What Is A "Mary Sue" PC, & Why Are They Evil?

[LAST UPDATED 2-10-06]




  • This page is to explain what a "Mary-Sue", also more politely known as an Avatar or Self-Insert (as in, inserting yourself into the story) type of character is. It is important for players to recognize this tendency in themselves, because it happens at a much higher rate than many consciously realize, and it can be the basis for your character being rejected if the "Sue-ism" is too blatant and angsty.
  • Before submitting a character for this game, you would do well to read this page over and compare it to your potential character concept. You might even take the quizzes. While they are fun, they are also legitimately  handy at pointing out this tendency before you end up submitting a Sue/Stu. If you "Pass" (or Fail, depending on your PoV) the quizzes, that should concern you, and you should consider revising the character in question  (ask an ST for help if you are stuck and don't know how to "Un-Sue" your PC).
  • Please understand that some of the traits and aspects discussed here are not in and of themselves wrong, illegal RP or bad. It's just that when you have a character who has several of them, it starts to get obnoxious.

If you see a reflection of some or any of your PC's on this page below and even think they might qualify as a Mary Sue, this workshop is for you.



INTRODUCTION - Definition #1 of a Mary Sue:

"So you're scratching your head and wondering who the heck Mary Sue IS, hm? Well, "Mary Sue" is an unkind term used to describe a certain kind of character, a style of writing. She (or he) is created to serve one purpose: wish fulfillment. When a writer invents someone through whom he/she can have fantastic adventures and meet famous people (fictional or real), this character is a Mary Sue.

[Our Notes: the Male version is now usually called a "Marty Stu" or a "Gary Stu"]

Although storytellers have been rehashing Mary Sue since the dawn of time, she did not receive her current name until the early 1970s. The original was Lieutenant Mary Sue ("the youngest Lieutenant in the fleet -- only fifteen and a half years old") as immortalized in Paula Smith's "A Trekkie's Tale," which she wrote and published in her 1974 fanzine Menagerie #2. (According to Katherine Langley: "Paula is still active in fandom and, to be sure, suitably bemused that Mary Sue lives on.")

Mary Sue, as this archetype became known, was at first any brilliant, beautiful young Starfleet officer who joined the Enterprise crew to be the center of attention, set everything right, make off with the main male canon character's heart (or several of them!), and/or die dramatically in someone's arms. I'm sure you can make a similar analogy within your own fannish experiences. Mary Sues exist in every fanficdom:

  • the pretty new Immortal who stumbles into MacLeod's (or Methos') arms
  • the uber-powered kid who joins Generation X
  • the female bronze-rider with her fire-lizard flock
  • the kitchen-drudge-cum-HeraldMage out on her first circuit
  • the notorious Marrissa Amber Flores Picard Gordon...
  • I'm sure you can think of more. And of course there are non-fanfic Mary Sues, characters who only exist in their creators' minds, on well-worn RPG character sheets or in secret notebooks.
  • There are even actual canon Mary Sues, though that gets hard to judge because they are canon. Good examples include Jean M. Auel's Ayla, Michael Moorcock's Elric, Anne McCaffery's Menolly, and Anne Rice's, well, anyone...

To set the record straight:
Mary Sue is any original or deeply altered character who represents a slice of his/her creator's own ego; s/he is treasured by his/her creator but only rarely by anyone else. More negatively, a Mary Sue is a prima donna (usually but not always badly-written) who saps life and realism out of every other character around, taking over the plot and bending canon to serve his/her selfish purposes.

