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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 88 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: on making the same character over and over  (Read 13192 times)
Skippy
Member

Posts: 43


« Reply #15 on: December 31, 2001, 07:37:00 AM »

And my experiences run counter to Ron's, as a (primarily) GM only occasionally being a player.

Now granted, I get to flex my muscles a bit more as a GM, and I get to play so many more people.  The reason I got into GM'ing in the first place, however, was because I was disappointed with the stories that were being generated.  Transparent plots, heavy-handed railroading, zero-deviation from module, that sort of thing.

The characters I played were fairly diverse, I think.  Other than being smart-asses, the only thing they shared was me.  Naturally, there were elements of me in all of them, or should I say that there are elements of all of them in me.

But to the central theme:
1) A GM should have a trust with his players, and should ask (as frequently as necessary) if they are satisfied with the story.
2) Players, too, have a responsibility for expressing themselves.  This goes back to the contract idea.
3) Both sides should feel comfortable expressing dissatisfaction, and requesting a change in pattern, pace, story, whatever.  Dialogue should be open.

Beyond this, isn't anything more an intrusion?  Isn't it a violation of trust to begin delving into the psyche of even an unhappy player?

Now, I think it is perfectly acceptable to have discussions about HOW the player's observable behavior is affecting others, or his apparent unhappiness with a game or character.  It's the WHY that concerns me, or rather, shouldn't concern me.

If you are friends with the players, it is likely that you have an opportunity to observe them outside of the game setting.  If there is a recurrent character personality, it likely is the same one that goes to the movies or out to dinner with you.  My Paladin friend was the same way IRL as in the games: impossible standards of self and others.  Constantly disappointed with people who were human.

Maybe I'm just afraid to delve into the minds of players.  God knows I don't want to know what goes on in the mind of my perpetual mage-player.  Other than establishing the dialogue as I mentioned, the burden should be shared equally.  
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____________________________________
Scott Heyden

"If I could orally gratify myself, you'd have to roll me to work."
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #16 on: December 31, 2001, 09:26:00 AM »

Hey Skip,

Read my third post to this thread. It starts with, "Hey Skip."

1) A GM should have a trust with his players, and should ask (as frequently as necessary) if they are satisfied with the story.
2) Players, too, have a responsibility for expressing themselves. This goes back to the contract idea.
3) Both sides should feel comfortable expressing dissatisfaction, and requesting a change in pattern, pace, story, whatever. Dialogue should be open.


It was this exact situation that provoked the psychoanalysis I described in my first post to the thread. The GM had asked for input from the players, multiple times, and had not received much beyond vague assurances, assurances that didn't have the ring of truth to them because players had consistently failed to address and resolve subplots, something that's essential in Theatrix because it's how the player earns plot points. The GM resorted to psychoanalysis only when requests for input had repeatedly failed.

The problem is that players will know they're not exactly satisfied, but they probably don't recognize what unconscious story preferences they have that are going unmet. And even if they do, they probably don't know how to present those preferences to the GM in a functional way, so that story emerges from play. The player I described in my first post ultimately did decide on what he wanted from his subplots. And he worked with the GM outside of the game to essentially script out key scenes. But that isn't roleplay. And it came through in the delivery. Despite orchestrated conflict and tension in the scenes, they were painfully boring to sit through for the other players.
 
Isn't it a violation of trust to begin delving into the psyche of even an unhappy player?

You absolutely don't have to if you deliver meaningful authorial/directorial power to the player.

Interestingly, I think a lot of GM's who achieve local renown, among gamers at the same college or whatever, for being one of the "good" GM's, actually have somewhat more than average skill in perceiving what's important to someone, what they really want, and an ability to make that available to the player within the context of a game, perhaps through fudging, or just mastery of system. To say it's a violation of trust to make an effort to perceive what a player's real narrative interests are, and to accommodate them through play, is to deliver a criticism to the common notion of what a "good" GM is.

Paul
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And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Skippy
Member

Posts: 43


« Reply #17 on: December 31, 2001, 01:53:00 PM »

Hmm. Interesting points.  I don't think our opinions are that divergent, just a slight difference in perspective.

