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What does it take / how long does it take to "get into" a character?

innerdude

Legend
What establishes the character, here, is a complicated intersection of build elements (Beliefs and Instincts that underlie the situation), declared actions (as per your post), resolution outcomes (eg failing the Steel check - Aedhros isn't as hard as he thinks he is), and then "mopping up" in light of how things have landed.

This brings up a very interesting point --- how open is the "average" player to modifying an internalized view of their character based on something like a failed action declaration?

My character isn't as "hard" as he thinks he is could be (and very well might have been) an interesting turning point for how you played that character.

Do we allow externalities of play affect the way we see our character --- because people within the fiction view our character differently based on certain action declaration successes/failures?
 

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What establishes the character, here, is a complicated intersection of build elements (Beliefs and Instincts that underlie the situation), declared actions (as per your post), resolution outcomes (eg failing the Steel check - Aedhros isn't as hard as he thinks he is), and then "mopping up" in light of how things have landed.
Are beliefs and instincts in Burning Wheel ‘build elements’?

At the very least they co-exist as part of both character build and game situation. That’s how they perform their function…
 

pemerton

Legend
Are beliefs and instincts in Burning Wheel ‘build elements’?

At the very least they co-exist as part of both character build and game situation. That’s how they perform their function…
I call them PC build elements for purely formal reasons - they sit on the PC sheet, are chosen by the player, are properties of the character.

But obviously they factor into situation pretty importantly . . .

This brings up a very interesting point --- how open is the "average" player to modifying an internalized view of their character based on something like a failed action declaration?

My character isn't as "hard" as he thinks he is could be (and very well might have been) an interesting turning point for how you played that character.

Do we allow externalities of play affect the way we see our character --- because people within the fiction view our character differently based on certain action declaration successes/failures?
Well, I think this is at least part of what @darkbard was pointing to.

My feeling is that that if you don't do this, there's a sense in which you're not really taking part in creating a shared fiction! Because a key part of the fiction is unilaterally pre-authored.
 

darkbard

Hero
This might seem like disagreement, but I'm not sure it is. I'm curious what you think.

I think you've read me post about my Burning Wheel dark elf, who tried to stab an innkeeper in his bed, in order to steal his strongbox. My co-player/co-GM demanded that I make a Steel test; which I failed, and so Aedhros hesitated long enough for Alicia (the other PC) to cast Persuasion and suggest that I not follow through with the killing.

Casting the spell caused Alicia to fall unconscious from tax, so Aedhros took the money from the box (the innkeeper was already unconscious, as a result of a chokehold from Alicia) and the innkeeper's boots, and carried the unconscious Alicia down to the quayside.

What establishes the character, here, is a complicated intersection of build elements (Beliefs and Instincts that underlie the situation), declared actions (as per your post), resolution outcomes (eg failing the Steel check - Aedhros isn't as hard as he thinks he is), and then "mopping up" in light of how things have landed.

I'm guessing that a fair bit of DW play - and the revelation of character - feels like this too?
I don't see disagreement between us here. In pointing to PC actions, I am hoping to draw focus to play at the table and what makes that a shared enterprise, that until a player's perception of character meets situation and there is interplay between the two (my focus here on action) character is incomplete. I see your recapitulation of the sequence with Aedhros, Alicia, and the innkeeper--and your expanded list of intersecting factors--to build from what I posted earlier.
 

pemerton

Legend
@darkbard, thanks for the reply.

To build further, and more provocatively - not necessarily provoking you, but more referring to the content of the thread as a whole:

What do you think of my remark upthread?

This brings up a very interesting point --- how open is the "average" player to modifying an internalized view of their character based on something like a failed action declaration?

<snip>

Do we allow externalities of play affect the way we see our character --- because people within the fiction view our character differently based on certain action declaration successes/failures?
My feeling is that that if you don't do this, there's a sense in which you're not really taking part in creating a shared fiction! Because a key part of the fiction is unilaterally pre-authored.
I think what I've posted is consistent with at least this much of your most recent post:

In pointing to PC actions, I am hoping to draw focus to play at the table and what makes that a shared enterprise, that until a player's perception of character meets situation and there is interplay between the two (my focus here on action) character is incomplete.
One reason I think this question is provocative is this:

If we think about what gets called "neo-trad" play - at least as I understand it - the background/setting/context has been pre-authored (by the GM or module writer or whomever). And the character has been pre-authored, the background/setting/context being a "stage" on which the character conception is portrayed and fully realised. But not discovered.

