This week, I’d like to step away from MMO theory and speculation, and get back into my primary love – women...no wait wrong blog - pen and paper RP! Something for the newbies and the computer gamers who came to White Wolf by way of VtM: Redemption and VtM: Bloodlines, or maybe through vampire fiction or MMO fandom in general, rather than through the tabletop game. Maybe some of you seasoned veterans can glean some inspiration from this one as well. :)
Roleplaying is the art of interactive storytelling, and as we all know – the foundation of any good story is its characters. Therefore, it’s essential to spend some time developing well-thought out characters before jumping into a chronicle.
The danger in creating a character lies in lack of preparation. It’s easy to dive write in, following the instructions of character creation, but when you reach the point to set the character’s Attributes and Abilities and such, what blueprint do you follow for assigning the dots? It becomes a slow scroll through each column playing the “Ooo, I like Athletics....ooo! I like Computers....oooo! Summa this and summa that would be good, too!” game. By the time you’ve finished creating the character, you’ve got a computer nerd Shaolin monk that uses firearms and can empathize really well with street gangs while completing cutthroat boardroom finance deals. Not much sense or cohesion there. You may as well be throwing darts while blindfolded.
These kinds of characters tend to be really fun to play for 2 or 3 sessions before becoming really aimless and dull because the player has no clear sense of direction or purpose. Good Storytellers rely on the players to drive their characters, so when the player has no idea what they want for their character, it forces the Storyteller to make things up on the fly – things that the player may or may not enjoy.
White Wolf helps us by suggesting we start with a simple, one- or two-word concept for our character. “Chivalrous Policeman”, “Douchebag Lawyer” or “Self-Defense Yoga Instructor” for example. The concept then guides our creativity as we create our character. It’s helpful, but we should never stop there. A good character, just like a real person, has a history and family, career goals and personal goals, hopes and fears, friends and lovers, morals, rivals (or maybe even enemies), etc. The more we explore and develop these facets of our character (P.S. Write them down as you think of them!), the better off we’ll be when roleplaying as them. Ask yourself questions like “What kind of people would they hang out with?”, “Who are their friends?”, “3 negative things about my character are....”, or “In a life-threatening situation or fight, my character would....”
Don’t be afraid to go granular with it, either. Sometimes it’s the details and minutiae that really bring a character to life. Visible tattoos, physical quirks or habits such as constantly cleaning your fingernails when you’re bored or nervous, clothing styles all contribute to a well-developed persona.
Finally, and this is my favourite, there’s a great golden rule I like to keep in mind – Failure = Excitement! Without failure, or the risk of failure, the world would be a very dull and boring place. Just imagine how insufferable we would all be if we knew everything and were always right. You could arguably say that evolution would cease if everyone was good at everything. There would be no drive to excel, no hunger to better ourselves. Deep, I know! With that in mind, it’s okay to make flawed characters that can and will fail dice rolls. Those moments during the chronicle can be some of the most unpredictably thrilling roleplaying moments you’ll experience!
Once you have these ideas and questions generated, you should then proceed with allocating dots on your character sheet. Shading in dots should be rather quick and easy at this point, since you’ll already have a good idea about your character’s strengths and aptitudes. And don’t be afraid to refer back your notes later in the chronicle. Sometimes we can lose sight of key character traits that were really cool when we first thought them up.
From an MMO perspective, I’m hoping CCP incorporates some of the aspects from Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines – namely the questions that helped determine what type of character you should play. Some of them were rather arbitrary, but I think something similar that suggested dot allocation depending on your answer to each question would be really helpful to players who aren’t familiar with the pen and paper process.
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239 days ago
For the experienced roleplayer, who's comfortable with operating on the fly and making things up as they go? Sure. For the inexperienced player, I still think that kind of approach does them a disservice
240 days ago
The nice thing about World of Darkness rules is that "summa this, summa that" can end up working really well. Creating a character by randomly throwing a dart could result in somebody really interesting to play.