JP On Gaming

Friday, September 25, 2009

Life Changing Moments (in game)

Having a character suddenly realizing something about him or the world around them and changes his outlook on life really enhances the gaming experience. There is nothing more boring than having a character that never changes no matter what happens around him. The character should learn from experience and adapt. That makes a character come alive.

And I love that.

Giving out experience should be more than a matter of beating up monsters or NPCs (though I must say that is a good way to learn). Experience should allow your character to grow. Even in real life, one’s best plans are changed by circumstances or others around us.

Such events ADD to a character and make that character unique. Although the character should be the same, some aspects of his life change. Think of moments like that for some of your past characters. How did it affect them? What did you change in the way you portrayed the character? How did it affect the game?

How to do that?

First thing is that *YOU*, the player must be willing to change your character to adapt to what happens. If you have 15 levels of character pre-determined with everything plotted out... It is unlikely that you will want to do a 180’ turn for your character. Have a goal in mind, but do cast anything in stone.

I have not said this enough: having a character with motivation and goals helps the GM to write that into the story and you to write yourself into it. A character with depth gives so much. Now there is no reason to write a 20-page background on each character. Usually a few lines and some basic goals are sufficient to start. Work WITH and IN the game. I have never written a character background that was used completely. Only bits and pieces were used. Most often those were elements I added once the game started.

One way to give your character some depth is to give them a unique quirk. This quirk then adds to your role play. For example, in LFR, I have an ork character who hates statues "because they always animate" so when there are large statues, he growls at them and breaks them. You would be surprised by how many time that quirk comes up (I was). Another of my character (Tiernan McWilbur) constantly talks to himself, his familiar or others, making the concept of moving silently alien to him. Your GM will mess with your mind as often as he can... Just because...

I guess the most important bit or wisdom I can impart upon you is work with your GM and work with the other players. This is a group and social game. Of course, the final word about your character comes to you, but input or ideas can sometimes give you a different perspective.

Finally, there must be a certain element of time between those moments. This allows you to re-settle into your character and give time to the GM to find new ways to mess with your head. If those moments happen all the time, your character really never gets to embrace the change and confront his new perspective to the world around him.


  • It’s not about me so I don’t care Ahhh... A common mistake... Although at a table, each player should have their own time and story element, just because another character is getting some attention in a storyline does not mean that you have to completely give up or ignore what is happening... Get involved though let the other player drive the story. You never know when you might suddenly find yourself involved in an interesting situation because of another PC. BAM! That’s another role-play element to add to your character ("Remember when that lady’s husband chased us out of town...").
  • This other PC has a relation with an NPC so I won’t interfere This one is more complex. Sometime your character may not like that your friend is involved with the thieves’ guild. You could fall in love with the same NPC or vie for the attention of the same noble or even take a liking to that other PCs’ sister.
  • Everything about me is secret! You spend a lot of time on the road with the other characters of your party. Chances are, some personal information about you will come around. If you are a total mystery, it is likely that the others around you may become curious about your activities. Or they decide that you are too strange and leave you behind! Give to the others some rope to hang you with...
  • I have no back-story! Now come on... just because you don’t want to create one doesn’t mean that you just plopped into existence. You could just be amnesiac or be somehow cursed. Just because the character does not know does not mean the player and/or the GM should be kept in the dark. And if someone suddenly shows up pretending to be your long-lost [insert relation here]... Work with that... I found that my characters rarely have much back story during the first game and the story forms as the sessions go on.
  • You should do XYZ with your character Don’t go designing or thinking about the path of other party members. If they ask you, then fine, but don’t force the issue if they are not interested.
  • That’s not how I viewed my character! Work with your GM. On the one hand, the GM should not force you to change your character because he wants to. On the other, you must be willing to adapt. It’s a two-way street!

  • Life changing moments: an example

    Anyone who spoke to me recently knows that I take part in Mario’s WHFRP game. And I love it. Love the game, love the party, love the dynamic, love it love it love it. After playing years of short-term missions and adventures, reverting to one where you have to think long-term and where life-changing events happen during the game is... refreshing.

    Characters that each have goals (some public, some less so), each with a unique story and background help make the game more than a mere walk around the Empire.

    In that campaign, my character Werner von Breshlow-Giersbergen started off as a na&itrema;ve young noble out to seek his fortune in the world. Throughout many challenges he became someone who liked to bully people, beat up monsters and collect bounties. Werner’s greatest pride was his beautiful hair.

    Then last night, while praying hard to thank Sigmar for another victory over chaos, Werner had a vision of Sigmar. Wherein he asked for Sigmar’s blessing in battle. The effect: Sigmar turned Werner into an Initiate (prelude to becoming a priest).

    So from a warrior who trusted only in sword, spear and hammer, Werner shaved his hair and embraced this new destiny. Werner is still the same: he sings, talks about fights, tells stories about his grandfather, but his outlook on life and the path ahead has changed.

    I can’t wait for next week to see what will happen to Werner and his 2 colleagues: Lady Violet (who used to be a vigilante but is now an Initiate) and the dwarf Rogny (who used to be a pit fighter but is now a blacksmith’s apprentice).


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