If that abstract characterisation is fair, then what is the scope of the play-generated shared fiction in neo-trad play? It starts to seem quite narrow.
 

darkbard

Hero
I agree with your comment upthread, wholeheartedly. What separates characters in a TTRPG from those of other media, to me, are the unfixed nature and shared/multifaceted inputs to their creation.

Further, I agree that this is a provocative take ... for a certain kind of "neotrad" gamer who (1) believes their character, largely conceived via backstory, is sacrosanct to external input and imagines situations their character may encounter to be backstory crafted discretely from their input as player as the only means of achieving the shared illusion of a "believable, coherent, living, breathing world" and (2) who is likely to challenge your take via a semantic tangent about what "discovery" means.
 


dragoner

Dying in Chargen
I get into character during chargen pretty much, using some sort of internal monologue to create a backstory. Don't worry, I keep it to three paragraphs usually.
 


I no longer use accents, but speech patterns and mannerisms are absolutely a huge part of defining a character for me.

But, again reiterating how important actually playing the character is to their development, I've come up with voices that have turned out to be impossible to maintain over a session. Like the dwarf that SPOKE IN ALL CAPS - I had to tone that down to avoid blowing out my speaking voice for the rest of the day. It's one thing to say a few sentences a certain way, another to talk at length for hours.

It helps if I hit on a good accent quickly.
 

darkbard

Hero
What establishes the character, here, is a complicated intersection of build elements (Beliefs and Instincts that underlie the situation), declared actions (as per your post), resolution outcomes (eg failing the Steel check - Aedhros isn't as hard as he thinks he is), and then "mopping up" in light of how things have landed.
Just to fine tune to my response to this already, I would advocate for the action declaration at the table as the pivot point around which these other, important elements revolve. The action declaration tells us how the player sees the PC being/doing in the world. Build elements are largely theoretical until they are brought into play in specific instances, and resolution/"mopping up" requires a preceding action.
 

innerdude

Legend
One reason I think this question is provocative is this:

If we think about what gets called "neo-trad" play - at least as I understand it - the background/setting/context has been pre-authored (by the GM or module writer or whomever). And the character has been pre-authored, the background/setting/context being a "stage" on which the character conception is portrayed and fully realised. But not discovered.

If that abstract characterisation is fair, then what is the scope of the play-generated shared fiction in neo-trad play? It starts to seem quite narrow.

I read this last week, but didn't really fully grasp the implications until I re-read it earlier this morning.

This is more interesting / provocative than it might seem at first glance.

So, just to make sure I'm following what "neo-trad" play actually means --- as I understand it, "neo-trad" play follows "trad" play on the GM side (largely GM pre-authored fiction and situations), but on the player side it deviates from "trad" assumptions. It's not gamist/challenge based, nor is it merely about the players' characters being vehicles to the GM executing their plot. "Neo-trad" doesn't believe a player should subsume their character into the GM's "world" so that the GM's plot gets executed as the GM envisions.

From the player side, "neo-trad" is more about the player being able to express or achieve realization / idealization of who and what their character is. In other words, they've created this character that's supposed to be their own personal "OFC" or "OC" that's going to live inside the GM's world, but the world should (as much as possible) treat the "original character" as a fanfic writer would.

Anything that would cause the player to have to change or deviate from their envisioned realization of the character isn't just annoying or distracting, it's almost a violation of one of the core purposes of play.

Okay, so assuming I'm even close to understanding "neo-trad" play, I can see what @pemerton is getting at.

If the GM-side of things is largely pre-authored, with little deviation from the GM's established canon, and the player side of things is almost entirely pre-authored, where characters aren't expected to evolve, grow, or otherwise face the possibility of failure in regards to their ultimate "realization" . . . then what exactly is happening in play?

I mean, obviously, there's going to be encounters, and combats, and die rolls, and action declarations . . . but there's no real growth.

Interestingly, I'm suddenly making a connection to the thread I posted last year wondering why it was so hard to produce real character narrative arcs.

Because a character narrative arc requires creating characters with internalized weaknesses and vulnerabilities --- and players being willing to let those elements become a real part of play. And not just in token or shallow fashion, but to have a real mindset of allowing their own idealized vision of the character fall by the wayside.
 
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pemerton

Legend
Just to fine tune to my response to this already, I would advocate for the action declaration at the table as the pivot point around which these other, important elements revolve. The action declaration tells us how the player sees the PC being/doing in the world. Build elements are largely theoretical until they are brought into play in specific instances, and resolution/"mopping up" requires a preceding action.
Again, not to disagree but to build on what you've said, and also prompoted by @chaochou's post upthread: how much of situation should be seen as telling us about the character?

