Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Inner Roleplaying & The Central Library

So my previous post has generated some amount of comments :). (And no, Tim, I never thought you were attacking persona :) ). I thought I'd respond in a post, and also include a game description for one of the games I'll be running at AmberCon NW

The thing that seemed to spark the most comment was the remarks I made about looking for a more inwards focused game. I think I'm not describing myself well with that description. I feel like the games we've been playing, while very fulfilling in terms of scope, epicness and plot, leave something to be desired when one considers internal character strife. But even that doesn't really describe the problem... Closer would be to say that when you're stunting on such a large scale, and with the persona system, character individualization becomes meaningless.

This of course begs the question, how could one setup mechanics or a game to make the differences between characters more important. Just asking that question, though, isn't that useful. We see differences all the time flavor and inform the stunts that occur in game. This might be the real issue: I feel like there is no interaction. We sit down at the table, and no one's characters talk. The GM gives several challenges to the players, and the players think of some awesome things to do and stories to tell. What doesn't happen is the players rarely interact in character, in meaningful ways.

So, what do we need to make this more apparent? Bliss Stage is a great example of a system that won't allow you to get away with that style of roleplaying. Every scene in Bliss Stage is interaction between characters, and it rocks. Now, I think you loose the epicness of the thing and also plot is extremely difficult to come by. So I think what I'm looking for is closer to a middle ground. Something as free and flexible as persona but requiring you to interact like Bliss Stage. This might be as simple as making fragments purchased through character interaction... I'm not sure of the details of that, but if you had to have some past scene roleplayed in order to take a fragment, that might work. Even going so far as having the other players take the roles of NPCs in that scene, a la Polaris... I worry that that won't get the characters together though, just have more roleplaying in the discovery of their own character. A slight modification of that idea would be to have the scenes only take place between PCs, but I think then the PCs have to have a history together for that to make sense.


Anyway, I thought I'd also include the description of a game I'm running at AmberCon NW. I've already run it for the sunday crew, and it went very very well. I'm planning on running 3 games at this con, and I think I'm most excited about this one...

--- Game Description ---

Adventure / Heroic -- Non-Amber

To Leaders of the Houses of Literature

I hereby summon your representative to the Written Court. The Great
Scribe Jules Verne has petitioned me to engage a expedition to the
Central Library to bring the Librarian back from that most sacred place
and bring a new golden age to the world. I am commanding all of the
Houses to send a companion for Sir Verne to assist in this greatest of
quests. There will be much danger but also much reward, as those who
journey to the center of the world will have their names live forever
in the Word.

The High Wordsmith
Great Wordsmith of the House of Horror
Queen Mary Shelley


What if the world really did revolve around books? What if you could
journey to that fabled Central Library and see what it contained? What
if lived off of reading books? What if you gained magical powers from
reading the greatest of novels or becoming widely read? Journey to the
Central Library with Jules Verne and find out!

--- Setting ---

Set in a quasi-historical victorian setting. A world where reading
books provided sustenance and all the librarians are a little pudgy. A
fantastical world of literature and magic, all driven by the
imaginations of the Wordsmiths.

The system will be Persona, a very lightweight and fast system detailed

Persona System


So if you think that sounds interesting, you should come to ACNW in Portland in November! Its the best con I go to all year!


Tim C Koppang said...


Before I respond in full, I think I better get further clarification from you. First, what do you mean by, "character individualization becomes meaningless"? The reason I ask is because I feel as if you've switched the question on me -- or perhaps I better say *refined* the question.

Emphasizing the differences between characters is one question, while encouraging more interaction amongst the characters is another. Furthermore, are you trying to encourage interaction amongst the PCs, face-to-face in game, or are you trying to encourage more interaction amongst the players?

Now, I'm going to assume that what you want is more PC to PC interaction. I'm going to further assume that what you're also after (because I've roleplayed with you quite a bit) is more "immersion": that feeling of losing oneself in your character. Is that what you mean by "meaningful" interaction? Or do you mean meaningful in an English major theme sort of way?

The only reason I ask so many questions is because roleplaying preferences can vary so wildly that discussion is only useful if we both know exactly what you're trying to accomplish.

Ben said...

Yes, you're spot on Tim, I mean PC to PC interaction with the immersion feel... We can break out to mechanics if the players want, but our recent games have had very little PC to PC interaction in the immersive sense


Buffalo said...

I think this is an interesting question because when you do start getting really focused character-on-character interactions, it's often because people are arguing and these things can be very cool at the moment but bad overall for the game. Example: poor Valorous Deed, which I still remember as a really neat game to play but caused serious issues campaign-wise.

Perhaps its the case that before our characters can be enemies and have it work out, they need to be friends. Or at least, we might need to get comfortable playing in-character as friends before we can see how to handle the more dramatic stuff.

One of the things we might need to do is lighten up the "PC-stamp" a bit. This is a mainstay of our campaigns of course, but focusing on moving the campaign forward without giving people time to talk might partly be responsible for the "5 wacky strangers travelling together for no reason" feel.

Buffalo said...

Oh and Tim, Buffalo is indeed me.

Tim C Koppang said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim C Koppang said...

Deleted and reposted to correct a rather major error:

So I've been pondering your questions, Ben, and I don't think there are any easy answers. Still, I think I’ve reached a couple of useful conclusions:

First, you don't necessarily have to have PC/PC interaction in order to get immersion. I can remember plenty of times when I've felt immersed even though it was just me and the GM. Or even times when it was just me playing my character in a sort of soliloquy, self-reflective sort of way: this also resulted in immersion.

Likewise, it's possible to have plenty of PC/PC interaction and absolutely no immersion. Or, to put it another way, PC/PC interaction alone will not necessarily lead to more immersion.

Interaction with no immersion is common in many of the indie games currently available (what can I say, author stance is all the rage). Incidentally, I think Mountain Witch encourages both PC/PC interaction *and* immersion, but doesn't require either.

So where does this leave me? Basically, I believe you have to attack both "problems" separately.

More on specific techniques later...

Ben said...

Yeah definitely... I'm not sure that immersion is exactly what I'm looking for, but it maybe, I think it just requires trying.