Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Cut Me I Bleed

The line between character and player is a small one. No I mean that, I don’t care if you play a character that acts in a way that you would never in the real world, the character is only able to act out in ways that you are able to think of, to make actions that you would think to take.

I dare you to try and tell me that your character can make actions that you, the player, wouldn’t think of. I mean that earnestly.

We wear our characters like masks; excusing our actions and interactions within the limits of a fantasy game. There is a lot of psychology research about masks, how a person might allow themselves to act differently than they would otherwise while wearing one. To the point that we have research about people being total internet dickbags, in flame war threads, because they feel a separation from themselves when they have the mask of the internet.

The excuse of being in character.

This is a constant conversation within our game. I say this because on the one hand, I should totally be able to play a dickbag of a character, and have you know that my actions are in character, not me, and while I may cut you, I don’t want you to bleed.

Bleed is when the actions and feelings of the character, slip over to the feelings of the player. Some people go seeking this, because it can be ultimately more immersive, however it can be problematic if it carries so far as to people leaving the event site with those feelings.

So why is it okay for NPCs to be total dick bags? Honestly, I think that it’s because as players we all know that the NPC is doing it in service to the game, and the story, while a PC is doing it in service to themselves, probably. But that’s total, raw speculation. We love our NPC villains, but PC villains are just bullies, something like that.

So that questions brings to light- Should we have PCs that are anti-heroes, villains, or bullies? Do we have a place for that in our game? I think, as with anything, the line depends on the player, and they’re ability to pull it off. If the line between you and your character is invisible, and people can’t tell when you’re in or out of character, than you probably should try be play nice, when you’re PCing.

Why? Well it’s good for the game. You’re not going to like every player. You’re not going to agree with every choice a person makes, and having reasonable disagreements is okay. But ultimately, in order for the game to thrive, we need to be civil to and for each other. We need to be accepting of each other, and we need to play relatively nice. No one will play this game forever, but many of us hope for it to live on, and that means inviting more people who will bring more people, who will bring more people. To help it thrive and grow.

So how might you go about playing a total dickbag character and keep it going, without being the douche player? Well, consent is sexy. It applies in other places, it can apply here too. A simple “Hey, my character is kind of a jerk, I think we could have some cool interactions if you’re okay with that?” can go a long way. Sure it breaks character, and subverts immersion for a moment, but I think that it might have an ultimately positive effect on immersion. I say that because of bleed. I mentioned earlier that some people like bleed because it feels more immersive to them. Real feelings, feel more real, and they like that. Weird, right? But what would happen if we could feel those things without bleed, I feel like then the immersion would be truly transformative.

This article is so complicated. It’s really a complicated topic. We are a role playing game, and should be able to roleplay. We should be able to play the full spectrum of characters. We should be able to play the villain dickbag, without needing some sort of safe word or phrase, but we should also be able to pause and say “hey are you okay with this?”. We should care about each other out of character, even if our characters want to destroy each other. I guess that’s the base of it.

Care about each other. Care about each other’s fun. Have fun too. Even when you want to be a dickbag in character.

I’ll see you on the field,

Keith “Saegan” Cronyn