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Special Snowflake Syndrome

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Our mothers always told us we were special snowflakes, each blessed with our own beauty unique to us and us alone.

Maybe it's for this reason that when people create a role-playing character, they often choose the very unusual. This can manifest in something as simple as being a member of a rare race and/or class. Or it can be a good-aligned member of an Always Chaotic Evil race, or vice versa. Players may even go so far as to make up a race/class altogether, so as to be truly unique. This can also show up in fiction when an author writes a character with aspects of themselves in it. It is especially common in Author Avatars. But this is not always a bad thing, for many compelling and interesting protagonists have these kinds of traits. There's something compelling about a character who is bucking the social norms or defying his entire race. If nothing else, a great deal of angst can be milked from it. Or if your player is The Loonie, it can be Played for Laughs.

Munchkins may want to play as something weird solely for the mechanical benefits, mixing traits and templates with no concern for how such a being would fit into the setting (or is physically possible, for that matter). The wise gamemaster is advised not to allow such a monstrosity unless the powergamer can explain exactly how a half-vampire, half-dragon Warforged came into being. Others will do it just to be disruptive or to refuse to play along with the campaign's genre because it doesn't interest them.

Some gamemasters will forbid this kind of behavior, rolling their eyes at the guy who absolutely must play a dragon thief, Chaotic Good Drow ranger or an Avariel wereshark Elemental Archon of Fire. Making an interesting character has nothing to do with having an obscure background and grab-bag of powers, and everything to do with how well the character is played.note  However, some will roll with it, letting people make up stat bonuses for the most ridiculous of races or classes.

Such creativity has its place, however: In a setting like Planescape (where hundreds of worlds collide) or Spelljammer (planet-hopping adventure) such characters are no problem, and, indeed, may add to the game.

Sub-Trope of Character Customization.

Compare Common Mary Sue Traits. See also Aerith and Bob. For when it's the gamer themselves getting special treatment (and one who is prone to creating such characters), see Dungeonmaster's Girlfriend. Unrelated to both Cast of Snowflakes and Sizable Snowflakes.


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    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, one player declares he is playing an Elf Monk, despite the fact that the DM said ahead of time that this was a Medieval Western Europe inspired setting and that an Eastern-flavored Monk wouldn't fit, and that it was also a human only campaign. The DM begrudgingly allows the Monk class, but disallows him to play an elf, to the point where the in-game avatar's elf ears get ripped off. The DM then throws ninjas at them as the second combat encounter.

  • The original Drizzt. If not intentionally written this way, he still captures the essence of this trope. He was fairly groundbreaking for his day, though most people forget that he was the font from which all other angsty drow flowed. In terms of well-known characters, he could very well be the Trope Codifier.

