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I had been working on the next post to the blog here, about getting down to Role Playing and making good characters that are not only believable, but interesting and workable to get personally involved in the storylines.  And my friend J (actually, his name is John) from the blog on Immersion , popped up to talk a bit about some things related to gaming.

Now let me give you an aside here: John and I are approximately the same age, with about the same background and tastes in gaming, and a good disdain for people that only half-ass their involvement in games.  He had this to say:

“I’m sick of every wet-behind-the-ears gamer who doesn’t even know what the roll ‘keep’ or ‘soak’ game mechanics are, thinking they are expert Role Players. Just because you give a character a personality quirk does not mean he’s 3 dimensional.  It just means you’re substituting the quirk for actual personality. It’s just too common these days to mean anything. Hell they TELL you to do it in some books.

“Want to impress me?  Give me a background.  Actually, no, give me a background I can work with. I don’t want to hear about how you’re the long lost son of a god. I want to hear that your mother is a still active working girl in Waterdeep who sacrificed everything so you could go to mage school.  It’s interesting and I can use that character later as a hook

“I guess at times what i see from newer players is a tendency to think creating an impossible to play with character or just acting like an idiot as a way of getting attention is a good thing. I always wonder why people want to make a blackguard for a good party. Being unique doesn’t make you useful.

“Destiny is something that seizes a well played character. Not something to be shoehorned into a campaign.  It’s a reward for being at the heart of the story, for creating adventure and for active role playing.

“Don’t wait for the DM to notice you.  Make him notice you by being the guy who gets everyone to work together.  By being the guy who makes stories happen.  If you’re a good leader, you make the story more interesting.   If you’re a bad leader you REALLY make the game more interesting.

“And this is not a dig at the genuinely shy player who is trying to come out of their shell.  I have a special place in my heart for that guy. I want that guy to get his time in the sun.

“This is to every person who answers a text(at the gaming table) that doesn’t involve pregnancy…

“To every guy who makes the dm leave the table in disgust …

“And to every person who thinks that Twinking a character is what makes him powerful.”

What this really comes down to is Character.  I don’t mean the one written on the piece of paper.  I mean character, that quality that makes people truly memorable.  Character is something you just have.  You can build it in yourself.

In the book Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain talks about why he will 99 times out of 100 hire a Mexican, Ecuadorian, Colombian, etc. cook, elevating him from humble dishwasher, rather than the American Culinary graduate for a job in his restaurants.  It’s character.  You see, Mr. Bourdain knows, KNOWS that you cannot teach character; you CAN teach skills.  I can spend weeks on this blog just teaching you how to use the rules in the Dungeons and Dragons game (pick an edition) to make you a masterful game player, I can’t really teach you character.  I mean, I can list for you some of the things that indicate to me you have no real character.

Fry’s List of Things That Will Make Him Tell You To Leave His Table

  1. Metagame.  Go ahead, I double dog dare you.  Do it, and you will find you on your way out the door, with my boot print on your ass.
  2. Bring an electronic character sheet to the table.  I spend a hell of a lot of time preparing adventures for my players.  I make handouts, tailor plotlines, the whole magilla.  So if you can’t be goddamn bothered to PRINT OUT YOUR CHARACTER SHEET, you may as well pack it in, son.
  3. Play with your laptop on (this goes for cellphones that browse the internet, text messaging, etc.)  Like I said, I put a lot of time into my games.  And when someone half-asses it at my table, they are gone.  I have kicked players from my table at conventions for behavior like this.  And they PAID to play my game.
  4. Go out of your way to be an ass.  This is a broad category.  If you bully other players into doing what you think they should do, you fall into this category.  If you tell someone, EVER, that they aren’t playing their character right, you are an ass.  If you come to my table with the express purpose of trying to outshine every other person there, in order to fuel your own little delusions of grandeur… bye-bye.
  5. Cheat.  I mean it.  You cheat on a dice roll, add your skills up incorrectly, and misrepresent what your character knows… not only will I kick you out, be assured I will remember you, and I will never allow you back at the table again.
  6. Intentionally make others uncomfortable.  I am not going into detail, but I will warn you once about your behavior.  Then, take a walk, because you aren’t sitting here anymore.

This is the tip of the iceberg, folks.  No, I do not expect perfect people at my table.  Far from it.  But I do expect you to behave yourself, and work together.  It is a social activity, meant to be something you do with other people, cooperatively.

Look, if you really put the effort out to be a part of the group, to be an active contributor to the story, I will reward you in kind.  If you make sure to role play your character, even if it is meant to be a cliché of sorts, and “pay in” to the system, I will make sure you get rewarded.  When I conclude game sessions, and I feel like you have truly performed and contributed to the role play, I will give you more experience points.  And yes, I will do it in front of other players.

But Fry, you say, won’t the others be jealous?  Maybe they will, but if they understand that they only stand to gain from the system, if they would only get off their duffs and pitch in.  A number of game groups that I have run for over the years have seen this in action, and every session, I ended up having to hand out more and more extra experience for role playing.  It was heartening.  They did it not just for the points, but after a while, they realized that they actually got more satisfaction out of the game.  Suddenly, they had an actual stake in the game.  And that, my friends, feels good.

Look, I can’t teach you how to make YOUR character.  I don’t mean what steps to get the stats, I mean make the character.  Make the persona and history and quirks and mannerisms, and all that stuff.  I can’t do it, because how I make MY characters is bound to be radically different from how you do it.  I can’t teach you how to have character.  But I can tell you this much: you get out of the experience what you put into it.

If you put forth 1/5 the effort (as a player) that your GM does in making the weekly game, you are contributing meaningfully.  That does not mean hours spent; it means EFFORT.  Your GM, if he is ANYTHING like me at all, wants to make the stories that involve you all, and still go somewhere, and evolve, and grow. But that means you have to be a part of it.  And that means you have to put forth some effort.

Create an online blog that you use to keep an in-character journal.  Hell, write one in a little notebook (a technique I have used in long running games, called Blue Booking).  Keep extensive notes of little things that catch your character’s interest.  Be honest when you roll badly.  Accept your screw ups.  You will not believe how much we want you to do this, because we, as GMs, can use this stuff in later games.  And by doing that, you get more involved, which makes you contribute more, which makes us involve you more…

You see where I am going with this?

I can be a curmudgeonly prick, a right nasty prick at times.  I know this, I admit this.  Some of my friends LIKE me for this.  But I also appreciate effort and work.  If you come to the table with a four page background of your character that is something truly intriguing, that gives me fodder to work with later on down the road, you are in.  Hell, if you develop little history bits as play goes on that I can use, and that don’t just benefit you, you are in.

Look, this may seem like a lot, but when you think about it, it really isn’t.  Stop bitching about getting shafted; stop whining about not getting what you want.  Start rolling with the punches and challenges; pitch in when people ask you for something.  Start being an active part of your game, in positive ways.  Your GM will notice, and he will thank  you for it.

What do you think?


One Comment

  1. I think you’re not as popular as you deserve to—and should—be considering the quality of this advice.

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