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2007-07-17 In Character

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Two things I noticed for both my gaming groups:

  1. Very little in-character roleplay
  2. A war gaming attitude when it comes to combat

It’s interesting to see how roleplaying newbies settled into this style because it was all they had ever seen, and how other roleplaying veterans react when they join: Talking in character, starting their description not with their class, maybe thinly disguised as “my talents are…” but with eye color, hair style, dress, and so on.

I guess I don’t mind either way. Story telling always fascinates me, but when I’m sitting at a table, I often find that I don’t really care what other people tell me about the colors of their character’s trousers. I’ll conjure up images of these trousers myself.

Here’s how we play:

  1. Characters start with next to no background. Class, race, alignment, and two or three sentences are enough.
  2. Over time, the things that people actually do turn into the background of their future selves.
  3. Third person or first person, it doesn’t matter, as long as the action flows smoothly.
  4. Keep descriptions as short as possible. Make every word count, and leave the rest to the players.

This last point reminds me of playing on the Elendor MUSH. I hated those long posters who took minutes to post and always had at least twenty lines to say. I loved short posters who wrote a line or two and gave me the chance to react right away.

I removed “Dangerous. Characters die, and then you roll up a new one.” from the list. I’m stil working on it. Characters rarely die. In the old days, I used to cheat a lot behind my screen, making sure they did not die unless they made me angry with their carelessness. These days I know that if they are carelessness then I should make it more creepy and tense.

Personally, I’d like to think that old-school also means “no battle map” and “the DM adjudicates”. But I think we had rule lawyers even in the old days of AD&D 2nd ed. I think there are two explanations: Min-maxers who really like to take advantage of the rules. It’s an accountant’s joy, but it’s part of the fun for some, and a legitimate reason to like the game. The other explanation is that “trusting the DM” is frustrating because the net result is the impression of autonomy loss. Some games have few rules but restore player autonomy by using hero/luck/action points with which players can influence events. That’s too bad, because I feel that “the DM adjudicates” makes for a faster game. Using lots of rules is the antithesis. It makes for a slower game.

I recently found an article by Monte Cook on running 3rd ed D&D without miniatures. I’ve used battlemaps, and I’ve used sketches. But reading Monte’s article I remembered that in the old days, we just used plain paper and tokens. Essentially a battlemap without a grid. And we usually ignored movement rate in tactical situations.

Maybe I’ll cut some cheap old chop sticks into 4 in. and 6 in. rulers and return to the improvised battlemap without a grid.

Anyway, back to those two points from the first list up above: Yes, there is not a lot of in-character roleplay, but that’s Ok if there’s enough third-person roleplay. Players can talk of their characters in the third person and I don’t mind. The players are not the characters. As for the wargaming, I think I’ll write about it on 2007-07-17 More Hitpoints Not.

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