    Tabletop Games 
  • As a general rule, the older any Tabletop RPG that's still supported gets, the easier it becomes to create special snowflakes in it as more races, classes, and equipment are added in every (other) sourcebook and splatbook. This is simply because new and additional character customization options almost always sell.
  • Pretty much any version of Dungeons & Dragons one might care to name has started out with a fairly limited number of player character class/race choices and then proceeded to enable this trope more and more over time by selling more material, with almost every new sourcebook offering new ways to customize your character, and that's not even counting stuff from their official articles.
    • All the various clones of Drizzt.
    • In the 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide Gary Gygax strongly warned Dungeon Masters against allowing players to play monsters (such as dragons, demons/devils or undead) as PCs in order to avoid this. This was a reversal on the original booklets, which specifically advised the DM to allow it, so maybe Gygax had some personal experience on what a can of worms he'd opened.
    • This trope has become so pervasive that it seems that sometimes the RAREST PC race/class combo is now a straight human single classed (no prestige classes) character.
      • 3rd edition imposed a 10% experience point penalty for multiclassing but this was easy to forget and rarely enforced (and did not apply to prestige classes). However the real deterrent to a powergamer taking multiple classes was that the most powerful classes were spellcasters who were better off taking only pure class levels and prestige class levels, thanks to Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards.
      • The 4th edition of D&D and "3.75" edition Pathfinder both try to cut back on multi-classing. 4th edition locks you into a class, a paragon path and an epic destiny. Pathfinder provides incentives for most characters to remain single classed (filling dead levels, giving you extra hit points or skill points for staying with your original class, payoff abilities, etc.) but allows you to multiclass if you want to.
  • Old World of Darkness:
    • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, players who wanted to play "The Last of the White Howlers" became a joke among the internet community. Ironically or not, this was going to be the main concept for the canceled Werewolf: The Apocalypse video game, which was ammunition for a lot of the folks that felt the game's designers were missing the point. Not as frequently, you'd also see someone suggest either one of the other changing breeds from a splatbook (the Bastet werecats were popular for this) or the long-extinct Croatan or Bunyip tribes, particularly in the Dark Ages and Wild West settings when they were still alive, complete with some ridiculous explanation for how and why a pre-colonial Native American is in medieval Europe, or an Australian Aborigine in 1800's Texas.
    • In the oWoD setting, the bane of gamemasters everywhere was any player who wanted to play an Abomination (a werewolf who survived being turned into a vampire, ending up as a shapeshifting, blood drinking, angst-filled killing machine with the magic powers of both species), or a Skin Dancer (a werewolf kinfolk who after ritually killing a bunch of were-creatures then turns himself into such a werecreature), or an awakened mage who is also a fairie changeling and a dhampir and a ghoul (a human minion of a vampire who drinks vampire blood and gains limited immortality and vampiric powers from it).
    • The fact that a published series of adventures had a character approximately this obnoxious (the infamous Samuel Haight) certainly didn't help. For Werewolf 20th, they dumped all of the crossover stuff Haight had got loaded with and kept him a Skin Dancer — and already dead, just to be safe. Before that, he really was that obnoxious.
    • In general, in the old World of Darkness the 3rd editions of the Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Vampire: The Masquerade, Mage: The Ascension gamelines and the 2nd edition of Changeling: The Dreaming put a stop to that by outright stating that such creatures were extremely!! rare, or simply by enforcing new rules that a supernatural character becoming an [insert different supernatural creature here] will lead to said character losing the special powers she had before. For example, drinking vampire blood or being turned into a vampire will destroy the awakened avatar of an awakened character (who is thus no longer able to bend reality to his will) and will kill a changeling's Faerie soul forever. Such characters basically end up as mundane humans who then become a ghoul or vampire, respectively. Werewolves who drink vampire blood lose their connection to the spirit world.
    • In Vampire: The Masquerade there were two big factions, the Sabbat and the Camarilla, each with unique and exclusive clans of vampires that are members of one but not the other. Then came the antitribu. A "dark" version of each Camarilla clan (this being the World of Darkness, you can guess how nice they were) inside the Sabbat. Likewise, Sabbat clan antitribu were in the Camarilla, but they were usually seen as potential turncoats.
      • For extra fun, any of the following clans/bloodlines: The Salubri, Baali, Harbingers of Skulls, Nagaraja, Samedi, True Brujah Deep breath, Kiasyd, and Cappadocians. Oh, and Dhampirs, too.
      • Interestingly, one of the 3rd ed sourcebooks that talked about the Salubri in the modern setting established that only about less than 10 Salubri of each bloodline (Salubri had two pseudo-clans: one of true pacifists and the other of pacifist warriors that protected the former) and only gave names to two of them, making clear that the other ones were "free" for character concepts and game master NPCs.
    • Caitiff can also be a source of this. Since they can theoretically take any discipline, they can be a workaround for a player who wants the powers of an extinct Bloodline.
    • Zig-zagged in Mage: The Ascension. It's initially averted as Mages are individualistic by nature. Within a single tradition, no two mages will have the exact same style, and given the broad range of mystic stylings the Traditions cover, there is no shortage of possibilities. However, White Wolf still caters to this market with the idea of Crafts, groups of Mages outside the Council of Nine (some of which are extremely rare to find and probably wouldn't flaunt their magick around outsiders). Some players even create Crafts whole-cloth using ideas that would work perfectly fine within a Tradition, and try to get their Storytellers to accept them.
    • The oWoD's 20th Anniversary Editions have taken a more relaxed approach to this trope, by providing the stats for each of the obscure races from each game, along with the caveat that the storyteller has final say on what is and isn't allowed. Their reasoning is basically, "It isn't what we would do, but it's your game."
  • New World of Darkness:
    • The setting explicitly forbids hybrids of any kind, although some creatures can be thematic hybrids. The more of a hybrid someone would be, the more they seem like a Cosmic Plaything; a hunter turned into a werewolf, (this at least is something of a cliché) who dies and has his corpse made into a Promethean, becomes human and gets turned into a vampire, reaches Golconda and becomes human again, then gets an epiphany and awakens as a Mage, somehow having the awakened soul put to sleep by being kidnapped to Arcadia by the True Fae and turned into a Changeling, getting killed yet again and then coming back as a Sin Eater with a Geist, then dying one last time and having his luckless corpse taken over by a Mummy who lost their original body (or everything in this paragraph happened 6,000 years ago and the character underwent the Rite of Return himself). But through all that, the character would still only ever be one type of supernatural at a time. And probably insane to boot.
    • Princess: The Hopeful, a fan gameline, has "Special Snowflake" as one of the Conditions that can result from overuse of the Specchio Invocation. A Brat suffering from this condition must always be the most unique and special person in the room. If the football team is all boys she must be the one girl who gets on, if she's in the debate club she has to be the captain, and so on. The only exception is explicit rivals (i.e. there are always two captains in a sports match, but that doesn't mean the Princess has to be the empress of the blue team or anything silly of that sort. She just has to make sure that she's the captain of the winning team).
