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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 273 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: PC/NPC Emotional Bonding  (Read 10195 times)
GreatWolf
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designer of Dirty Secrets


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« Reply #15 on: July 21, 2001, 05:40:00 AM »

I'd like to chime in and agree with Paul provisionally.  I agree that Paul's answer works for a Narrativist game.  However, player interest is piqued for different reasons with different play goals.  For example, for the Gamist, an NPC is memorable and gripping because of the challenge that he represents.  For an Explorative, an NPC is moving because he advances the experience of the world (or because he adds to the overall pathos level.  ;-] )

Regardless, an interesting NPC is not merely interesting to the character (although there does need to be a connection within the game).  An interesting NPC is interesting (first and foremost) to the players.

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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
Emily Care
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« Reply #16 on: August 02, 2001, 01:33:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-07-18 16:04,  as part of a discussion of pc/npc bonding issues jburneko wrote:  

"Despite giving them AMPLE time and opportunity to do so.  They don't ask about NPC's personal lives or connections.  They aren't trying to get to KNOW the NPC or care about the NPC they're trying to get to the
next 'point of interest' (i.e. where the action is)."

Another line of attack for the problem you are discussing (pc/npc bonding) is to look at this issue: player motivation and focus.

If the players are only interacting with the npc's as intermediaries on the way to "the plot" or achieving "the goal" of the rpg, then no wonder it's hard to get them to bond. You really do have to work hard to make your npc dashing or twisted or fit them very carefully into the character's background or make them strike a chord with your player's psyche.  

However, if the enjoyment of playing is found in the interactions between characters, and characters and world, then you'll have a much easier time of it. If the pc's have broader motivations than amassing wealth and power, then they will have "real" motivations to interact with n-people they meet.  And then, sometimes they will hit it off and bond, sometimes they won't.  Just like in real life.  

It occurs to me, as I right this, that even when you are lucky enough to be playing with folks who are asking questions of the npc and who are interested in the world etc. it is still challenging to get co-gamers to engage with your npc's.  At least I've found it so.  Well, not to engage, but really to bond.  I just ran a long segment of play in a game where three of us normally fully co-gm.  (Please ask me about that experience, that's partly why I'm here on this forum :smile: and there were a couple situations that didn't work out how hoped.  Characters rubbed eachother the wrong way, rather than getting intrigued.   I'm still puzzling over that...

Ah, well.  There's my addition to the debate.  

Thanks for the interesting conversation!

Emily Care
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games
Blake Hutchins
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Posts: 614


« Reply #17 on: August 02, 2001, 02:10:00 PM »

Welcome to the Forge, Emily. And yeah, as someone who currently co-GMs a game, I'll bite: what about your three person full co-GM experience?

Best,

Blake
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Emily Care
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Posts: 1126


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« Reply #18 on: August 07, 2001, 03:38:00 PM »

Hello All, Hello Blake,

First off, I want to give a link to an excellent discussion of ways to encourage the type of play that supports deeper interaction and bonding between PC's and NPC's.  It follows:

Encouraging Role Playing
 
http://www.darkshire.org/~jhkim/rpg/styles/encouraging_rp.html

Next, in answer to Blake:

You are co-gming!!! Tell all!  But it might be better if we take this conversation to the "Narrative Sharing" topic I started after I posted this.  I don't want to take up too much out of topic space. :smile: I've described some of the way our game is working there..please write about your experiences!  

Back to the question at hand, my experience with character bonding is that roleplaying that emphasizes PC-NPC interaction, and gives more screen time and energy to NPC's allows much deeper interactions.  

Moment-to-moment experience oriented rather than goal oriented play allows for bonding to happen over a longer period of time.  You get to build up common experiences with NPC's and PC's.  Instead of building the connections into whatever character's backstory, it develops in the _story_.
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games
Knight
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Posts: 47


« Reply #19 on: August 09, 2001, 03:54:00 PM »

http://www.darkshire.org/~jhkim/rpg/styles/encouraging_rp.html



Hmm. Interesting, but definately not techniques that I'd ever use to try and encourage roleplaying. They seem far too confrontational.

*tell* the player what his character is feeling.


This should never, ever be done. I really can't stress how much of a bad idea this is.  You want to help the player's identification with the character, not destroy it.  
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greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #20 on: August 09, 2001, 05:01:00 PM »

Quote

*tell* the player what his character is feeling.

This should never, ever be done. I really can't stress how much of a bad idea this is.  You want to help the player's identification with the character, not destroy it.  

And I can't stress how GOOD of an idea this is.  I've used this with both my newbies and my old hands, and its worked wonderfully to get people into character.

In real life, we oftentimes don't have a choice, or make a conscious decision to feel or behave a certain way, we just DO.  Suddenly.  

In a role-playing game, this is a challenge: "Staring at the vampire, utter horror grips your heart and you you feel a panicked need to run from the predatory waves that flow from the creature," because now you have to PLAY that, none of this unrealistic, ego-based "I'm not scared of you, ancient red dragon," stuff; and it is also a great tool, because it helps link a player to the situation on a very human level, very intuitive level.  I know I get more out of a description of feeling, in that feeling "there" sense, than I do just a tactile description.

