Poor Gunslinger. I’m sure he’ll find a party that loves him one day. Unfortunately, today he’s just a bystander in the age-old battle between good, evil, and player preconceptions.

What do you say we start with the classic example? Suppose you decided to write the word “paladin” at the top of your character sheet. Right away you’re dealing with a certain set of expectations. Party members might roll their eyes and groan: “Oh no. I just wanted one campaign without lawful stupid sucking all the fun out of the room.” Obviously that’s not fair to your paladin, but it is a very real hurdle you’ll have to overcome. It’s no reason to erase “paladin” and start over though. Such is the fate of all character classes.

Take the traditionally evil classes. When you’ve got necromancer, warlock, or (as in today’s example) witch levels, you’ve got preconceptions to overcome. However, as with their goodly counterpart, it’s possible to play these characters in all kinds of ways. You don’t have to be an baby-eating psychopath just because you draw your powers from the Fiend. You don’t have to be a purehearted hero just because you know your way around a smite evil.

You guys have probably heard this one before, but your class is not your character. Barbarians can be more than muscle-bound brutes. Rogues can have codes of honor. Rangers might actually shave and bathe every once in a while. It’s all up to you to define yourself as an individual rather than a walking stereotype.

Go ahead and give this article a look. Dude says it better than I ever could. I just wanted to repeat the message because I think it bears repeating: You get to decide what your character is like. A PC is your window into the world of the game. It’s your primary means of control within the fiction. There’s no reason to let expectations steal that control from you: not your fellow party members’, not the game’s, and not even your own. You’re like Witch up there. You get to decide how you’ll live your life. Make sure that decision yields a cool character rather than a cardboard cutout.