Judging Snowflakes

There was a new player on BSG recently who got a bit miffed that his “special snowflake” thing was rejected where others were not - especially when the chargen policy invites you to have one special thing and there were others that he felt were perhaps even more outlandish than his.

While I don’t regret the decision, it was a gut call and it made me think about why my gut made that call. I think I weigh four factors when considering apps:

  • How implausible is it?
  • Is it likely to come up in the game?
  • Is it likely to cause sore feelings among other players?
  • How interesting is it?

A few examples from BSGU:

  • Ex pyramid star? Plausible, interesting, and likely to only come up in recreational scenes not important plots. Verdict: OK
  • Former test pilot with Elite piloting? Plausible, interesting, but will come up very often in combat missions. May cause some jealousy. Verdict: OK, but only if their gunnery isn’t also awesome.
  • SAR recon specialist with Elite Stealth also cross-trained as a Combat Medic? The concept is interesting, but we have a slight plausibility issue. Someone with that much specialized training would likely be held onto by their home military, not sent to the CF. And it’s likely to come up often in missions. Not only do they have an Elite skill, but they’re occupying two specialized niches and thereby potentially detracting from someone else’s ability to fill a niche. Verdict: No.

What criteria do you use for judging whether someone’s special thing is okay or not?

For me, it would be how much continual attention it gets them “on-camera.” This can even count in social scenes. If the character in question is getting special treatment from NPCs that other PCs would not get, it might be too much of a special thing. If they’re occupying more time with NPC / upper brass than anyone else because of their special thing (and not because they’re just asking for the scenes and you, Fara, have the time), then it might be too big a ‘quirk.’

Another is if it lessens other PCs. If their special thing, when put against other PCs, makes those other PCs appear as less. You don’t want a bunch of PCs who, say, wear their rank of Captain with a sense of pride (for years of service and hard work) and then Bob to waltz through with his BG of ‘I single-handedly shot down a Heavy Raider and they promoted me from Ensign to Captain in one day!’ (this is an extreme example as I know Fara would never approve such a thing.)

It makes the other PCs feel less. Why did they put in the work and feel the pride?! And some of them have knocked down a Heavy and barely gotten a pat on the back!

So I’d say that’s a big one to watch out for that might not be as obvious, but can actually be a lot more devious to the playerbase. It’s one that, for sure, can eat at me as a player.


Whenever I’m reading approvals, I’m always looking for snowflakeness, not because players want their characters to be something special, but because some players want to be all things to all people or just want to be BETTER than their fellow characters. And I think that’s where the problem comes in–when your character no longer needs other characters, it’s a problem. For your examples:

Ex Pyramid Star Great at one thing, and as you said, nothing that comes up on a mission (almost certainly). They still need people to backstop whatever their specialty is.
Former Test Pilot with Elite Piloting Sure, they can dodge forever, but if they don’t have Great or higher Gunnery (and why would they, as a test pilot?), they still need someone to shoot the guy off their tail.
Elite Stealth Combat Medic They don’t need anyone to heal them, they don’t need anyone to support them as they sneak around, they probably have a solid Firearms skill too (if they’re a Recon Specialist), so they don’t need anyone shooting for them… they’re a great lone wolf character, but too self-sufficient to be a good MU* character.

Some of my own examples:
Luddite Weapons Expert From a science-fantasy universe with separate melee weapon skills: Someone talented with every weapon there is, and skilled in interpersonal dealings, but unable to deal with a communicator or any modern technology.
Double Specialist Someone who wants to be a doctor and a rock star, or a doctor and a knight, or a Senator and an active-duty fighter pilot. Basically, anyone who wants to be near the top of their field in two fields that generally take full-time training.
Doogie Howser Sure, a precocious person isn’t a bad thing, if they’re a year ahead of where they “should” be for their age. But a 19-year-old general (who isn’t also the Prince or King… nobility makes everything more common)? A 20-year-old thoracic surgeon? A 16-year-old fighter pilot? No thanks.

So I guess my concerns are a) if your concept doesn’t need the help of other characters now and then, why are you interacting with them, b) if your concept is good at everything they might ever want to do, where’s the potential for growth or hardship, and c) do your character’s strengths and weaknesses make sense for the universe they inhabit, d) do they (as Auspice put it) make other characters look lesser by their experiences.

I guess there’s a e) which is: “are they obviously min-maxed beyond rationality,” but that’s usually covered by b) and c) above.

There’s also an f) that I use for any of my friends: “would I let someone I didn’t know play this?” If I wouldn’t, I shouldn’t let my friend do it either.

1 Like

Yeah I think @Auspice better described what I was trying to get at. It’s not jealousy in the strict sense, but an understandable sense of their efforts being cheapened.

