Reasons Your RP Characters Might Look Arrogant & Egotistical

Many people's characters (especially those meant to be wise, smart, or to be leaders) end up looking far more arrogant and egotistical than intended. Here are some things to watch out for lest your own characters end up looking overly arrogant. (Also, if your character is supposed to be a touch arrogant, Tips For Writing Lovable Jerks can give you some tips for keeping the character at least somewhat sympathetic.)

Or if you like, use this list to make characters who are supposed to be insufferably egotistical really unbearable!

Note that some of these behaviors can make your characters come off as insecure, too!

Your characters smirk excessively. A smirk is a cocky facial expression, so if your characters are constantly smirking, they're likely to come off as arrogant.

Your characters are one-uppers. If anyone's characters talk about something they did or experienced, yours have to bring up something bigger. For example, if anyone's character mentions saving ten people on a mission, yours start talking about how they saved hundreds. If anyone's character talks about being frustrated by a parent's criticism, yours bring up stories of being beaten and locked in a closet or something. If anyone talks about their own talents or powers, yours tell them how they're so much better or how what they do is so much cooler. Nobody likes it when people do this.

Your characters just assume that others are incompetent or weak. They don't bother to find out what people's skills and strengths even are; they just assume that whatever it is that needs done, they're the best for the job and put themselves on it without asking if anyone else might have anything to contribute. Or when they explain anything to others, they just assume their audience knows absolutely nothing about the topic at hand and start off explaining it to them as if they're five-year-olds instead of first trying to ascertain how much they know.

Your characters are intrusive helpers. They don't ask whether people even want help with problems they're dealing with before trying to give it, or they start talking about how they're going to help without first asking whether their help is even wanted; or if people are already working on anything, they basically take over and monopolize the whole project.

Your characters often refer to others as ignorant, naive, weak, helpless, or similar. This indicates that they probably think they're better than everyone else. Even if it is technically true, it's still a sign of arrogance to go around constantly reminding people of it.

Your characters often compare others to their own levels of skill or success. For example, by giving "compliments" like "you did really well, though of course you didn't do as well as I can do" or "your work might not be perfect, but it's not like you can expect to be as good as me yet." Or offering "encouragement" like "someday, you might be as good as me!" or "you might not be as good-looking as me, but you're still not bad!"

Your characters never accept help or advice from others. Whatever it is they're doing, they always insist on going it alone and always turn down anyone who asks them for help. (And not only does this make your character look arrogant, this is just bad roleplaying, period - the point is to interact and work together!)

Your characters make decisions that will affect others without asking and considering what others think. For example, having a character decide what an entire team will be doing without giving the team any real input - IE, giving them no opportunity to suggest their own ideas, raise any concerns they have, or make any other comment. Or having a character decide that everyone is going to go out clubbing without even asking if that's what anyone wants to do.

Your characters easily get angry, defensive, or sullen when they or their competence/qualifications are ever questioned, or whenever anyone says anything even a little negative about them. Another huge red warning flag of a fragile ego!

Your characters act as if they and their ideas/orders are owed unconditional respect/deference. Nobody should be owed unconditional respect or deference - that's how you get abuse and corruption in a system. Those who believe they are owed this for any reason are probably on one heck of an ego trip.

It's their way or the highway. Characters who disagree with yours in any way risk punishment or expulsion, or are told that they can just leave if they don't like their decisions (EG, "well, nobody's forcing you to stay!"). (Although the second example might seem like it's giving other people's characters freedom to disagree, it really doesn't - it's actually a Hobson's choices, because their only options are to submit or to not participate at all.)

Your characters give obvious or unnecessary advice. This makes your characters look presumptuous and patronizing. If you're not sure what advice might be needed, it might not hurt to instead ask, "what are you trying already?", "so how does that make you feel?", or "are you worried that...(potential reason for worry)?"

Your characters make statements on morality that everyone already agrees with. For example, upon finding out that someone has been conning lonely old ladies out of their money, a character makes a big dramatic speech about how it's so wrong to do that and how unthinkably awful it is. Or upon finding out that some person behaved in a grossly inappropriate manner on a date, quickly comments on how horrible and nasty that was and how people who do that are so awful. Meanwhile, everyone else is probably already well-aware that these are bad things to do, and they will likely find it patronizing if someone goes on about them as if it's something they need to be reminded of.

Your characters offer shallow encouragement. For example, by saying "I'm sure you'll figure it out soon!" to people frustrated over being unable to solve a really difficult problem. (The nature of really difficult problems is that they probably can't be figured out soon - that's why they're really difficult.) Doing this kind of thing shows that your characters don't actually care enough about what others are trying to do to even try and understand the depth and scope of the problems on a basic level, nor do they even care whether the ones trying to solve the problems are their wits' ends. If you're not sure what to have your characters say to give offer encouragement, you might instead have them say something like "is there anything I could do?" or "would you like to tell me about it?"

