or circumstance, and how they feel about this and go from there.

This runs the risk of being a little over-complex in terms of tracking things along the way but could lead to an interesting and entertaining journey.

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It’s definitely something to consider! One of the possible companions (romance…? NPC…? I’m not sure what to call him) I have in mind is one character who’s on the wrong side of the law. It’d definitely be fun and interesting to see his story from a different perspective, considering the only one I’ve got in mind right now is if the MC is law enforcement. And, honestly, I think I already set myself up for having fun with tracking (note: sarcasm) with some of the stats I plan to implement.

Given that the vast majority of games have you play the heroic good guy (for obvious reasons, these types of stories have done well since humans invented story telling), I do prefer to encourage development of games where the main character either isn’t the good guy at all, or at least is some kind of anti-hero.


Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about anyone being a hero or villain in my game. It would be more of a case of surviving, and, if your character cares enough, to try and save those around you. Maybe I’m just mean, but I like having choices that can result in characters other than the MC getting hurt. Or worse.

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That would be the definition of an anti-hero :wink:

I like the homeless train jumper idea. That would give lots of options for background.

While being able to choose your profession does add to immersion and customization of your main character, ultimately the character’s background is meant to serve the story. You could make a gonzo background for fun if you are going for a more light-hearted tone for example. Say your character applied for the NSA (National Security Agency of the USA) on a lark and got in. Then the MC finds out that its not all tuxedos and martinis. Just gadgets, lots of electronic monitoring and boredom. You essentially got reassigned to a hodunk posting because reasons. Maybe the chief’s kid showed a rather amorous interest in the MC or due to shenanigans you are caught in a compromising situation with somebody important’s spouse. In any case, welcome to Monitoring Post 1776 located in the ass-end of nowhere but we monitor it anyway for National Security.

The MC can’t really explain to anyone what he/she does on the job but its way more mundane than most people think. People keep expecting the MC to be James Bond or Jason Bourne and while the MC’s no Johnny English (hopefully), the MC is certainly no killing machine masquerading as a spy. It can be played up for comedy with the MC being able to utter cliche spy lines without actually being in a spy caper. The story could be about something radically different and the MC rolls his/her eyes every time they give a straight answer about their profession.

I wouldn’t call a law enforcement job an atypical profession. There is a lot of works with police protoagonists including at least two hosted games. In Tin Star the MC has to be an US Marshal and Gangs of Old Camp he’s an undercover detective. Besides, there are some more games here where being a cop/guard/FBI agent is possible as a non-mandatory option.

I like @LordOfLA’s proposal to include the option of being a homeless and/or criminal, but whether you should include it an an alternative to being cop depends on what kind of game you want to make.

If the profession will just provide the MC with a set of skills, equipment and abiliites while the main plot will be the same no matter what their job is, it would be better to give them several backgrounds to choose from. These could include some other professions as well, that could bring someone to a small town.

I think any town needs someone with a medical profession and a priest, and since you said it’s a tourist designation, the MC could have a seasonal job in a hotel. And perhaps something is constructed there, then the MC could to the town come as an architect/engineer or construction worker. If you want them to get into contact with unusual people, they could be a journalist who has to write an article about this town for some magazine.

But if the game will focus on the MC’s routine in their job, it would be much more work for you to include two different options for the MC. A hobo’s daily life and their abilities to interact with NPCs would be extremely different from a cop’s. However, if you want to make the MC bad or morally ambiguous, you can easily do it while giving them a “mandatory” police job.

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I don’t know if any of your examples proved or disproved your point really, I haven’t read any of those books, but I’ve heard of Tom Clancy, and I doubt his book(s) are all about maintenance or cleaning torpedo tubes or whatever. And High School novels, that I KNOW is all about romanticized garbage. Prom nights, jocks vs nerds etc. Things that don’t really happen in the same extent, or with the same implied importance, but obviously the teen angst would be the “job” or thing that we can all relate to in that regard.

And I don’t know if I implied anything about it needing to happen outside of the character’s life, I did say their mundane life was part of it in order for the contrast to happen. Escaping the confines of reality is usually why any form of fiction is created, of course the degree by which it contrasts may vary. I think it’s one of the rules of fiction though, that circumstances must change in some way(s) for there to be a story at all. If we read about the lawyer, it’s gonna be about their BIG case, not just the run of the mill stuff. If it’s a submarine, maybe it’s during the cold war, or maybe it’s really all about a relationship developing between two shipmates and could just as well have been set in a diner. There’s a tip for writing that goes; don’t start at the very beginning, start where it gets good.

And it sounds like that’s what @Lithophene is going for, so… yeah.

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