It is an especially good tactic with female players (yeah, yeah, sexism alert...honestly, females grasp/relate to/"get" emotion better than males).

However, this is definitely something to be discussed during the "group contract" phase...are the characters absolutely inviolate to the players?  Or aren't they?

Obviously, Knight feels that character mental states are utterly inviolate to the players...I think that's a standard assumption in play, but I don't know if it is necessarily a good assumption or tactic in play.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Uncle Dark
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« Reply #21 on: August 09, 2001, 09:34:00 PM »

Raven,

I see both sides of this one.  For the most part I agree with you, in that I see a certain amount of uncontrolability in emotion.  Some emotions just happen to you.  Especially if they're magically or technically induced (not the Orbital Mind Control Lasers again!).

On the other hand, I wouldn't usually (never say never) bitch at a player who didn't play the emotions I forced on the character the way I thought they should be played.  In the vampire example, it would be just as valid a response for the player to declare that the character stands firm despite the terror, as it would be to run.  So would a number of other things.

Now, it occurs to me that a lot of this may hinge on what stance the player is playing from.

In actor stance, a player may view a GM-induced emotion as a role-playing challenge.  Or the player may view it as the GM horning in on the one area in the game he has control of.

Other stances may be more flexible.

Lon
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Mytholder
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Posts: 205


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« Reply #22 on: August 10, 2001, 01:12:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-08-09 21:01, greyorm wrote:
Quote

*tell* the player what his character is feeling.

This should never, ever be done. I really can't stress how much of a bad idea this is.  You want to help the player's identification with the character, not destroy it.  

And I can't stress how GOOD of an idea this is.  I've used this with both my newbies and my old hands, and its worked wonderfully to get people into character.

Actually, I'm with Knight on this one. You can suggest or push me towards playing a character in a certain way, but you don't tell me how to play it. I've got my own view of the character which is obviously different to yours. If you want to make my character angry, then show him something that'll make him angry.

Quote

In real life, we oftentimes don't have a choice, or make a conscious decision to feel or behave a certain way, we just DO.  Suddenly.  

Yes...ish. We can still try to control ourselves, though, even in the most stressful situations.
Quote

In a role-playing game, this is a challenge: "Staring at the vampire, utter horror grips your heart and you you feel a panicked need to run from the predatory waves that flow from the creature," because now you have to PLAY that, none of this unrealistic, ego-based "I'm not scared of you, ancient red dragon," stuff; and it is also a great tool, because it helps link a player to the situation on a very human level, very intuitive level.  I know I get more out of a description of feeling, in that feeling "there" sense, than I do just a tactile description.

The problem arises when the GM's view of the situation contradicts the player. Ok, example time: I'm playing a mortal in a Vampire game. My character is a nice but fairly ordinary guy. A Vampire breaks into my house. I run to protect my family. Now, the GM has decided that it would really challenge me if my family got eaten when I was powerless to stop them.
GM: You're so scared you run away.
ME: My character wouldn't do that. That's his family there. They're more important to him than his own life.
GM: No they're not.

The GM is violating my conception of my character. If the PC was beaten up or hypnotised or something by the vampire, that's an external force over-riding the character...but telling the character "you are not who the player says you are" is just asking for trouble.

Quote

Obviously, Knight feels that character mental states are utterly inviolate to the players...I think that's a standard assumption in play, but I don't know if it is necessarily a good assumption or tactic in play.


No, I don't think anyone feels that mental states are " utterly inviolate", but heavy-handed stuff like "you feel this way, and you react in this way" is just annoying. You're taking all the power away from the player, and unless you've got a *really* good justification *and* the trust of the player, you're in trouble. In my experience, few things cause more indignation and irritation on the part of players than this. It's poor storytelling, to be honest.
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #23 on: August 10, 2001, 02:24:00 AM »

Well, the imposition of a state of mind does not necessarily imply taking over the PC like a puppet.  I could and would TELL such a character that they are afraid, that they want to run.  Then I let the player decide whether the character will run, or will stick it out, pounding heart and knocking knees and all.

On occassion I will impose physical movements as well, especially if they are autonomic reflexes.  One of my better action scenes was a field cavalry charge, and with the combination of charging, bouncing horses, dust, slit vision helms, etc, I felt completely free to tell players that their character had ducked, or reached for balance, things like that.  I am giving the player the experience of their animal body and monkey brain having a set of reflexes rather independant of the conscious intellect.  I tried to narrate this scene much as one might do a modern stuttered, cluttered video shoot; first person rather than top down, narrating impressions and stimuli as they were experienced rather than than in any analytical form.

So fair enough, this is not going to appeal to everyone.  But my players loved it, and their eyes were fairly glowing with the rush of it all. some of them remarked it was the first time they had really felt what a melee might feel like, and I was very gratified with these responses.  Its a form I hope to be exploring more deeply soon (whoo, I have recieved my copy of Lajos Egri's book).
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greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #24 on: August 10, 2001, 08:31:00 AM »

Quote

GM: You're so scared you run away.

