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31 January 2006 @ 10:05
Oh! I'm done with this guy.  
From a conversation at Dreamation:
"I used to look at my character sheet, and no matter the system, find that I had made the same character again and again. With <new, Indie, Nar games> I have found that I could play through a game with that character, and then put it aside. Whatever it was that caused me to make that character had at last been resolved."


I was party to this conversational nugget about characters at Dreamation that keeps coming back to me. I wish I could remember who said it, so I could attribute properly; it certainly wasn't me. Part of me remembers it as Thor talking about himself, part of me remembers it as the_stalwart (Michael S Miller) reporting something Paul Czege said. It was probably someone else.

When we make stuff up on a character sheet that is inherently creative, like creating the "More than Human/Less than Human" pair, or creating Traits and Relationships in Dogs in the Vineyard, or your Drive, Trigger, and descriptors in Conspiracy of Shadows, or your Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits in Burning Wheel, when we make this stuff up and write it down, I believe that without necessarily being consciously aware of it, we are putting something that concerns us, the player, right in the character's fiction. We expose something in ourselves that we want to address, question, examine or dare I say it, roleplay. Put another way, there's something we want to get out of the character, and since it's an expression of our subconscious, we don't always know what it is.

One of the very exciting things about <new, Indie, Nar games> (maybe I'll just cave and call them 'Story Games', which I am not sure I like) is that when they're done right, they allow us players to tale those things that our subconscious has popped up as 'creativity', and to address them in the context of the game and story. The setting is usually sufficiently abstracted from our reality that it is safe for us to explore modes of behaviour that we would not otherwise use, but as Bettelheim suggests fairy stories do for children, the scenes and events still resonate for us in a meaningful way. When we've explored them enough, we can put that character away (or we'll find that the character is now 'boring'). This is healthy.

In a hubristic way, that's what I'm looking for from the Czege'n'Bake GGG series: the players never make those characters again. We'll see.
 
 
 
(Anonymous) on 31st January 2006 21:28 (UTC)
I was just thinking about this very issue regarding my own play, Isk. You inspired me to post about it on my blog: http://brennantaylor.blogspot.com/2006/01/why-brennan-was-asshole.html
Brennan Taylorbar_sinister on 31st January 2006 21:30 (UTC)
Goddamn livejournal logging me off all the time. That was me, obviously.
Iskanderyoungiskander on 31st January 2006 21:34 (UTC)
That's a great perspective on that kind of acting up.
thor_olavsrud on 31st January 2006 21:59 (UTC)

Glad to see I'm not the only one who has been posting confessionals about "how I used to play RPGs like a jerk" this week! :)
Judd, Juddski, Chaim, Judah, Judd-oh & Pakajudd_sonofbert on 1st February 2006 00:21 (UTC)
Where's your confessional, Thor?
Iskanderyoungiskander on 1st February 2006 13:29 (UTC)
Thor confessed on the nerd.boards. Where I have been a dick this week. (No excuses).
thor_olavsrud on 1st February 2006 13:34 (UTC)
You'll get a kick out of it Judd. Further down in the thread, I talk about how I fucked up a cyberpunk game.
Judd, Juddski, Chaim, Judah, Judd-oh & Pakajudd_sonofbert on 2nd February 2006 01:49 (UTC)
Cool thread, Thor.

Thanks for the link.
bob_goat on 31st January 2006 21:42 (UTC)
Preach it sister...
Saifglasscut on 1st February 2006 03:45 (UTC)
That's a really interesting and challenging concept. I'm not sure how much a system has to do it with and how much a well-run game regardless of system under a decent GM with good support from players. Regardless, a very neat idea - I'm done with this guy.

The only reason to repeat-play a "type" of character would be because you were dissatisfied with the last play.
Iskanderyoungiskander on 1st February 2006 13:51 (UTC)
Compare chargens
I think "a decent GM with good support from players" is pretty much a pre-requisite for actually sitting down at the table now. I am working from that basis, right off the bat. Without the appropriate group of people, you have bugger all chance of the support that is necessary to be safe in exploring stuff. Consciously you will be uncomfortable going there, and with stuff that's subconscious your mind will already be protecting you.

