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May 2018
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Aerden [userpic]
Harry Potter and the OC

I went window-shopping for Harry Potter RPG's last night--not to join, but just to see what's out there. My primary interest was in seeing if there was a difference in the manner of RPG's before and after the publication of Halfblood Prince. What I noticed was not what I expected, and it has gotten me to musing about the differences I've experienced in fiction-writing fandom between now and when I was a teenager and college student.

My introduction to fiction-writing fandom came through the Dragonriders of Pern novels. I loved Pern, thought the dragons were neat, and when I discovered that there were clubs you could join, in which you could create your own characters and have them live on Pern, I was hooked. I stayed in Pern fandom for a good 20 years because I loved it.

Pern fan fiction writing always had a cardinal rule, though. No use of Anne McCaffrey's characters was permitted, and even the locations of Benden Weyr, Ruatha Hold, and the Harperhall were off-limits to fandom. Apparently, way back in the early days of the fandom, there was some kerfluffle over which club could 'be Benden,' with all of the supposed prestige that entailed, so McCaffrey put a stop to it by cordoning off the place. It was no big deal to me; I created a plethora of dragonriders, harpers, healers, and holders, and loved every minute of it.

However, even a good thing like Pern fandom gets old after twenty-odd years, so I dropped out of the fandom and discovered a new enthrallment--Harry Potter fandom. Potter fandom is game-driven rather than story-driven. Instead of writing stories and getting approval from the creators of the other characters after the story is complete, Potter fandom relies more on interactive fiction. I am ambivalent about this. Interactive writing is fun, but I think, in general, it lowers the quality.

Potter fandom differs from Pern fandom most particularly in the degree of license the two authors allow the fan writers. J. K. Rowling, unlike McCaffrey, allows her fans full freedom to use her characters in any way they see fit. Rowling's fans see fit to use her characters in ways that would probably give McCaffrey horsefits if they were doing such things with her characters.

This difference in the two authors' permissions for fan use has created writing fandoms which are different in interesting ways. No Pern fan would ever dream of using Lessa, for example, in a Pern story. Why? Because it has been drilled into us for over three decades that that is not polite, that if we want to play in McCaffrey's world, we must use our own imaginations and create our own characters instead of using McCaffrey's.

I gather that Rowling was unfamiliar with the phenomenon of fan fiction and fan role-playing games when she started writing her books, and by the time she discovered it, she considered it too far gone to rein in. She decided to applaud the fact that her fans were taking the trouble to write fiction based on her works and to basically look on the bright side.

So now, we have these two vastly different fandoms, one in which use of canon characters is forbidden, and one in which their use is permitted with no limitations. The difference in attitudes between the two fandoms intrigues me. It is particularly evident to me in the ads I see for Potter role-playing games.

"Rowling gave us plenty of canon characters to play with, many of whom have not been developed beyond their name and House. So use them; do not create original ones," reads the ad for one RPG I looked at.

"Original characters/Mary Sues are not welcome in this game," reads an ad from a different RPG--in fact, several others I looked at said pretty much the same thing in slightly different language. I got the distinct impression that, to many Potter RPG moderators, 'original character' equates inherently to 'Mary Sue.'

I'm bemused at this attitude; it's so different from what I grew up with. Now, I'm sure there are elements of Mary Sue in my own original Potter characters. One of them (Paul), was pretty powerful when it came to his skills. He was also highly intelligent, and not bad-looking. However, he had reasons for being very highly skilled, and I could explain those reasons. It was also essential that he be intelligent, or he could not have possessed the moral capacity and depth that I needed him to have.

When I began writing him in a different story/game with a different background, he lost some of his skills because he no longer needed them. I think I could have played/written him better, but I at least understood why I was giving him particular skills, and my liking for the character had nothing to do with how powerful he was. It has to do with how moral he is.

I suppose there is an element of Mary Sue in all original characters and, dare I say it, in all fannishly-written canon characters. The mantle of canonicity in no way saves a character from being a Mary Sue--ie, brilliant at everything, THE person to save the day, beautiful, poised, faultless, and Severus Snape's love-child, etc.

