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Author Topic: A bodiless, persona less character?  (Read 43900 times)
Sindyr
Member

Posts: 795


« on: July 13, 2006, 01:29:53 PM »

Just a though that occured to me.

Does anything in Capes forbid me from creating a "character" which is nothing more that a list of attributes?

For example, what if I create:

Powers:
Blinding Light(3)
The Impossible is Possible(4)
Luck(3)
Strange Time Shifts(2)
Strange Mood Shifts(1)

Styles:
Man That was Cool(4)P
An Unexpected Surprise(3)
Screw the Rules(2)
Karma(1)P

Attitudes:
Pride(3)
Optimism(2)
Hope(1)

Drives:
Justice:1
Truth:2
Love:3
Hope:3
Duty:1

So here's this character sheet - what if I *don't* associate it with and in-game persona or entity?  Is there anything in Capes that prevents me from gaming the system itself in a way?

The character sheet represents my ability to win conflicts, stake debt, etc.  I can do all of that with no central in game persona or entity.

This is a radical shift, I think, but not a rule breaking one.

So, for example, if Fred has a conflict out "The bad guys escape with the loot" , he has claimed the red die which is a 5.  I have claimed the blue die which is also a 5.  I am going last this round.  I announce that I am using "Blinding Light" (and acquiring debt) to roll down his 5.  I roll, and get a 2, which I keep.  I can narrate this several different ways:
"A Laser Beam security system shoots off a blinding light that vaporizes the bad guys."
"The sunlight reflecting off of a mirror makes the guy carrying the money bags trip, and the money bags fall down the the stories of stairs back down into the basement."
"The SWAT team has arrived and set off their 10,000 watt flash bangs, rendering the robbers immediately unconscious"
"Upon exiting the bank, a blast of divine light shoots down from the heavens, turn the robbers good, and they drop the money and go turn themselves in"
or maybe the divine light incinerates them.

But I hope you get my point.

You can have a character sheet, with all the influence that can bring to bear on the resolutions of conflicts, without ever having any kinds of persona, character, or entity in game.

What do you think?
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-Sindyr
Eric Sedlacek
Member

Posts: 135

TheCzech


« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2006, 01:45:07 PM »

You can have a character sheet, with all the influence that can bring to bear on the resolutions of conflicts, without ever having any kinds of persona, character, or entity in game.

Sure you can.  "Entityless" characters are completely appropriate in Capes.  They are not usually debt-bearing characters, but there is nothing that says you can't make one that is.

What do you think?

This particular character seems very lame to me at first glance, but who knows?  Maybe in play, it would knock my socks off, and I would have to go get a shovel to hand you story tokens fast enough.
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LemmingLord
Member

Posts: 65


« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2006, 01:58:22 PM »

Clearly you have an "entity" if it has drives! 

Don't worry, though, having this name "entity" attached doesn't prevent it from being a very valid charater even if it doesn't have a name or body or even presence except in the vaguest sense...

You could do the same character with the same list of abilities as a ghost, an angel, an astral being, a god, or just (like you said) just a list of attributes. 

That last bit does make drives very confusing...  What do they represent if you do not have a cohesive name to your character?  There must be some kind of perceived consciousness if there are drives, wouldn't you say?
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Sindyr
Member

Posts: 795


« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2006, 01:59:33 PM »

This particular character was one I made up in two minutes for the sake of example, I would not be playing it.

"What do you think" = "What do you think about Capes players choosing to play an entity-free character"

Because, ultimately, if I have a character called "Superman" he can have loved ones to be threatened, weaknesses to be exploted, and I the player may care about his reputation.

If instead I have the exact same set of stats, the exact same character sheet, but associate it with no particular entity in game, this would seem to give me an advantage in that since I am not strongly connecting to any *particular* character, I will become a ton harder to manipulate and force tokens out of. While *still* have the same amount of influence in game - even more potentially.