System is crucial, to my mind. Compare character generation for, say, D&D 3.5 and Dogs in the Vineyard. (Using D&D because I know it at least passingly well). With D&D, you pick a race, a class, assign or roll stats, pick skills, pick feats and buy stuff, then figure out your secondary numbers like AC and BAB and so on. Technically, at that point IIRC, you're done. Any back history you supply falls neatly into the category of Thor's 8 pages, mechanically speaking. There is nothing in the rules to enforce any kind of statement you want to make (or your subconscious makes for you).

Dogs, on the other hand makes you pick a history that matches your concept (and mechanically varies the dice pools on that basis), then makes you divide that pool between stats, then - and here's where it gets explicitly juicy - makes you write down verbal traits. Cue the subconscious, send in the clowns and mountain folk. Then you get to describe a couple of people who are important to you, and some stuff. All of which is mechanically the only weaponry you have available to you in conflicts. By putting something on your character sheet, you - the player of the Dog - are almost guaranteeing that it will be used in play, otherwise your Dog will just roll over in the face of opposition. Finally you get to make an explicit statement about your character at the conclusion of chargen: your accomplishment. You establish a fact and a scene about the Dog right then and there, and you get a mechanical trait out of it.

I can't find it in the text right now, and I would not be surprised if it has only really come up in meta-discussion about Dogs, but the players' character sheets are filled with signposts about what they want to have come up in play. As the GM of an imminent Dogs game, it is, as far as I am concerned, explicitly my responsibility to see that the very first town touches on something that every player has written down somewhere on their sheet.

So, I think system can have a LOT to do with it. An excellent GM can always substitute nous for mechanics, but it's so much easier when the system does some of the work for you. Yet another reason why With Great Power..., for a prime example, is so great: a lot of that prep-work on the part of the GM is done for him by the system.
Michael S. Millerthe_stalwart on 1st February 2006 11:39 (UTC)
'Twasn't Me
I didn't say it, but I agree with the sentiment whole-heartedly. FWIW, I value the anonimity of games like MLwM, DitV, CoS, BW, etc. and am reluctant to design games like Death's Door (and Breaking the Ice to a lesser extent) that come right out and say "Talk about something you truly care about as a human being, and put it in this box on the character sheet." When playing one of the former games, you can deal with personal stuff and nobody else knows. Heck, with the human talent for self-deception, you might even think that you're just talking about the story stuff when there's actually much deeper stuff goin' on. There's a safety, and a danger, there. But I think it draws more stuff out than a "put your heart here" box on a character sheet.

But maybe I just play with low-trust groups a lot.
Iskanderyoungiskander on 1st February 2006 13:56 (UTC)
Re: 'Twasn't Me
I think I agree, Michael. I really enjoyed the deviant DC game of Breaking the Ice I played, but I felt that, although I had been deliberately careful to "keep it light" and exclude explicitly emotional or sexual content of my own in there, the game still sucked it out to some extent. It is even more scary now than before I played it, and that was pretty scary!

The anonymous investment of MLwM is one of the facets of the game's brilliance that I thought WGP... adopted very successfully, thinking back to your interview with the Sons of Kryos. (I'm so glad I got to hear them being recorded. Dreamation was the dog's bollocks).
mayuranmayuran on 1st February 2006 18:02 (UTC)
what is this "character"?
i don't know about you, but i ONLY want to be jack booted, mind violating stormtroopers from now on.

and i'm not talking about role-playing.
bob_goat on 1st February 2006 18:08 (UTC)
Re: what is this "character"?
Dude. Where is the recruiting office?
Iskanderyoungiskander on 1st February 2006 20:00 (UTC)
Re: what is this "character"?
You missed "test-mongering" and "artha-whoring".
Judd, Juddski, Chaim, Judah, Judd-oh & Pakajudd_sonofbert on 2nd February 2006 01:49 (UTC)
Re: what is this "character"?
If you add billy-clubs in to this regime then I am in.