"He's a drow, because I think they're a really awesome race--"
"Now, hold on, wait...is this a drow ranger?"
"Um, yeah? But that's--"
"Lemme guess. Scimitars. He dual-wields scimitars."
"Whoa, how'd you--"
"Begun, the clone wars have."
Attack of the Drow Clones
If you haven't run across one of these in your fantasy campaign, good for you. That's not to say that the greater problem is a non-issue. It's the difficulty of clones, characters modeled precisely after pre-existing characters in fiction. In D&D, a large number of clones, possibly a majority, are modeled after the Dark Elf Drizzt Do'Urden. In fact, there's a number of rules added to the game, notably the rise of Drow as a playable race, which have arisen to accommodate players wishing to roll up their very own Drizzt.
All the storytellers out there are groaning in pain right now. It's not quite the most inventive way to write up a character, though I can think of far less inventive ways. It's also a tad boring, of course. Another Drizzt clone? A DM can only take so many before his head starts exploding, necessitating a quick trip to the local cleric. And diamond dust.
What's the Issue?
It would be my guess that the same sort of issue lies at the heart of all clone characters, no matter who they may be clones of. A player sees the character, loves them, and grasps some quality about them which they latch onto. It is this quality which they try to imitate and replicate in their own character. The simplest way to do that is through cloning. As the logic goes, if everything is kept the same, then perhaps the quality will arise spontaneously, in an identical environment. At the very least, it's scientifically-based.
The problem is, there's a lot it misses out on. For one, the author who created the character is not you. You've got your own unique spin to put on things. The path I would recommend? Try to figure out what makes that character tick for you, and then figure out what you can do with it. Let's take a little model analysis of Drizzt, shall we?
Exploring the Dark Elf
Drizzt displays several traits which make him a dramatic protagonist. If you don't know much about him, go over and check out the
Wikipedia article all about the guy. Won't take too long. Reading through that, we stumble upon a few iconic motifs which make for a dramatic character.
- The Only One: Drizzt is the one good drow, as far as we know. He fights the tide of an entire civilization, the ultimate renegade.
- Heart of Gold: What sets Drizzt apart from his fellow drow is a deep compassion for others.
- Deadly Fighter: Combat skills are practically bred into Drizzt, the lethality of the drow alongside his compassion.
- Exile: Drizzt has no friends from his home, since he's forsaken the drow.
While Heart of Gold is a trait that seems rather generic for protagonists, other traits provide more of a draw. I would guess that the biggest draw to Drizzt-like characters is the much-overdone "The Only One". It's a bit of an offshoot of "Last of His Kind" scenarios, and both hit upon the same thread: aloneness. Humans find something tragically, dramatically, epically iconic about being alone, especially it involves self-sacrifice for the greater good. If this is the root of the clone, then, perhaps we can take this and make a completely new character concept from it.
Where From Here?
At this point, it's all up to you to lead the character on. Try asking questions about where the character concept could head, from here.
- Why is this character alone? Choice or circumstance...or both?
- Does this character mind being alone? What price would they pay to have companionship?
- What would be the cost of this character no longer being alone?
- Does this character identify himself/herself with their past?
- What does this character hope to achieve by themself?
The questions only go on from here. Keep asking them, poking at holes in the character, opportunities to expand on them, until they manage to fall into something recognizable. Happy un-cloning!