Second time a person misunderstands me is the time it needs to be cleared up.  

Gareth (Myth), Lon, everyone take note: nowhere in my example did I say that the player ran away or forced him to take an action.  All I said was that he was scared, to death, utterly afraid, quaking in sheer, primal terror...with an URGE to run.

End of story.
What they want to do after that is their business.  This isn't about something as inanely stupid and childishly control-freakish as, "Your character runs away.  Hah.  You don't have a say in the matter."
Let's not get into barn and start making mischaracterizations.

Whether the character acts on that urge, on that terror, or confronts it and ignores it as best their able is the player's choice.  But being scared to death isn't.  Partly because I'm sick of "macho" players, ones who stare down ancient red dragons at third level instead of pissing in their pants, and smart off to something that can (and will) swallow them whole ("Hi, I have a Wisdom of 18 and NO COMMON SENSE.").

If I say you're scared, if I say there's a creepy feeling in the air, if I say the day is beautiful and warm and it makes you want to smile, that's that.
(Yes, quiver in terror, oh ye of the inviolate character school!)

Whether you do get creeped out, whether you do smile, that's up to you.  And I'm also equally capable of keeping in mind that the dour dwarf will not smile or feel happy because the day is warm and beautiful (remember: no more strawmen).

Quote

On occassion I will impose physical movements as well, especially if they are autonomic reflexes...I am giving the player the experience of their animal body and monkey brain having a set of reflexes rather independant of the conscious intellect.

This is exactly what I do, too, Gareth!  In fact, it came up in my game last night: one of the characters decided to try and blow the thick dust off something to get a better look, but instead only managed to stir it up and give himself a sneezing fit (which stirred up more dust).  This caused the character to involuntarily stumble backwards to get away from the dust.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Uncle Dark
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« Reply #25 on: August 10, 2001, 08:38:00 AM »

Raven,

Point taken.  Actually, I wasn't trying to imply that you would  do anything of the kind (remember, I started out saying that I agreed with you), just leaping from what you said in the direction I wouldn't normally go.

Sorry if that was unclear.

Lon
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greyorm
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« Reply #26 on: August 10, 2001, 08:52:00 AM »

Quote

Sorry if that was unclear.

Not a problem, Lon.  I just wanted to cut off the horse before the pass...before we started arguing about the horrors of forced character-actions, when what I was discussing was forced character feelings/intuitions.  Hence, I wanted to be extra clear! :smile:
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
contracycle
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« Reply #27 on: August 13, 2001, 02:03:00 AM »

Hmm, but surely, forcing a mindset is  a heavy prompt to certain actions?  Surely it limits the scope of "all available" plausible course of action.
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greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #28 on: August 13, 2001, 08:47:00 AM »

Quote

Hmm, but surely, forcing a mindset is  a heavy prompt to certain actions?  Surely it limits the scope of "all available" plausible course of action.

But we're always limited in our courses of action.  How is it that intruding on the mental state of the character is so horrifying when constant intrusion on the physical state of the character is so acceptable?

I simply don't see a plausible or acceptable reason to avoid playing the subconscious mind of a character.  Care to provide one?
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Blake Hutchins
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Posts: 614


« Reply #29 on: August 13, 2001, 09:43:00 AM »

I think the extent of the problem depends on the players. I agree with Raven that some kind of limited scale, lizard brain approach is very workable, so long as the choice of response stays with the player. However, two guys in my current Mage group will absolutely not accept anything externally imposed on their character's internal mindscape. That's the reason mind control poses such a difficult challenge in a story. Many, many players do *not* want their characters to submit to the intimate dominance represented by strong emotions or arcane mental influences.

In my group, "Joe" refuses to roleplay any "uncool" emotions, meaning he'll play grief, rage, or compassion, but he won't go with fear or self-doubt. He absolutely won't go with any flows if mind-altering stuff is involved (though he's cool tinkering with other players' minds). Joe's approach is to devote 100% of his gameplay effort to work around any emotion or mental state he doesn't like, to the extent of sulking if he doesn't swiftly break out of it. I've learned over the years that it's not worth challenging him on this, so I provide other emotional challenges and choices to him without imposing any unwanted reactions. Joe's somewhat of a control freak in real life, and so long as I don't challenge him on his core issues, he's a fine member of the group.

"Bob" has a somewhat different approach: he as a player simply ignores any emotional input he doesn't want, even if he fails rolls or is affected by some event or element that he expects others to submit to. It's doubly frustrating because when his character is offstage, he buries his nose in a book and refuses to engage emotionally with the game. I anticipate he will not join future games with this group.

This iteration of the original topic probably deserves its own thread, but.... How do the rest of you handle mind control stuff in play?

Best,

Blake

[ This Message was edited by: Blake Hutchins on 2001-08-13 13:46 ]
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