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D&D General Styles of Roleplaying and Characters

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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
This is the same kind of argument used when it's claimed that authors feel the characters are writing themselves -- it's not really true. You're authoring the character. At no point is anything about the character at stake. It's a safe space to imagine within.

And, again, this is fine and good and I enjoy doing this. I don't try to dress it up flowery-like, though, to try and claim my safe acts of authoring are exploration of the character. Everything that's happening is me making choices about how to express the character -- nothing is discovered about the character through play.

I'm not trying to bag on you, here, but to point out a pretty salient difference in how roleplaying can be approached. I tend to see that the strong aversion to staking character is closely tied to primary experience or preference for games where the GM has all or almost all other authorities in the game -- like D&D. Here it's the only holdout where the player has full authority to declare character while the GM presents the world. Even here, there's close correlation to play in the Trad or Neo-Trad styles. And, again, nothing at all wrong with that. I'm quite enjoying the Trad Rime of the Frostmaiden game I'm in right now, but I make no qualms that I'm exploring my character even when I put on the funny voice and playact in character -- nothing about my characterization is ever at stake due to the game. Any changes I make are because I want to.
Funny. You keep telling people that what they can't do, despite people telling you that they do indeed find their PCs taking unexpected turns.

I'm not claiming people are channeling someone, but the decisions people make aren't always conscious ones. It may never be true for you, but it's part of the creative process for a lot of people.

Believe it or not, people aren't all like you. When I get into role playing, DMing or writing stories, there's times when it just flows out without conscious forethought. It doesn't really matter how you label it, but your "it's all you" only tells part of the story.
 

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pemerton

Legend
Alternative, same character, but this time in the situation I have my character try to be brave, and so stake my bravery on an action. If I fail, though, my character doesn't act brave, they do something else, perhaps they break and run in the crucial moment. Here, I have a belief about my character, I test it, and I learn something new -- my character is a coward when the chips are down. This is revelation flowing from the character to me.
This happened in one of the BW episodes I posted (a couple of times) upthread: Aedhros drew his black-metal knife Heartseeker, ready to murder the innkeeper for his gold. The GM called for a Steel check to perform this cold-blooded action, and I failed and so Aedhros hesitated.

I learned that Aedhros is not as ruthless as he aspires to be.

I'm not sure I understand how you are getting to explore the character, though. Can you provide an example? Maybe a precipitating event that reveals something about the character to you? Because, given the insistence on absolute authority over the character, I don't follow that any change can happen to the character that isn't just you authoring it -- what are you exploring?

<snip>

Where does having absolute authority over character result in being able to explore that character and discover things about them?
I think there are moments of player decision that can also be experienced as exploration of the character: the situation in play calls for some sort of decision to be made, and that decision has to - in some fashion - encompass or reflect the weight of what has come before; and so while there may be indefinitely many ways of going forward, there are also constraints that mean not any way of going forward is possible.

Here's another BW example, a fairly long quote for context before the final couple of paragraphs that show what I mean:
My PC is Thurgon, a warrior cleric type (heavy armour, Faithful to the Lord of Battle, Last Knight of the Iron Tower, etc). His companion is Aramina, a sorcerer. His ancestral estate, which he has not visited for 5 years, is Auxol.

At the start of the session, Thurgon had the following four Beliefs - The Lord of Battle will lead me to glory; I am a Knight of the Iron Tower, and by devotion and example I will lead the righteous to glorious victory; Harm and infamy will befall Auxol no more!; Aramina will need my protection - and three Instincts - When entering battle, always speak a prayer to the Lord of Battle; If an innocent is threatened, interpose myself; When camping, always ensure that the campfire is burning.

Aramina's had three Beliefs - I'm not going to finish my career with no spellbooks and an empty purse! - next, some coins!; I don't need Thurgon's pity; If in doubt, burn it! and three instincts - Never catch the glance or gaze of a stranger; Always wear my cloak; Always Assess before casting a spell.

<snip>

Friedrich took them as far as the next tributary's inflow - at that point the river turns north-east, and the two character's wanted to continue more-or-less due east on the other side of both streams. This was heading into the neighbourhood of Auxol, and so Thurgon kept his eye out for friends and family. The Circles check (base 3 dice +1 for an Affiliation with the nobility and another +1 for an Affiliation with his family) succeeded again, and the two characters came upon Thurgon's older brother Rufus driving a horse and cart. (Thurgon has a Rationship with his mother Xanthippe but no other family members; hence the Circles check to meet his brother.)

