Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Long Game

So you are going to play an elder vampire or an undying mummy or some near immortal magus or even some old raggedy garou with plenty of years but still dangerous and full of useful lore. You get an opportunity to play something front-loaded with points, but you've got to come up with some kind of background.

Now, i'm not suggesting you don't know how to build a character. Not a bit. but building a character with that much meat on it has a few subtleties. And if you want to build one that is not only fun to play and 3 dimensional, you have to be a little methodical about what you're building.

The point of this exercise is to enable you to tell stories. Stories about your character. Some you'll keep to yourself. Others you'll share with anyone. Others you tell to illustrate a point or to share an intimacy. People collect stories all their lives. People with longer lives have a lot more stories to tell. and it is this factor perhaps more than any other that give depth and texture to a character and makes them more than a Generic Vampire Elder Guy or whatever.

Mortal Life
So the first bit is obviously figure out who your person was back in the day. When you describe your person to another person you almost always use this bit as your handle. "Oh my character was an egyptian priest in his mortal life." Seems simple enough right?
Of course, choosing a place and time to come from is the single most important decision you can make about your character. It determines how much history you have to soak up for your character. I mean, if your going to play a guy who was an Egyptian priest it behooves you to bone up on the history.
But beyond this basic idea, is the fact that a person who was born in that time will have different attitudes he was raised with. He may have altered those attitudes over the course of time but many times they will still be his primary filter for dealing with new information. especially under stress. Don't believe me? Ask someone who was raised Baptist or Catholic. even if they no longer profess those faiths they still may have remnants of them in their structure of values.
In addition, It also determines what things will be comforting to a character. In a vampire Larp some years ago i played a character who was the son of a wealthy landowner and if he'd had a chance to do so, would have become a professor of history. Those choices in his mortal life led to an ongoing love affair with anything classical, even though he was embraced in the 1800's. Oddly, it made other vampires who didn't know him very well assume that he was far older than he was.
The point I'm trying to make though about being thorough with this part of things is that the supernatural thing is merely the icing on the cake. The human being underneath with all of it's loves and hates, strengths and neuroses... THAT, is the cake. Never ever forget that in the dizzying process of spending points and coloring in dots.

The change in states of affairs.
How did it happen. Where did it take place? Was it sudden and traumatic, or was it drawn out and ritualized. Did you seek it out, or did it seek you out? The change in a persons life that marks the end of their old life and the beginning of the new life, is the one story that you absolutely ought to be able to tell. Do yourself a favor and make sure that it is the one story that you know ALL of the details of.
Unless of course, it's the one story, that you know NONE of the details of. But hey, that's your choice, Still and all, those first few days and nights when the change in affairs begin to set in are the most vivid and those hard lessons learned are the ones most likely to stick with the character for the rest of his unusually long life.

Be wrong on occasion
Nobody is right all the time. The only people who play characters who are right all the time are twinks. You've been around a long time, On more than one occasion you've said or done things that have come back on you like an IRS audit. Maybe you smarted off to the wrong elder. Maybe you committed a crime. Maybe you were convinced that the horseless carriage was a passing fad and that there would be no need to diversify your holdings which are heavily involved in the horse trade. Be free to be able to occasionally tell stories about how you occasionally fucked up, There should be a couple at least. Some you could tell with deathly serious mein and others with a chuckle and smile. If you've got centuries, then even the most horrific things can be the sort of thing you can look back on and laugh about...Eventually.
If you're a vampire create a story about a bit of feeding that went tragically and spectacularly wrong. there ought to be at least one. You should have at least one story that involves villagers with torches and pitchforks chasing you about the countryside. (if only metaphorically.)

You know, Orphans, with no friends or romantic entanglements or indeed connections to the outside are kind of rare. Some people who are playing the long game insulate themselves from their mortal families. The hurt of losing someone being too hard to bear, they close themselves off. It's too bad you can't live like that.
So people who find themselves outside the normal stream of things may end up haunting the lives of their familes and friends and paramours. Perhaps there is bitterness or thoughts of revenge. Perhaps there is a desire to help and promote them. Whatever the case, the actual current ties to any living family or friends are the province of mechanics, But this doesn't mean that there can't be stories of course.
Picture your family. hold them in your minds eye as if they were having a picture taken. Picture you and them indulging in some typical activity. Picture your family coping with some crisis. Make them real in your minds eye. Invest in them emotionally.
Now you can tell real stories about them that will bring honest tears to your eyes. And maybe to the eyes of others.

Out of the Loop
Now when you sit down to write your characters history, you are not going to want to write every damn thing your guy ever did from that day to this. for one thing it won't leave you any room to improvise, for another, who wants to do all that work? Fortunately, there are a lot of things that you can do to fill that time out. If you're a vampire, you can always go into the long sleep,
You can travel the world. Although, you should perhaps resist the urge to have your character present at every significant event in history. (Unless you're cursed that way.)
There are historical eras that will be attractive to you of course, but they are sandwiched in between eras that you don't care about. There's always the possibility of spending some time in a monastery of something. "Black Plague? No, I really didn't have much to do with that. I was spending some time as goatherd." "Nazi Germany? My good fellow i was far too busy perfecting my juggling skills in the hills of Botswana." You know, crap like that.
If nothing better occurs to you, you could do worse than to just go "Happy,Dull,Crisis" over and over until you get to the present day. if nothing else the dull times in your history will at least explain the time you had to spend learning various languages and learning other junk.