Your characters withhold important information for no good reason. Because then it might look like your characters are trying to keep secrets just for the sake of having secrets, which indicates that one always needs a reason to feel superior to others. And if your characters withhold important information until the last minute just to make people feel foolish for ever having doubts about your character's skill or integrity, they'll come off as incredibly arrogant - even narcissistic.

Your characters act upset when others don't find them attractive (or don't find them attractive enough). One of the surest signs of having a fragile ego. Nobody's going to want to hang around someone like this for long!

Your characters only consider or care about things in relation to how it affects them personally. For example, shady agents are out there doing awful things to random NPCs/faceless people, but the character you're playing doesn't so much as bat an eye. But then the shady agents do something that directly affects your character, and then your character is suddenly making grand speeches on how wrong and evil they are. Or there's something bad going down that affects all kinds of people everywhere (a large disaster, perhaps), but at no point does your character show any concern over how this is going to adversely affect others. (Though if your characters simply do not have time to worry or think about other people, then this doesn't necessarily indicate that they're egocentric.)

Or your characters do voice concern, but they don't seem to mean it. For example, your characters often talk about how terrible it is that some bad thing happened or is happening somewhere, but never actually do anything that's within their power to help. For example, a character might talk about how terrible it is that after the disaster so many people don't have enough money/food/whatever, yet never share anything with those who obviously need it. This can indicate someone who just fakes concern in order to look like a good person to others. (Of course, it's another matter if they legitimately do not have the means to help others or cannot figure out how.)

Your characters only want to do glamorous, exciting work. Your characters will get out there and do big, theatrical things that everyone can see and be impressed over, but will never do any mundane or tedious work if they can possibly get out of it (or at the very least, refuse or complain about doing anything that doesn't have at least some element of glamor in it). For example, you might have a character who will gleefully jump in and slay vampires left and right, but refuses to do any mundane odd jobs to raise money to help buy stuff the whole team needs. Or you might have a superhero character who gladly gets out there and smites interdimensional invaders who are actively trashing the city, but refuses help anyone work on any long-term strategy to prevent interdimensional invaders from getting close enough to trash the city in the first place. Or your character might be happy to disguise as a rich socialite to spy on someone, but gets bent out of shape over the idea of disguising as a janitor for the same job. Or your character always has to be the leader. Attitudes like these indicate that they care more about maintaining a "cool" or "heroic" image or playing out some personal fantasy of being cool or heroic than they do about getting the job done.

Your characters only want to hang out with people they think are glamorous or attractive. Your characters must always hang out with whoever they deem are the coolest, sexiest, and most exciting people around - nobody else is worth hanging out with if they can possibly help it. This is snobbery, pure and simple.

Your characters constantly put down things that other characters are into or dream about and are only ever interested in things they already like. Snobbery plus closed-mindedness!

Your characters often talk or think of others in terms of how obnoxious, petty, or shallow they are. Characters who do this come off as being snobs who look down their noses at nearly everyone. Also, this kind of thing can apply to characters who often talk about how someone "isn't like those other obnoxious/shallow guys/girls" - even if your character happens to actually like this particular someone, it still shows that this character holds a lot of people in contempt. (Plus, it can still feel insulting to have a group that one belongs to put down in such a sweeping manner.)

Your characters can never accept blame or responsibility. They often (if not always) try to shift blame (EG, "It's not my fault! What Bailey did made me so angry I couldn't stop myself!") and/or refuse to try to fix or make up for any problems they had a hand in creating, even if even if accidentally or unintentionally (EG, "I shouldn't have to apologize for hurting Skylar! It's not my fault my powers went out of control!"). This can indicate that they only care about themselves, or that they can't tolerate the idea of their images being tarnished in any way.

Other pages you should look at:

Reasons Your RP Characters Might Be Bad Friends Or Love Interests
Reasons Your RP Characters Might Be Creepy (In A Bad Way)
Basic Tips To Make Better & More Appealing Roleplaying Characters
Tips To Avoid Killing Your RP Character's Conversations
The RP Character Playability Test

"Is This My Character's Fault?" - A Flowchart
Tips For Writing Lovable Jerks
Basic Tips To Write Better (And More Likeable) Badasses
On Writing & Roleplaying Characters Who Are Good Leader Material
On Writing & Roleplaying Wise Characters
Basic Tips To Write Better Geniuses, Scientists, & Intellectuals

When A Game Master Or Roleplay Admin Might Be Power-Tripping - And What To Do About It
Tips To Be A More Thoughtful & Considerate Roleplayer
Protagonist-Centered Morality: What It Is, And How You Can Avoid It

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