-- from The Official Mary Sue Society Avatar Appreciation Site

Definition #2 - From Bandari Tradeport's "BandariWiki":

"Mary Sues" are characters -- usually, although not always, in fan fiction -- who are terribly idealized versions of their authors shoehorned into a favorite setting and given sufficient powers and abilities to solve all situations. Named after Star Trek fan fiction featuring the 15-year-old Lieutenant Mary Sue who saves the Enterprise and marries Captain Kirk

Mary Sues tend to come in two rough varieties. There isn't anything intrinsically wrong with either; the dilemma is that they're almost always much more fun to role-play, than they are to role-play with.
  1. Superhero Mary Sue:  Because Mary Sue can handle any situation, it's effectively impossible to have any tension in role-playing with her. Injured? Doesn't matter whether it's a stubbed toe or a lost limb, she can fix it! Someone threatening you? Doesn't matter whether it's the schoolyard bully or the Fifth Fleet, she can take care of 'em somehow.
  2. Fixated Mary Sue:  Mary Sue's powers, character background, and indeed all of her visible personality is focused with laser intensity on the one thing that gives her purpose, whatever that may be. All of her conversations and actions circle around to the object of her desire. People Mary Sue interacts with tend to describe her with phrases like "nice but a little creepy."

Definition #3 - From "Hogwart's Boss" on Greatest Journal:

Mary Sues change the universe by walking in the door. They make Snape fall in love with a student, Lupin and Black fight over her, or Harry become Cary Grant. A good original character is either not the center of the story they are in, or if they are, tell the story of how Person X adapts to life at Hogwarts (or the MoM), they do NOT tell the story of how Hogwarts adapts to them. If the character changes the world for more than one or two people, she is a Mary Sue.

A good original character should have a balance of strengths and weaknesses. In a story, they have a separate storyline. In a role-play, while the character will be the center of their personal universe, they do not expect the other players and characters to treat them like the center of their universe.

The writer must focus on being realistic, not on making their character "cool". Realism has a wide range. In fantasy it is even wider.

But the focus should be on the meat of a story-- plot and characterization (this is psychological realism, not surface stuff)-- not on how many people Mary Sue has sex with, falls in love with, or out-bitches. I mention the last because I've noticed a lot of Dark Sues (my term), where the point is not to be the most lovable, but to be the most unlovable. The character hates *everyone* in a self-destructive passion and seems to be a form of fanfic/role-play troll, almost. There may be times for this-- a Canon Draco or Millicent may have that many issues, but most writers CANNOT make this believable, and it usually comes across to me as immature, like a 13 year old boy who collect Nazi paraphernalia not because he understands their ideology but because it's evil and therefore cool.

-- Written by Helen (Mod 1)

Definition #4 - From "Doujin High School RP: What To Avoid In Character Creation":

Part 1: Mary Sue, Marty Stu, and Why They're Not Welcome

The first type of character that neither I nor the rest of the administration wants to see is the wish-fulfillment character. More commonly known as Mary Sue (for females) and Marty/Gary Stu (for males), they can do no wrong, excel at everything they put their hand to, and think they can charm/boss around/beat up on any NPC or other character they set their eye on, regardless of personality, ranking, or amount of training, just by virtue of their existence. Often, these characters' powers are justified by otherworldly powers that may or may not exist in the canon. They may often have a large number of other assorted skills as well--being able to play an instrument or sing beautifully, speak six languages, cook like a master chef without the training, fix or operate anything without having laid eyes on it before, etc. In cases where the player wishes to up the drama factor or make the character seem less perfect, they dredge up a Dark, Secret Past for the character to angst endlessly over--and the happenings in it are usually not the character's fault, allowing the character to be dark and brooding without losing a whit of their perfection.

If, at some point, you are tempted to create such a character, repeat after me:
Flaws are our friends.

Give your character flaws; perfection gets boring quickly. And by flaws, I don't mean something irrelevant to the plot, like not being able to play the flute or draw to save your life. Driving perfectionism, unless in conjunction with a related flaw, is not necessarily a flaw--indeed, it's a trait common in fanfiction Mary Sues. Personality flaws (e.g. short temper, bigotry, greed), phobias (of something commonly encountered), physical defects (not ones that enhance the character's appearance, as a well-placed scar might), and the like will work to help tone down a potential Mary Sue. However, even with flaws, too many abilities or too much skill without excellent justification are big no-no's. No one can do everything--or even close to it.


