Let Them Tell You About Their Character

You’ve met this person. You’ve probably been this person. “Let me tell you about my character…” What follows is an excruciating (to you) narrative all about that person’s beloved character from their ongoing campaign, or a campaign long past, or whatever. Odds are good that this narrative isn’t even documenting events that occurred during an actual game; it’s backstory that was written during chargen, or maybe it was story implied by events in game, or that spanned events in-game, concocted between sessions.

Why are they telling you all this? Because they want that story to matter. Unfortunately, in a lot of RPGs (or, at least, a lot of RPG groups), that story doesn’t matter. It’s tucked into their PC’s backstory because the pre-play the only time they have any control over their PC. It’s narrated into the corners of play and session downtime because the actual game being played isn’t particularly concerned about any of this story-stuff. So, they corner you at a convention or a party and talk your ear off.

I wonder, then, why this has become such a cliche. Because, really, being a cliche means that it is accepted behavior, i.e., it happens all the time, expectedly so. But why? Why are people playing games where the “story-stuff” of which they are obviously so enamored is forced onto the sidelines?

I’d love to be able to answer this, but I don’t think I can. The answer I want to give is “Because they don’t know it doesn’t have to be that way”, but I realize that sounds elitist.

But does that mean it’s not true?



Filed under Random Thoughts

2 responses to “Let Them Tell You About Their Character

  1. This gave me a good chuckle, as I can totally relate. In some ways it’s similar to someone giving for a five minute, abridged version of a novel they just loved.

    I suppose that the answer to it is the definition of a really great GM. I’ve always felt that when a GM views the characters as characters in a movie, those back-stories are allowed to flourish.

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts. Best of luck with the blog!

    • Thanks for the kind words, RG. I didn’t think I’d see any comments this soon.

      In my experience, if the group is all on the same page about the importance of “story-stuff” AND the RPG they are playing supports that priority mechanically, everyone wins. When the members of the group are at odds, and/or the rules actively work against their priorities, then you have frustration.

      In Forge-speak, it’s the basic idea that Creative Agendas need to be in line for successful play.

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