|becky has a neg 4 to stealth checks (clank) wrote,|
@ 2018-12-01 09:36:00
|Entry tags:||essay, rp writing|
Troubleshooting Your Character, Part Two
The Character is Just Too Damn Smart
I love dumb characters. Dumb characters are the best. In RP they add in an element of dramatic tension. You know the character shouldn't do something, that there will be consequences, but what kind of fun would that be if they didn't go for it? In fact, isn't just more fun if they make a bad situation worse?
One of my favorite writing teachers Tex Thompson said, "Stories need less fortunately and more oh shit." A dumb character solves that problem nicely.
A smart character can make that really tough.
For a lot of my examples I'm going to use my previous attempts to play The Doctor in multi-fandom games. The Doctor isn't the only difficult character. Any character that's supposed to have a genius intellect can give you the exact same set of problems.
But what are those problems? Let me count the ways...
Oh fuck off, Ten.*• First problem: Your smart character should be able to just "solve" the premise of the game. I ran into this when I played Eleven in one of the first, longest running multi-fandom games ever at a place called we_coexist which was originally homed on GJ. (Obviously later on in the game's lifespan. He didn't exist when the game came out.) The problem was not the premise, a sentient city in a pocket dimension picking up characters from all over the multiverse and collecting them for it's own enjoyment/loneliness, it was that if this were an episode of Doctor Who the Doctor would have found a way to talk to the city already and convince it of the error of it's ways and everything would be fine. Except, it's not an episode of TV or a movie. It's a long running game. If a character "solves" the game, then the game is finished. Where's the fun in that?
• Second problem: A plot comes up your character should just be able to fix. Okay, fine. Your character isn't allowed to solve the central premise of the game because reasons. (Don't roll your eyes at the mods, you're the one that joined the game.) But smaller plots? What about those? You're going to run into the same issue of well fortunately my character is a genius, so they can fix problems A, B, C, and D. Okay, so how does that make things fun for everyone else? How does that even make things fun for you, the player, if you were just allowed to solve every problem with your super smart character that came up? Mostly, it'd just be really fucking obnoxious with a side of boring.
• Third problem: As a result it gets really discouraging when you're blocked over and over from being able to solve problems your character should have no problem fixing. And this is the problem with smart, heroic characters. They want to help. They want to do the right thing. But there has to be a balance. They can't just steamroll over the mods' plans all the time. Your mod(s) put a lot of work into the game. If your character is constantly trying to bud in with but fortunately! forturnately! it's not going to be fun for anyone, including you.
• Bonus: Though I'm focusing on smart characters, this can apply to really powerful characters as well. "My character has healing abilities that solve everything!" "My character is super strong and can kill the monster with one blow!" "My character has really powerful magic that makes it so the bad guy is no problem."
Solving the problem isn't the fun part.
Interacting with the problem and working
with other characters is.
*I don't actually hate Ten. I just hate how he solves everything so easily.
How To Solve the Problem of Genius
Less Fortunately, More "Oh shit!"Okay, so we've established that smart characters (or powerful characters) can be a problem for a game. But what are you going to do about it? You don't want to play the equivalent of a brown nosing kid in class who always raises their hand and has all the answers, right? (I mean, you could if you're playing it as a character flaw, I guess?)
I'm going to propose a few solutions for you.• Retool what it is that your character wants. This is necessary if the problem your character wants to solve is the overall premise of the game. Obviously they can't do that, so how can you give them a desire that works with instead of contrary to the game?
Eleven/We Coexist Example: I didn't think of it at the time because it was ages ago, but what if the Doctor didn't see the sentient city as the problem? What if the Doctor saw themselves as an alternate universe/duplicate created by the city and therefore in order to stay alive they have to keep the city happy? What if the Doctor doesn't know what makes the city happy and tries a lot of different things? Because everyone's existence is dependent upon it. Sometimes giving your character a little headcanon of what they think the problem of the game really is, but keeping it to themselves, is all you need. Make sure what your character wants aligns with the premise of the game.
• Lean into your character's flaws. There has to be balance, right? Your character might be super smart, but what's the counter weight to their intelligence? Are they really bad to with people so no one listens to them? Are they selfish and only want to help themselves, failing to help anyone at all? Smart people tend to be incredibly arrogant, or at least come off that way to other people. What are some flaws that are going to be roadblocks to your character solving a problem or redirecting them away from the problem entirely?
Eleven/We Coexist Example: I thought Eleven's bumbling nature would be a big enough of a flaw to keep him humming along in game. But that wasn't really enough or I wasn't really leaning into it properly. He really wasn't any worse than Ten at wanting to constantly save the world. At the time, it didn't work out for me and I ended up dropping him, not sure of how to focus or direct him.
• How can they make the problem worse? [Insert evil cackle here.] I'm going to say it twenty times in this post. Take your "fortunately, my character is super smart" and turn them into "oh shit, my character just tried to fix things and made it worse or created more problems that weren't there to begin with."
Jason/The Good Place Example: Whenever Jason has a problem he can't get out of, he just throws a Molotov cocktail and then he has a different problem. If you haven't seen The Good Place, what is wrong with you? But that's a dumb character. Let's look at a smart character.
Tony Stark/MCU Example: In Age of Ultron Tony just wants to design a better AI army in order to fight any extraterrestrial threats that try to come and take over the Earth again. If he had succeeded, there would be no more movies in the MCU! Tony would have had his army of super smart, protective robots and the Avengers could go retire on a beach somewhere. Basically. Pretty much. Instead, Tony's attempt to solve the problem ends up creating a much bigger problem: Ultron. Hey, the movie might have been flawed, but that illustrates the point pretty beautifully. Creating bigger problems might actually give your mod a little bit of a coming up with plot break and make things more fun for everyone. Just make sure to talk to your mod first.
In Conclusion...Don't stomp on a plot the mod is trying to make enjoyable for everyone.
Need less fortunately, more oh shit.
You will get more enjoyment out of your character and more lines with other characters this way.
Look, I'm not saying your character can't solve any problems. I'm not. But you're going to have more fun writing and things will be more interesting if you create more problems that you solve. When you do solve problems, get other people involved! This is a game, not a tv show or a movie, and games are always best with friends.