Example - A classic Mary Sue character concept (from a Harry Potter RP). Typos were left in as is:

Name: Rhianna Apathy
Age: 11
Family: Her mom was a witch and her dad was a witch but if you go back about ten generations their families came from muggles. Her parents died when she was at age five when cornered in a dark alley way in Hogsmeade (she was with them but has no clue why as to how she survived). She has no siblings and the rest of her relatives mysteriously vanished and her current guardian, Dave is extremely abusive. Dave is a vampire he is also the murderer of her parents. So she doesn’t have what she would call a family.
Apearance: She is 5’3” she had raven-colored waist length straight hair. She has unreal mismatched eyes one blue the other green. She has five ear piercing, three on her left two on the right. She has several white thin scars from the beatings on her stomach, back, arms, she has a one scars on the bottom of her jaw she received from Dave. She has a feminine build though is hidden underneath her clothing
Wand: 11 ½ inches, yew, dragon heartstring
Magical Sepciality: Potions and Transfiguration. It is mainly Potions though.
Magical Artifact: A Pensive
Non-Magical Articfact: her rock music collection, helps her think and let her anger evaporate.
Pet: none as of yet
Broom: A Golden Arrow
Personality: She is apathetic hence her last name it is just a protection thing to keep her from getting hurt by others like her guardian does with her. Though once you get past that protected area she is stubborn at times, ambitious, troublesome, sly, and a little mischievous. She never follows the rules her theory on rule is they are meant to be broken. She doesn’t like big crowds, if you get on her bad side she’ll be cruel without mercy.

[Our notes: If the above example does not frighten you & make you reach for the Brillo pad for your eyes, you won't be happy playing here.]


[A] Do any of the above examples make you cringe in embarrassment, thinking about a PC you currently have? If so, you might have a Mary Sue on your hands.

[B] If you take one of the quizzes below, the results will let you know if you should be worried.


- Take this test and find out:

The above test was modified to include Role-Playing Game characters. Based on the original "Mary Sue Litmus Test" which was geared more to FanFic characters, which can be found here:


- Another (and in my opinion, more accurate) Test:


Credits to the Following Web Sites for help compiling the commonly accepted definitions for Mary-Sue'ism:

(I would have quoted examples from this page, but it's rather hard to take your cues from someone who is lecturing their players on grammar and spelling, when they spell it "punctiation". However, that faux pas aside, the rest of the page contains some good advice on how to not "Mary Sue," so I included it anyway.


These are not hard and fast rules, which is one of the reasons Mary Sueism is hard to catch sometimes. They are guidelines. Doing one of them is not a capital offense; they're legal things to do in the game. It's just when it becomes predominant, that you have a serious problem going on. Don't get defensive if you do one or two of these. Worry if you do, say, three or more of them all with the same PC.

[1] NAMES:

  • Don't name your PC after yourself.
  • Don't name your PC some pretentious, ominous-sounding alternate spelling of a normal word (such as Fyre, Vampyre, Starre, Wynd, etc.)
  • Don't name your PC after gems, animals, celestial bodies, weapons, or acts of weather (Sapphire, Raven, Star, Blade, Storm, etc.)
  • Don't name your PC after media figures (Movie, TV, Book or Video Game characters). Avoid naming them after mythological or historically famous figures as well (Napoleon, Venus, Hitler, etc.)
  • Don't make the spelling all weird and pretentious through abuse of excessive or peculiar punctuation that does not normally occur. (e.g. M'chelle, Gloria-Angelica, etc.)
  • Don't name your PC something in a foreign language you do not know, if you are not sure the name works (this is most often abused by American players naming their PC's supposedly Japanese stuff that just ends up sounding stupid). When in doubt, Google it or ask someone who knows the language.
  • Don't give your PC pretentious nicknames like Soul Stealer, Death Dealer, Blood Bath, Reaper of Vengeance, etc. (Werewolf PCs have something of an exception to this, but using the names outside of their own kind will still sound pretentious to non-Shifters)


