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So, I was thinking about one of my little worlds, when I stumbled into an interesting problem.

At first, this is a run-of-the-mill isekai (trapped in another world) story. The protagonist, an average high school student, is "transported" into a fantasy world. What's the catch? The description IS the catch, let me elaborate:

The first thing that happens to him is getting shot in the shoulder with an arrow, then chased down by some zombies, a siren head then comes and grabs him. He helplessly flails in the monster's grasp as it lifts up and shoves him into its "mouth". He tries pushing himself away with his only functional arm, but to no avail, while screaming bloody murder. He's ultimately saved by two major-but-not-protagonist characters. Oh, and he will have trouble using his injured arm for quite a while and also gets PTSD from this encounter.

He becomes somewhat better along the way, and even kind of competent, but never at the level a lot of other characters are on.

He isn't a hero, he has no special abilities, sure, he isn't an edgy neet either, but it's still pretty disappointing that his only purpose is to literally be a quest-giver to others. That's his only ability, he's a subtle loudspeaker of a god.

Sure he has a solid goal (get home) and more enjoyable personality than Kirito or Ainz and real stakes, not unsubstantiated paranoia. However, all of those are rendered moot if he's incapable of defending himself and his only power is that he knows where to plot needs his team to go.

Yet, I wanted him to be a character that one can get behind... How can I accomplish that?

  • Is your protagonist completely useless, or just not as strong as the other characters? Bilbo and Frodo were small, and continuously getting into trouble during their adventures. – Alexander Dec 12 '19 at 22:18
  • Harry Potter is pretty useless... until he's not. Make him occasionally useless, and occasionally amazing, because that's how we all are. – weakdna Dec 12 '19 at 22:32
  • The protagonist from Oh My Goddess is rather incompetent, but he's likable. – NomadMaker Dec 13 '19 at 7:06
  • A subtle loud speaker for God is a HD digital surround sound air raid siren to a mortal man. A strong body can move a soldier a few paces. A strong voice... can move a million men many many miles further. – hszmv Dec 13 '19 at 18:18
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Look at Indiana Jones. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jones doesn't really DO anything important to the plot, he is just chasing Nazis, getting himself into trouble, or trapped, or in a chase scene, but he doesn't actually DO anything to bring about the ending.

In other words, he is a dispensable character, but as the MC we see the adventure through his experiences, and sympathize with him when he uses his wits to escape the traps, or to find the next clue of where to go, or discovers wondrous things.

The kind of story you can write is called "Stranger in a Strange Land", in which somebody new to your Fantasy World just shows us the wonders of it, then somehow magically gets back home. An Example is Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. She is kind of brave when it comes to helping her friends, but she killed both the Wicked Witch of the East, and the Wicked Witch of the West, entirely by accident. And she did not even find her way home, herself: Glinda the Good Witch just told her the answer to getting home: Click your heels 3 times and say "There's No Place Like Home."

In your case, the MC has a similar problem, a mystery to solve, in how to get back home. He doesn't have to be a hero, what you want him to do is be a clueless know-nothing that needs everything explained to him.

I wouldn't make him a complete coward. Or perhaps to start, but you still need a personality-growth arc for this character. He still needs to step up in some way to solve his own problem of getting home.

If you want people to "get behind him," you have to make him likable and relatable, he doesn't have to be a battle hero, but he probably can't be a total wuss (unless you are writing a comedy). Think of Dorothy; she's far from any kind of action hero, but she steps up when it comes to her friends.

Dorothy's power is being faithful to her friends. She kills the Wicked Witch of the West by accident. The Witch sets the Scarecrow on fire, and Dorothy grabs a bucket of water to throw and put the fire out: the water splashes on the Witch and melts her.

Even getting home, she is going to join the Professor in his hot air balloon, but in the last second, Toto runs away after a cat. She cannot leave Toto behind, so she runs after Toto, and collects him, but misses her ride.

I'd change your story plan a little. Being a conduit for a God isn't much of anything. I'd try to make your MC's goal of getting home coincident with the aims of the group he falls into. So they rescue him, they are good guys and let him tag along, and you make him useful in a non-super power way, to earn his way. Maybe he is the one that is actually good at figuring out the clues of where to go next. A somewhat sedentary power, but fairly normal if he has a regular education and his group has a medieval education equivalent to a modern first grader.

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You could check KonoSuba light novel, it's about a neet whose get involved into a magic world but has no special habilities and only success with his lucky and funny dirty tricks

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One variant of this is for the protagonist to be useless by the criteria their society uses. But no-one is useless entirely; it's about finding your niche, whoever that may put you amongst. Every example looks different, so I'll flesh out three.

Consider Touma in A Certain Magical Index. In a city that values measurable "esper" abilities, he's the only person physically incapable of ever showing even a slight power. Why? Because his right hand negates powers. You can probably guess why there are people who find he's the only one who can solve their problems. It gets him caught up in a lot of conflicts he doesn't really care about; he just wants to resolve them to stop violence. He doesn't even appreciate his Imagine Breaker, however, because it also means he can't be lucky.

Consider Kaz in Neo Yokio. He has exorcism powers, which is how he makes his living. But is that the kind of talent that gets you respect where he lives? It gets him called a rat catcher. What he's judged by is the concerns of the wealthy: fashion style, being an "eligible bachelor", that sort of thing.

Consider Billy Cranston in Power Rangers. He spends his ranger career as the one with the least martial arts ability, which costs him Ch confidence early on. Yet it's one of the longest because he's more useful solving technical problems; he even does this for a season after losing his powers. He turns down the chance to be a Zeo Ranger because he thinks he can help more behind the scenes, and boy does he ever. And in his private life, his social awkwardness and clumsiness have their obvious drawbacks, but his intellect and kindness earn him dates with several girls.

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