Abstract metacharacters ftw! ;)
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-Sindyr
Sindyr
Member

Posts: 795


« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2006, 02:10:49 PM »

There must be some kind of perceived consciousness if there are drives, wouldn't you say?

Could be the universal drives of Hope, Duty, etc - the impersonal and overarching drives of the cosmos being tuned into, eh?

All that's really required I think is that

Quote
They may Stake Debt on any number of Conflicts that provoke the character to prove themself in the relevant moral Drive.
and
Quote
But when they Stake Debt, it must be on a Conflict that is morally charged for that particular character and Drive.

Who decides if the Conflict is "morally charged" or if it "provokes the character to prove themself"?  The character's owner does.  And I don't think any other player can gainsay the owner.  I could simply say, "this character IS this collection of Powers, Styles, Attitudes, and Drives - in other words, this character sheet and the info contained within it, and no more besides what fancy is in my head.  I will let you know when a Conflict is morally charged or provocative from time to time for this character (sheet) by staking debt appropriately - if I stake debt, then you know it's morally charged for this character (sheet)."

It's an unusual approach, but not as far as I can see, an invalid one.
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-Sindyr
LemmingLord
Member

Posts: 65


« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2006, 02:35:14 PM »

If it is a spotlight character you can do that with impunity probably; but there's nothing to say other otherwise players can't give such a vague character more shape.  If I don't like the way a story is going with your superman collection-o-powers concept, I'll make sure during narration to give it form and substance.

On the other hand, I believe capes defines characters in certain classifications (characters, places, phenomenae, etc.); but as you said, you can just say "yep, this conglomeration of attributes is a character" and the rules gives you full power to do so. 

If someone ever uses this or any other tactic and it  isn't fun, I will make sure to 1) come up with a foil strategy so that it becomes fun; 2) suggest a house rule against it OR 3) stop playing with that person! (going through those options in that order until the game is fun again!).

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Sindyr
Member

Posts: 795


« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2006, 03:43:49 PM »

If it is a spotlight character you can do that with impunity probably; but there's nothing to say other otherwise players can't give such a vague character more shape.  If I don't like the way a story is going with your superman collection-o-powers concept, I'll make sure during narration to give it form and substance.

On the other hand, I can simply say, that's sounds interesting what you are describing, but it isn't my character.  You can build anything you like,  but you cannot make it link with my character sheet unless I choose to buy into it.  Of course, what you built may have been so cool I will be persuaded to anyways, or not.  After all, my character has no body, no form, no description, no presence in the game at all.  The only things it has a presence on are metagame actions like conflict resolution, which only indirectly influence the game.  If I narrate a lightning bolt coming out of the heavens striking a bad guy as the result of me winning a conflict, you are free to introduce a mage that threw it.  But I do not have to agree that the character I am playing is the mage, it may instead be some unquantifed and unquantifiable things that caused the mage to throw that bolt.  Maybe it was simply the act of throwing the bolt.  When one is playing something as ineffable as karma itself, I don't know how you could force an embodiment on it that I could not simply say is a lower form of something which is itself higher and formless.  Shades of possible Buddhist or Hindu thought here?

Quote
On the other hand, I believe capes defines characters in certain classifications (characters, places, phenomenae, etc.); but as you said, you can just say "yep, this conglomeration of attributes is a character" and the rules gives you full power to do so.

This truth floors me still, and in many ways is a testament to the uniqueness and flexibility of the game.

Quote
If someone ever uses this or any other tactic and it  isn't fun, I will make sure to 1) come up with a foil strategy so that it becomes fun; 2) suggest a house rule against it OR 3) stop playing with that person! (going through those options in that order until the game is fun again!).

I do not enjoy violent storylines, storylines with suffering or abuse, and gritty, brutally realistic storylines, although all are as valid as my formless bodliess persona-less character.

Still, valid or not, I would probably follow the same three steps:
1) Try to find a way to make it fun (unlikely, as it's highly distressing to me.)
2) Suggest a house rules against it.
3) Stop playing with that person.

