RPGaDay 2018, Week Three: DESCRIBE…

RPGaDay 2018 infographic

RPGaDay is an annual celebration of tabletop roleplaying.

Week Three: DESCRIBE…

  1. … how your play has evolved.
  2. … a failure that became amazing.
  3. … a tricky RPG experience you enjoyed.
  4. … your plans for your next game.
  5. … the best compliment you’ve had while gaming.

13th: Describe how your play has evolved.

Just like the question on the 10th (last Friday), when I said gaming has probably changed me in ways I’m not aware of, my play has probably evolved in ways I’m not aware of. And those two things are almost certainly connected.

One way it’s changed is that I’ve become more aware of the character types that I am more comfortable playing, usually the big, strong, relatively straightforward characters. Characters who can act in any given situation without overthinking, unlike me in real life. I do still like playing a variety of different characters, but this understanding of my preferences has helped me pick appropriate characters for the sort of experience I want from a campaign. At least that’s the theory; too often I still choose more complex characters because I get excited about my nebulous ideas for a dramatic arc, and while that sometimes works out, it is rarely as satisfying to play as my standard simpler characters.

Also, do any of you read Darths & Droids? Webcomic about a roleplaying group’s extended sci-fi campaign, using Star Wars screencaps. It’s great, you should read it. Anyway, my habit of picking simpler characters reminds me a bit of Jim from that comic (but way less, obviously). He likes to turn his brain off for roleplaying (see?).

14th: Describe a failure that became amazing.

Took me a while to think of a good example here, because while I’ve had many many experiences of seeing bad outcomes become amazing, the bad outcomes were more often the result of character choices than failure in the dice-rolling mechanical sense. So here’s an example that has both of those elements at work.

Back in the first Unknown Armies campaign I was in, and pretty early in the campaign when our party of trauma wizards were not yet thoroughly broken individuals, we were lured to an isolated area by a recurring antagonist who wanted to question us about the weird magical stuff we left in our wake (he’d once been a cop). To protect himself, he had wired himself up to an EKG bomb that would detonate if his heart stopped beating.

My character at the time was Ray Martin, aka “Dammit Ray”, the ur example of the trope I mentioned in my response to yesterday’s prompt: big, proactive, none too bright. He was an Entropomancer, meaning he gained magical charges from taking risks. The more dangerous, for himself or his loved ones, the more magic he gained.

In response to this antagonist’s questioning, Ray decided to pull the wires out of the EKG machine and see what happened. The first thing that happened was that he gained a major charge, the biggest and most powerful charge in the game. Second, the room exploded. Everyone rolled to avoid the worst of the damage, and woke up later in the hospital. That is, everyone woke up later except one person: Natalie’s character, Lacey.

Lacey was dead.

We got a one-off chance to bring Lacey back if one of us would give up their life energy to do so, and Ray immediately volunteered himself. Lacey came back, and Ray was given just two more months to live. Because of these in-character decisions, I worked out that Ray had never really put any value on his own life. His family had all died young from a congenital wasting disease (but not so young that they’d avoided living in pain for their final months), and he figured he’d die young too so why not risk his own life doing what he wanted? The worst that could happen is that he’d die on his own terms and never have to live with the pain.

And so began the start of a fantastic character arc for Ray.

When Ray realised his actions had put other people in danger, he had a hard time coping. And when he found out that his final two months would be spent living in pain and confusion as a result of brain cancer (because deal demons have a cruel sense of humour, and so does our GM), he had an especially hard time coping. And when the party’s attempt to cure Ray of the brain cancer/get him out of the demon’s deal had the side effect of making Ray immortal (but still susceptible to pain), and he realised he’d need to actually be careful with his own body for all time, he became suicidal.

But after this, he pulled himself together, started thinking ahead, looking out for people. He still took risks, but they became more calculated and, frankly, more awesome. Remind me to tell you about how he took out a helicopter. It was good stuff, but for another time.

15th: Describe a tricky RPG experience you enjoyed.

After we wrapped up Unknown Armies, the same gaming group started a new campaign, featuring magic kids going to a magic school in a secret magic city (the Axis). I was playing Chet Drakenberg (who I mentioned briefly back on the 12th), a hyper-privileged rich kid with dragon powers (could turn into a dragon, could turn other things into dragons, etc.). Natalie (who played Lacey in the Unknown Armies campaign) played Kiki, the new kid at the school who mostly wanted to get out because the Axis was weird and scary. Kiki and Chet did not get on. They were both snarky, obnoxious kids who sniped at each other constantly.

So when the campaign did a time skip, naturally we decided that Kiki and Chet had started a romantic relationship.

An in-character relationship, particularly one with another player character, was new for me. Because the relationship had started during the time skip, as players we were not able to ease into it to find out how it worked. This all had to be agreed on and worked out in advance. Like a real relationship, planning it required us to step up the level of our communication. For a while, we worked out some of the facts of their relationship history (they had both cheated at various times), their interactions (they still bickered and sniped at eac other), and a bunch of other things. I still remember the two of us launching into a domestic argument in the middle of a session, not for too long but long enough to make the point. I still remember dropping the name “sassy britches” unexpectedly into conversation (although admittedly it’s because I’d forgotten the insult that I was intending to use).

Playing out that obviously dysfunctional relationship was fun and really helped make that campaign for me. It’s an experiment I’ve still never repeated, although I have played characters since who’ve had more low-key relationships with NPCs.

16th: Describe your plans for your next game.

I’m currently considering running a campaign of 7th Sea second edition. I’ve played a one-shot, but I still want to get a handle on the Stories mechanic because it feels like it could be an incredibly powerful tool in my RPG toolbox. I don’t have any other plans for the game yet, although I’ve reached out to a few people (starting with the people with whom I played the one-shot). With 7th Sea, one thing that needs to be worked out up front is what sort of campaign we want, because different types of heroes lean towards very different themes. The expectation is probably for swashbuckling high adventure, but setting a campaign in Eisen is asking for a gothic horror story, and heroes from Vodacce are more suited to espionage and political intrigue. Don’t get me wrong, gothic horror 7th Sea could be fun (and fascinating), but the important thing is that all the players are on the same page up front.

17th: Describe the best compliment you’ve had while gaming.

My gaming group is generous with compliments, which is nice, but for this question I’m going to pick a compliment that I had from a stranger. It was at the first convention game I ever played in (out of two so far), which was at Dragonmeet (I forget the year, probably 2015). The game was Victoriana, the only time I’ve ever played it.

My character was a Gnome journalist. He was pre-generated but I fleshed him out with a bit of personality. I figured he was always looking for the next big scoop, so I played him as a fast talker, someone who hates to wait because he could be missing out on something newsworthy happening somewhere else. I really don’t think there was much more to it than that, although some of my fast talking resulted in neat roleplaying scenes for the other players (I would have got one too, but I cut it short with a summary narration when it became clear that it wouldn’t advance the plot, time for convention games being at a premium). But when we were done, the GM told me specifically that I’d done some good roleplaying. I appreciated that.

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