Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Some Thoughts On Roleplaying

I follow somewhere around a dozen podcasts, most of which are about video games or tabletop games. One of these, Never Tell Me the Pods, is about Star Wars. Hosted by Pranks Paul and featuring the cast of the renowned Campaign and One Shot podcasts, it's basically a collection of Star Wars fans talking about the good and bad of Star Wars. On recent episodes, there was discussion about RPG characters and how some people prefer to play characters that are similar to themselves. Upon reflection, I realized that I hadn't really ever played a character based heavily on myself. I've played a variety of characters over the years, but none have been the self-insert or self-pastiche kind of character like Dan Harmon's Jim Nightblade.

In fact, I often use RPG characters (and characters in my fiction) to explore alternative viewpoints. I'd say I probably play about a 60/40 split between genders, favoring female characters. I've played characters of a number of social classes, sexual orientations, gender identities, and races. I would be pretty bored if every character I played was just me In fact, I get bored when the protagonists in media I consume are just like me, which is (part of) why I push for diversity in the characters I have a hand in making, both as a player and a GM.

I also enjoy taking steps to accurately portray my characters when they differ from me. I've spent the last couple days listening to the type of music I feel my next character would most enjoy (Mostly Silversun Pickups and The Birthday Massacre). I did a bunch of reading about Chinese American immigrants in the 1800s for a Deadlands game. Character research is fun, and it gets me to read a bunch of cool stuff on Wikipedia that I probably never would have. And if the setting is established like Star Wars, there's a HUGE archive of very detailed garbage for me to pick through for character quirks or backgrounds. Norra, my Chiss spy, reacts very poorly to being talked down to because I read somewhere about how haughty and bigoted Chiss were in the old Star Wars canon.

That's not to say I don't occasionally fuck up. My seductress heiress from Game of Thrones isn't my best, and my PTSD'd Eberron fighter is still pretty dry. But I'd like to think I'm getting better. At the time of this writing, I think my most popular character is my time wizard Hannah, who is essentially that team's mom who tries to keep everyone alive and okay. The character that I've played that is most like me, in my opinion, is a Cavalier I played in a Skype Pathfinder game a year or two ago. He was based on my memory of what I had been like at 16--moralistic, naive, and irrationally optimistic.

One last note I'll make is about joke characters. The characters that rely on a gimmick or are the punchline to a joke. They just kind of get old after a while. It's part of why I passed off my half-orc luchador to be an NPC. I got tired of the whole bit. I know more comedy-minded players can make that work, but I don't have fun playing the comic relief character. I prefer my character to have as bad a time as possible and never be happy. Well, that's an exaggeration. But in the end, I'm a messy bitch who lives for drama.

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