Start a Journal
It's a good idea anyway. Start and keep a journal of your everyday dealings within the day to day business of the larp. You can of course go back and talk about older days and how today's activities remind you of the past. This gives you an opportunity to get some of those stories down in a useful form, creates a lovely prop that can be used in game, and may have far reaching implications long after the character has met an unpleasant ends.
Journals can also give you an in-character reason for suspecting that your mind may have been tampered with. If your journals tell you that you did one thing but your memory says another. Well, most people may not suspect that you've got a journal.
In fact, an in-character Journal can be such a remarkable tool, that it may deserve a crank report all it's own.

The business of living a greatly extended lifespan can be remarkably complicated when it comes to the arena of fiscal acumen. Some immortals develop an "easy come-easy go" attitude toward cash. While others spend great energy to come up with iron clad wills leaving their money to themselves and plans to preserve the empire even if they personally are out of the loop for a hundred years. Whatever the case may be. An immortal life can develop a whole lot of junk. More than a U-stor-It can handle. And one man's junk can be another man's collectable. So while a vampire might crawl out of the earth with nothing more than what he's got in his pockets, he might have a coffin full of tchotchkes somewhere, easily sellable on E-bay. If you've got the points, you can bump your cash-flow considerably. but you should clear such a thing with your ST.
Of course, you might consider what your character might keep in her hope chest and what they mean to her.

Now we get into the meat of things where other folks are concerned. From being around, you might know some things. Things that other people don't know. Things that you can really only get from the ST. Hopefully, your ST has taken the time to build a fairly comprehensive history. Naturally, the ST will not have entrusted all of the nooks and crannies of this history to the body politic. If you've been around for a long time, perhaps you know of some of these nooks and crannies. You might go ask your ST whether that's the case.

Tangled in the Web
Now it's time to get the others involved. If you've been around an area for while, you and the supernaturals in the area are likely to have met one another and exchange recipes and whatnot.
Wait. No...
More likely there is some kind of web of love and hatred extending back over the years. Slights, betrayals, failed romances, moments of weakness, secret trysts, and all the sort of things that make for good soap opera. Naturally this is ripe for all sorts of pre-scripting but you can even improvise bits of a shared past. besides, it's always fun to look at a fellow player and say something on the order. "You know, this is like that time you got ripped on Absinthe and decided to storm the bastile...all by yourself. Remember?"

Sono Finito


At 3:00 PM, Anonymous Acid Reign said...

.....I never understood White Wolf's fascination with dots. You color in dots on your character sheet, instead of recording a number. The sheets are long artworks of little rings, with a few colored in. Because some players couldn't live without having at least one mega-high discipline, they had to add more rings. So there are more and more. The whole sheet's a mosaic of rings! There's not even much room to write things. You might want to have a background, maybe a sentence or two, but with the tiny lines, you are lucky to get out "ex-military construction worker," and folks need a geriatric lighted magnifying glass to even make it out.

.....And with the dots, is anyone really skilled enough to completely color one in, without going outside the lines? I never could. I'd work and work and work on my single dot of Streetwise, but when I stopped and looked, there'd still be a white speck or two. So I'd work some more on it. After a while, the pencil goes through the paper, so that you don't really have a dot, it's just a hole. An inky void of Streetwise, that bleeds through on the table. A paper punch would be quicker and neater! Then whoever was helping me generate a character would announce that I got 20 more freebie dots! Yikes! That's a lot of coloring!

.....And then you have the dreaded elder sheet. How many dots of Auspex does she have? One, two, three... Was that eight, or nine?

.....I'm convinced that Rein Hagen decided that good role-players are too stupid to deal with actual numbers!

.....There's always players who can't deal with the standard powers, or the standard amount of points. These are the ones who want to play the "veteran archer from the Battle of Hastings." That way, they can usually summon up a pool of at least 7 or 8 dice on any situation. And of course, that's teens of dice in whoop-ass situations!

.....One facet of the old, out of print "Elders" book that I liked was the rule that each power above level 5 required the player to select a derangement. I despise having to dictate behaviour to players. I hate frenzy dice, self-control rolls, etc. I loathe keeping up with player derangements, meritsnflaws, etc. Still, for the Elder twink who's convinced you to let him do it, a couple of soft, dangly derangements are quite useful. When he gets too annoying, a good hard knee in those things will bring him back to earth...

.....It's also worth noting that some ST's will be intimidated by a player turning in a 10,000 word background document. I've seen these things filed and never looked at again. And I've written some for games that lasted less than a month. Do I recycle it elsewhere? I could have been playing Megaman X, or sleeping with that valuable time! Trying to sound out the ST on what sort of detail she wants is the way to go, I think!

.....Lastly, the more you write, the more you have to remember whilst playing that one...


PS: I like the new password game. Maybe the sales-leeches will pass on having to develop OCR spam-bots!


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