thread: 2006-01-24 : Still More Character Ownership

On 2006-01-24, Sydney Freedberg wrote:

(Yes, I’m aware I’m not Scott, Matt, Troy, or Jay)

Now that you mention it, Vincent, I realize I’ve had some of my most satisfying experiences roleplaying characters who turned out to tbe “supporting cast,” even though I hadn’t consciously created them as such:

-  My first-ever Ars Magica characters, both magus and companion, I played as comic relief/troublemakers, right to the very end when my mage got expelled from the Order and executed.

- My most “immersive” experience ever—going insane in character, which was sort of intense—ended up with my first D&D Ravenloft character snapping, backing out of betraying a young and vulnerable NPC, rushing off to wreak judgment on the Big Bad he’d been coopted by, and promptly getting munched by said Big Bad without even a chance to roll anything. This seems very nicely to fit your model of “your guy’s spotlight episode is over, now you have no guarantee against random death,” and it was very satisfying.

Both of these are very much “organic flow of the narrative” experiences, as Emily said: I didn’t go into the game with any expectations of being supporting cast, someone to do a kinda cool thing on the margin of the story and then burn out, but it evolved very naturally, comfortably and enjoyably. I’m not sure when I “knew” I was playing a supporting character instead of part of the core ensemble. Certainly I never worried about not being a protagonist. I had a thing I wanted to do with these characters, I got to do it—with a bunch of pleasant surprises thrown in by the GMs and other players along the way—and I went boom. In both cases I kept playing in the same group with a new character either immediately or after a short gap.

It’s worth noting that in both these cases of being “supporting cast,” I was a new player coming into an established group (whose characters were alive when mine arrived and still alive when mine died, in both cases)—friends of mine, but not people I’d gamed with previously. Conversely, the one time my character’s ever been the unequivocal “protagonist” of a game was with a new-formed group where I was the oldest member (only grad student among a bunch of mostly college first-years) and happened to hit it off right away with the GM. In the absence of some kind of formal “you are the protagonist, you are supporting cast” mechanics, I suspect this kind of unspoken group dynamics is often the main factor in slotting people into roles.


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