Sunday, February 03, 2008

Bounce, Awesome, and Paydon's Curse

Bounce, Awesome, and Paydon's Curse

Hello it's me.
Yeah, i know. it's been a while. I've been playing a bit, running a bit. Doing a show or two. Keeping busy.
I don't like to joggle y'alls elbows unless i feel I've got a thing or two to say.
And i like to have a FEW things to tell you, so as not to nickel and dime y'all.

Recently, i had a romantic setback. That's not the point of my story though. It was merely what helped me to see something basic.
I created a character for a game. It wasn't super special, but i liked it, and it had a certain je nais se qua. I met the lady in question and something between us clicked. And from that point on, i was as one dead...

Nah, i'm joking, but there was a certain chemistry. At least i thought. I was inspired with the character because of the way we bounced off one another. How inspired was I?

I wrote a book, and dedicated it to her.

No, I'm entirely serious.
Pinky's Book
Granted, i cannot actually publish the book of that character's exploits, because it's all kinds of trademark infringe-y. But i can distribute the link to the file as long as i don't make money off of it. I can even have Lulu print me a copy or two, if i'd like to gift it to someone.
But money was never the point. I started out writing an in-character journal, took a turn into offering advice from games and my own experiences, looked for way to insert that character's back story into the book. But as i went on, it was clear to me that what i was writing was something that had gained a momentum of it's own. And it gained that momentum because, i thought she would think it was cool.

I don't know if she's even read the thing. But that's, again, beside the point.
What i learned is that characters, are not interesting. Well, not entirely, Characters are not interesting in and of themselves. No personality is interesting in a vacuum. What makes characters interesting is the way they interact with one another. Too many times, i see people creating a character with not a single seconds thought of how it will interact with the other members of the party or the Larp. Which is the reason why the moody loner character never works. it works fine in the comic books, or in the movies, but never in a form of art that is more interactive. The dynamic is different.

The way i learned it, is because now i'm wondering exactly how i'm going to continue with this character now that the relationship that gave it vital spark is deader than dog shit. There are a number of options open to me, and i'll probably choose something at some point and proceed with it. But i don't know how the character is going to work now that i'm not getting the bounce that i started with.
Bounce is important It is what differentiates our art-form from novel writing. which is essentially a lonely activity. Even Chat gaming is more collaborative than that.

I have a friend who is having some difficulties in a game he's in. he keeps getting shut down by the GM anytime he wants to do anything at all. He says that none of the other players are being dissed in this way. I counseled him to quit. But it pointed up certain basic problems i've seen in all kinds of games and in all kinds of places.
Q: Why do people play Role Playing Games?
A: Because they don't have enough Awesome in their lives. They want more Awesome. They might have some, but obviously they don't feel they have enough. That's why they try on other lives, other skins, other destinies... They want more Awesome.

So, when you step on a player's dick, you'd better be certain that your reasons are sound. "Game balance" is important, maintaining some control over "Cheese" and "Twinkery" is important. But they aren't always the most important elements of a game. There ARE times when you should throw caution to the wind and allow the players wild-ass scheme to work. There ARE times when you should allow the characters access to Nukes, and Attack Zeppelins, and Mil-spec weapons, and any other crazy piece of game breaking equipment their dark little hearts lust after. There ARE times when you should allow the player with the crazy glint in his eye to stand off the bad guy all by himself and say "You Shall Not PASS!", No matter how bad-ass the bad guy is. Some systems encourage this, others discourage it completely, but it is essentially up to you to figure out the when and where.

No game is fun if the GM never let's his foot off your throat. No game is fun if the NPC's are the only ones who get to be cool. No game is fun if the puzzle is unsolvable, or might as well be, pixelbitch.

Now, this is not to say that you should let the players walk all over you, that you should give them all they want. You run games because you want to tell stories that are Awesome. Maybe this involves people who rise up against impossible odds to save the world, and maybe they get the Rockford files shafting afterwards, As long as you and the players are on the same page about all that, go nuts sez i. But games are a negotiation between players and GM's This social contract reads as follows: Let me be awesome, and i'll help the story be awesome.

Players and GM's need to be on the same page about this basic premise. They also need to negotiate the basic idea of what constitutes awesome in a particular game. And the best part is that this negotiation is ongoing and can be modified as you go.

Some players ideas of awesome may rub you the wrong way. They may be far off base about what you'd like to accomplish in your game. But if you get out of the habit of discounting things out of hand, you might find that you negotiate your way to middle ground that you can both live with. And if not, you can at least know that you tried.

Paydon's Curse
I don't like a lot of Westerns. There are a few i dig on, Unforgiven, The Quick and the Dead, 3:10 to Yuma, A few others. But one of my favorites is Silverado.
There's an interesting bit in the movie where Brian Denehy's corrupt sheriff explains why there is such bad blood between Paydon and Tyree. It all had to do with a dog that Tyree abused. Normally, Paydon was a cold blooded prick and a criminal to boot, but for some reason, he beat the ever loving shit out of Tyree for abusing that dog.
"Yep...Never can tell what Paydon's gonna care about." is how he finishes the story.
it is one of the most illustrative moment of character exposition i have ever seen and completely encapsulates a complicated man like Paydon competely.

Over the course of years, i've adopted for certain characters what i've come to call "Paydon's Curse" The character is invariably an anti-hero, sometimes, even an outright villain with a complicated emotional apparatus. And the thing that makes them interesting that throws them into sharp relief as a three dimensional character is their ability to instantly care about someone or something. Without even necessarily knowing why at first.

If you want a character to become active in play, start to question what he cares about and why. Look for opportunities to care about things. It will give you places to go and things to do. Even if the things you care about are impossible. It's what makes Don Quixote an incredible character and an inspiration to us all. Characters who care about nothing. DO nothing. And they aren't interesting.

These are things that have been gelling in my mind for the last little bit. I'm trying to get them to be a little more concrete and articulable. I hope they help.

Sono Finito


At 12:50 PM, Anonymous Everett said...

Here's a RPG system that encourages awesome: Wushu Open.


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