Sunday, October 17, 2010

Slipping Into Character

Saturday night's Slaying Solomon episode spurred a bit of post-game conversation. After the wonderful character driven role-playing, we all started to discuss how easy it was to play these characters. Playing this game since 2003 or so, we all can slip into character at the drop of a hat. And what really amazes me is the quality of banter that results. I don't normally consider myself especially witty. I remember being the kind of kid who always thought of the perfect comeback hours after the fact, if I thought of it at all. But playing Slaying Solomon, I sometimes feel like I have I have a team of script writers. 

I think there are a couple of things at work here. First and most obviously, our group has a comfortable sort of camaraderie that makes it easy for us to put it all out there. But there's more to it than that. Thanks to a miraculous alignment of stars, we all have characters with strong and interesting personalities and with equally interesting flaws and quirks. That doesn't always happen. In fact, it seems to be a bit rare. In Knights of the Astral Sea (my other campaign that I'm running right now), we don't seem to have that same character magic*, even though we've had some brilliant sessions. And looking back at games that I've played, I can count on one hand the number of times I've had a character who was as easy to play as Erik Sorensen (my Slaying Solomon character when I'm not directing). 

Another thing that fascinates me about these stand-out characters is the ease with which I can summon social skills or personality traits that are far removed from my usual self. I'm specifically thinking of one particular character who was more take-charge, take-no-prisoners, make-them-flee-in-terror thna I could have hope to be. That I'd ever want to be. Where does that come from?

And one more weird thing... these special characters that are so easy to role play are not limited to the ones I bring to the table for long-term play. I've had a few one-shot convention games where I achieved that degree of character immersion that is so often lacking in longer term games. Why is that? Is it because a particular social dynamic at work? Feeding off the energy of a great group of people that you don't normally play with? Or is it because one-shot characters are often caricatures with exaggerated personality traits?  Perhaps that is a useful lesson to remember the next time I create a character for a game. 

* Well, except for possibly Genevieve


Ms. Frost said...

John, you have the personality for it now. I think it's time that you learn how to really cast spells.

Trey said...

I think there's some element of broadly drawn characters being easier to "get into" than more subtle ones, though I think that's difficult to sustain over long campaigns.

m.s. jackson said...

I think this is an example of a group of players just really clicking well together. I remember long ago when I had my high school group that played for years together, didn't matter the game or the character, we just meshed well that it worked.
Something I find hard to replicate now that I am older.

gamer-geek said...

To paraphrase The Tick,
"Tim, there was no magic hubcap. The power was within you all along."

Also, Ms. Frost for the Chick Tract Win!

James D said...

Tim, thanks! :)

Having played in three of your games, I've got a thought about this.

There's one big difference between Knights and Slaying Solomon (or Velvet Edge - I'd say that we had a lot of great sessions and character immersion in that game, too) - In Solomon (and Velvet Edge), all our characters started out as pretty undeveloped, power-wise, and party-role-wise (I do think that applies to Solomon, despite the Slayer/Wathcer/Scooby dynamic). So we all grew into our powers and made our own roles in the game world together, in the course of the game.

In Knights, all the characters already have powers (or the equivalent), and well-defined roles to a much greater extent. And due to the nature of the campaign (travelling quest over many worlds) there's much less scope for the kind of character development, bulding of relationships, NPCs, etc. that Velvet Edge and Solomon both encouraged/required.

Just a thought...

Christian said...

Love it. Sounds like you and your group have a really good thing going. :)

Risus Monkey said...

@Ms. Frost: I thought that was a Mazes & Monsters reference until I clicked through. ROTFL!

@Trey: I think (and this is just a theory) that characters that start out broadly drawn are easier to settle into and can easily develop more complexity through play. Then again, that's not always the case. Two of my favorite PCs were layered with detail almost from the beginning... though they did have some play-by-email background establishment to help me find my voice.

@Matt: You're mostly playing online these day, right? I find it bit more difficult to get into character that way, though I had some luck with a short-lived D&D/western game was running via google chat a while back. And my play-by-post Lankhmar Mythic game allowed me to get into my character's head as well, though it wasn't quite the instant gratification of real-time play.

@gamer-geek: :P

@James: That's a good point about growing into a character's full power. I think there is something to that. It's not a hard-and-fast rule, though. Belphoebe had her full power from the get-go and I still am amazed at how easily I can play her. I have zero power in the Dr. Who game and I'm still having difficulty with my character.

@Christian: We do. I have an awesome group. I just a wish we had an extra player or two to help us through the scheduling difficulties.