But seriously--I have yet to encounter an RPG moderator team that would allow a canon character player to get away with such things, so why should they fear them from the player of an original character? Just because one person's character is named Seth Graves, and someone else's character is named Susan Bones, why should one character pose a greater threat to a game than the other? Moderators are supposed to be the ones in control. It's their job to tell a player, "X is going too far; get rid of it or give us a VERY good reason why your character needs it. If you don't, we won't let you play him/her."

I would love to see more welcome for original characters in Potterverse role-plying games. Why MUST we populate our imaginary Hogwartses with only Rowling's characters? What threat do they pose? Do we fear that they might steal the show? We shouldn't. In a role-playing game, the greatest attention goes to those characters which are written consistently and well and whose plots move events in the game forward, whoever they might be. I have seen Potter RP's in which Harry Potter's player was so weak and/or inactive that the game essentially ignored that character. Was that the faul of the original characters in that game? No, it was the fault of the person playing Harry, period.

Despite all of my cheering for original characters, the best character I've ever seen in a Potter RP was canon. shusu's Millicent Bulstrode was brilliantly written, complex, and deeply layered. Sometimes, I could not follow Millicent's leaps of reasoning, but her writer always could, and she kept Millicent rock-solid as a character. To me, she is THE Millicent.

What really matters is the writing, not a character's canonical status. If you are a game moderator, look first for good writers, whoever their characters might be.

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

One of the reasons that HP-Hogwarts worked so very well for me: no such thing as canon characters outside of the teachers, who were played by people who knew what they were doing.

To be honest my experience of canon HP is that people use the canon characters as a crutch for their creativity. Not that by the nature of canon characters that has to happen, but it just happens more.

My first ever pbem game was not even in a world inspired by books: I had to learn the hard way. Even then I used the crutch of the fact that there was set OOC development goals I wanted to achieve in order to mould my character.

Rich--That was why I liked HP Hogwarts, too. And I have to admit, the adult characters in the Potter novels interest me more than the students do, anyway. Snape is meaty; Harry could become meaty someday, but he's not quite there, yet--at least, not to the degree that Snape or McGonagall are. So yes, I definitely prefer RPG's in which the students are original. I feel freer to create when the character is wholly my own.

I have seen some brilliant things done with canon characters. Theo's Justin and Viv's Megan, for example, were full-bodied, well-developed characters who were interesting to read about. Maybe someday I should challenge myself by taking on the role of a canon character, but none of them really grab me among the students except Luna Lovegood. Among the adults, I'd go for Snape, McGonagall, or Lucius Malfoy. Oddly enough, I have very definite ideas about how I would play Lucius. This is bizarre because I can't stand him.


Yeah, there are well-done canon characters, and those were two. I've said very similar things about taking a canon character on occasion - perhaps an adult.

Not that I'm really writing generally. But you get the idea.

- Rich.

Hm! How much would I have to wheedle nd plead, to persuade you to write while you're on vacation? *mischievous look*

I need to find myself a 'mischievous' icon. Hm....


[looks slightly laconic] Technically my "vacation" should involve a full weeks work, every week. Although I'm not sure if that's gonna happen...

... so, where were you thinking? I'll have a look. Always interesting to read, anyway.

I'm a part of two HP RPG's right now and one that takes place during Harry Potter's time at Hogwarts and one that is the generation after Harry Potter. It is very much pressed that Mary Sues are not welcomed, but I think it's hard to avoid that. They ask for you to make a character that won't fade into the background, but they don't want you to be dramatic? It makes no sense.

It's interesting to see the characters from the new generation RPG because ALL the characters are original. I even created one and I'm struggling to keep it between the lines of not-fading into the background and not mary-sueish. It's a hard thing.

For the RPG that is during Harry Potter's time, the character is original and somewhat of a happy-go-lucky gal and she's always a small struggle. It's so much more of a challenge for me to play someone who is original than it was to do something canon, even if it was only their name and house mentioned in the books. Everyone sees a character as different. I will always see Blaise as how Whitney made him. When HBP came out and it was known he was black, it just didn't click in my head anymore.

And am I the only one who thought that Seamus should be gay? Haha.

