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Monday 7 September 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: RPGPundit Gets All Philosophical About PCs

There's a fundamental question that's been on my mind for some time now: When you RP, can you possibly RP a character that is not you?

I mean, consider: pretty much every character one runs will be, initially, one of three types:

1. An aspect of your own persona, exaggerated.
For example, when I run the Roman senator Demetrius, I'm portraying the part of me that is the scheming self-justifying politician.  I realize that this is one little sliver of my own personality.  Likewise, when I play Smiley, the crazy boorish Scottish barbarian; at first sight he wouldn't seem much like me at all; but in reality Smiley is my own inner barbarian, the part of me that wants to act completely on impulse and be completely unconcerned with social mores.  In some player's cases, they will even be portraying characters that are almost 100% of themselves; I've known many a player where you see him, over and over again, playing himself as a Dwarf, himself as a Warrior, himself as a Jedi, etc etc.

2. A persona that has opposing traits to your own, but is really based on your own prejudices or perspectives about said traits.
For example, I could play someone who was a fanatical Nanny-state advocate social worker. But the way I would run him or her would be really based on my own identity's perspectives of what such a person is like.  Even if I tried to make it as favourable as possible, this would still be true. It would not be what they're really like, it would be how I view them as.

3. A character from pre-existing media.
I run Superman. Ok, fine; I didn't invent Superman; Superman has some pretty well-known traits, so you can definitely say that I'm not just playing a part of my own identity when I run Superman right?
Well... in fact, no.  You notice how when a new writer starts to write for Superman, what Superman is about changes? "Alan Moore's Superman" would be very different (and would instantly conjure up a very different mental image) from "Todd McFarlane's Superman".
Likewise, RPGPundit's Superman would end up being different in tack from JongWK's Superman or Jrient's Superman or Levi's Superman. And that difference would come from... you guessed it, your own persona.

So yes, I think at the get-go it is practically impossible to portray a character that isn't just you acting out your own persona (short of say, creating a character with totally mechanized pre-set or random responses to absolutely everything).
However, there is a moment that appears, with certain characters, when you play them long enough; where they start "doing things" on their own. Where it is no longer you the player/GM deciding what these characters would do, but rather they themselves that are doing things and often their reactions, which spring into your mind, take you by surprise.  Its that moment, the moment of surprise, when your characters have grown out of being just a product of your own Persona and have become their own personas.

This is why RPGs are better when played as long campaigns, and why micro-games fail at being good "deep" RPGs.  They try to mechanically simulate with dice rolls or gimmicky rules what you can only really accomplish through good long-term Roleplaying.


(Originally Posted December 7, 2006)

1 comment:

  1. Guess you're right. And I totally subscribe to that last paragraph.