  • Exalted actively encourages this sort of behavior.
    • Given the number of types of Exalts, God-Blooded, spirits, and anything else under the sun which are supposedly completely playable, all with their own special rules, Exalted is guilty of endorsing this to an extreme, to the point where many storytellers would simply say "We are running a Lunar-only game" or whatnot just so they don't have to keep track of eight different kinds of special rules all at once, not to mention the difficult story implications of having, say, a Dragon-Blooded, a Lunar, a Gold Faction Sidereal, an Alchemical, and an Infernal Exalted all in one group — factions that canonically either despise each other, don't live in the same parts of the universe, or both.
    • Third Edition introduces Exigents, unique Exalted created by one of the thousands of minor gods in Creation, most of whom can only spare enough Essence for one, maybe two Exaltations. Exigents are very specifically intended to be highly customizable, unique characters for players who don't wish to play as any of the established Exalted types.
  • Monsters and Other Childish Things has a sidebar that says that, with GM permission, it's okay to make up unique skills for your character to make them unusual and stand out. It actually titles the sidebar "Special and Unique Snowflakes."
  • Witch Girls Adventures hangs an enormous lampshade on this with the "Mary Sue" trait, which gives you a bonus when doing anything attention-getting or which demonstrates how special and unique your character is.
    • In addition, every player witch gets to be a special snowflake and have one Heritage that allows them to bend the rules a bit. You could take the "specialist in a magic type" heritages...or you could be a half-vampire witch or an Eastern-style witch who gains magical power from meditative disciplines. The sample NPCs are even weirder, and often have abilities that aren't possible within the rules at all.
  • GURPS attempts to address this with the Unusual Background advantage, which is basically permission for the Game Master to charge extra points for traits they feel a "normal" character in their campaign shouldn't have but which they on the other hand don't want to outright deny to the player either. Points invested into this advantage literally buy the player nothing but the permission to actually build their character the way they want — something a more cooperative GM might give for free, another refuse, or a third charge a different amount of points for.
  • Justified (mostly) in Warhammer 40,000. Games Workshop actively encourages players to make model conversions, because they appreciate creativity and probably because it also needs many components to do it well. While a custom model can be given the profile for a pre-existing unit, players often create a profile of their own for the custom model. It's also worth mentioning that these conversions can get to be rather impressive.
    • Not just the individual models either. The setting is designed to be very friendly for fans creating extensions of the fluff, be they Space Marine chapters, Imperial Guard regiments, Eldar craftworlds, Dark Eldar kabals, Ork WAAAAAGHs, Chaos warbands, Tau septs, Tyranid hivefleets, etc. Some players will just use the rules and colors of an existing canon army, others will create their own colour schemes from whole cloth and detail elaborate iconography and backgrounds.
    • The two missing Primarchs will never have an official backstory specifically so that players can have their Chapters descended from them or make up their own backstories.
    • Such as the Angry Marines; a homebrew chapter of Space Marines who just happen to hate the game, hate the fluff, hate the players who complain, hate the players who play the game, and are just, well ... generally angry about everything. What better way to defy every aspect of the game then by giving the whole damn thing a Power Boot to the balls!
  • Houses of the Blooded: The designer devotes a section of the GM's section to "the Vach Problem," named after one of his players. Essentially, even though the game provides plenty of options for players to choose from, a player like this will want to play something that's not on the list of options. Wick's suggested response is to let them have what they want in such a way as to make them regret it. Of course, that's Wick's advice for just about everything.
  • Gamma World: Given that you roll randomly for two origins (like, say, AI-and-Yeti or Demon-and-Hawkoid) and you are encouraged to come up with whatever crazy reason you like as to how these two things merge into one cohesive creature, it's safe to say that the game clings to this trope like a fat man to a doughnut truck.
  • In Nomine: There's a type of demons called lilim who are unique in that they have no angelic counterpart. (Most) Angels can fall from grace and become their demonic equivalent and demons can seek redemption and become their angelic equivalent, but lilim are universally created in hell. "Bright Lilim", that have sought out redemption and become angels are possible, but they're supposed to be extremely rare due to the fact almost all lilim owe Geas to various powerful demons, and are taught lies about Heaven being worse than Hell. Bright Lilim are therefore very rare, to the tune of less than a dozen such ascensions happening in history, and those that do exist are generally kept in Heaven to prevent them from being found by Hell. They're also one of the most common PC character choices when playing angels.
  • Over the Edge: You can literally play just about any character you want to. Whether this is a good idea to actually do is open to debate, given that the more "special" your character is, the more likely someone is to see you as a threat to their own plans for world domination (or whatever else they're aiming for).
  • In any tabletop setting inspired by Star Wars, a player wishing to play as a "Gray Jedi" character often translates as "a good guy who can shoot lightning, choke people, and use Dark Side powers without penalty". Alternatively, "Gray Jedi" are known as "Dim Jedi"... may not just be a reference to their Force powers...
  • Ars Magica is a game with plenty of odd forms of magic both within and outside of Bonisagus-standard Hermetic magery, and has an entire House (Ex Miscellanea) for Special Snowflakes. The net result is that a covenant of magi can have some really weird characters.
  • 7th Sea tried to avert this by tying the point cost of different traits and abilities to how common they were supposed to be in the game world. Want to play a half-Avalonian, half-Ussaran glamor-mage shapeshifter who was trained in the Castillian school of swordfighting? Go for it, but be prepared to sacrifice three-quarters of your starting points to do so.
  • 13th Age has a tongue-in-cheek reference to this trope with a battle captain power "You Are A Special Snowflake", which can only target non-humans allies. It plays it rather straighter with the One Unique Thing feature, which encourages coming up with something unusual about yourself, whether it's just that you're the only elf in the world with non-pointed ears, or if you prefer declaring yourself the only halfling to be a Knight of the Dragon Empire; these are both examples from the corebook.
  • Space 1889 High Martians are barbaric, filthy, foul-tempered and vicious. Red Sands will allow you to play a reasonably civilized one.
  • The core rulebook of Ironclaw 2nd edition has 49 playable species, not counting "variants" mentioned in some descriptions.
  • Hc Svnt Dracones has in the core rulebook 24 playable species and nine "morphisms" that can be combined. The first expansion is set to add more, including Cogs (sentient robots) who have their own set of "frames" and "Blips", one-off genetic experiments.
  • Teenagers from Outer Space either averts it or embraces it, depending on how you look at it. Since there are no preestablished alien races, players are expected to invent their own, so they're expected to be as snowflakey as they can be.

