Being Like Water: December 2013 RPG Blog Carnival

My final entry in this month’s RPG Blog Carnival is a story of a player character from a campaign I ran many years ago who typified the ‘take charge’ attitude in an intriguing and non-confrontational way. Played by a novice, in a very large group, the character overcame intra-party politics, conflicting philosophies and religions, and the machinations of other PC rivals for the safe shepherding of the group through a perilous journey. Of course, behind every great character, there is a great player…

How did she do it?

In a nutshell, she listened when people were speaking in character and about their characters. She took an interest in what they were saying and made use of that information to figure out how all nine characters, some good, some not-so-good, some downright vile, could possibly get along. Once she had that figured out, she actively worked to make it happen.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

It should sound easy, because it is easy, but here’s the kicker – despite how easy it sounds, it is something I have rarely seen employed around the table. In fact, despite all the years and despite all the different groups with whom I have had the pleasure of playing, at most any given group might have 1 person who puts this into practice. More often than not, that solitary person ends up being the one who is stuck being the group’s perma-GM. The games are fun, but are sadly more like a form of simultaneous solo adventure than the cohesive and evolving relationship that they could be.

So, how did she do it?

To crack open the nutshell above, she treated the characters like real people, and she treated the players like information-sources she could mine to get to know them better. She expected the relationships between the characters to be the meat on the bones of the adventure, and she took it as a challenge when disagreement loomed. She knew names, and used them. She knew what languages each character spoke, and used those, too – or began to learn them. She simplified and clarified goals, both shared and individual, and praised whoever achieved one. Outside of the game, she took nothing that went on inside the game personally. Inside the game, she ignored the real world. Nothing that she did was particularly earth-shattering, but if we ignore all the talk people spout about how good their games are and how great their players are, and actually look at the sort of play that is happening, we may be surprised at how many characters are absent from play while their players are merely placid plot-followers looking to get to the next resolution point.

Being like water, she flowed through the open spaces of the game and filled them. She carried life and energy. She picked up the bits and pieces of everything the group experienced and carried them along with her. When she met stubborn resistance, she kept true to her nature, and flowed around it… wearing it down and making it smoother as she did so.

Never having played an RPG before, this girl, and the great players out there who are like her, pay attention to the whole experience of the game, and take charge by being responsible for their part of bringing it to life. What seems to elude so many, is that that means doing everything you can to make the other players’ characters seem real.

2 Responses to “Being Like Water: December 2013 RPG Blog Carnival”
  1. It seem to me that you were having a Bilbo Baggins in your team. One seemingly “insignificant” character, surrounded by peoples focused on “greater” (heavy quotation marks gesture here) things like the glory of battle, epic rewards, fulfilling their destiny and such… Yet this type of “minor” character is very central to the story, to group dynamic and making the whole party feel alive.

    Those players I like to call them… little angels. 🙂

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