There was a reunion between Rufus and Thurgon.

<snip>

I mentioned that Aramina was not meeting Rufus's gaze, and the GM picked up on this - Rufus asked Thurgon who this woman was who wouldn't look at him from beneath the hood of her cloak - was she a witch? Thurgon answered that she travelled with him and mended his armour. Then I switched to Aramina, and she looked Rufus directly in the eye and told him what she thought of him

<snip>

Rufus rode on and now has animosity towards Aramina. As the GM said, she better not have her back to him while he has a knife ready to hand.

The characters continued on, and soon arrived at Auxol,. The GM narrated the estate still being worked, but looking somewhat run-down compared to Thrugon's memories of it. An old, bowed woman greeted us - Xanthippe, looking much more than her 61 years. She welcomed Thurgon back, but chided him for having been away. And asked him not to leave again. The GM was getting ready to force a Duel of Wits on the point - ie that Thurgon should not leave again - when I tried a different approach. I'd already made a point of Thurgon having his arms on clear display as he rode through the countryside and the estate; now he raised his mace and shield to the heavens, and called on the Lord of Battle to bring strength back to his mother so that Auxol might be restored to its former greatness. This was a prayer for a Minor Miracle, obstacle 5.

<snip>

As it turned out, I finished up with 7 successes. So a beam of light shot down from the sky, and Xanthippe straightened up and greeted Thurgon again, but this time with vigour and readiness to restore Auxol. The GM accepted my proposition that this played out Thurgon's Belief that Harm and infamy will befall Auxol no more! (earning a Persona point). His new Belief is Xanthippe and I will liberate Auxol. He picked up a second Persona point for Embodiment ("Your roleplay (a performance or a decision) captures the mood of the table and drives the story onward").

Turning back to Aramina, I decided that this made an impact on her too: up until now she had been cynical and slightly bitter, but now she was genuinely inspired and determined: instead of never meeting the gaze of a stranger, her Instinct is to look strangers in the eyes and Assess. And rather than I don't need Thurgon's pity, her Belief is Thurgon and I will liberate Auxol. This earned a Persona point for Mouldbreaker ("If a situation brings your Beliefs, Instincts and Traits into conflict with a decision your PC must make, you play out your inner turmoil as you dramatically play against a Belief in a believable and engaging manner").
At least as I have experienced it, this is standard BW stuff: the rule against resolving conflict via consensus, which pushes play towards checks whenever something meaningful is at stake, produces these sequences of events where the outcomes are surprising and sometimes wonderful and sometimes less so. And it's against that backdrop, and only against that backdrop, that the player gets to exercise their (largely unfettered) power to change their PC's Beliefs and/or Instincts.

It's true that those changes are acts of authorship. There are elements of the system that can mandate changes of Belief, but not very many and not all that common.

But because they are being made against the backdrop of described, and also with an eye on where things are heading - because you can't earn artha unless your Beliefs and Instincts are feeding into the play, as per the example I posted; and that's a two-way street - the authorship is constrained and directed in various ways. Which is what can give it the feel of exploration. It's quite different from (say) choosing Beliefs and Instincts at the point of initial PC building.
 

pemerton

Legend
Question for everyone here : How would you feel if either the GM or the player of another player character wanted to have a conversation to critique your play or discuss why you performed a particular action? Would you be open to critiques around fictional positioning?
We talk from time-to-time about why particular actions were performed - often one-on-one after the session rather than in a group context, and as "critique" I would say it's at the gentler end.

Can you elaborate on what you've got in mind with fictional positioning? Do you mean the "authenticity"/"credibility" of the action vis-a-vis established characterisation? Or something else?
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
This is the same kind of argument used when it's claimed that authors feel the characters are writing themselves -- it's not really true.

Are you claiming that it's not litterally true that those authors' characters write themselves? Or are you claiming it's not true that those authors feel that the characters are writing themselves?

If the former, sure. It's trivially true that fictional characters aren't writing anything, but that's completely missing the import of authors describing how they feel when writing. If the latter, I reject your claim on the grounds that you can't possibly know those authors' feelings better than they do.

You're authoring the character. At no point is anything about the character at stake. It's a safe space to imagine within.

And, again, this is fine and good and I enjoy doing this. I don't try to dress it up flowery-like, though, to try and claim my safe acts of authoring are exploration of the character. Everything that's happening is me making choices about how to express the character -- nothing is discovered about the character through play.