  • Goblins:
    • The Webcomic both parodies the Drizzt clones and plays it straight with an entire party of good-aligned Goblin characters. Exaggerated by Fumbles, who insists on multi-classing 11 (meaning ALL the Player Handbook, if you consider D&D) different character classes, some of which are mutually exclusive. It's worth noting that while goblins with class levels are fairly rare, it's more common than most readers initially thought, as another Goblin character was revealed to have fighter levels.
    • There was also a party of five actual player characters, three of which were off-color Drizzt clones: A girl drow (played by a horny and immature male player), a short fat drow, and an emo drow. They acted like sadistic psychopaths when they weren't busy generating throwaway gags, and all three died shortly after being introduced, only to briefly reappear as Humans with different classes but otherwise unchanged. Their human character too had the same syndrome.
  • The Order of the Stick had Zz'dtri, a "violation of intellectual property" of Drizzt, played for comedy. And then it's discovered that yes, he's a normal drow.
  • Loserz: "Elven Barbarian! His name is Glorfinmad!" Yes, also a parody.
  • Many of the Trolls from Homestuck are explicity stated to be very unusual. Aradia and Sollux are incredibly potent psychics, Sollux is also a supergenius programmer with two dream selves (all other players of Sburb get only one), Terezi gets super-senses from being blinded and having an incredibly rare Dragon egg as a lusus, Kanaya has an incredibly rare blood-type, is immune to sunlight and has an incredibly rare Virgin Mother Grub as a lusus, Vriska has her "Vision Eightfold", Equius is ludicrously STRONG, Feferi has the highest possible blood type, sharing with only one other troll, which is the Empress. Oh, and Karkat has a 'mutant' blood type, outside the hemospectrum entirely, that marks him as the Second Coming of Troll Jesus. Knowing how the trolls are presented however, likely all this mary-suism is quite tongue in cheek. And Calliope turns out to be a cherub deliberately invoking this, by cosplaying as a lime-blood troll, who were all wiped out years before.
  • In Schlock Mercenary a blue-haired physicist named "Gav" was accidentally cloned 950 million times, having grown up in the 20th century when individuality was considered essential this caused no small amount of angst. Later appearances of the "Gavs" showed them experimenting with different haircuts and adding facial piercings, even going into different fields of research. Eventually they formed a corporation to figure out how to introduce genetic and memory alterations, and rolled dice to decide on their mods.
  • The fact that this is such a pervasive trope in Tabletop RPGs is lampshaded in Dungeon Crawl Inc by Teagan, a drow cleric: "I just lie and say I'm a ranger like Drizzt and everyone leaves me be."