Doogie Howser gets me too. It’s not that it’s impossible, it’s just too cheesy for me. Double Specialist is another good one. So many people want to be All The Things. I recall one app on Sweetwater for somebody who wanted to be, like, a highly-educated escaped slave female gunfighter. You don’t need all the special.

I don’t mind the min/maxed personally. One of the reasons I created FS3 was because I got sick of games that made you start out as a lowbie just to dangle that carrot of progression. I just want to play the character I want to play. If that’s someone who’s already at the top of their game and has nowhere to go skill-wise, I’m fine with that.


One could say that Charlie counts as a Double Specialist. I can see that. She is a sniper who is also an expert survivalist. However… that has not come up at all yet. It’s part of why I want that long-term recon. Unlike the ex-Pyramid star, survivalist doesn’t really even get to come up in social scenes.

I’ve thought of ways to incorporate it, but even running a class isn’t really in the cards. It’s not an ‘action’ class sort of thing. It’d be more of a lecture and those aren’t fun for the attendees, at all, which is why I haven’t. I could maybe setup challenges on the next week of leave, but really… other than rare situations (like the long-term recon, which has situations that any recon PCs can shine in)… that survival BG skill isn’t going to crop up.

So I think that’s an area where someone could be a double specialist. Something where it’s going to be niche. Your big deal things. The crack shot. The ace pilot. And then your background skills that flesh out the character in other ways, which is how I see Charlie’s survivalist skill. Yeah, I could see it being argued as a snowflake thing, but it’s only going to factor in once in a very rare while. She was approved on November 13th and it hasn’t come up yet. 7 months and I have yet to use it.

1 Like

Yeah totally. I was thinking more about being a double specialist in action skills. I personally don’t have a problem with someone who’s got an action skill specialty and one in a background skill isn’t as likely to come up.

I wouldn’t say that Charlie is the Double Specialist, personally. I would say she has one expertise: Scout. That happens to encompass knowing how to be on your own in the wilderness and how to shoot. Now, if Charlie was both an expert Scout and… I don’t know… Pilot, that would be a Double Specialist.

As for Min/Maxed… I’m not talking about “good at your job,” I’m talking about “good at the things that will come up, but not good at anything else.” That would be if I took Van (aged him up a bit, of course), and tried to put his Piloting, Gunnery, Alertness, Composure, and Firearms as high as I possibly could, while putting 1 point into three different Background skills and leaving everything else at minimum. To me, Min/Maxing really is equal parts Maxing and Minning–if you’re just playing an experienced, skilled character, that’s not Min/Maxing, but (again, in my opinion) if you’re dropping all of your other skills as low as possible to pour points into your “main” skills, that’s Min/Maxing.


Re: Charlie. I would expect that a sniper would be a survivalist. These two concepts go hand-in-hand. Many snipers lie motionless for hours, and are trained to do so. So, I don’t consider her a double-specialist.

Erin’s snowflake is that she’s a scientist-scout. While it seems sort of bizarre, it isn’t; I rather deliberately plucked the concept from the Autobot Beachcomber, G1. And while Erin is snarkier than Beachcomber, she’s no less mystified by SCIENCE as she goes out ahead of the column on missions.

Plus, trash panda.

For me, being a snowflake is less about stats and more about online personality, both OOC and IC. It’s hard to catch sometimes, but we all know those kinds of players. Thankfully, BSG:U doesn’t seem to attract them.


Yeah I think different people have different definitions of what a “snowflake” entails. For me - I don’t mean it as a bad thing. Very few people want to play an Average Joe in a RPG. Everyone wants to be somebody unique, special - a snowflake. That’s how I mean it. And I’m totally cool with it, as long as your specialness isn’t too overboard based on the incredibly subjective criteria.

Fair point. What I meant was that I would have no problem, personally, with someone who did the bare minimum (as defined by chargen) with their non-essential skills and put all their points into the ones that mattered. I’ve used code to prevent the sorts of min/maxing I care about… between the number of useful skills (as you say, there are 4-5 that routinely come up for both pilots and marines), the minimums representing basic training, and the skill limits. As long as your app review is green, you can max out to your heart’s content :slight_smile:

I think it’s twofold. Your uniqueness shouldn’t take away from other players, as mentioned above, but I also think it should add something to the story.

For instance, part of why Hallie appealed to me on BSGU’s roster (and I need to shake off my work-stress and play her more) was her tattoo thing. That’s not going to make other people upset by her outshining them in meaningful combat scenes, but it still has a reason to draw people to her. She’s a super talented tattoo artist; any other Tauran—or anyone else who has a desire for a tattoo—has a ready-made reason to go seek Hallie out.

That’s a snowflake trait that encourages RP. And I think that’s as important to making a good unique trait as the lack of discouraging other people is.


Not just a super-talented tattoo artist, but one that can do Ha’la’tha style tattoos! Only one on the grid that can, currently, I do believe. :smiley:

1 Like