Thursday, 7 August 2014

RPG a Day, Day 8: Let me tell you about my character

(No video today, guys; that would have been too much.)

If you're like most gamers, you cringed a little when you heard that phrase. It's such a stereotype that I think it's more a terrible thing that everyone knows gamers say than a thing that gamers actually say (although this may just be another case of my naturally forbidding demeanour and inherent volubility putting people off).

In many cases, though, "tell you about my character" amounts to no more than "tell you about my game," since if you're a player you tend to experience the game mainly through the lens of your character.

So I'm not going to tell you about my characters per se, but use them to tell you about games I'm in (or have been in), in particular about how the game wound up changing the character.

A word about archetypes: I tend to play characters in about half a dozen core roles: worried nerds, good-natured lummoxes, by-the-book stiffs, and more or less clear heroes.

Fuck you lookin' at?
What's interesting to me is that undoubtedly my most successful character of recent years is someone who doesn't fit any of these types -- my character in a local live-action Requiem game, Danny Kovacs. Danny started life as a lowlife scoundrel fixer sort of character (because that's a good character for social live games -- strongly motivated to talk to people and find out what they want) but has mutated into much more than that over the years. And the fun thing about these changes is that they were almost never the result of my decisions; they were reactions to circumstances. In some cases, much like real personal changes, they happened without my ever really thinking consciously about the process. A plotline needed someone to stab some backs in order to be resolved, and that set Danny onto the path toward being a larger-scale scumbag. A series of social and political interactions convinced Danny that he was an idealist, not the Carthian-of-convenience he had previously seemed to be. Danny fell for a girl, but she turned out to be trouble. And so on. Today, I think his story's more or less done, although I still enjoy playing him.

The thing that pleases me about this character is that he developed in a way that could only really happen in an RPG -- that is, he isn't the product of a single author, he's the product of a bunch of different interactions that come from lots of different people doing their own things. And yet I don't think he feels random or patchwork. He does that problem all long-running characters have, in that he's been through way more weird shit than seems to make sense ("and then there was the time I went to another dimension ... and then there was the time ...").

Oh, Brave and the Bold. You were too beautiful for this world. 
As a habitual GM, I don't get to play a lot of tabletop games. I'll pick a recent (ish) character, though: Deiphobos, my character in Troy! Troy! was a supers game set during the Trojan War, which mashed up classic comics and Greek myth and sort of weird science-fictional meta-jokes. Deiphobos is an actual character from the Iliad, although I mostly ignored that and played him as more or less Batman, with Hector as never-present Superman.

It was a weird game, and it was a lot of fun, but it fell victim to real life. Deiphobos was fun largely because of his role as the team "leader" (ish), or at least the guy most likely to be very focused on a case, and because the system (Strands of Fate) had a lot of elements that rewarded being an observant strategic thinker and just generally good at stuff ("second best at everything" is another common thing I do -- Danny is likewise smarter than a tough character and tougher than a smart character). He didn't have like a richly developed personality; that wasn't the way in which creativity was expressed in this game. He was more a tool for me to do creative stuff with the world in general, if that makes sense.

So yeah; characters. I'll see you tomorrow for the thing we all really care about: dice!


  1. One of the things I really like about Fate is the way that it really favours support-type characters, in a similar way to the combined action rules in Heroquest, it encourages and rewards teamwork and helps the team flavour of the game. It was certainly the aspect of the character I had the most fun with when we swapped ability sets by jumping universes and I effectively got to play Deiphobos for a while.

    Well, that and having gadgets to play with.

    1. He was good fun, although there was sort of a switch -- a level at which characters were sufficiently superpowered that Deiphobos couldn't really do anything at all to them, at least not without risking getting one-punched. That's the usual generalist problem, I guess.

      I assume that he would work as a build in other versions of FATE.

    2. He'd be one of the easiest Troy! characters to build in Fate Core, since he doesn't need a powers system at all, unless it was used to increase his skill level.

      Troy! probably ran better in Strands than it would do in Core, simply because it suits the extant power system. conversely, I think GMK would have done much better in Core because Strands had a lot of extraneous aspects that we didn't use much. I also think that GMK would have benefited greatly from the group creation style of Fate Core (similar to the one in Dresden) so that we came in with connections to one another, whereas Troy! simply had that built in.

      Quite possibly there will be more on this sort of topic in a later post on systems.

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  4. This Troy! game sounds really good ...