I'm not trying to bag on you, here, but to point out a pretty salient difference in how roleplaying can be approached. I tend to see that the strong aversion to staking character is closely tied to primary experience or preference for games where the GM has all or almost all other authorities in the game -- like D&D. Here it's the only holdout where the player has full authority to declare character while the GM presents the world. Even here, there's close correlation to play in the Trad or Neo-Trad styles. And, again, nothing at all wrong with that. I'm quite enjoying the Trad Rime of the Frostmaiden game I'm in right now, but I make no qualms that I'm exploring my character even when I put on the funny voice and playact in character -- nothing about my characterization is ever at stake due to the game. Any changes I make are because I want to.
So, you asked me about why I consider my approach to include exploration, and then after reading my response you conclude that I'm not actually exploring my character, I'm just dressing up my playstyle flowery-like?

Wouldn't the more natural conclusion be that we're clearly using incompatible definitions of what it means to explore a character?
 

Question for everyone here : How would you feel if either the GM or the player of another player character wanted to have a conversation to critique your play or discuss why you performed a particular action? Would you be open to critiques around fictional positioning?

Yeah, I think this kind of discussion can be very helpful and enlightening. Sometimes, it's the kind of thing I may not even have given any thought to unless I'm asked about it, or otherwise forced to examine it.

It's just a conversation that has to be handled with some tact. I don't know if it makes sense to have like a roundtable with the whole group, although I've done that. Or we talk about play overall and how things are going and it turns toward this topic at some point. Often, it's a conversation had between the GM and one player, or maybe one player and another.

And, again, this is fine and good and I enjoy doing this. I don't try to dress it up flowery-like, though, to try and claim my safe acts of authoring are exploration of the character. Everything that's happening is me making choices about how to express the character -- nothing is discovered about the character through play.

I mostly agree with you here, but I don't think I go quite as far. I do think that one can be surprised during authorship, and that means they're discovering something previously unknown, which is exploration.

Now, I think it's far less common when you're in charge of everything about what's being explored......it's like exploring your own house. But I do think there are those occasional moments when a decision you make surprises you.

Look at the example of Aedhros from @pemerton ; he was called upon to make a Steel check to perform the murder, and failed the roll, and discovered he was not quite the killer he thought. But what if no roll was requested, and instead the player simply decides not to go through with it? I doesn't seem any less surprising to the player. Yes, one was decided by dice and another by whim....but in each case, the payer intended one thing, and then did another that they didn't expect.

One instance is using a die roll to literally depict the other instance.

Now, as I said, I don't think these surprising moments are all that common without something to help enable them, but I do think they're possible. Nor do I think that there's the same level of risk or stakes involved.....the fact that ultimately it is all up to you is the safety net that takes away most of the danger.

I will say that, similar to when I read a book or watch a movie/show, at times when a character does something that surprises me, I may be upset or impressed by them. I enjoy those moments when I'm immersed in fiction and am surprised that way because it is a clear indicator that I care about what's happening.

I think that I can capture that feeling in an RPG with mechanics or rules that put some elements of my character beyond my control, but i think it would be far harder...perhaps even impossible....to capture that with a game that leaves it all up to me. It's harder to think of it as the character's decision when I know that it was mine.
 

loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
Conversely, I don't understand how being told my PC thinks or does something would be exploring my character. I would just shrug and say "I don't think Mr B would really do that".
I wouldn't say that "exploration" is the best word, but.

The best ever explanation of what playing a TTRPG is like I've ever heard is “It's like watching and shooting a TV show at the same time”. Letting go, discovering new things about them, and playing to find out who they really are is fun.

Question for everyone here : How would you feel if either the GM or the player of another player character wanted to have a conversation to critique your play or discuss why you performed a particular action? Would you be open to critiques around fictional positioning?
I'm willing to engage in such discussion. I think, if someone questions your character's actions or your descriptions as the GM, then you've screwed up and there's some explaining to be done.
 

Question for everyone here : How would you feel if either the GM or the player of another player character wanted to have a conversation to critique your play or discuss why you performed a particular action? Would you be open to critiques around fictional positioning?

Can you give an example of what a "critique around fictional positioning" might look like?
 

