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“I’m Just Playing My Character”: Roleplaying and the Choices We Make

Ramblings

Ramblings

“Don’t be a dick” — Wheaton’s Law

If you’ve played roleplaying games for any length of time, you’ve heard this refrain at least once (or at least some variation of it):

“I’m just playing my character…”

It’s usually when the player that utters it has just had their character pull off a really dick move. Chances are pretty good they’re playing an evil character, or at least a “morally gray” character. And they’re doing something that is screwing over the other players.

“I’m just playing my character…”

This is the defense offered for the dick move in question. That they are engaging in proper roleplaying by pulling off this dick move and thus playing “right.” They can’t be held accountable for the dick move because they are roleplaying what their dickish character would actually do in the circumstance.

But, to me, this just doesn’t hold water.

Because, as players, our characters are made up of the choices we make. Literally. They are nothing more than the choices we make. Laid out as statistical models on paper (or virtual paper in some cases). And we, as players, are responsible for the choices we make. We just are. And if we choose to play a dickish character that does dickish things and chooses to make strife in the party and ruin a perfectly good game, then we as players should be held accountable for that choice.

Because we could have chosen otherwise.

I’m not saying we should always choose a goody-goody character or even a 100% cooperative character. Sometimes, character strife causes drama which is good for the narrative which is good for the game. But unless you’re a good enough player to know when strife is good for the game, and when it’s not, then maybe you should try playing a cooperative character. Because there’s dramatic tension and there’s bringing the game to grinding halt. And you don’t want to be “that guy/gal.”

You have to be able to strike a balance between playing a jerk and still being able to get things done with the other players. If you’re always at odds, then you’re not getting anywhere and it ceases to be fun. It turns into a chore. And no one’s having fun anymore. Sure, your method acting may be on point, but no one wants to play anymore. And what’s the point in that?

The thing is, while this is a roleplaying game, and even I emphasize good roleplaying at my table, it is first and foremost a game. It is a social interaction. The number one rule is to have fun. And your ability to roleplay comes second to everyone’s good time at the table. So you have to make a choice–and sometimes that choice is to take the path of cooperation and find a explanation for it later. The game may be better for it.

Little Earthquakes

rc_newlogoSo this past weekend I ran my first convention game at ReaperCon, here in North Texas. How did it go?

It was FANTASTIC!

I ran a Dresden Files RPG/Fate Core game set in Portland, Oregon called “Little Earthquakes.” The players were all friends and colleagues of a murdered college student who died on the very day that a series of earthquakes began plaguing the city.

I had a great group of players who really took my pre-gens and ran with them. There was a mix of experienced players and those that hadn’t played this system, but I provided quick reference sheets, which helped. I can’t emphasize enough how wonderful the players were and how important they were in making this a great game.

I was nervous, but was able to rein it in and run a successful session. I luckily had the help of some players who were veterans to keep me on the path, rules-wise, but still, I feel pleased with the job I did–which is rare. I usually beat myself up after a session with all the things I know I did wrong. This one, not so much.

Some things I learned:

  • Schedule more time. I only allotted myself 3 hours for the session and I needed at least an hour more (we went over, but, fortunately, no one had my table reserved after me).
  • The props I had helped. The help sheets and photo-quality placards to place in front of players to identify their character helped immensely.
  • Get with the con folks about “goodies” for scheduled games. I wasn’t really briefed by the con organizers, but apparently I should have had ‘Reaper Bucks’ and badge ribbons for my players when they completed a game. I managed to get them afterwards, but now I know.
  • Give each player a moment to shine. This is something I did right and it really helped everyone have a good time.
  • Give bennies for creativity. It’s a convention game, not a campaign. If a character is being creative with the rules or the setting, go with it. As long as its fun, roll with the punches.

Would I do it again? I think so. I really enjoyed myself and the players seemed to enjoy themselves as well. I felt really good–elated–afterwards. Yes, I just might do this again.

See You at ReaperCon!

Reaper

ReaperCon 13, sponsored by Reaper Miniatures, will be held October 20 – October 23, 2016 at the Premier Event Center in Lewisville, Texas. I’ve never attended the convention, though it’s only a few miles from my home. This year not only will I be attending, but I will be running a game at the con.

I’m more than a little bit nervous.

I’ve never run a game in a convention setting before. I’m nervous, but am looking forward to the experience. I’m getting myself well-prepared with my scenario, making sure that I have plenty of supplies so that folks can just sit down and play, and trying to make this as much of a welcoming experience for my players as I can. I figure if I can do that, I’ll be less nervous as well.

So, if you’re in North Texas in late October, come on by. There are 10 player slots at my table. I’ll be running a Dresden Files RPG/Fate Core game for the Red Dirt Roleplayers group on Saturday afternoon at 3 pm.

Here’s a schedule of gaming events for the con…

Hope to see you there!

Campaign Assessment: Taking Stock

Tips & Tricks

Tips & Tricks

Anytime you participate in a long-term endeavor, it is good to take stock of how you are doing and why you are doing it. The same can be said of a role-playing campaign. You want to be sure that the players are still invested in their characters and that they are still getting something out of the campaign. You want to sure that the campaign is still on-track with their goals. If you don’t have player buy-in, you are not going to have a successful campaign.

Recently, when my players reached 6th level in our Pathfinder campaign, I decided to do a campaign assessment. I wanted to know how things were going in our campaign and if I needed to change anything to make things better.

These are the questions I asked of my group. I asked them to answer them as players, not as their characters, and to answer them as honestly as possible.

  1. Overall, are you enjoying the campaign so far?
  2. What, specifically, are you enjoying about the campaign?
  3. What, specifically, are you not enjoying about the campaign?
  4. When you created your character, what were some of the goals you set for your character?
  5. Have you met any of those goals? Are you on track to meeting any of those goals?
  6. Going forward, what are some of the short term plans you have for your character?
  7. Going forward, what are some of the long term plans you have for your character?
  8. Do you wish to continue with the campaign?

I then took all of these answers and applied them to the campaign. Turns out I did need to make a couple tweaks. I ended up changing the experience track from the moderate to the fast track and have also made some behind-the-scenes changes to the storyline to try and accommodate some individual character goals. Now, I hope, I’m going to have more player buy-in and a more successful campaign. And I wouldn’t have necessarily known I needed to make these changes if I hadn’t stopped, taken stock, and asked questions.

Pathfinder Humble Bundle

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