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Author Topic: Do Player Characters really need codified personalities?  (Read 1230 times)

Itachi

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Re: Do Player Characters really need codified personalities?
« Reply #15 on: September 09, 2020, 06:08:55 am »
I would say it depends on if your game is character-driven. Personalities can make a game memorable.
This.

Also, sometimes having those mechanics in place makes that character drama playable in a way that would be hard to pull off otherwise. Games like Pendragon, Masks or Hillfolk, for example, by quantifying things like virtues, personality and emotional states make social interaction as fun and interesting as combat in other games.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2020, 07:02:45 am by Itachi »

zircher

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Re: Do Player Characters really need codified personalities?
« Reply #16 on: September 25, 2020, 01:42:12 am »
Having played long campaigns in both camps.  I don't think it is a good or bad thing.  For Spirit of the Century, the personality types in the Fate system really helped to bring the characters back since we used to play intermittently.  it was a handy tool for lite game play.  Same with Burning Wheel where instincts rewarded 'staying in character'.  I've also played a lot of games without those kinds of systems and the players had no problem creating their own personalities over time.  So, I would mark it as a style thing more than something essential.
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hedgehobbit

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Re: Do Player Characters really need codified personalities?
« Reply #17 on: October 23, 2020, 10:41:11 am »
Also, sometimes having those mechanics in place makes that character drama playable in a way that would be hard to pull off otherwise. Games like Pendragon, Masks or Hillfolk, for example, by quantifying things like virtues, personality and emotional states make social interaction as fun and interesting as combat in other games.

The system used in Pendragon is different from most in that the personality traits and passions in that game are a function of how the character acts. If a character acts in a Worldly fashion, he'll get a check and move his personality trait in that direction. Thus the character is free to grow and change over time as a result of play.

This is completely different from the much more common "Pick a Goal and Pick a Flaw" type of rules. I've found that these restrict character growth too much as a player will only roleplay a character flaw if that flaw is specifically mentioned on their character sheet (a problem made worse in a game like GURPS where the player earned points for taking the flaw). On top of that, if their are rules which limit how often these types of thing can change, certain characters can become tedious and annoying; for example flaws like "kleptomaniac" or "alcoholic". While it might be funny for Rocket Racoon to steal a battery and get the Guardians of the Galaxy in trouble, that really only works in movies. In an RPG, it's infuriating.

Kyle Aaron

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Re: Do Player Characters really need codified personalities?
« Reply #18 on: October 23, 2020, 10:34:27 pm »
I could be wrong about this, but watching games change over the years, it seems to me that character personality has become increasingly codified, and built into game mechanics.
It's a strong trend, yes.

I find it's hard to do it well. In most cases players will take those 1-2 traits and turn their character into a caricature, and use it as an excuse for being a stupid arsehole. "I'm just playing my character!" It's endlessly amusing for that player, and annoying as shit for everyone else.

In my latest rpg writing I am not even using the word "roleplaying." It's an "adventure game." I don't know if it'll make any difference.

Players are no better or worse at thespy play than hacky play. But when players are bad at hacky play, their character dies and they roll up a new one, no big deal. When they're bad at thespy play, it just drags on and  fucking on painfully.
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consolcwby

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Re: Do Player Characters really need codified personalities?
« Reply #19 on: October 24, 2020, 02:24:13 am »
I honestly prefer random back-story (CP2020) to suggest possible traits than codifying them. However, IIRC, wasn't it Top Secret that really started the whole traits thing? (That way you could create your own Super Spy whose negative trait would be Womanizing... basically a way to emulate the source material.) Or does this go all the way back to the Petal Throne days? I forgot if that had traits...

Anyway, I've always suspected traits to be a 'poor man's character arc' system for RPGs. But if one must use it, then make it as generic and open for extreme interpretation so players have a greater say in their own character. Agency over mechanics.
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Itachi

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Re: Do Player Characters really need codified personalities?
« Reply #20 on: October 30, 2020, 11:53:44 pm »
Also, sometimes having those mechanics in place makes that character drama playable in a way that would be hard to pull off otherwise. Games like Pendragon, Masks or Hillfolk, for example, by quantifying things like virtues, personality and emotional states make social interaction as fun and interesting as combat in other games.