  • It's fine to have some, occasional young and beautiful PC's. But if every single PC you have is App 4 or higher, physically fit, and just so happens to be nubile and college-aged up to mid-20's, you're Mary-Sueing.
  • Also, lay off the screwy eye colors (unusual coloration that doesn't actually exist in nature, two different colors, etc.)
  • Likewise with the hair; too much of it is perfect waving shiny rivers of hair down to your butt (and that's just the men).
  • Lay off dressing like a Heavy Metal video or a member of Prince & The Revolution, to go into normal everyday IC venues (unless you bought a flaw that means the PC is IC that stupid).


  • Don't use the tired, worn-out "My parents were abusive" or "I was an orphan" excuses. Lay off the rape, incest, child abuse, drunk & drugged parents, street gang, kidnap victim, ex-slave, ex-prostitute, youth pregnancy, sole survivor of the Great Tragedy, Last of My Clan/Race/Tribe crap.
  • Don't make your PC the long-long son of someone, the long lost savior of anyone, or the mysterious key to some great life-altering puzzle in the story. Lay off the bizarre stories of his or her birth, too.
  • Don't make the PC a twin, or a member of a huge group of brothers and sisters who all mysteriously have some uber-cool traits or powers in common.
  • Don't make the PC Nobility or related to someone else who has the equivalent of Fame 5 Commonly Known.
  • Don't make the PC the sole heir of some massive fortune they did not earn, so they never had to actually struggle to survive.
  • Don't give the PC Amnesia and make it go through a dramatic quest to regain its memory.


  • Don't always resort to Wings, Telepathy, Healing, Genius Intellect, speaking 5+ languages before the age of 30, High Seduction powers, or being the Ultimate Ass-kicker, as your powers of choice. Those are often the hallmark of a Sue in progress.
  • Don't make your character Doogie Howser (M.D. at 12 years old), or any other disturbingly excessive overachiever kinds of situations.
  • Don't make your PC brilliant and well-informed if you give them a background where they likely dropped out of school, ran away a lot, or suffered other various major disruptions that would drive your average student bat-shit. Imagine your own personal OOC High School or College career; now imagine having to accomplish all that while living on the run or in hiding or constantly berated by an adversary. Annoying, isn't it.
  • Don't give non-Asian PCs katanas or similar weapons, just because you OOC think it sounds cooler than "sword."
  • Don't give your PC powers, toys or skills that would have required them to have spent the last decade or two traveling extensively throughout the world and performing acts of great sequestered study in-between (multiple martial arts, extensive magical powers, unusual skills only taught in certain parts of the world, dead or near-extinct languages, etc.)
  • Don't make your character a Green Beret, a CIA/NSA/Covert Ops Agent, a Mercenary, an Assassin, or some kind of James Bond knockoff.


  • Don't design a character whose main or sole purpose is to romance or bed another specific character. And if you are guilty of this, do not shelve the character when the target PC rejects them. Move on, IC.
  • Don't design a character whose purpose is to be the ultimate sex partner for lots of other characters (making a sexual character is fine, but don't try to be the perfect, impossible-to-refuse sex machine with it. That's just Mary-Sueing with your pants off.)
  • Don't constantly position your character as The Exception - the one who makes all the bad guys reform for her, the one who is the Only Friend of the Evil Unsocial Character, etc. (If other players treat them that way, though, that's not your fault; we're speaking of when the Player demands that this happen because their PC is supposed to be just that damned cool.)
  • Don't position your character as someone who gets away with being taken seriously in ways they should not be. Don't be the sage & wise nobody pauper, or the tragically beautiful and sexually desirable homeless street waif that sleeps in the newspapers. Don't have the PC be constantly irreverent, rude, speaking out of place, or disrespectful but show no evidence of consequences for it.