Character Games 101: RPGs

LET THE GAMES BEGIN.

I am very excited to start a new series of posts that marries the process of character development to different types of games! I am doing this in the hopes that it might 1) inspire people who aren’t confident in their characters to delve into them in a fun way, and 2) encourage those who write but who’ve never been into games to find the stories waiting for them there (video games are a wonderful medium of storytelling, but we will get to that at a later date). To start off, I’m going to talk about the most straightforward and possibly the most fun genre of gaming in which you can get to know your character

Character Games #1: Role-Playing Games

Good characters should be able to be boiled down to their most basic parts. What drives them? What are their weaknesses? What is their moral compass like? When we know these building blocks, the character is able to transcend one plane of reality we’ve developed for them and shift into any other that we like, because the circumstances through which we view them shouldn’t affect the essence of who they are. Think of “alternate universes” in fanfiction–just because your favorite Kingdom Hearts fanfiction is the one where Riku is Johnny Rotten doesn’t mean that what makes Riku Riku is any different. This flexibility of characters and their ability to translate into other worlds is what makes this first Character Game so much fun.

Take your pick of Role-Playing Game, or RPG. There are thousands to choose from: you might opt for a tabletop game, a fantasy campaign video game, a Massively Multiplayer Online RPG (MMORPG), or even just Live Action Role-Playing (LARPing). Despite what you choose, the concept is simple: play as your character. I am far from the first person to use this technique, and the reason for that is because while it is obviously fun, it also gives you and your character something to bond over, making it a great way to get to know yourself. You’ll have a story to complete together, enemies to defeat, mountains to climb. Along the way, as your character is forced to make choices you hadn’t thought of before, the gaps in their mental profile will fill naturally, which will be a boon once you are ready to return to writing.

If you were to put your character into D&D, what race would they be? What class would they play? A thief, or a bard, or a berserker? Would they be chaotic neutral, only doing whatever served themselves, or would they be lawful good, jumping to the rescue of whomever needed it without a second thought? How would they approach a dangerous situation? Weapons drawn, diplomatic, hesitant? What kind of loot would they enjoy, if they sought loot at all? Are they agreeable with the rest of your teammates, and what dynamic do they fill in that space–what relationship do your party members have with them?

Perhaps your character wants to meet Dragon Age’s Inquisition. What are their thoughts on the control of mages’ freedoms by The Circle, by templars? Are they a city-elf in an Alienage, or a Dalish apostate (rogue mage) who can shapeshift? Perhaps a Qunari, but even so, are they born in the Qun, or are they a Tal-Vashoth, and how do they feel about their caste ranking?

If your character were to join the battle for Skyrim, would they be a Nord fighting against Ulfric, much to the chagrin of their family, or would they perhaps be a beast-race, a khajiit who (for some reason) found their loyalty with the Stormcloaks? Would they practice Magicka? Adopt children? Are they scared of draugr (mummies), or spiders, or dragons? Or maybe you play them as being terrified of werewolves, and avoid Whiterun at all costs due to the rumors floating about the city? Which of the Divines do you think they would be likely to worship, if they were to worship any of them at all?

I can pitch fun questions to you all night and day, but unless you’ve inserted your character into these worlds before, you’re missing out. Being able to have fun with the familiarization process is not only something that we take for granted, but also a hidden joy of living in the time we do, where the medium of story-telling via gaming has never been more colorful and in-depth. So, dear reader, I would encourage you to hold your character’s hand and take a trip with them. Go to Azeroth, or Albion, or Mordor. Take them into another world and see what happens. It’ll be fun.

Introduction: it’s a living

I am bad at writing. Most people are, in different ways. My personal writing deficiencies stem from getting stuck in planning, and planning, and planning, and outlining and researching and re-outlining and never actually writing. It’s infuriating, so I’m fixing the problem by wildly overcompensating. I will be writing a serialized fictional story titled “it’s a living” with updates every Tuesday, and I’m not allowed to plan. 

Here is a screenshot of the notes I made before beginning this story: Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.46.27 PMAnd that’s it. That’s all she wrote. I did more planning to go to Kroger today than I’m doing for this story. 

So, if you want to watch a struggling writer beat their old bad habits into the ground while probably creating fun, new bad habits, join me here every Tuesday for “it’s a living.” 

it’s a living #1

 

People who drift into gas stations either have a lot on their minds or nothing at all. They wander through the isles like a wasteland, one lethargic hand reaching out for a bag of chips, one pair of feet stopping in front of the candies, hesitance coloring the Sour Patch Kids Decision. Sometimes I imagine what they must be thinking, what their problems are and how they’re trying to fix them, and if they think beef jerky will help. It might, for all I know.

Once, a dude bought a pack of cigarettes from me, mumbling the brand and tossing his credit card in my direction with a sigh of absolute resignation. When I held out the pack of Camels, he just stared at it, then looked up at me.

“I haven’t smoked in fifteen years.”

He left with the cigarettes in hand.

That’s the fugue state of gas stations. Time doesn’t mean anything, and the rules of smiles and thank-yous and fifteen years are muddled by a fog of exhaustion.

I don’t exactly like working here—I’m getting paid minimum wage and the air smells like piss and asphalt—but it numbs me, and I do like that. My head, a constant anxious whir of an overheated laptop, powers down, and any job that helps me to not think about my disaster of a life is good enough for me.

The second I walk out those doors, though, it all floods back on me, and by the time I’m wedging the door open to my tiny, dark apartment, I’m biting my lips and the tremor in my hands has started.

My roommate is sitting on the couch, or perhaps more in the couch, given the way the cushions fold around her. She’s tying her shoes, looking zoned enough to be in her own private fugue.

“We should get maintenance to look at the door,” I say.

“Mm.”

“Got warped in the humidity, I think. They probably just need to sand down the doorframe so it doesn’t get stuck, but good luck getting them to do even that, huh?”

“Hm.”

I flop down next to her. The seat of the sofa is broken, so I hit the bottom of it hard and the cushions envelop me too. “Going to work?”

She finishes tying her second shoelace and leans back. “Yeah.”

“I made you dinner to take with you.”

She closes her eyes.

“Deanna?”

“Yeah, Kip.”

“I made you dinner.”

I watch her take one, two seconds to pull herself from wherever she’s retreated, and then she opens her eyes and takes two more to find a smile. “I saw that, kid. Thanks a bunch.”

“No problem.” I burrow myself further into the couch and pull out my phone.

We sit there for a couple minutes. “You’re gonna be late,” I say. It sounds nagging, and Deanna’s a goddamn adult, but my second-hand anxiety over the thought of consequences doesn’t allow me to be silent.

She says, “People can wait a few more minutes to get drunk,” but she pulls herself up, swipes her purse off the counter, and grabs her Tupperware dinner from the fridge. “Later, dude.”

I give her a finger gun and a wink and watch her struggle with the water-warped door.

“We should call maintenance about that,” she says.

“Yeah.” The repetition isn’t worth mentioning.  

The door slams shut. The reverb echoes through my shaky hands.