The system used in Pendragon is different from most in that the personality traits and passions in that game are a function of how the character acts. If a character acts in a Worldly fashion, he'll get a check and move his personality trait in that direction. Thus the character is free to grow and change over time as a result of play.

This is completely different from the much more common "Pick a Goal and Pick a Flaw" type of rules. I've found that these restrict character growth too much as a player will only roleplay a character flaw if that flaw is specifically mentioned on their character sheet (a problem made worse in a game like GURPS where the player earned points for taking the flaw). On top of that, if their are rules which limit how often these types of thing can change, certain characters can become tedious and annoying; for example flaws like "kleptomaniac" or "alcoholic". While it might be funny for Rocket Racoon to steal a battery and get the Guardians of the Galaxy in trouble, that really only works in movies. In an RPG, it's infuriating.
I agree that GURPS method is the worst, as it incentives players to pick traits only for the points rewarded and then forget them during play.

Pendragon/Masks/Hillfolk/Burning Wheel/etc methods avoid that completely. But more important, I think, is that these games make the traits central to the experience of play, usually by tying them to important mechanics or gameplay loops. In Pendragon, for e.g., you want to accrue Glory, which is a factor of actual feats you do in-game plus strong traits (15+), so you're incentivized to uphold your virtues in play; in Masks your labels are constantly shifting to reflect your  teenager (unstable) self-image, but it's important to manage them in a way that do not hinder your abilities, and to match what you want for your character; etc. In other words, these games make personality (and changes to it) central to the experience, not some afterthought or accessory to get bonus points.

Of course, it depends on what each group wants to explore in play. Nothing of that is needed if  people just want a fun romp through some dungeon kicking orcs asses. So in the end it's just another tool in the box to be used if/when appropriate.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2020, 12:04:29 am by Itachi »

zircher

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Re: Do Player Characters really need codified personalities?
« Reply #21 on: October 31, 2020, 11:09:43 am »
Aye, for GURPS/Champions, as a GM, I always had a cheat sheet of their hunted, quirks, and weaknesses.  I strived to apply at least one of them during each session.  And, leave the players guessing as to who was 'it'.

[Story time tangent]

I think one of my most favorite times GMing was to see the look on a player's face when they were taking on a minor villain and Dr. Destroyer dropped a couple of his DestroyerBots on the team. (literally...)

<crackle from the built-in speakers> "Accelerator, I heard you were in the neighborhood. I thought you might be bored.  Hugs and kisses, Doctor Destroyer." <dramatic pause> "DESTROYERBOTS!  DESTROY THEM!"

The other players turned to look at Accelerator's player in disbelief, "You chose Dr. Destroyer as your hunted?"

[OMG, I remember that like it was yesterday.  Good times.]
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hedgehobbit

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Re: Do Player Characters really need codified personalities?
« Reply #22 on: October 31, 2020, 01:25:01 pm »
The other players turned to look at Accelerator's player in disbelief, "You chose Dr. Destroyer as your hunted?"

This is one reason that I like Flaws in Champion but not in GURPS. In Champion, there is an expectation that you'll have recurring villains. And these villains will figure out your flaws and use them against you. So, they become a central part of the game and every character is assumed to have some sort of weakness that will eventually be exploited.

In GURPS, without recurring villains, these flaws simply become a role-playing exercise and turns into a "that's what my character would do" in order for one player to take control of the narrative from the rest of the group.

Lurkndog

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Re: Do Player Characters really need codified personalities?
« Reply #23 on: October 31, 2020, 10:32:16 pm »
This is completely different from the much more common "Pick a Goal and Pick a Flaw" type of rules. I've found that these restrict character growth too much as a player will only roleplay a character flaw if that flaw is specifically mentioned on their character sheet (a problem made worse in a game like GURPS where the player earned points for taking the flaw). On top of that, if their are rules which limit how often these types of thing can change, certain characters can become tedious and annoying; for example flaws like "kleptomaniac" or "alcoholic". While it might be funny for Rocket Racoon to steal a battery and get the Guardians of the Galaxy in trouble, that really only works in movies. In an RPG, it's infuriating.

Guardians of the Galaxy is closer to a game of Fiasco than an RPG session.

And in my experience, characters will put up with side hustles from a morally gray character if that character is 100% on their side. Meaning A) No stealing from the party, and B) 100% on their side in a fight, especially if the character is good in a fight. Rocket is a pain in the ass, but he's their guy, and he keeps the ship running.