Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Too much Character" characters

By Fiona McGinty
"Too much Character" characters
by Tobie Abad
Originally published in 2009.

Many storytellers find themselves complaining that their group tends to create characters who LACK character. They would create vampires whose goals and motivations are as typical as "kill all the werewolves" or "gain more power." Strangely, this is no longer that common a problem as far as I have noticed in my end.

The problem that arose in my group was the opposite:
the tendency of displaying too much Character.

For example, through a story:
Storyteller: The two of you have made your way into the Labyrinth where the dreaded Toreador Infernalist is believed to have found sanctuary. You, (pointing to Player A, who is a Salubri on the Path of Heaven) can sense the evilness that permeates the place. The Gangrel (pointing to Player B) feels uneasy as well. You feel as if the nature around you is different. Strange.

Player B: "Perhaps we should rethink this approach. Methinks the Toreador witch has set us a trap."

Player A: "No. None shall stay the vengeance of God. We go. Now."

Storyteller: Moving deeper into the Labyrinth, you feel the slight changes in the area. The winds had turned stale and acrid. The ground you tread upon sighs as if alive. The flora about you seem twisted and distorted. Vines wrapping about flowers and choking thier pollen away. Gnarled roots eating through stems of their own branch. (rolls a few dice, for intrigue sake) Everyone roll Stamina.

Player B: Oops, I botched.

Player A: Made it.

Storyteller: The gangrel screams as pain shoots through his legs. Looking down, it becomes apparent that the flora about are dangerous. Thorns had bitten past the leather boots and suckled on the vitae. To your suprise (points to Player A), the same said thorns that have pulled the Gangrel to the ground have not given you a flicker of pain.

Player B: "Aargh.. these vines are..." Can I break free?

Storyteller: (to Player B) No. Having failed the Stamina check, the unnatural poisons of the vines actually keep you down. (to both) The gangrel's voice is cut as the vines wrap around his whole body, imprisoning him to the ground.

Player B: "Santiago... help me..."

Player A: "Nothing will delay the Hand of God." I raise my sword and decapitate him.

Both Player B and Storyteller: WHAT????

Player A: "The demon shall not have anyone to use against me." He may be corrupted by the dark forces eventually to serve the evil my character is hunting down. I will not let him delay me. "Nothing shall stay my duty."


Now, that was a scene I found myself facing when the group I was with were facing a Tzimisce Infernalist (who posed as a Toreador). The Gangrel and the Salubri were old time friends. Prior to the Salubri's taking the Path of Heaven, the two were together in many events; the formation of the Convention of Thorns, the Rise of the Anarch Revolt, etc.

But when the Path of Heaven was embraced, the Salubri player decided, "I want him to act deeply into his faith." Considering the path was embraced after the Salubri discovered rumors of the connections between his Clan and the Baali, it was wholly in character that the vampire would compensate by over compensating his beliefs.

It was all and good for the game, at first. When the Assamites attacked a Spanish town, the two characters helped without prodding. When a church was burning, the Salubri charged headlong into the fire (after successful Courage rolls) and rescued the tabernacle.

When the Salubri fell in love with a Lasombra woman, he turned her away for "the Heart can love only one... and mine already has found its passion."

But when that particular scene occured, that's when we realised, there IS such a thing as too much character. Although it was totally acceptable in the character's mindset and appropriate to his concept, it defied the main point of having a role-playing game: To have a great fun time with friends in creating a great story.

By killing off another player character, the player who was too much in character destroyed the fun of the game for another. It wasn't like simply complicating the other character's life. It was taking him OUT of the game.

Such extremes, thankfully, are rare. But they do happen. In my storytelling experience I had encountered three players so far who reached such peaks. It would be unfair to both the game and the players to simply disallow such actions. As would it be unrealistic to have some NPC show up each and every time it happens to STOP the event. So what can a Storyteller do?

Here is the suggestion that worked for me:
Call for a time out and talk with the players.
by Nina Matthews

In the example above, call for a time out and ask the Salubri player if this is really what he wants to do. Then ask the Gangrel character if he is willing to let it happen. If any say no, then fudge the rules a bit and have something happen.

Perhaps the Vines attack the Salubri and this time succeed in taking him down. This option still gives the game depth because now the Gangrel knows his friend no longer values his life like before and can add to interesting scenes.

Perhaps the Salubri's attack doesn't kill the Gangrel outright, but instead incites the Gangrel into a Frenzy. The Salubri and the Gangrel fight it out a bit, and maybe the players would like to have this fight be to the finish. If not, there's always TORPOR.

The player characters are the stars of the show. No matter what differences they may have in the game, their own battle against each other will always be a stand off until the LAST game session.

Think of any movie or book where there are two heroes who become enemies. If their differences towards each other can never be resolved, they do not have their climactic fight to the death scene till the end.

Perhaps, have the Salubri stop (take control for a moment) and realise that the Gangrel deserves a chance to die in his own time. He frees the Gangrel but makes it clear that he will not halt death if he comes to visit.

When a storyteller is confronted with a player character who has absorbed his "personality" too much to allow other players to enjoy the game, then the storyteller must resolve it immediately or watch the game deteriorate into a spite fest.

All games are intended to be an enjoyable experience for the gaming group. If one takes the game too far, it is common sense that the others will help him realise that he should return to his place. Likewise, if a character goes too far into his personality, then the storyteller and the players have every right to alter the personality a bit just to make the character more acceptable in his actions.

And when all attempts at proper communication fail, and the player character with the personality that disrupts fun gaming still persists, there is always one last resort other than asking him to leave the game.

Have his character suffer the best way and excuse to permit him to reduce the the unworldly amount of Character he has placed in his character: Amnesia.
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