#RPGaDay 2018 – Day 30 “Learned”

Week 5: Share         Prompt: Share something learned about playing your character

Continuing on from my choice of alternate question about characters, today’s official question for #RPGaDay 2018 fits right in. Today’s prompt asks us something specific we have learned from playing a character about playing that character. While it might seem on the surface that those who are always and have always been the GM are left out of this question, it is good to remember that GMs play characters too, just in a manner more like a buffet and less like a menu item.

Which character?

Before this question can be answered I have to choose a specific character, as given my choice, I like to play characters with a persona that is in some or many ways, not mine. Each of them has something different to show or teach me about how I view people, the world they live in, and about how to better bring the specific persona I am going for into clearer view for the other players.

The character I am going to use for this response is not one that appears in our Actual Play videos as they get a lot of description in recaps and reflections videos, so instead I will take a look at my former spy and current Special Agent in Charge Nathaniel Ribbon, of the Ministry of Unusual Affairs. This character appears in a lengthy campaign run by @Murderbunny for Triple Ace Games’ Leagues of Gothic Horror expansion for its lauded Leagues of Adventure setting for the Ubiquity Roleplaying System.

To play this character, the first thing that I latched onto before play started was that as a spy he would have a curious relationship with trust and truth. He has to trust in and believe in the people he works for, but be willing and able to deceive those he spends his life with and grows close to. This aspect was heightened in character creation with the addition of the detail that what brought him to the Ministry was betrayal and abandonment leading to imprisonment while abroad due to a sudden shift in government policy. After years of debilitating incarceration, Ribbon escaped, made his way home, and blackmailed his former handlers into getting him into a position where he could continue his duty to the country and keep watch over all threats to it – including those former handlers.

As a persona, Nathaniel is built on a foundation of Duty, Loyalty, and Curiosity. The meaning of the name in its original Hebrew is “God-given”. We take a step into methodology of portrayal here as I chose the name to represent a name that the character himself chose for himself as he is a person who lives inside false identities and an obscured past. As a player I can reflect a bit on whether or not Ribbon thinks of himself as being a gift of God, or if he instead thinks the opportunity to be in this position is a gift.

That seed of the importance of names has grown slowly in play and it is in this area that playing the character has taught me something. Even early on in play I found myself referring to the character by his full name or as the initial N, never a nickname like Nate. Further, in some situations or courses of action, the character ‘wanted to be called’ Ribbon and in others Nathaniel.

I had to wonder what that was about and spent a while reviewing all the posts of the sessions as we are playing in e-mail. What I found was that in most cases what was developing as an instinct or impulse of play, and once noted was developed consciously as a characterization, was a thread of identity in the tapestry of a spy’s false identity. What appeared to me was Ribbon was the operator or spy, the part closer to his true adult personality and the tatters betrayal had nearly made of it, and Nathaniel was the mask he wears to interact with colleagues and friends. He wears many masks in the course of fulfilling his duties, but some are more nuanced and real than others.

In play, what I wanted for the character, and what the character’s “voice” showed me was true about it in play, slowly merged into a clear view of how Nathaniel can be loyal to his friends and Ribbon can feel an overriding duty to the British Empire and its people, and how both can be driven by an intense curiosity.

What I learned about playing him was that in the end he views himself as a tool of the British government, a means to the ends of protecting the citizenry. His laughter and witticisms with those he moves among are part of his uniform, they are a part of the role, the disguise, and the mission. When Nathaniel is on-duty and among colleagues he is courteous and polite to a fault, representing the best that the working class has to offer, with a hint of upper class schooling in the mix. There is a sense of warmth and of a real person beneath the official exterior of a Ranked Agent of the Ministry. With real friends he lets those things fall away, however, to reveal the blankness within. He is a man with a country, and a duty to it, but no name and no particular illusions about his role in it.

With those for whom he can still feel trust and a shared sense of duty, he shares his thoughts, his loyalty, and the truth that nothing else matters.

This understanding of the character led me to consider even more deeply the value of names and how they are used, and reminded me that it is very important to listen to that small voice inside about what the character wants, instead of the needs or moods of the moment if we want to really get to know them.

TOMORROW

We continue Week 5 of #RPGaDay and prompts for “Sharing.” In this final week of the event, we will be asked to share the games of others that we appreciate, share stories of those who have influenced us, and so on. This final week is all about who we are. Tomorrow we look at things we can share from our play of our own characters.

YOUTUBE

As has been my habit since the second year of #RPGaDay, I am also keeping pace with the prompts on video. The content of the videos and the blog overlaps, but is not exactly the same, and where the greater emphasis on detail resides varies from day to day.

#RPGADAY 2018

This is the fifth and final week of the fifth iteration of the monthly roleplaying gaming celebration launched by Autocratik for all forms of social media. Share your responses however you prefer to share. If you want to get involved, grab and share the infographic with the prompts and jump right in! Even now it is not too late~

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