It is very interesting to me the parallels of these two situations.  No holds-barred offense and shameless coercive manipulation have been seen as very valid and proper tools of achieving relatively more narrative control than your opponent(s).  For example, knowing that I find stories with graphic suffering in them disturbing and painful, many Capes players would see this as an oppotunity to take advantage and coerce me in some resource producing ways.

This idea of a persona-less character in many ways seems an ultimate defense - as with no in game persona, you take really no ego risks - no player can threaten your persona or their loved ones, no player can threaten failure of your persona's goals, no player can threaten to make your persona look bad - none of these are possible because there is no persona.  In short, this approach seems like the perfect defense.

However, please take full note that the other players STILL have a way to get me to stake debt, to get story tokens off me.  But only through enticing, only by creating a conflict that I want to win, they have NO way to threaten, coerce or bully me.  And, or course, I can also still create conflicts for them that they care enough to stake on.

The only real thing that has changed is that they can't be lazy anymore - they can't just throw my character or what he cares about into danger to try to reap rewards - because my *character* can't be put in danger and has no cares at all.  What they have to do is what the Capes book itself says:
Quote
The Teaser must arouse the interest of the players, not by forcing them to be interested (by, for instance, threatening their character) but by showing them the many options that they will have to control the outcome of the story.

In other words, do some homework, find out what the other player wants, and then sell it to him, one story token at a time.

That strategy, in my mind the only *proper* strategy, will work equally well with me playing this persona-less character.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

I think I have found the reaction to Cape's players' blunt attempts at coercion and duress.  And it's very cool.
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-Sindyr
Ben Lehman
Member

Posts: 2094

Blissed


WWW
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2006, 07:17:32 PM »

Goal: The mysterious entity becomes trapped in a human body
Event: The mysterious entity sacrifices itself for humanity
Goal: The mysterious entity falls in love.

Yeah, I'm not seeing any problems with this.
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Sindyr
Member

Posts: 795


« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2006, 07:55:12 PM »

Goal: The mysterious entity becomes trapped in a human body
Event: The mysterious entity sacrifices itself for humanity
Goal: The mysterious entity falls in love.

Yeah, I'm not seeing any problems with this.

What mysterious entity?

You see what I mean?
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-Sindyr
Ben Lehman
Member

Posts: 2094

Blissed


WWW
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2006, 08:32:09 PM »

Goal: The mysterious entity becomes trapped in a human body
Event: The mysterious entity sacrifices itself for humanity
Goal: The mysterious entity falls in love.

Yeah, I'm not seeing any problems with this.

What mysterious entity?

You see what I mean?

If I win the conflict, I get to narrate.

Are you *really* willing to risk me narrating?

yrs--
--Ben

P.S.  You can always play themes and locations (just like in the book) but those aren't powered.
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Sindyr
Member

Posts: 795


« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2006, 05:10:09 AM »

If I win the conflict, I get to narrate.

Are you *really* willing to risk me narrating?

yrs--
--Ben

Maybe I would want to get involved on that conflict, maybe not.  But my motivation for getting involved would be whether or not I wanted to influence that piece of the overall story, NOT based on thinking you were doing something to "my" character - because as decribed no one can do anything to "my" character, but my character only exists within the narrative as a series of potential unexplicable indirect effects with no given central entity behind them that ties them all together, except at the metagame level.

In other words, "Goal: The mysterious entity becomes trapped in a human body" might as well become "Goal: *A* mysterious entity becomes trapped in a human body" because my character sheet is not represented by any persona within the narrative.  No player can ever narrate something or create a conflict and make me agree that what he is talking about is what my character sheet represents - because I have specifically designed this character to be no more (and no less) than the sume of its metagame effects.

