We’ve discussed running games with no story or plot ahead of time, but do you know how those games run best? When they are populated with players running their characters with a suitable mindset. As you have come to expect, I disagree with some common wisdom on what makes a “good” player (I hate the good/bad dichotomy in RPG discussions, but that is another post altogether ), and probably agree with other sources of wisdom. When I run games, I look for players who will utilize these habits or players I can help incorporate them.
Here’s the list:
1. Have Goals
2. Have Desires
3. Talk about your Thinking
4. Make a Stand
5. Stop Trying to be Right
6. Fear is not inaction
7. Play and Watch
0. Think Before You Play. OK, I am cheating a little here with the numbering scheme, but I need to say that everything here assumes that you think about the game that you are playing, and your role within the larger structure. If you just want to see your part and little else, then my advice probably won’t mean much at all for you or group. When I look for people I want to play regularly with, I look for people who want to examine what they’re doing in the space of the game. The greatest aspect of RPGs to me is that you get to “watch” the same the story you’re making, and I want most to play with people who appreciate or can be made to appreciate that.
1. Have Goals. At the basic level, it’s just important that your character wants something big. Does your character want to be a lord? Does your character want to have the world’s largest collection of magic swords? It doesn’t really matter what that goal is as long as you have something that you want that’s too big to get right away. The best goals are ones which will force your character to change over time to achieve.
Goals don’t have to be things negotiated with the gamemaster. If you negotiate with your GM, he can throw out hooks for you, but the best part of having character goals is how it drives your play, not what it enables your character to get in the story.
2. Have Desires. Sounds like goals at first, but when I discuss desires I am discussing needs your character have which act on the short term, on the level of impulses. You can have goals which guide you long term, and desires that effect you in the short term. A great character design pattern is to make a character with a strong goal with a strong desire that often stalls his progress towards his goal. A character who wants to be a lord, but with a desire to always speak the truth (and bluntly) is going to be in many situations where he could advance his stature, but sabotages himself as he tells yet another noble what he really thinks of them.
An alternate way to describe desire: impulse, compulsion, need. What does your character have to do, even when it is sometimes not in his best interest?
Next week we’ll talk about habits 3-5, but for now let’s talk about 0-2. What do you think? Have you encouraged players to do any of what I’ve listed?