Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Big Exit

There are times when you get to a place with a character that you've had for a while where you want something different. Maybe playing the same person for a long period gets dull. Or maybe the character has issue that depress YOU. (I've had this. It was weird.) Perhaps, you gotten into a place where you feel like you've accomplished all your story goals, or resolved the central mystery around which your character was built.

Maybe you're just bored or you feel as if this particular well has run dry.

There are at least three plotlines that you could engage in that will enable you to step off the stage in a big way. And really, that's what you do in that situation. There's nothing wrong with death or destruction. The only thing that sucks is dying cheap or feeling like you were cheated. If you feel like you want to end a particular character's story, you should talk to an ST about pursuing one of these paths.

Over the High Side
Nearly every single WOD game i've ever participated in has mechanics for characters going crazy or completely losing control of themselves in some way. In CoC or Delta Green larps this sort of personal storyline is doubly heinous and horrific. Vampires going crazy and falling to the beast are one of the most galvanizing events in a vampire larp. Mainly because not only are such vampires a threat to the players but to the masquerade as well.
When you first crack like a pinata and spill your candy on the ground, you have to decide how it's going to play out. Will you go completely psycho-mental and run through the setting like some kind of mad force of nature. Or will you keep your madness well hidden until it's awful exposure and tragic denoument. Take a look at a maniac like John Doe in the movie "Se7en". Here's a guy who kept his grand guignol insanity hidden for YEARS while he set about his task. Not only that but he was able to completely document his awful slide into the abyss and still manage the money necessary to make his plans come to fruition.
Each choice has their possibilities. With the "wassail" option, you now have an opportunity to attack anybody in the larp and force the entire community to rise against you and destroy you (or at least capture and then put you where you can no longer harm anyone.) It's rare for this option to stretch past the game session it's enacted in. Although i have seen at least one vampire fallen to the beast be a thorn in the side of an entire community of vampires for at least 4 game sessions. and even then, he was brought in, and nominally "Cured".
If you go the other way, you might want to sit down with your ST and come up with the most insane and horrifying plan you can enact. You may drop little clues. You may even have most of the other players convinced,but unable to prove, that you're insane. But when it comes right down to it, you don't want them to KNOW or be able to stop you before you've unveiled your masterpiece of BIG CRAZY. You might even have a plan in mind that requires your death in order to complete or set in motion. (Like Captain Holtz, in the series Angel.) Add in the possibility of a massive hole in the Masquerade as a possible consequence, and not only will YOU have plenty to do, but so will every one else in the larp once you're gone.
And let me tell you, they'll start scrutinizing others carefully for signs of madness after you're gone. They'll talk about you in whispered tones thereafter like some bogeyman, or some demon, easily summoned. Not truly gone...

If that doesn't put a sick smile on your face, then i can teach you nothing. You lack the necessary sadism for this kind of work.

The Fall
Speaking of demons. There is, in nearly every larp, some dark agency lurking, working the corners, playing the angles. Hoping to turn one or more people to their dark purpose. Some trick. Some seduce. Some give gifts. Others offer services.
To join these dark forces is to sign your death warrant. Even in a city of depraved magi, enraged Pure Uratha, and Vampires (who are bad enough from the jump) Once you join with the "Other", you make yourself a target. Even the cruelest Invictus and a pushy Carthian will slap back to back when the Belial's Brood come riding over the horizon. Even an atheist can feel good siding with a religious crusader to stomp satanists flat.
Sooner or later though, if you're some kind of fifth column for the forces of darkness. Someone's going to twig. You may have to work fast or silence a few people before enough people know that you are in "that" camp and come round to wax you good and proper. Best case, they'll put you on trial first.
This particular storyline can take a few different forms. You might be co-opted into some dark cult or secret society by some one you trust. You might go in search of such dark powers in hopes that they can grant you your wildest fantasies. Perhaps they can help you satisfy your hunger for power, but they always want something in return. and therein lies the rub, because demons always play dirty.
Other times, the dark forces want something specific, like their freedom or something equally troubling, and are willing to make the approach to anyone they think might be willing to help. Dreams might lead a player to the right book. a chance meeting with a mysterious gentleman might open up a world of dark possibilities.
This actual plot is so open ended it might need a crank of its own some time down the road. In the mean time, there is only one rule that you must scrupulously follow if your are game mastering. The dark forces must be strictly limited in their power and limited in their ability to actual affect the world.
If they aren't they overshadow the game, and why would they need the players help in the first place?
If you are playing the demon follow these simple rules:
1) Say as little as possible. Let their imagination do the work for you.
2) Offer to do something you would have done anyway.
3) Make dire predictions. You don't really have to base them on anything, but it's always a bonus if you can.
4) Show them little. Do as much of your work offstage as possible. Let them wonder what your actual powers are.
5) Manifest indirectly in ways that demonstrate your ubiquity. (Make your players terrified of post-it notes.)

