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


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innerdude

Legend
Well obviously the big tension between RPG play and performance is that performance largely assumes there's a script, and if you go off script, it breaks the performance.

Which would beg the point, why are you playing an RPG, with its random chance and die rolls and fickle GMs and players just waiting to tear your script to pieces?

If you're just looking to play and perform a character part for a while, is an RPG really the best venue?

Edit: In context it brings to mind the problems I have with the Marvel cinematic universe.

They are pure performance, with no character. The main characters are never really at risk, it's just an exercise to fly around in cool poses and blow stuff up.

And neotrad sounds a lot like that, too, to be honest.

"What's the point of play?"

"For my character to be awesome, of course! So nothing better happen that calls my character's awesomeness into question."
 
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There's a strong overlap between these answers, I'd think.

"Stakes mattering," at least in my experience, almost always involves connectivity to the game world through relationships and goals.
Sometimes, it's just players being attached to the story; goals and preexisting relationships are two good tools for that, but not the only ones.
So I'm wondering what other people's experiences with this are --- what system, group, or other factors combine to make a character interesting, internally realized, playable, and memorable?
For me, I've never had a problem with my characters being interesting to me; I've had issues with getting into character in random gen systems, but never them being uninteresting.

For me, the difficulty of finding the character from the numbers has always been part of the appeal of AD&D, BECMI D&D, Traveller, Starships & Spacemen, Star Frontiers, and other old school games with random gen. You don't know what you have, and you find out through play.

The one that most encompasses "Find the Character from the Sheet" is Pendragon, when using the random options in 1st to 4th eds. Even the personality is on the sheet, and the rules will guide you to them if you let them. 3 random PCs and see where they take the group...

But I know some of my players don't enjoy that.

I've had some of mine become uninteresting to me... I figured out who they were, and it was time for them to stop adventuring. They were no longer a mystery, and no longer in need of more...

The hardest part for me is when the players' characters in a game I'm running have become uninteresting to me. That's never good.
 

Jay Murphy1

Meterion, Mastermind of Time !
Three sessions and I get a good handle on my concept in play and enough has gone on in three sessions to feed my imagination and connect with the game world.
 

Jay Murphy1

Meterion, Mastermind of Time !
5e D&D - bounded accuracy and general "not super hard above 2nd level" helps with this.

Fate - ability to spend Fate points to succeed on crucial rolls helps with this.

Burning Wheel, Prince Valiant, RM, RQ, AW or DW - not good for this.
The old school superheroes game TSR's Marvel and Mayfair's DC Heroes were using "Fate" points in the early 80's. Excellent mechanic for the genre. DC Heroes called them Hero/Villain points and the Marvel game called them Karma points. I don't know if it was true for Marvel but Hero Points for the DC Heroes game could be spent to alter the game environment, not just to improve chances on a dice action or as experience points to improve your character.
 

The old school superheroes game TSR's Marvel and Mayfair's DC Heroes were using "Fate" points in the early 80's. Excellent mechanic for the genre. DC Heroes called them Hero/Villain points and the Marvel game called them Karma points. I don't know if it was true for Marvel but Hero Points for the DC Heroes game could be spent to alter the game environment, not just to improve chances on a dice action or as experience points to improve your character.
Marvel, all they could be spent for was advancement or improving a given roll.
 

pemerton

Legend
The old school superheroes game TSR's Marvel and Mayfair's DC Heroes were using "Fate" points in the early 80's. Excellent mechanic for the genre. DC Heroes called them Hero/Villain points and the Marvel game called them Karma points. I don't know if it was true for Marvel but Hero Points for the DC Heroes game could be spent to alter the game environment, not just to improve chances on a dice action or as experience points to improve your character.
Marvel, all they could be spent for was advancement or improving a given roll.
Burning Wheel has Fate Points (of various sorts) too. The difference with Fate is that you can spend points after a roll with a rather good chance of shaping it in the direction you want - because of both the bonuses, and the chance to reroll a statistically unlikely initial roll (reinforced by the very strong centralising tendency of the Fate dice pool).
 

John Dallman

Adventurer
So I'm wondering what other people's experiences with this are --- what system, group, or other factors combine to make a character interesting, internally realized, playable, and memorable?
I've been thinking about this since the thread started. I think a primary thing for me is creating a character whose mental toolbox I can understand to some degree. I can't claim to understand the way characters do things that are way beyond my own capabilities, but I can understand, to some degree, the ways in which they decide how to use their capabilities, and the kinds of outcomes they are interested in. A couple of examples:

A dwarven smith (AD&D1e) whom I first played in, I think, early 1980, who has moved between many different parts of a huge meta-campaign, and been involved with many stories and events. The contrast between his social naivety and his ingenuity in smith-craft make him endlessly rewarding to play.