I do admit to having skimmed your third post, and didn't pause to absorb the text.  I probably wouldn't have posted the last time.

I don't believe that one has to discount the entire notion of what it means to be a good GM, just because one doesn't practice pop psychology.

I don't know when it became the burden of the GM to be not only plot author, setting, and characters, but also parent, teacher, and counselor to his players.  In the strictest sense, the GM is just one of the players.  Isn't there room for him to relax and enjoy the game as well?  As it stands, the GM is largely (in the real, non perfect world of RPG's) responsible for metaplot, main story, setting, pacing, arbitration, rules interpretations, all interactive characters, continuity, fair play, trust, fun, and all the nuances thereof.  He shouldn't have to drag players by the scruff to an understanding of their character.

I appreciate the clarifications, and the narrowed focus, but my three points hold.  The player's authorial and directorial power is a defined ingredient in the trust and contract.  It should be a given, with a good GM.  My point was that the players have an equal responsibility to step up to the plate, and take on those mantles of power.  

I agree with a majority of the statements on this thread, and I think the language that I disagreed so strongly with has been left behind.  So with best wishes, peace, and a Happy New Year.

Skippy
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Scott Heyden

"If I could orally gratify myself, you'd have to roll me to work."
Uncle Dark
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Posts: 215


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« Reply #18 on: December 31, 2001, 03:33:00 PM »

Hi, all.

I've been thinking about my characters.  Not every one I've ever played, just the favorites.  I've noticed that while the names, descriptions, powers, and so on vary, there are a few character themes that hold steady.

First, the characters are omni-competent.  Not masters of all skills, or sorcerers supreme or supermen or what have you.  Rather, they're intended to be the kind of people who don't have minor problems.  No little fights with the significant others ruining the day.  No spells failing because they forgot to light the red candle.  Never stuck somewhere without cab fare.

Really, what I'm talking about are pulp-style heros, larger than life and ready to stand up to whatever it dishes out.  This may seem redundant -- after all, aren't most RPG heroes cast in the pulp mode? -- but I'm looking at it from the perspective of having played under a lot of people who either strictly enforce "if you didn't pay points for it, you don't have the skill" or love to use minor gaffes of the PCs as comic relief.  Both of those frustrate me to no end.

Second, the characters are almost always outsiders of some kind.  Either dark-and-shadowy or exiles or members of some fringe subculture.

Oh, I understand the whys and wherefors of all this.  The first is escapism, trying to shed the workaday, detail -oriented cares of life.  The second comes from being a geek in a small town growing up, wanting to be strong and cool despite being pushed away by my peers.

So, yeah, for me at least the characters I play do serve a psychological purpose for me.  Or at least the kinds of characters I prefer reveal the stuff in life I'm trying to escape from.

Insofar as being a GM who all too rarely plays, I tend to play variations on my favorite NPCs.  Right now, I'm in an Everway PBEM, and I'm playing an incarnation of Sebastian Warfield, a reccurring NPC who I've spoken about before, here and on GO.

Lon
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Reality is what you can get away with.
Osric
Member

Posts: 7


« Reply #19 on: January 01, 2002, 12:12:00 PM »

Hi, I'm new here -- a new convert to Sorcerer thinking (but unsure whether my players could get their heads round the out-of-the-box thinking of Narrativism or Authorial stance).  I possibly haven't lurked enough to get the tone of this board quite right; I hope the following doesn't come across as too indulgently anecdotal.  *I* certainly think it's relevant.  :wink:


I have a player who always plays characters that are very different on paper, but identical in execution.  I don't just mean that his turn of phrase or mode of relating to the rest of the group around the table are unavoidably constant, but his characters' underlying attitudes are always the same.  (I try not to condemn, but he seems just plain Gamist/Pawn Stance: he wants to beat the bad guys, score XP and accumulate wealth.  When I challenge his character with a moral dilemma he breezes through doing whatever it takes to 'win', always simply proclaiming that the ends justify the means.)

