Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Vampire 30 Day Challenge Day 10 Favorite Character you HAVEN’T played

I don’t have one.

I used to. When I was younger I used to have an entire stable of characters just raring to go. Some were fully stated out are ready to play, others were my go-to archetypes that I would just need to “tweak” to fit into any given system. You mentioned pretty much any game I had ever heard of, and I’d have a character complete with back story, goals, and dreams waiting for you to say “roll for initiative.”

Nowadays, not so much. I finally got burned out on such characters. They never really seemed to work, or to fit into the game I was playing. Half the time I felt like my personal dream character was better suited to a life as an NPC—a walk on role, one who would then wander off to live his story somewhere else. It was almost as you can’t just “plug and play” a character into a role-playing game!
Or at least, not a “modern” one. I’m sure that such characters work find for an “open gaming table” style game, where the action is exploring a specific set piece dungeon or environment, and the characters are free to be there or not, or to travel to an entirely different GM’s dungeon at any moment. But for the ones with more defined settings and conflicts and, for lack of a better work, “narratives” these types of characters have never really worked for me.

Instead, I want to sit down with the Storyteller before the game and find out all I can before creating a character. The best situation, of course, is when the entire group comes together and work out what kind of game they want to play, maybe even develop a bit of the setting as a team, and then everyone makes characters based on that.

But, that’s not always the way things work, and it certainly isn't required for it be a good game. Even still, I want to know something about the setting and the kind of game the Storyteller wants to run. Tell me about the themes you want to explore, the role of Humanity (or Paths), what “types” of characters you’re looking for, and what sort of shenanigans you think they’re going to get up to.

I don’t want to make the “perfect” character, but I do want to make someone who is going to be part of and enjoy the narrative. I've been in too many games where the Storyteller told us to make whatever we wanted. When we did, we found out that we were cut off from the most interesting parts of the game, since we ended up being “outsiders” to the power politics, or we’d be dragged along on a quest that none of had any particular interest in.

And the thing is, often these games were somewhat interesting, and I wished my character was a bit different, particularly after we had played for a while and had figured out what was really going on. I feel like I could have played the same character mechanically, but just a slight change in his personality would have made him a perfect fit for the game the Storyteller wanted to run.
I’m not sure why these Storytellers played things so close to the vest. Perhaps they hadn’t created enough yet to share, or maybe they were afraid of spoiling things by telling us in advance. So, instead of knowing that we were to play “members of a conspiracy within the Sabbat to root out infernalists, and you will be travelling around the world gathering evidence of their crimes. Of course, no one can know what you’re really up to, so you need to pretend to be just another nomadic pack” we were told “make Sabbat characters.” The “real campaign” was slowly revealed to us, but by that point we didn't care about the infernal conspiracy, and instead just wanted to find some territory of our own, and follow up on our characters personal goals.

And maybe that’s it—maybe some Storytellers want to make it more cinematic by keeping the “real” story under wraps. I suppose it’s sort of like Star Wars, where Luke thinks he’s big adventure is going to be going to Mos Eisely, travelling to Alderaan, and delivering the droids, never realizing what he’s really going to get into. And that can be cool, but you have to work with the players to pull that off.
The players are not the audience of an RPG, they are co-authors. It’s one of the reasons I balk at the term “Storyteller” and prefer GM. The Story is not what I've written in my notes and am now showing with the players. The Story is what happens at the table, between all us, as a group. The GM should be as excited about and invested in the characters as the players are.

So, yeah, I don’t have any favored PC’s on deck waiting to go, and I don’t want you to come to my game with a pet PC you've always wanted to play. I want to make the characters and the world work together and feed off each other, not just be plugged in and ready to go.

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