Thursday, November 24, 2005

Do The Important Part First

These are instructions for a preliminary step-- before starting an rpg game...

Take a blank page & write some phrases on it, describing Issues which might affect individuals or groups. Things like "Bored", "On the run", "Naive", "Desperate because they owe money", "Can't admit when he's wrong", "In love, but not loved back". Underline anything you're sure you'd like to see played. Cross out anything you just blurted-out, but are sure you don't want to play. Don't worry yet, about forming coherent characters. You're just players brainstorming stray, unassigned issues.

Draw lines on the page-- connecting issues which might be related somehow. As cause & effect or as opposites, for example. Discuss the connections-- and play-off each other's suggestions-- to flesh-out how they relate. But still don't assign anything to particular characters.

Next, the players do pick issues for their (otherwise undefined) individual characters. Jot your choices down on seperate pages. Not only is it ok for more than one player to choose some of the same issues, it's actually beneficial. Shared issues will suggest Relationships between the still-undefined characters. Two characters with identical issues might be sibling rivals, or strangers who recognise each other as facing the same bind. Or acquaintences who are painfully-oblivious to their similar circumstances.

In order for the game to percolate with exciting Conflict, be specific about differences in how characters stand in relation to the same issues. A happily gay character and a homophobic one-- take opposite sides of the issue. Whereas two alcoholic characters might differ between 'fighting it' and 'giving-in'. If multiple characters have identical takes on an issue, that suggests they'll be allies on that front. Until something intrudes to make them choose otherwise. Write down who-else is facing the same stuff, and how.

Consider and make note-of whether each issue is something that was dealt-with in each character's distant or recent past/ or whether the issue front-and-center right now/ or whether it's looming in the future. Past liabilities--already overcome-- may currently manifest themselves as positive traits: "older & wiser". Issues tend to be negative-sounding. But characters also have positive aspects-- such as skills-- which may have emerged in facing background issues.

Only now, as the interplay between characters' past, present, and future issues begin to take shape; is it time to pick a setting for the game-- and setting-related aspects of character roles; such as everybody's occupation & status in society.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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July 21, 2006 4:16 PM  
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