OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


Does roleplaying canons ruin them?

hermione granger saying "hello I'm a canon character"I saw this discussion on RPG-D recently about roleplaying turn-offs (no not in a sexual way you pervert!). The discussion was about things in a roleplay game, forum or thread that people don’t like (see the thread here), and I saw a comment about canons that I found really interesting & wanted to share.

First, what is a canon?

A canon is term that’s come to mean one of the original characters from the fandom you’re writing about. So Harry Potter, Ron, & Hermione are all the real characters. But there are loads of roleplaying games where people create other characters. These ones you made up are non-canon.

So with the description over, lets get onto the discussion I blathered about up top.

Member wingswithoutme said:


RPG-D member wingswithoutme

To be honest, one thing I’m really not fond of is canons in fandom RPGs. I know a lot of people really love them, and I’m not saying at all that they’re bad to have on a site. But for me, personally? I’m super uncomfortable writing a canon character, and I don’t love writing with them, because I feel like, no matter how competent the roleplayer, I have a very set idea of how canons should be and act within that fandom’s universe, and it’s really confusing for me to have to tweak my idea of how that character should be based on how someone else is writing them. This is especially true for something like Harry Potter, where I go back and read the books a lot, and I would get my wires crossed because my “site canon” and my “book canon” and… well. I’d rather develop my original characters and screw them up in my own special way, instead of screwing up someone else’s character in my own special way. ;D

I agree with this, but I know many people love to roleplay as a canon character. Although I do admit I get excited about the thought of a walk-on part by one of the canons from my favourite fandom of course!

Do you agree with using canons in your roleplay? Share in the comments below if you’ve ever roleplayed as your favourite TV or film character, and tell us how it went.

  • Mobius64

    Whenever people start talking about canons, I’m always reminded of this scene from the 8th Doctor Big Finish Audio, Zagreus:

    Doctor: Look there. I see myself on the planet Oblivion facing a race called the Horde…and there look…a tiny reality where Gallifrey isn’t a planet but a timeless diamond, drifting through the stars. I can see a universe where the Time Lords have terrible mind powers and another where they cease to exist. Time wound backwards to eliminate their every trace. A planet, Earth, where the Nestenes very nearly destroyed everything and another Earth upon which I have plucked out one of my own hearts. But which is real and which are the alternatives?
    Zagreus: There is no alternative.
    Doctor: You mean no one knows which reality is the real one?
    Zagreus: They are all real, and primary to their inhabitants. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter. Who is there to care? They all exist, occasionally sharing moments and eras, the rest of the time self contained and unaware.

  • Mike

    This is one of my personal pet peeves of the moment. How much freedom can you have with canon characters? How can I accept an Original Character that is best buddies of (as the example above) Harry or is a former boyfriend of Hermione and so on?

    It is hard to handle to control canon character with original characters, because i saw, first hand, that people unconsciously tend to incline towards canon characters, either on their character’s background or interaction during roleplay. Maybe attaching themselves to canon characters give them a sense gratification of their characters are on that fandom universe. This will limit the creative freedom you want or seek, since the rules of canon binds it to ground, with no chance to fly and prosper. I know, since my game suffer from this, heavily.

    Since then I’m willingly to do a fandom where the canon characters are either killed (by disease for example), their ship disappeared without a trace, or by unknown spell, sends them to another plane of existence, that has no connection to reality. Like no canon characters in that reality, but locations are there for our Original Characters to populate. Maybe that is good way to play with fandom that enables creative freedom and let it fly without boundaries or limitations.

    Also, Mobious, good example. 🙂

  • Silent Hunter

    I have roleplayed as a semi-canon… and still do in fact. My GM PC in ‘The Triple First’ is a non-canon incarnation of the Time Lady Romana from ‘Doctor Who’. Romana was one of the fourth Doctor’s companions and remains popular in the fanbase; she’s a highly intelligent and fashionable character, but can get icy if need be.

    My version (meant to be her sixth incarnation) has the personality of a Valley Girl and apart from a brief discussion over a rule on canon characters, I’ve never had a real complaint about her.

  • Joe Jordan

    I think it depends on how a cannon character is used and referenced in game. For example, I have played a few cannon characters in logs I’ve written in the past (For example I played Scotty, Laforge, and Tucker during a holosuit simulation to help my primary character, Kii, solve an engineering crisis). In game there have been references to other cannon characters that hold a certain weight, such as Picard, and other times we’ve met up with cannon characters like Q.

    It all depends on how they are used. I don’t think a cannon character is something that anybody should play as a primary focus, but rather they can be used for interaction with someone’s unique character.