Oh, man. And as for Millicent, I have YET to see anyone come close to how great shusu's Millicent was. I really do miss that RPG and now that I'm becoming better at writing for a character, I wish I could go back in time.

I'd love it, actually. A lot of the players were incredible and I miss you all so much!

I know I would write Paul differently in a lot of ways if we coud turn back time and write for SPh again. Part of me is afraid that that would ruin his story, but at least it would be saner and less stressful than it was.

*giggles!* I felt that way about Blaise Zabini in HBP, too! "Whaddaya mean, he's black? No way!!!" I miss Whitney's Blaise. I even sort of miss Accia, but not too much. (g)

I think it's possible for a character to shine without being a Mary Sue. Mary Sue is basically wish-fulfillment at its very worst and most egregious. As long as you can explain why your character has certain unusual abilities, then you're at least being somewhat reasonable.

For instance, had anyone complained to me that Paul was a Mary Sue, I would have replied that he had to be as good at mind-magic as he was because Voldemort would have fried him for being useless, otherwise. His skill was born out of fear for his family's lives if his deception were ever found out. Is there wish-fulfillment in him? Oh, yes. Who wouldn't want to be a kick-ass legilimens? But I sure as heck wouldn't want everything that came along with it, in Paul's case. Mary Sue is wish-fulfillment without a price.

It's sort of like Rogue from the X-Men--She can absorb other people's memories and kill them with a touch. But she also can't ever touch the person she loves without the risk of killing him. That gives her some depth and keeps her from being a Mary Sue. The price of the greatness is what makes the difference between being a great character and a Mary Sue.

I hope that helps!

I would love to read your new character, sometimes. I know I don't have time to join the RP, but reading is still fun.


I guess you're right concerning the whole Mary-Sue thing. And nice Rogue reference :)

My new character isn't too developed as of yet. She's pretty simplistic. Like I said, the RPG is still young so people are still trying to figure things out.

But if you'd like to look at how things are going, here is the community: the_new_class.

The only thing I don't seem to like about it is that it's all girls (the players, not the characters) and everyone seems to be relatively young - I think I'm one of the oldest people, but they do have tons of experience!

Michelle--Are you playing tricky_micky?

I applied at the auditions community with a character named Lirwen Roberts. I think of her as being Daria Morgendorfer, but with better fashion sense and a wand.

How do you find out how the voting is going?


No, I am actually doing lena_coleman.

I saw your audition and I was like OMG YAY!

If you go the actual community the_new_class, they have put up your audition for people to vote on. It'll probably take a couple of days for all of them to vote, but from what I hear, you'll probably be in :)

For someone who misses the days of non-canon games, don't suppose you'd point me towards your generation-post Hogwarts game for a peek to see how things are done?

It's still in the early stages, so it's not too impressive right now, but here's the link: the_new_class

Oh, and we're looking for more people :D

Especially Slytherins!

That is such an interesting post! I really agree with everything you've said above, and I have to say that we were lucky at HPRP to have quality players, because that's what makes all the difference in the world! It doesn't matter whether you play an adult, a child, an adolescent, a canon or original character... as long as you do it well, it will come out great and will be an enjoyable experience.

Actually, after the RP, I've seen the characters in different lights, and despite what the books say, I still see Justin as the way he was played by Theo, or Millicent just like she was played by Shusu. Nothing will ever change that, and I'm glad it is that way. =]

I've never wanted to join another Harry Potter RP because I have yet to find one that is as great as the other one I had the chance to be a part of. I miss it so much =[

It's so sad that all of us players just kinda split apart. I'd love to get the chance to start over and do something together again. Honestly, that RP was a big part of my life back then, it really made me grow as a person, as silly as it sounds =P


You should so join the one I'm in now!


it's the generation after HP.

It's so much fun - all original characters. We need slytherins!

HMmm I have to think about it, but it looks interesting :)

oops - didn't realize I posted under the wrong username..this is chellealistic, just in case you didn't know XD

Heheh I figured ;)

Seriously, I'll check it out when I have more time on my hands, I'm really craving a RP right now hehe.

Woo! :)

It would seriously rock if you joined.