I don't totally give up, but I don't know how much more time I can devote to clever ways of getting him to engage in any other way.

The key thing I thought I could add here is that with players like this, you really DON'T want to go having any significant level of player death.  The more 'different clones' this guy puts through my game, the more blatant the monotony would become.  By keeping the number of characters to a minimum, at least the rest of us can play as though the trait is the characters' rather than the player's.


I have another player who always creates happy-go-lucky charmers, which is more recognisable as wish fulfillment along the lines of the guy who (potentially) thinks magic users are cool because they're in control, or the wimpy geek who wants to be more physically able and popular.  (I don't know whether he's like Razir and wants to get laid a lot, without quite admitting it to his GM.)  He's not obviously dissatisfied with his gaming, but there is that parallel with the reincarnationist philosophy that we're in this life to learn/experience something specific, and if it doesn't happen in one life, we have to come back again and again until it does.

The shortcoming is that he has all these high social stats on paper, but when the party wheels him forward to impress the significant NPC he always roleplays his speeches in an articulate but diffident and, well, less than charming way.  The dice come up that he's won everyone over, but the escapist experience of it hasn't really occurred.


Back when I myself played more than GMed, I eventually identified a certain intangible saminess to the characters I portrayed.  I experimented with using a Tarot deck to helpl myself generate a character containing elements that I wouldn't necessarily have included straight out of my own head.  The result, after the things I couldn't do convincingly had been winnowed out, was an excellent character.  But more significantly, I gained a fascinating insight into several personality traits of my own that I hadn't even recognised myself as having!  I'd tried and failed to get away from playing myself, but the exercise had been an extremely valuable one.

A similar thing happened online on GarouMUSH, in which I played a character who was essentially a foil.  (My simulationist soul insisted that someone in that community represent a character type that was meant to be commonplace, but which no one else seemed to want to do.)  It was in this medium, liberated from the requirement to meet the gaze of the people I was RPing with, and knowing that I was being a deliberate foil rather than investing too much personal identification in my creation, I finally managed to break the mould.

I now think I do really well on the rare occasions I get to play a PC.  I'm not sure how anyone who only plays face-to-face for years with a single group can get outside the box.

Cheers all!
Os.
(aka Neville Percy)
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Logan
Member

Posts: 153


« Reply #20 on: January 01, 2002, 06:54:00 PM »

All this talk from people who are primarily GMs with more limited player experience reminds me of something: As easy as it is to say Players and GMs are one group, they really are a little different with different considerations. It's gratifying to see this sort of discussion emerge.
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Uncle Dark
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Posts: 215


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« Reply #21 on: January 01, 2002, 11:33:00 PM »

Osric,

My first thought when you said that your monotonous player seems to refuse to engage on any other level is, "ditch him."  If the GM isn't having fun, why should s/he keep on doing all that work?

Then again, is there some way you can meet him on his own level?  IMHO, trying to behavior-modify players against their will causes more problems than it solves, if it solves any.  So, if you can't or don't wish to ditch him, is there some way you can cater to his desires without compromising your own enjoyment?

The second issue (the player whose character is a charmer but who can't seem to play it) is a little thornier.

On the one hand, I'm not about to penalize a player for not knowing real, useful fencing tactics when his or her character gets into a swordfight.  Just like I'm not going to disallow character acrobatics because the player is in a wheelchair.  So why expect someone to be as suave as his character when you know he's not (and that's his reason for playing suave characters).

On the other, I know that we're dealing in a verbal medium, and inability to charm in a talking scene stands out much more than inability to fence in a fighting scene.  It's a greater disruption to suspension of disbelief.

Have you considered rewarding successful Charm (or whatever) rolls with, not instant success, but telling the player what angel to approach the character on?  Instead of "Well, you scored a success on your Charm.  Dick tells you what you want to know, " it would work more like, "You scored a success with your Charm skill.  You can tell that Dick is very vain.  Maybe you can flatter the information out of him."  This gives the player something to work with, and would do very well with someone who has a problem knowing what to say.

Lon
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