Out-Of-Character… For Me, I Mean.

The most difficult character I ever had to play was one drawn from a stack of manila folders in a gameroom in Astoria, Oregon. It was a one-nighter session — not my usual brand of poison, but I was a girl in a room filled with guys and Guinness, and anything becomes more palatable with Guinness. I was rather pleased to have made the cut. Out of 20+ interested applicants in the game, six of us actually got to participate. Didn’t dawn on me until years later that my participation may have had nothing to do with my… er… literal participation. I wasn’t very clued in back then.

The GM had a basic AD&D adventure planned. Normal character classifications… none of this hybrid, super-specialized, “Well, in this supplement, you cross a mage with a ninja” craziness. One-night only. Goal? Survive until 2 am. Simple.

Um, not.

Probably should have taken it as a warning sign that we didn’t need to bring anything with us and all efforts to pitch character ideas were brushed off rather nonchalantly. The confusion was rectified when we walked in to find the folders sitting neatly in the middle of the table along with a note: “Choose one”.

I wasn’t as courageous back then as I am now, so I sure didn’t take the first pick. But wasn’t willing to be out of control long enough to take whatever was left. So, I have to say, I did it to myself. Third folder of the six picked up. And I wasn’t happy with what I saw.

First of all, let me just say how much I truly dislike playing fighter class characters. I know you need them, I know they’re important, and I’ve owed my paper-hide to fighters many a time over. So, it would be just my luck to get a fighter. That wasn’t the kicker though. My intelligence and wisdom scores were.

I don’t remember if my INT was a 6 and my WIS an 8 or the other way around, but I don’t think it mattered in retrospect. I was your typical all-brawns, no-brain brute force, and I was pissed (which probably helped the character portrayal). For good reason, too.

See, I’m usually the character in the party that takes stock of everyone’s gear, calculates the approximate trajectory of a grappling hook in a west wind, and comes up with the thing the GM never thought someone would do. I take a particular pride in being a pain in the GM’s creative ass. That’s right, it’s messed up, and I’m sure it has everything to do with a need for vengeance for every time a brilliant player did it to me. Oh, and I like watching smart creative people squirm. (This is going to come back and haunt me, I swear).

The conundrum was how to take my naturally smart, cunning self and dumb it down to fit the character. I don’t know how to act generally brainless despite my knack for peopling my life with good examples of the trait. And coming up with great ideas is part of the joy of gaming for me. So… what to do?

I kept my great ideas. For every situation or choice we faced, I allowed myself my naturally cunning response — and kept my mouth shut while I rolled a d10. Anything less than an 8, and that idea never saw the light of day. God forbid I roll a 1 or 2, because then I had to come up with something STUPID on purpose. If I managed something above an 8, I spit the idea out. I was a veritable Forrest Gump of insight and ingenuity. Most of the time everyone wanted to pour MiracleGro into the cavity where my brain should have been, and occasionally, I was an accidental genius. The hardest thing was biting back all those wonderfully creative ideas because “my character wouldn’t have been able to come up with this”.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the “Here’s your character!” trick on a few groups I’ve GM’d for. Some folks eat it up. Others, you give them a well-developed character and it’s like telling them to climb inside a locked box. What I learned from my tough little rping experience is how hard it is to put aside your ego and the things you’re good at in order to play something truly, and how attached we get to our strengths. I really began to appreciate my talents more after that session. There’s nothing like feigning “not having a clue” to make you glad you have more than several.

So… what was your most difficult character? And what did it teach you?

About Melody

And now for your daily allowance of force-fed narcissism. *christ, I hate writing bios* I'm Melody. This is my bio. Congratulations on having nothing better to do. Ever read those Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid? Well, you can either: (a) Get a life now. (b) Continue with this narcissistic gluttony. Ok, apparently you're going to hell for a deadly sin. Thanks for the company. Our first stop... the rest of this goddamn bio. I'm American (oh, like you're perfect?). Female, last I looked (tits? check! ass? check! 'sall good!). Pretty easy on the eyes in that dark gypsy kind of way (Matt, no place to upload photos! what kind of joint you running here?). As far as what I'm good at, well... I sing, compose music, dance, play a variety of instruments, act, write, draw. Couple my innate ability to be good at damn near anything with a great imagination, quick wit, clever conversation, keen mind, great eyes, and... things I'll leave to your imagination, let's just say it damn well sucks that "courtesan" isn't on the list of career paths any longer. I'd have it made. I've been roleplaying since my teens. Not as much lately unfortunately. I love being a player, but have more often than not ended up in the GM's seat. I'm great with plot, development, thinking on my feet and finding ways to make your life very uncomfortable but radically enlightening. I'm crap with game mechanics and figuring out how to render "Holy shit, he just tore your head off!" into "And what did that dice roll just mean, exactly?" Fair warning. I'm rather pleased to be blogging here, and hope you find what I say entertaining or, at the least, irritating as hell. If you don't like it, you can blame Matt. It's his gig. After all... I'm perfect. Narcissistic enough for you? Thought so. My work... is done. *christ, I hate writing bios*
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10 Responses to Out-Of-Character… For Me, I Mean.

  1. Aidan says:

    The hardest character I ever had to play was in an AD&D competition at Q-Con one year. I believe it was the late Alan Neil who wrote the adventure – it was set during the Christian Crusades. Anyway, characters were assigned by seat. I sat down and read my character.

    Point #1 – my character was a she.

    Point #2 – my character was a “rogue” in a campaign setting full of knights and clerics.

    Point #3 – my character had to be dispassionate and conniving.

    So, I played. I tried, I really did. But she ended up being a big flirt – I guess the medieaval equivalent of a slut.

    Similarly, at a con in Dublin, I ended up being assigned a female character (I think it was because I had long hair at the time – the beard didn’t put people off), and yet again she got played a slut.