There is a very real and very ugly tendency in human being to try to pull people down who are trying to better themselves. How many times have you heard someone offer a person their vice of choice immediately after they try to quit. A husband might offer his wife a piece of cake, knowing she's on a diet. A person might press a pack of smoke onto a person trying to quit, simply because they are being aggravating.
This is why being a Boddhisatva kinda sucks. Not only are you delaying stepping into Nirvanna so that others may see your example and follow the path themselves, But you will also have people trying to drag you back down to their level. They'll see you a smug and will try to wreck you or destroy you. Maybe they'll succeed. Maybe they won't. in any event, eventually you will have to step off the stage of the world

To attack this point with prose a bit less purple, To seek Golconda or mystickal Transcendence or true union with the spirit world is a death sentence. Either in the literal sense, or in the sense that it will require a sort of "Ego death".
Let's take the example of Vampire. There comes a time when a vampire becomes interested in the concept of Golconda. Such a vaunted spiritual state requires certain things to attain. For most vampires, it means a willingness to separate themselves from vampire society almost completely. The cut and thrust world of vampire politics is nearly impossible for a serious seeker of spiritual truth to endure. It is filled with lies and nightly violence.
But let's say that you persevere. You build your humanity up as best you can (Often at the expense of purchasing new powers or whatever.) and you try to be a good person, You work hard to avoid the pitfalls of vampire society. You even try to be something of an example to your fellow vampires. Perhaps even cultivate a student or two along the path.
Unfortunately, the odds favor the house. They always do. Other vampires may look upon you as weak, heretical,naive or perhaps they see themselves in you and are afflicted with burning jealousy.
So there are couple of ways that this can play out:
1) You manage to grab the brass ring and gain what you desire. To many this may represent a cure from the vampiric condition. or perhaps a sort of vampiric sainthood. Such things can be lost of course and that's a story for another time perhaps. But once a person follows such a path, they should be allowed to step off the stage with grace and perhaps gain a bit in terms of their own personal legend before reappearing again...If ever.
2) You are forced to defend yourself or sacrifice yourself in some way. Of course, if this happens, it is a poor ST indeed who doesn't allow you a little Ben Kenobi action post mortem. And why not really. Vampires don't die slow, and so they rarely get a good death scene. Why not get an opportunity to say goodbye to the people who really matter. Friends and enemies alike.
3) You miss the mark. Maybe it's all just some bullshit legend and it never existed in the first place. Maybe you've done the work and you walked the walk, but when the chips were down, you didn't make the right choice. Once this happens, you still may not be long for this world. Because it occurs to me that if you made the effort and didn't get the brass ring, but instead, fell off and got dragged under the carousel for your trouble. Well, Odds are good that you go crazy or throw in your support to the dark side. (Spiritual sour grapes and all that.)

In all of these things, you should talk to your ST and see what you can do to map out a plan and pre-script some of the events and how they'll play out. At this point, you aren't really playing the game anymore, especially if you find yourself on these paths with the express understanding that your character will be out of the game because of the culmination of the storyline. As a result, you should attack these storylines with more of an idea of being an active performer for the other players. In other words. script as much as you comfortably can, and stay clear of as many plots that don't involve you directly.


At 9:37 AM, Anonymous Everett said...

Sometimes it is a good thing to just kill a character. The best reason I've ever come across for doing this is when the stage is too full of the same type of characters. Maybe your game has three Daughters of Cacophony and no Ventrue, maybe the Brujah and Gangrel are beginning to compete with each other over who's the best meat-shield but there are no "smart" characters in the coterie. Another good reason is so the ST can demonstrate that this storyline really is serious and the entire group could bite it if they aren't careful.

Do it as cheaply and meaninglessly as possible - after all, this is World of Darkness, and people die in stupid ways for senseless purposes all the time. Heck, they do that IRL. One example that jumps to mind was when Denise Crosby decided the bridge on "Star Trek: TNG" was too full (with a Klingon and all) and so Tasha Yar was killed by the slime monster just so he could demonstrate that he really was willing to kill. It came as a complete shock, but no-one ever forgot her. Another good example is when Wash was killed in "Serenity" - he's in his element, skirting death as the ship falls from the sky - and then, just as he manages to save the entire crew a pointy stick suddenly ends the character. Josh Weadon wanted to scare the audience into thinking that this might be it for the "Firefly" story; and he might just pull a TPK.

Of course, it goes without saying that even characters who die senselessly are never forgotten. Data's memories of Tasha were a vital part of his winning his later "sentience trial." Denise even came back long enough to have a baby Romulan (and wasn't she fun). The graveyard scene at the end of Serenity was almost cut from the movie, but aren't you glad it wasn't?

At 5:22 AM, Blogger Gryftir said...

There's a forth way to go. Promotion.

A character can be promoted out of the chronicle/game area. They can be an Archon to a Justicar, a Leader of a new Sept in a different part of the World, etc.

This is a great way to deal with characters that are overpowering a game... so long as they become NPCs.

It's a bad idea to have a PC Alastor. Trust me I've seen it.


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