I think part of the skill of GMing a system like BW or (I conjecture) DW is to frame situations that tell us something about the character, but not so much that the resolution is already a foregone conclusion.
 

pemerton

Legend
@innerdude, you description of "neotrad" fits my understanding. I should add that my understanding is second-hand - I've never played in this style - but is an attempt to honestly make sense of what I've read about it.

I'm currently participating in a "what is roleplaying"-type thread on the 5e subforum. Quite a few of the posts seems to be coming from a neotrad perspective: eg that it is permissible and expected that a player will imagine their PC independently of the mechanics of character build, and that imagining should survive the vicissitudes of actual play; one resolution technique used to support this is reducing the roll of dice rolls/checks in non-combat, non-spell casting adjudication - so the upshot seems to be a style of play which (to me, presumably not to its practitioners!) is quite surprising: Gygax-style skilled play based on adjudication of the fictional positioning, but in the fiction with all this stuff being done by this motley assortment of charming barbarians, muscly wizards, halflings whose small size is largely set-dressing, etc.

I mean, obviously, there's going to be encounters, and combats, and die rolls, and action declarations . . . but there's no real growth.
A very pejorative way of describing this sort of play, that I have come across, is "cosplay and combat".
 

darkbard

Hero
how much of situation should be seen as telling us about the character?

I think part of the skill of GMing a system like BW or (I conjecture) DW is to frame situations that tell us something about the character, but not so much that the resolution is already a foregone conclusion.
This is what I mean about the multivalenced nature of RPGing vs other art forms: the player, in building the PC through various inputs (powers, beliefs, bonds, &c), and the GM, through framing pressures on these inputs, create situations through which play (and its random/stochastic elements) determine the realization of character.
 

pemerton

Legend
This is what I mean about the multivalenced nature of RPGing vs other art forms: the player, in building the PC through various inputs (powers, beliefs, bonds, &c), and the GM, through framing pressures on these inputs, create situations through which play (and its random/stochastic elements) determine the realization of character.
I think this is certainly one way that RPGing can be distinctive.

But I would guess that the neo-trads would disagree! Although maybe their disagreement is more with the premise that RPGing is an art form at all.
 

innerdude

Legend
Perhaps a slightly less pejorative way of describing neotrad play, using an ever-popular Batman meme --- "Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman, then be Batman."

It's really easy to picture a player looking at an RPG and saying to him/herself, "I just want to be Batman."

And in the case of D&D 5e, it's not literal in the sense of, "how to make an actual Batman character using D&D 5e character classes." More in the sense of, "I want to inhabit the general persona of a Batman-like character, and do the sorts of things Batman does, and feel awesome doing it."

(Obviously in the case of Superhero RPG System X, it's probably a bit easier to literally be Batman.)

This player isn't looking to explore the darkness inside Bruce Wayne's heart, nor struggle with the loss of identity arising from Bruce Wayne losing his parents at a young age, nor exploring what it would mean to try to have a functional, positive-reaching relationship with Rachel Dawes while being saddled with all of Bruce Wayne's very real psychological baggage.

They just want to be Batman.

It's my impression that a lot of "evil" campaign characterizations fall into this category as well. In a lot of cases people don't actually want to be evil, and act out truly heinous murders, theft, pillaging, and destroying lives and property in RPG play. They kind of just want to be Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII --- with the cool hair, cool sword, cool theme song, and sure, if he messes with a few people here and there and brings them to grief, that's really just part of the coolness of being Sephiroth.
 

innerdude

Legend
And I should follow up by saying, there's absolutely nothing wrong with just wanting to be Batman.

It's totally valid. There's absolutely value in using RPGs as an escape, to just show up, roll some dice, and "be Batman" every other Thursday.

And I can see from the neotrad perspective, "being Batman" is kind of an all or nothing thing. You can't really take anything away from whatever it is that allows "Batman to be Batman", and still have the same character.

"I came here specifically because I want be Batman, and now through [player choice X] and [GM adjudication of rule Y] and [resulting fictional positioning Z], my character is no longer Batman. I don't want to play if I don't get to be Batman."
 


innerdude

Legend
Yeah, it's almost as if neotrad sees it as strictly performative. Much the same way TikTok is performative.

In fact, I think that's a pretty good comparison, the more I think about it. Neotrad = "RPG play as TikTok".

The main point of the exercise is to perform for an audience using a crafted persona, with greater rewards for cleverness and ingenuity.
 

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