On collaboration in roleplay

in #roleplaying3 years ago

What is the most important thing to keep in mind when roleplaying? Is it imagination, creativity or maybe colorful language?
I say - NAY! In the grand scheme of things, those thing while nice are not really that important. The most important thing when roleplaying is to keep other players in mind at all times and to make sure that your character supplements their stories.
Upon hearing this, you may ask - isn't my character supposed to be the special snowflake, that is unique in all the world.
And to that I have to answer - your uniqueness can be fun of course and to a degree - yes, you are a player character because you are special. But it should not overshadow what your story contributes to the party. In multiplayer video games, the party is always made out of players and characters that supplement each other - tank, healer, dps. In the knowledge that each player will play their part, they each play unique part.
With roleplaying the important part is not winning though and as such those roles are less important than what the character will bring to the party in roleplay.
For example, it is sometimes fun to have the player characters be philosophically opposed. Does the party have a chaotic character and a lawful character, well that is a great opportunity. They both have different worldviews, but it is not as fun if their worldviews do not give in at all. You should play with the idea that those worldviews will influence each other to a degree. And as the ideologies influence each other, you will discover in your roleplay, how two people growing in the same society developed such differing idiologies.

You now know that I value collaboration in roleplay a lot. Well how best to achieve it?
Well I am big proponent of not thinking about your character a lot before the actual play. When I create my characters, I mostly just pick out the mechanical parts - class, race, gender. Also I usually pick like a sentence or two about what my character is like.
"A trickster kenku, who just longs for a family."
"An immoral warlock, in love with his patron."
"A cheerful human girl, running from her past by turning to her training."
All those descriptions are very vague, upon need I can add a lot of extra detail and as the play goes I do just that.
When I interact with the GM and other players I doubtlessly find more things about my own character and as such my character grows from nothing to something complex.
I feel that developing the character this way is best for roleplay. I don't need to worry about complex backstory before the story actually needs it and the GM can easily incorporate me into the world. As for the other characters - they can easily influence my character, even retroactively. That way the character become not just my own, but everyone's.
And that, I think, is a good thing.

What is your opinion on this? Do you create complex backstories for your characters before you start, or do your characters evolve with play. Which do you think is best way?


Anyone that has followed along with my RPG postings knows that I am a big supporter of systems which happen at the table, everything from character generation to world generation – right there between all the players.

Consistent with that, I tend to prefer games which completely of creating complex backstories away from the table. That's not a thing that is a conscious aversion from me because I really do enjoy the lonely fun of making characters – the couple of posts where I do so in great detail would make me a liar if I said that I was against it. But there is that smidgen of magic that happens when people are bouncing ideas for characters off of one another at the table and it's the first time that they've heard those ideas.

There is a little electric spark that you can't get anywhere else. For me, that's a big deal. As the guy who has pretty much always been stuck being the GM, it's a great opportunity when I can drop that whole role and sit down with other people at the table knowing that we can all play the game together.

I have given significant consideration to designing a game in which the entire point of play is to design the characters. That is the multiple session, multiple player, and possibly even designed for play-by-post goal of the whole thing. The endgame would come when the character is what would commonly be thought of as "ready to play."

Needless to say, I haven't quite put together all the bits for that yet. I'm not even sure there's a demand. But it would be interesting, and I like interesting.

The purest example of "creation and play" that I can think of is probably A Penny for My Thoughts, which starts everyone at the table playing an amnesiac who have all taken an experimental drug which causes their memories to slowly return in response to questions – but the memories of a given character don't return to that character, they've come to someone else at the table. Gameplay then becomes going through a series of guided questions where at critical junctures you offer the choice of two possibilities which represent different memories to people at the table. There is a very minor resource allocation mechanic in there as well, but the biggest part is you asking others about yourself, and accepting the answers are given – and not always will those answers be things that you love, but you have to role with and integrate the answers that you get.

It's a great convention game. No prep. Gameplay happens just by reading the book to the other people at the table because it's structured like a guided meditation experiment in a psychological facility. And by the end of the session you feel like you have learned how these people came to be in the situations that they are, why they are, and even what the next step for them as individuals is.

Don't ask too many questions about my Sailor Moon variant. It's probably for the best

I like how your comment is longer than my post :D I'll just pretend that getting discussion was my plan all along, else I'd feel inadequate before you :D
But yea you should totally make that character creation system. Actually the more collaborative roleplay there is the better.

Sailor Moon variant? You can't just tease me like that and not tell me more.

Yeah, I can't help it – verbosity is just a thing that happens, especially as I move closer to bedtime.

Well, one of the central tenets of the later Sailor Moon material was that they were all mind wiped clones of the already destroyed Moon Empire. It's easy to slot a game about dreams and amnesia and a modicum of giving up control to a bunch of could be Sailor Moon-class girls who don't know their own level of danger.

Good times, good times.

And all that required was setting up a brand-new questionnaire for the Moonies.

I prefer to have a solid background before I start. I want to know who my character is, what does it want, what is it afraid of. It helps to craft my decisions in game. It also helps if I have links into the world - I know where my home is so if there are giants nearby I'm going to be concerned, I know I have relatives in that city so I would push on to get there so we can have a nice place to stay that is not an inn etc'.
To each their own style of play of course but I think that if you do not know who your character is it'll be a bit hard for you to know how to respond top other players and what they are doing.

It is not that I don't know my character, it is more that I know it in vague detail that I can't even put in words. I just create the details as I go. I am not saying that very detailed backgrounds before you start is bad, it is just that I prefer my style :)

I don't see it as a binary choice.

I see it as a good goal, but HOW you do it is very, very dependent on the circumstances.

Sometimes, you can best collaborate at the table by opposing the other players, bringing better stories to light. Other times, leading in your own tale. In still others, acting as supporting cast in someone else's story.

As such, I see it as a personal preference as to how much of a background you bring to the table. No background, no matter how individually focused, precludes future collaboration & growth. In fact, it's not a bad thing to show - the egotist becoming more aware and part of consensual reality. In other cases, one or many (or even all!) egotists in a party can tell other interesting stories!

In short, it comes down to the chemistry, the goals, the intents inherent within your current gaming group, in my mind.