    Web Original 
  • Pops up in Survival of the Fittest from time to time. Occasionally handlers feel the need to make their characters "special" by giving them some sort of ability no teenager should realistically have, or making them psychotic sociopaths while still in high school. Doesn't pop up as much as it used to, however, due to mods encouraging handlers to show their work when dealing with illnesses (mental or physical), laws, whatever interests the character may have, and anything that is critical to the character.
  • RPGs with a certain theme always have players who stretch what character is possible within that theme, even when that theme is very well-defined. For example, in a Harry Potter game, there are always players who are not content with being just a wizard, but come up with all sorts of extra (often non-canon) powers.
  • The "Sparkledog" phenomenon as documented by Know Your Meme has its roots in this trope. Internet users' fondness for canids, including wolves and foxes as well as traditional domesticated dog breeds, often resulted in characters of the creatures. The problem being that sticking to actual real-world colors of the creatures in question makes it hard for any one character to be distinct, especially in artwork. The solution of alternative colors worked only for a short while, as some color combinations quickly became more popular than others (though the basic colors on the color wheel were eventually represented), leading to the same problem — dozens of blue and purple wolves with golden eyes, for instance. The subsequent result of that further design problem was finer degrees of distinctiveness, including traits as sub-patterns in the fur such as stars or stripes, additional appendages like extra tails or wings, or accessories like piercings or articles of clothing. The end result of this design focus towards distinctiveness is a character that, while retaining the basic features of the original animal, often only tangentially resembles the source creature.