Alternative, same character, but this time in the situation I have my character try to be brave, and so stake my bravery on an action. If I fail, though, my character doesn't act brave, they do something else, perhaps they break and run in the crucial moment. Here, I have a belief about my character, I test it, and I learn something new -- my character is a coward when the chips are down. This is revelation flowing from the character to me.

Can you elaborate on what you mean by "stake my bravery on an action"? I can see two forms that might take:
1) You are attempting something in a game in which the mechanics say that if you fail at the action you must flee.
2) You yourself are simply declaring that if you fail, your character will run away.

Did you mean one of those, or is there another interpretation I'm missing?
 

pemerton

Legend
Look at the example of Aedhros from @pemerton ; he was called upon to make a Steel check to perform the murder, and failed the roll, and discovered he was not quite the killer he thought. But what if no roll was requested, and instead the player simply decides not to go through with it? I doesn't seem any less surprising to the player. Yes, one was decided by dice and another by whim....but in each case, the payer intended one thing, and then did another that they didn't expect.

One instance is using a die roll to literally depict the other instance.
There's another aspect to this, which I think is worth mentioning. It relates both to what @Lanefan has posted upthread about "player agency", and also to a post I made that I think you read in another thread, quoting Vincent Baker on the back-and-forth among participants of decision-making authority in many Apocalypse World moves.

When I fail the Steel check for Aedhros, it doesn't follow that he can't murder the innkeeper. In BW I have four options: to run away screaming (I didn't choose that), to swoon (I didn't choose that), to fall to my knees and beg for mercy (I didn't choose that) or to stand in hesitation for a mechanically-determined period (one action-count per point of failure of the check). I chose that last one.

The effect of hesitation, in that context, was to give scope for another action to be declared. The NPC innkeeper wasn't going to do anything - he had already been incapacitated by the other PC, Alicia, wrestling him into a chokehold. But Alicia's player had the chance to cast a spell while Aedhros hesitated, which she did - and it was her successful Persuasion spell that saved the innkeeper's life.

I think @Campbell has already pointed in this thread to "carrot and stick" options like those found in Sorcerer or in Apocalypse World. As @Aldarc and I have discussed, something similar can be seen in some Cortex+ variants. In these cases, there is no mandated action but there is an overlay placed on some actions that reflect the influence on the PC. The Burning Wheel hesitation mechanic is another way of giving the influence on the PC real heft, but not having it fully dictate the player's choice of action.
 

pemerton

Legend
Can you elaborate on what you mean by "stake my bravery on an action"? I can see two forms that might take:
1) You are attempting something in a game in which the mechanics say that if you fail at the action you must flee.
2) You yourself are simply declaring that if you fail, your character will run away.

Did you mean one of those, or is there another interpretation I'm missing?
I took @Ovinomancer to be referring to an action that triggers a morale or similar check as a necessary precursor to performing it, in a system that has that sort of mechanical framework. The Steel subsystem in Burning Wheel would be one example.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Do you react similarly to combat?

After all, the DM is telling you that you have lost HP. You have lost conciousness. Hell, you might even be dead, with zero input from you. Do you have a similar level of "I don't think Mr. B would really do that?"
Well, no; because by the time any of these things occur the point of decision has long since passed. You've already committed to combat, and in so doing have tacitly agreed to accept whatever outcome may emerge.

If the character makes the decision to commit to combat without any input from you-his-player then you saying "I don't think Mr. B would really do that" is valid if in your-as-his-player's eyes he wouldn't.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Question for everyone here : How would you feel if either the GM or the player of another player character wanted to have a conversation to critique your play or discuss why you performed a particular action? Would you be open to critiques around fictional positioning?
I'd engage but with internal red flags flying as to what the underlying motive behind said conversation might be.

Is the conversation being held to let me know I've been inconsistent in a PC's characterization; - or - is the conversation being held in order to legitimately give me some ideas or alternatives I just hadn't thought of? If yes, fine; if I've been inconsistent and haven't realized it I appreciate the heads-up; and I don't always think of everything. :)

Is the conversation being held so someone can tell me they don't like what my character does in the game (assuming I haven't gone beyond the bounds of what the table generally allows/accepts; - or - is the conversation being held out-of-character in an attempt to, for example, influence my character into a certain course of action in the fiction that it wouldn't otherwise take? If yes, not fine; and once I realize this is the underlying motive my response will be very blunt and probably not fit for Eric's Grandma.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
This happened in one of the BW episodes I posted (a couple of times) upthread: Aedhros drew his black-metal knife Heartseeker, ready to murder the innkeeper for his gold. The GM called for a Steel check to perform this cold-blooded action, and I failed and so Aedhros hesitated.