    It wasn’t intentional – that’s just how things happened. I decided afterwards that I was never playing a female again. Now I stick to playing male sluts ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. mabmorrigan says:

    Welly-welly-well… there’s all kinds of fun inferences I could draw out of THAT one! Ok, no more female characters for you, lest the whole women’s movement be thrown back into “original sin” and all that mess.

    Should you ever get another female character, tho, the proper way to portray estrogen in a gaming sense is to use the ratio of 1 hour = 1 day, and every other hour, be completely contradictory to the hour you just played. That usually ends up fairly accurate.

    ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. matt says:

    I don’t think there are any characters I have not “enjoyed” playing. At some point in that regard.

    I admire mabmorrigan’s approach of keeping quiet about some creative ideas when playing a “stupid” character but to be honest, does anyone think that the guy playing the INT 18 Magic User is going to be coming out with the answers? In my experience…no. So, let go with the creative ideas, even in an out of character fashion, because someone has to act as if they have INT 18, no?

    A friend of mine used to extoll a theory that we loved playing characters opposite to our true nature. He used to play sneaky backstabbing rogues types and this was obviusly to support the theory that he was a fine, upstanding character in real life. Of course, at the time I loved playing LG Paladin-types who thought that galloping through town and village skewering baddies on my lance was the best way to set the world to rights. Let’s not analyse that one too deeply, eh?

    I don’t like playing baddies without a rationale. Evil for me is “hard”. I can understand theft and greed, passion, lust, pride, sloth and hate. I just can’t understand evil itself. I’m verging into analysing alignment here but that’s just the characters that don’t interest me. I find it hard to figure out what to do next.

  4. mabmorrigan says:

    What Matt brought up regarding playing a character truly vs. being your natural self and throwing stuff out there is an old debate. There’s merit on both sides, and probably would make a good topic for discussion insularly in another post. I know which I like better, which challenges me more, and really, Matt… you’re right. Not everyone maxed out in the brainiac category has the package to fill the hoped-for bulge in the front of their character sheets. Sad, but true.

    *scribbles yet another topic on her lategaming.com to-do list*

    I have to disagree with that whole “anti-you” rping theory. People are both good and bad, with noble and vile traits, the lot of us. You couldn’t PLAY a nasty character if you weren’t really upclose and cozy with your own inner nasty, and that’s just the truth. It’s been my experience that people who play evil/compromised characters in an over-the-top, Kill-Bill kind of way have watched too many movies and probably have no real clue of their inner nasty at all. It’s people who play evil/compromised characters with all the nuance of the humanity involved (and there’s a LOT)… you just can’t play a nasty well without knowing the landscape of nasty. You get that landscape inside yourself. So much for the “I’m an angel, watch me play the Devil” nonsense. Ain’t flying here.

    I happen to agree with the difficulty of playing “evil” characters. You naturally end up in a discussion of “what is evil”, and frankly, religions have been working that out for centuries to no real avail. Most of the things we call “evil” are actually just selfish to the extreme, lacking utter respect for boundaries, and hedonistic to boot. But still I draw a line between those things and “evil”. A discussion of playing compromised characters and the challenges it entails (both as a player and part of a troupe, maybe even dealing with one as a GM) is another good topic.

    *and the list of topics keeps growing*

  5. matt says:

    “Not everyone maxed out in the brainiac category has the package to fill the hoped-for bulge in the front of their character sheets. Sad, but true.”

    Well, then is it not fair that a smart, wise, creative person should have to handicap themselves in a game when you never see the stupid, shallow and dull doing the same. Sure, the idiotic may ask for an Int roll or a Wis roll, but that seems to me to be such a cop-out.

    Then again – what we have all agreed about is:

    รขโ‚ฌยข playing a pre-generated character may not evoke the pinnacle of roleplaying enjoyment.

    รขโ‚ฌยข Aidan is never allowed to play a female character. Ever.

  6. Aidan says:

    Yeah, I never play female characters any more ๐Ÿ™‚

    I actually really like the fact that some games don’t have intelligence stats. Pendragon has no mental stats at all, just some basic physical ones (including appearance), skills and most importantly (for this game) traits and passions, which help govern your character’s behaviour (these change over time as your character makes choices – the cool thing about having them as stats is the ability to get “inspired” by them and so become almost superhuman for a particular fight or tournament or whatever – just like when the lady gives the knight her little token and he goes and kicks everyone’s butt).

    OK, that was longer than I expected.

    I also like Pendragon because one can’t play a woman in it ๐Ÿ™‚

    OK, so now I sound like a misogynist. Apply liberal quantities of tongue-in-cheekiness to all of my comments on this thread.

    Otherwise I’ll get strangled by some angry feminist ๐Ÿ˜€

  7. mabmorrigan says:

    Tongue-in-cheekiness liberally slathered, as ordered. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Actually, one would expect a certain amount of inherent snark from anyone who’s friends with Matt. “Survival trait”, you know.

    Or is that “translation skill”? Hrm. I’ll get back to you on that one.

  8. matt says:

    With the basic game, Pendragon only permits female characters but it changes considerably with the Pagan Shore supplement. Arguably it makes it a different game – still a good game, but a different game.

    S’funny that some games which are limited in player character scope are seen as traditional (Pendragon, SLA Industries) and sometimes reviled for their limitations, yet the Indie Gamer scene is frothing at the mouth with praise for games like The Mountain Witch and Dogs in the Vineyard where the character scope is deliberately limited. But then – self-important artsy-fartsy game designers with attitude being hypocritical? Nahhhhhh…

    Aidan’s female characters remind me of this.

  9. Aidan says:

    Actually, the characters are way more like something you’d find in a pr0n movie.

  10. matt says:

    Ahhh, like this then…

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