Monday, March 4, 2019

RP: Access Points And Why Your PC Cannot be Played Like a Novel Protagonist

Something I've noticed in a lot of RPGs are people getting so wrapped up in their characters that they forget what the RP is for in the first place. It's great to have your own narrative, and in fact that can be really helpful, but it's not always the best for an access point to other players. Especially in bigger multi-player games like World of Warcraft of the kinds of things you find in chat rooms.

So, access points. What exactly do I mean by that? Let's find out.

Content Warning: A lot of talk about knowing your audience, a healthy dose of irreverence and the insinuation that no one owes you RP just for showing up.

In a novel, the audience is seeing the story through the lens of your main character. That basically means, the audience connects with the story through that character and become them in terms of the narrative. It is totally fine if Harry Potter saves the day by himself because ultimately that is the reader saving the day by themselves and that's what they came here for.

A book's protagonist can and should be at the center of everything. What they do has to be engaging on a level of 'this would be interesting for me, the reader, to do, as a vicarious experience'.

That means your currency in a novel's protagonist is, 'what fantasy am I selling to my reader when they slip into this character's skin'.

Contrast this with an RP, where the audience members each have their own characters to play.

If you're playing a game with multiple people, you are competing with the other players much hte same way your book would be competing with other books on a shelf. You want your book to give the reader the best experience. You want your RP character to give the other players the best experience, too.

If you're playing a tabletop, and you're the Dungeon Master, you are compelled to make things interesting for your players, but to a lesser degree. As a DM, all of them came to the game to play the game and presumably you don't have a PC yourself. You want a lot of buy in and that makes some of this apply, however. You know there's that little piece of you deep down that wants your players to leave your game and go 'that was a truly excellent experience, so much better than the one Laurel ran', right?

That said? In an RPG, your currency is 'what experience can I sell to this other person's character that will make them have fun'.

People pick the most entertaining book. They will also choose to interact with the characters that are most entertaining to them. Every player wants to see themselves as the protagonist of their own story, and like it or not that means yours has to have some conflict points to exploit.

That means  having some form of plot to engage with, yes. Be careful, though, because this isn't all you need and not every player is going to want to touch base with what you feel like running, especially if what you feel like running is off genre for the game you're playing. If you're playing high fantasy no one is going to want to go on your space adventure, sorry.

Put your pencils down, class, and stop  coming up with those long epic arcs for a minute. If you're in the big stream of people and you just want some interactions for the time being, you're going to need access points. Both for other people to approach you, and, more importantly, for you to approach other people.

'More importantly?' you may be asking. 'What if I'm shy though?'

I once saw someone on World of Warcraft that had a character carrying a stolen bag and left an open invitation for that bag to belong to anyone in the vicinity in order to start some drama. That was the most brilliant hook I've ever seen fishing for walk ups. It was very good. No one took her up on it.

You can't expect people to walk up to you. You have to get them involved. Invite people to your table. Walk up to them and say something snide and start a fight (people love conflict!). It helps a lot if you have a way to get your character access to other people's. The sad truth is, if you want the RP, you have to go get it yourself.

An assassination attempt can be dramatic, but isn't likely to endear you to anyone and might make it difficult to get your character back out alive. A fight over somebody's outfit is a little on the shallow end. On the other hand, if you hear them talking about something that seems pretty serious to them, you could always poke at something contrary to their belief system and watch the sparks fly.

Debate is fun. People will thank you for it.

That's all well and good if you're in a group with strangers. What if you're playing with a group of people you already know and want to form more attachments with them?

Even easier. Pay attention to the kind of RP they go for themselves and offer them that. It's terrible form to go up to someone, even someone you know, and go 'I have an idea for an RP that I want to do, entertain me' without considering what the other player is getting out of it.

Always consider what the other player is getting out of it.

Books have genres for a reason. A reader knows basically what they want and will pick the genre that's going to give them that. Similarly, a player knows basically what they want and it's not that hard to tell which ones are looking for romance and which ones are looking for a fight--and sometimes which ones are looking for both. Know the kind of player you are trying to draw in for what you want.

You'll have a much easier time of things.

Fortune Favors,
Megan R. Miller

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