I'm Not Keen on Brooding Loners, Either

I do not think that the brooding loner is as inherently flawed a character concept as the “crazy” or the comic relief character. It is entirely possible to play a brooding loner according to what we can call the Wolverine Principle: the character might say he’s a loner, but he’s actually a central member of the team (or teams).

In other words, brooding loners are fine as long as it’s a character affectation instead of a play style.

The worst player I ever gamed with loved playing brooding loners, and did so in deliberately disruptive ways. He asked me to run a D&D 3.5 campaign for him and his friends – my ex-girlfriend and her husband – and then chose to deliberately not interact with the other players. The first moments of the campaign were essentially me saying “You’ve all gathered outside the mysterious warehouse in Dock Ward…” and him interjecting “Not me! I’m crouching on a rooftop and nobody else knows where I am.”

I do not game with that person anymore. 

(Heck, I don’t even talk to him anymore, but that’s more because of non-gaming dickish behavior.)

Playing a brooding loner is fine if the character is a team player. You can spend your downtime standing next to rooftop gargoyles and glowering at the city below, or living like a hermit in the woods outside of town. That’s fine. I don’t even care if you preface every action you take with the group with some pretentious announcement of your dark, Gothic sensibilities. Brood in a lonely manner before you flank a foe so the thief can backstab. Brood in a lonely manner before you lay on hands. Whatever. It’s all cool with me.

But don’t break immersion by trying to be a “party of one.” The rest of your supposed friends sitting at the gaming table don’t want to sit out the game for 10 minutes – or even five! – while you force the GM to narrate your awesome solo adventures. Don’t deny interaction by literally not interacting with everyone else. As obnoxious as “crazies” and comic relief can be, at least they’re usually in the same scene as the other characters.

Thankfully, most RPGs are constructed to demand players work together. “Don’t split the party” is even better advice than normal when you’re trying to be a party of one.

“You’ve left the rest of the party far behind as you sneak through the Darkening Woods, determined to have your brooding, lonely vengeance on the forces of evil. Suddenly, you nearly trip over a mass of fur and bones. It’s an owl pellet – an owl pellet that contains the undigested hide and bones of an elk. You hear the ominous hooting of an owlbear behind you. Roll for initiative…”


  1. Another good post. I do not even like playing the brooding loner who is secretly a team player as they just do not interest me. Interaction with the other characters (and players!) is where it is at for me.

  2. Yeah, it's always a red flag for me as the DM if one of the players builds a character personality that deliberately prevents them from being involved in roleplay, either with NPCs or other players. "Shy and quiet" is another characteristic that doesn't play well in a cooperative RPG, along with "stoicly silent."

    I usually talk with the players and have them modify their PCs' personalities enough that they can play the game, sometimes deliberately adding an NPC, companion animal, intelligent sword, or whatever to give them something to interact with.


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