thread: 2005-11-10 : Open House: Ask a Frequent Question...

On 2005-11-11, Vincent wrote:

Charles: What is up with the idea that it is only the players that matter, and that the characters don't matter? I'm probably expressing it poorly, but surely you recognize what I mean?

Well, I have two answers, and which I give you depends on where you're coming from.

Answer one, if you're coming from "when we roleplay, something mysterious happens and our characters really come to life, it's cool!": you, uh, you do realize that you're making it happen, right? By doing things that you could identify and do more reliably, right? They aren't real, they don't cause anything, only you do.

Answer two, if you're coming from "when we roleplay, we use techniques that we can identify and we work together to create fiction": too right, characters are all that matters. Everything, the whole endeavor, depends on the characters, their integrity as characters, and the passion with which you play them. Without that, the fiction's dead.

The problem we have to deal with is that we'll be having a conversation with someone based on the latter, and they'll suddenly come out with something that reveals that they think the former. Real head-stumpers like "I didn't pass any moral judgement, my character just felt like gunning every last backstabbing bastard of them down" and "rolling dice interferes with your ability to engage with your character."

The further problem is that whether they actually think the former or not, what's really going on is that they object to the analysis of their play.

So we, I, take pains to be very certain that everyone understands that characters aren't magic - and that everyone is willing to critically examine and talk honestly about roleplaying - before I'll talk about how characters are magic.


This makes CS go "That's a generic 'you' right?"
I mean, you have no doubt which camp I fall into, right? It seems to me that as long as the assumption is that everyone is still stuck on understanding answer 1, that is hard to get to answer 2. I mean, Emily did the answer 1 on me at some point this summer, and I know she knows that I am beyond that point of lack of understanding. Somewhere along the line answer 1 seems to have been turned into a profound truth, rather than a very basic starting point. The language needed to talk about answer 2 will sometimes verge towards language that suggests the speaker may not be clear on answer 1. If the mere use of that language to talk about answer 2 spurs a drop down into the baby talk of answer 1, then it is both very hard to talk about answer 2 in any depth, and fairly off-putting to find the other conversants suddenly falling down into the answer 1 baby talk level. The first head stumper does generally represent an attempt to block analysis, and answer 1 doesn't really help with getting them to accept or participate in analysis (except perhaps by shaming). Head stumper 2 is much more complex. It can just as easily mean that dice rolling breaks the concentration on the character mind set, in fact, I can't really see how it relates to the question of character vs player at all really. For a player, rolling dice may distract them from imagining the world and their character. Some degree of distraction may be okay, but others may not be. This obviously varies from player to player, and with degree of familiarity with the rules and with dice rolling. Is there really anyone who doesn't find scene that suddenly pauses for 15 minutes while rule books are consulted and dice are rolled to resolve something that should have been an uncontested statement to be debilitating to a game? Obviously, dice mechanics can be created that are smoother and cleaner than the 15 minute look-up, but no dice mechanic can be created that is smoother than an uncontested statement. Obviously, contested statements without dice can easily turn into 15 minute arguments, which are probably even more damaging than 15 minute look-ups, so I agree that there is a purpose to dice mechanics. All that is digression. It seems to me that an extreme reaction to language which might suggest that the player treats the characters as real and independent entities makes it very difficult to talk about the parts of gaming that relate to imagining the characters as real and independent entities. Um, trying to carry on this conversation in the marginalia is going to be really hard. My comments are way too long to review in a 3 line window.

This makes CS go "Hard to read too!"
Also, marginalia get lost really easily. I wonder how hard it would be for you to add a "recent marginalia" list to your main page side bar (like the recent comments list). Just a thought.

This makes CS go "Neat marginalia feature I hadn't noticed"
Not having posted in a while, I had't realized that marginalia on my comments shows up on the main page for me. Neat.

This makes ecb go "I am sorry I pulled that on you, C."
Mea culpa.

This makes CS go "No trauma"
Sorry to make an example of you. I wasn't offended, just found it striking.

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