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

On 2006-01-25, Ian Charvill wrote:

My observation is that in improvised drama you get two phases.  The first phase is wandery, tentative, experimental.  Material is being generated and we’re kind of waiting for something to grab hold.  When it does, we shift to the second phase.  Improv here is tighter and more directed.

The level of audience engagement shifts markedly between the two phases, with an increase in interest in the second phase.

To refer this back to roleplaying explicitly, you don’t need to know who the protagonists are in phase one, but if you don’t know who they are by phase two then you’re in trouble (if you don’t know who they are, you’re probably not in phase two).

These two points connect.  While in phase two you find you are not the protagonist, the interest available to you as an audience member should have gone up.

Another observation is that those players who are not playing the protagonists in phase two play will benefit from having their primary story-affecting resources being non-character-based.

[There is a player at the table in most rpg play who plays the supporting cast, whose primary story affecting resources are non-character-based and whose engagement with play is fine and dandy: the GM.  I suspect playerless play converges with GM-full play]

Worked example:

Phase 1 - system: Universalis - group sets up protagonists, antagonists and backstory until everyone is happy that the stage is set.  One of the first tenets is alternate universe Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Transition - system: unsupported - group decides who plays the protagonist (the Slayer), the antagonist(s), and the supporting characters.

Phase 2 - system: BTVS RPG - one player plays the Slayer, one player plays the vampires (the GM),  other players play supporting cast and have large numbers of drama points as a metagame resource.  House rules: players get to keep and spend drama points if their character dies, and also get more points for taking over NPCs from the GM.

That’s a bodge using current systems. Are there any systems out there which could support play thoughout, including play through the transition?


This makes VAX go "Buffy is an excellent example"
BTVS is an excellent example. In spite of the fact that only one character has her name in the title, BTVS is very much an ensemble show. Especially as you get into the later seasons, there are "Willow episodes" and "Xander episodes" and even some "Giles episodes". Buffy isn't the only protagonist in every story.

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