So you can invent a new mysterious entity.  I never did.  But you cannot in the metagame make my character sheet linked in any significant way with this entity you created.  Perhaps you narrate this entity you have created admitting to being behind all the phenomena that I have narrated  using my character sheet.  Perhaps you win a goal that shuts this entity down.  And yet, somehow, even with this entity shut down, the phenomena continue (since you cannot prevent me from using my abilities).  When I use a "Blinding Light" coming down from heaven to stop the next group of bank robbers, you may look at me and say "how is this possible?  the entity responsible for doing this in the past has been shut down."  My explanation can simply be that that entity that you thought was responsible was really the pawn or unknowing agent of what my character sheet represents. Especially since I started the game informing everyone that what my character sheet represents is soemthing ineffable like the persona-less force of karma itself.

This is a perfect solution.  It can never be abridged, by it's very nature.  And it can never be abused.  Playing this character, I will be like a force for narrative control, hovering over the story, never coerced or forced to get involved, only ever choosing to when so enticed.  My character cannot be threatened because my character is eternal.  My character cannot have loved ones threatened because my character has no ego and has no emotion or sentiment or even thought.  My character is nothing more and nothing less than a force of Destiny itself, using who and what methods it must to accomplish whatever it must.  It's nature is essentially unknowable.

Which all means that other player's *cannot* operate on my character to get tokens from me.  My character is untouchable, period.  They have to fall back to telling me stories that I am eager to pay them story token for.  They can't use the stick, they must use the carrot.  And in my opinion, this is how Capes shold be played anyways - always with the carrot.

So, create a conflict that draws *me*, the player in.  A conflict that is part of a story of hope, or accomplishment, of growth and success, and ultimately not of loss, suffering, surrender, or conflicted moralities.  And I will reward you richly.  Just don't think you will be able to make a quick buck (or token) by throwing my character's loved one on the train tracks, because that is not possible with this character.  You have to aim higher, you have to be more creative than that, you have to stop relying on using the stick to get tokens out of me and start relying on using the carrot.  You have to get to know what I want out of the story.  And that's good.  After all, I have already committed to doing the same for you. :D
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-Sindyr
Eric Sedlacek
Member

Posts: 135

TheCzech


« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2006, 05:28:39 AM »

Could be the universal drives of Hope, Duty, etc - the impersonal and overarching drives of the cosmos being tuned into, eh?

I would just like to pause a moment to say that having a debted character to represent the overall state of the universe is a really damn cool idea.  Where did I put my shovel?

Goal: The mysterious entity becomes trapped in a human body
Event: The mysterious entity sacrifices itself for humanity
Goal: The mysterious entity falls in love.

Yeah, I'm not seeing any problems with this.

And having the spirit of the universe come to life in physical form is another really damn cool idea.
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LemmingLord
Member

Posts: 65


« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2006, 07:21:47 AM »

If it is a spotlight character you can do that with impunity probably; but there's nothing to say other otherwise players can't give such a vague character more shape.  If I don't like the way a story is going with your superman collection-o-powers concept, I'll make sure during narration to give it form and substance.

On the other hand, I can simply say, that's sounds interesting what you are describing, but it isn't my character.  You can build anything you like,  but you cannot make it link with my character sheet unless I choose to buy into it.  Of course, what you built may have been so cool I will be persuaded to anyways, or not.  After all, my character has no body, no form, no description, no presence in the game at all.  The only things it has a presence on are metagame actions like conflict resolution, which only indirectly influence the game.  If I narrate a lightning bolt coming out of the heavens striking a bad guy as the result of me winning a conflict, you are free to introduce a mage that threw it.  But I do not have to agree that the character I am playing is the mage, it may instead be some unquantifed and unquantifiable things that caused the mage to throw that bolt.  Maybe it was simply the act of throwing the bolt.  When one is playing something as ineffable as karma itself, I don't know how you could force an embodiment on it that I could not simply say is a lower form of something which is itself higher and formless.  Shades of possible Buddhist or Hindu thought here?


Yes, you can say it has nothing to do with your character; but when I'm the narrator what I say happens and so if I say your very undefined character is a double decaf latte with mocha sprinkles with these attributes there's nothing in the rules to suggest otherwise. Muhahahaha. 

