Wednesday, June 22, 2005

How the other half lives

Every once in a while you get smacked in the face with something so mind-shatteringly obvious that you wonder how it was that you managed to walk around without truly understanding it.

Let me explain.

No..It'll take too long. Let me sum up...

I belong to a larp that I am overly fond of. I have spoken in these page of this larp and my admiration for those who run it ("We have plenty of Plot. Don't make us use it.") It is so good that I've even begun to lose my taste for tabletop play. (Don't worry it'll probably pass. I've got too many books.)

One of the groovy things about this larp is the varying levels of game wisdom that people bring to the mix. Some of us are crusty old timers, Some have some experience, some are writers in the field, some have played a con larp or two.

Some of the people in this Larp have never played a tabletop rpg.

I'd like to repeat the above sentence in order to stress it's importance.

Some of the people in this Larp have never played a tabletop rpg....And they are among our best players.

This is something of a shock to my system but it is unassailably true. Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. I have this friend, lets call her Gertrude (not her real name). Gertrude is a very talented actress and a bit of a history buff. I and another friend cajoled and badgered her into taking a look at this scene and seeing if it was something she would dig on.

Our Larp use Laws of the Night as a basis and is set in Kentucky in the 1800's. I play one of a very small number of Vampires. Gert came in and with a little bit of coaching, took to the whole thing intuitively. We were astounded. She was a natural. Oh sure, whenever game system junk reared it's ugly head then things got a bit dicey for her but otherwise she had charm and grace and had most of the menfolk eating out of her dainty hand. (Not that this is a difficult feat.) She moved among the captains of industry and southern belles like a seasoned intriguer. It was a joy to watch. In two game session she had signed a deal with the devil to wreak horrible vengeance upon me for slaying her husband and had become one of the main antagonists of the game.

Even better was to be in a scene with her alone where she felt like she could pull out all the stops. I could feel my level of play rising to match hers...

Here's where the super obvious thing comes in: There is two sides to good game play. System and Scene.

Gamer types come in knowing more about system. They can handle combat and other craziness but at times they have trouble maintaining character. If interesting things ain't going on they might drop out to deal with other things, or simply chat.

But new persons have only Scene to work with. They don't care about systems at all. Systems get in the way. (An attitude that eventually returns when you get a certain distance in gamer experience. Newbies play the scene. Just going around

This in my arrogant opinion is something that needs to be encouraged. In fact it should be studied by supposedly sophisticated Gamer types.

Another fella in our larp is a relatively new guy, He's a theater student and plays one of the mortal characters in our game. His character got caught in a crossfire during a serious misunderstanding. He had a loaded pistol in his hand and could have returned fire.

But he didn't do that...He turned around, and dove through the window behind him and got away without getting shot. How many gamer types do you know that would have done that? Odds are good they would have started blasting away and trusted to the system to keep them alive.

This guy realized that the natural response in a situation like that was "OH SHIT!" and he bailed.

Learning how to play a scene, stay in character as much as possible and make something out of nothing is something that us Gamer types should learn better. I think it's actually kind of neat and poetic that we can learn it from people who are new and running on their intuition rather than rules mastery.

Sono Finito


At 6:16 PM, Anonymous Acid Reign said...

.....I used to drive my gamers crazy with NPCs running away. Real people don't stand around Desperado-style in the middle of the street spraying bullets! If they do, they will be dead in short order... Elders NEVER do this, or they wouldn't have made it! They co-locate away, and remember who dared ambush them! The troublesome bad guy is probably hiding in a building with a flash suppressor, firing through a keyhole with them specially-'chanted puissant shield-eatin' home-smithed darksteel rhino-hollowpoint rounds. How much Auspex did you say you have? This is probably the Assamite assassin the elder hired after you spat blood on her art... (Yes, someone did this to a Toreador elder!)

.....I've tried to run my smarter NPCs by the Machiavelli saying about small injuries: not injuring your enemies and leaving them where they can seek revenge!

.....It's usually a struggle with newer, 20th century-raised gamers, to get them to show respect in character. "Would your character really say that to the Prince/Queen/Sept Leader? There's no Bill of Neonate 1st Amendment Rights, here!"

.....I'm guessing the drama folk and actors are far better about staying in character. Too bad we only had one in our circle, and he went to work for NASA and moved.



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