My newest character in that meta-campaign, a priest of a god of commerce, whom I've been playing weekly for about 18 months. He was created to explore that religion, which is very popular in the world he's from, but never seems to have had a PC cleric before. He's far more social than the smith, but less insightful, having only INT 9. His goals are straightforward: peace and prosperity for everyone, but he solves problems in ingenious ways.
 

John Dallman

Adventurer
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.
What you're calling "neo-trad" here I'd call "high-quality traditional play" giving the player space to develop the character. Some of us were doing that back in the early eighties.
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.
There I have to split some hairs. Forcing the player to change their ideas of the character's mind and thought processes, or asserting that they are different from the player's ideas, is violating. Allowing the character's thinking to change if they want to is fine.

Changing things about them that are more part of the game world can be legitimate: if you're opposing powerful magicians on subjects that they care about, you may suffer consequences. But the GM should not make this personal.
 

innerdude

Legend
What you're calling "neo-trad" here I'd call "high-quality traditional play" giving the player space to develop the character. Some of us were doing that back in the early eighties.

I think there may be some overlap, but neotrad is precisely different because traditional play always has the assumption in the background that the GM's prerogatives supersede the players'.

When push comes to shove, the GM's ideas for the game world / continuity will take precedence, period.

Neotrad would reject that premise outright. The PCs interests are at least equal, if not superior to anything the GM envisions, and a neotrad player would feel it a violation of the spirit of the game more keenly than a trad player.

The trad player may not like it, but the unspoken social contract of trad play generally assumes it's the player's duty to accede to the GM's needs.

In play the two might play out similarly in many respects, but the underlying relationship between players/characters and the GM is different.


One other thought --- does anyone find it easier to get into character when another character in the party is highly developed / realized / fleshed out?

For me I've found that to be the case. When I have a strong presence to play off of, my own characters become better realized as a result.
 

One other thought --- does anyone find it easier to get into character when another character in the party is highly developed / realized / fleshed out?

For me I've found that to be the case. When I have a strong presence to play off of, my own characters become better realized as a result.

Absolutely. When one player brings a lot to their character, it means there’s more for me to work with. More ways for us to interact.

Often the strongest element of a character is how they deal with others, I think. So having other fully drawn characters offers more opportunities for me.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
I think there is a balance, one can always walk away, I mean if there are trust issues. Personally I don't like playing like that.
 

innerdude

Legend
Absolutely. When one player brings a lot to their character, it means there’s more for me to work with. More ways for us to interact.

Often the strongest element of a character is how they deal with others, I think. So having other fully drawn characters offers more opportunities for me.

This plays into a key point for me. At surface glance, having another character to play off of is helpful because it helps me take my character out of a vacuum and into the actual "space within the fiction."

Character development can only go so far within a vacuum. All of us recognize that the "self" we perceive when we're alone versus the "self" we perceive in a work context, versus the "self" we perceive in a social context are different. Perhaps not fundamentally different in most areas, but different.

There's sooooo much nuance to taking a character's starting persona / basic beliefs and motivations, and then projecting them into how that individual actually acts toward other people and situations.

Barring any form of psychosis (alcohol, drug-induced, implicit, or otherwise), in real life we are far more self-aware, calculating, discerning, and measured in our approaches to other people than what I see from most RPG characterizations.
 


Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
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?
Absolutely. The characters don't develop in a vacuum, whom they are around and how they are treated/perceived by them will definitely affect who they are. It's one of the reasons that I never repeat a character in an unrelated campaign - what they did and who they interacted with is a big part of character growth.

And even the results of checks and stuff can be informative. I have a halfling bard, and halflings have their Brave feature. Well, even though he hadd the least HP and worst AC in the party he would do things like step in front of the barbarian to protect him (the Barbarian was a King) and such. Time after time with getting away with it (read: not dying, sometimes by the skin of his teeth) made him completely fearless. He's not reckless - his grandmother whom he speaks of often told him that there are times to back offf, but just so you can approach a problem from another side. But he's fearless and will put his (frail) body between any of his comrades and danger without a thought.
 

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