I learned that Aedhros is not as ruthless as he aspires to be.
Your take is you learned this about Aedhros, and that's cool.

My take is that you were told this about Aedhros (by the dice) and the learning piece is your narrative rationale for what the dice did; but also that the game (via the GM) denied you your rightful agency over your character's actions.
I think there are moments of player decision that can also be experienced as exploration of the character: the situation in play calls for some sort of decision to be made, and that decision has to - in some fashion - encompass or reflect the weight of what has come before; and so while there may be indefinitely many ways of going forward, there are also constraints that mean not any way of going forward is possible.
Agreed. Further, there's going to be times when some or even all of the ways of going forward are going to be in some way disruptive to the party, if the decision's result is to "in some fashion - encompass or reflect the weight of what has come before", to use your terms. An example might be where a character has over the long run become so teed off with another character in the party that the decision* has come down to either a) duel with or kill the other character or b) leave the party or c) convince everyone else to drive the other character out of the party.

* - a decision I've been forced to make for a PC of mine once or twice.
 

Hussar

Legend
The DM never tells me what attack to use, what spell to cast, when my PC will run away. Apples to oranges.

As far as sanity rules go, they're optional rules that I don't use.

Beyond that, do you have a point?
No, it isn't apples to oranges. The DM is telling you that your character is falling down (after being tripped by another character). Your DM is telling you that you cannot fight anymore.

In every case, the DM, through the mechanics, is telling you how your character is behaving, within the limits of the mechanics. You failed your check, so, you trip on the wire strung across the hallway and fall on your face, take D4 damage is the DM telling you how your character is behaving.

Now, you are saying you don't use Sanity, or Piety rules. Do you similarly not use inspiration or Ideals? Again, my point is, where is your cut off line? Is it ANY mechanics which impact the mental/emotional state of your character (besides flat our mind control of course)? And, if that's true, why is it acceptable that the DM can dictate your physical state? The DM can declare that you are now Exhausted, for example. So, any physical changes is perfectly fine, but, all mental ones are not?

I guess I'm just having a tough time seeing the difference. Your character is a high dexterity acrobat Rogue who routinely walks on tightropes, can climb a waterfall and has the reflexes of a cat. And I just made him look like a Keystone Kop because you failed a Perception check. How is that not impacting the portrayal of that character?
 

Aldarc

Legend
My take is that you were told this about Aedhros (by the dice) and the learning piece is your narrative rationale for what the dice did; but also that the game (via the GM) denied you your rightful agency over your character's actions.
I too rant to the wind against the GM/system denying my character's proper agency over my character's actions every time that I miss on an attack roll.
 


Hussar

Legend
Funny. You keep telling people that what they can't do, despite people telling you that they do indeed find their PCs taking unexpected turns.

I'm not claiming people are channeling someone, but the decisions people make aren't always conscious ones. It may never be true for you, but it's part of the creative process for a lot of people.

Believe it or not, people aren't all like you. When I get into role playing, DMing or writing stories, there's times when it just flows out without conscious forethought. It doesn't really matter how you label it, but your "it's all you" only tells part of the story.
So, who else is there? Can you write something into your character that you don't know? How exactly do you do that?

The whole, "the character is writing itself" thing is all well and good and it sounds really profound, but, at the end of the day, it doesn't really mean anything. It's just a shorthand way of saying that the character was easy for the writer to wrap his or her head around.
 

pemerton

Legend
I too rant to the wind against the GM/system denying my character's proper agency over my character's actions every time that I miss on an attack roll.
Ah. But I rant to the wind against denials of your proper agency every time you and your fellow RPGers agree that your PC missed on an attack because of a failed roll.

Thus do I beat you in quixotic universalisation of my preferences.
 

Hussar

Legend
Well, no; because by the time any of these things occur the point of decision has long since passed. You've already committed to combat, and in so doing have tacitly agreed to accept whatever outcome may emerge.

If the character makes the decision to commit to combat without any input from you-his-player then you saying "I don't think Mr. B would really do that" is valid if in your-as-his-player's eyes he wouldn't.
You never have PC's surprised? Never use a pit trap in a hallway? No ambushes? That seems a bit doubtful.

Unless, your saying that just by sitting down, there is a tacit agreement that the DM can do bad things to your character, but, that's not what I think you mean.
 


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