I have been begging my good friend Garret to write something for me since I have started this website. He is an experienced Role player and was even involved in creating his own RPG. That being said he is very busy so when I got this article I was very happy put it on my website.
Playing to your character is one of the core tenets of the RPG genre of game. Be it the witcher Geralt, in his hunt for his adoptive daughter, who will break any convention or rule to see that task accomplished; the Exile from Knights of the Old Republic II, whose actions and very personality are dictated by the player with every choice they make; or your fourth level monk that smiles, when he never patently smiles. The role playing genre is the act of fitting your choices – from breakfast to sparing the life of your oldest foe your character’s mindset is your mindset.
Not that these choices are without consequence. Maybe you lose influence with a party member because you don’t like bacon for breakfast, and who could blame them? Or maybe, as you and your fellow players sit about the table, the rogue wants to pilfer the treasury and you as a paladin cannot consciously condone the action. There’s more than larceny to deal with here – there’s the table dynamic, the way you interact with your peers and friends. Your rogue companion may be low on hit points; will you be the one to take the stand for what’s right and decent and challenge them, possibly causing harm to their character and to your actual relationship with the player?
Oftentimes it becomes easier to follow the flow of the scene rather than to interject or actively work against whatever is taking place at the moment. And in doing so, your character becomes less defined. The paladin shirks his oaths, and in doing so taints himself, because there was another element at play – the player element. The desire to avoid strife by not acting in character.
Lot’s of players have this issue and it’s very common! Party strife is natural, especially when there’s a disparate group of personalities around the table. Think about your favorite film duos – Legolas and Gimli come to mind, though there are other arcane examples that can be drawn from. The entire length of the first film until the end they’re bickering, but acting with common cause. That common cause is what brought your characters together for the game, be it a one-shot or a long running story, and it brought you as players together for the same purposes.
Game Masters have this concern more often, in my experience. I’m fortunate enough that the people I play with tend to handle things rather maturely for the most part, and things rarely get hostile or bitter out of character. And those last few words are at the root of this topic.
You’re going to disagree. There have been games I have both run and participated in where ninety percent of the dialogue in the average session was banter abusing the parentage of our confederates. But that’s the dynamic my social circle has, and it colors our character dynamics as well. People argue, and if you try to tell me you don’t, well there we go. Point proven.
So how can you avoid it? Hit it in the face. Dead on. Right in the kisser. Grab the bull by the horns and consult the THACO rules because horn grappling probably gives a +1 you’re going to need.
Your paladin thinks stealing from the treasury is wrong and feels the need to speak up? Speak up!
Your battle brother suspects the Inquisitor of heresy? Definitely ought to speak up, admittedly not within earshot of said Inquisitor; Exterminatus is no joke, nor is the reach of the Holy Imperial Inquisition.
Your stormtrooper comrade in arms thinks the Rebellion may have a point? TRAITOR!
Roleplaying is a game of words, buffered and buttressed by a numerical way to resolve the outcomes of those words. Granted that comes from a narrative focused perspective, but all the same – you have to speak to move forward. “I hit it with my axe!” “I fire my bow!” “I stab the idiot in the back for daring to dictate his moral guidelines onto mine own!”
Use your words. Speak up. And make sure to make the player know that it’s not personal; its what your character would do. Conversation goes a long way, in every situation. Maybe not that goblin encampment, but you know what I mean.
“I step forward, hand on the hilt of my blade, Oathkeeper.” I turn to the rogue.
“’Horace! Thieving from the downtrodden violates the purpose of our intervention here! I cannot allow it!’”
Ham it up! If you’re going to Paldain, do it right. If you’re going to sneaky-sneak, do it right. But use your words, and follow your character’s personality. People change, but it’s unlikely – to continue with the running example – that the paladin of oath keeping, not being foresworn-ing, and general do-goodery would turn a blind eye to anything save a Robin Hood scenario unless there were mitigating circumstances.
Maybe throw a conciliatory look to your rogue. They’ll understand; their desires and character motivations drove this conversation into happening, so they should be just a braced for the consequences to potentially occur as you should be for speaking against a course of action.
Just use your words, and remember – its a make-believe world where people are routinely green-skinned with tusks.
You know – a game.
Speak up. Challenge the rogue. Defend the baby gnoll. Punt the gnome.*
*Author’s Note: bear in mind punting the gnome may cause a mystic backlash or the illusion of your trousers disappearing.
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