I also disagree that your "list of attributes" is not an entity.  With its own volition and pattern of interfering with other characters, it is an entity - and one, no doubt, that would get named by anyone paying enough attention.  One character may name it his "bad luck" that lightning bolts keep dropping out of the sky at inopportune moments; while another character might say its the ghost of her father; and because you have made these characteristics so undefined, whoever is narrating will give it form and substance that you don't provide... Or at least they can.. 

It seems in absolute keeping with the system for you to be as vague as you'd like AND for everyone else to fill in what you do not.  As long as this isn't a spotlight character, there's nothing to stop the narrator from saying Bob Smith had a girlfriend twenty years ago, has a mole on the side of his face, or that string-o-attributes is a cosmic chicken come to earth in its avatar, a double decaf latte with mocha sprinkles... :)

Since its making me laugh; I think I could make this fun.  :)
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Vaxalon
Member

Posts: 1619


« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2006, 08:41:04 AM »

It doesn't matter whether you've filled it in or not; only the social level prevents the narrator from totally re-imagining the character when he narrates.
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"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker
Sindyr
Member

Posts: 795


« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2006, 09:49:29 AM »

Yes, you can say it has nothing to do with your character; but when I'm the narrator what I say happens and so if I say your very undefined character is a double decaf latte with mocha sprinkles with these attributes there's nothing in the rules to suggest otherwise. Muhahahaha. 

Yes, you can narrate anything you like, but what you cannot do is use the power of narration to state or create meta-game facts or truth.  You cannot, for example, tell me *the player* that the narrative entity you are describing has any connection to the character sheet I am holding.  As long as I have not specified any tangible embodied existence nor persona, I the player am continually free to validly maintain that while you have the right to create whatever entities you like within your narratiion, you never have the right to step outside the scope of your narration and tell me as a player what entity in game my character sheet represents. :D  Muhahahaha back atcha.

Quote
I also disagree that your "list of attributes" is not an entity.  With its own volition and pattern of interfering with other characters, it is an entity - and one, no doubt, that would get named by anyone paying enough attention.  One character may name it his "bad luck" that lightning bolts keep dropping out of the sky at inopportune moments; while another character might say its the ghost of her father; and because you have made these characteristics so undefined, whoever is narrating will give it form and substance that you don't provide... Or at least they can.. 

Sure, I actually really like the idea of each of them embodying what they perceive in different ways.  But the truth is higher then that.

I also need to point out that in a sense what I am playing is an ineffable cosmic force, with no personality, no more than karma or destiny itself does.  If you want to call that an entity, I don't mind, but it's not conscious and self aware, it's more like gravity, but a force of morality instead - like karma and destiny.

To put it another way, should someone try to narrate a form, an embodiment for this Cosmic Force, I will simply explain, player to player, thatthe *true* cosmic force exists on a higher plane, and is incapable of being so embodied.  What that narrator may have created may be a lesser incarnation of this greater force.

This is probably a bad example, but take Phoenix of the X-Man.  Phoenix is a lesser incarnation, but the Phoenix Force is the greater force above her that cannot be so emobodied.  Now I am not a comics geek and this may turn out to be a very bad analogy, but my hope is that you see what I am driving at.

Quote
It seems in absolute keeping with the system for you to be as vague as you'd like AND for everyone else to fill in what you do not.  As long as this isn't a spotlight character, there's nothing to stop the narrator from saying Bob Smith had a girlfriend twenty years ago, has a mole on the side of his face, or that string-o-attributes is a cosmic chicken come to earth in its avatar, a double decaf latte with mocha sprinkles... :)

Nope, nothing at all.  Of course, I as a player may even see this incarnation to be one of a completely different cosmic force, and not the one I am representing, only I can say what I as a player am playing...

The only real constraint is if other player want my debt, then they need to provide me with stories I want to engage in.  And that's as it should be.

Quote
Since its making me laugh; I think I could make this fun.  :)

Cool!  I hope someday to be able to game with you, I think we would have a blast! :)
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-Sindyr
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