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...And I'll Be a Baker!

by
 

While I normally preach, rant, and rave about role-playing over roll-playing and being true to character concepts, there is such a thing as "too much of a good thing". It's not unusual for the gaming groups I'm in to simply give a basic setting and let the players develop the characters within the world, giving them unlimited possibilities. Unfortunately, with only the setting to develop the character from, the diversity of the group might be unmanageable. A sample character generation setting (using GURPS) might go as such:

GM: Alright, the game is taking place in the year 2020, kind of cyberpunkish but with a bit of space travel thrown in. No magic or supers, and psionics cost double the points.

Player 1: I'm thinking about playing an ex-commando that turned merc. You know, your standard fare shadow-runner.

Player 2: I'll play a cop on the take from the Mafia or Yakuza. A real brutal cop who's got a thing against psis.

Player 3: And I'll be a baker!

GM: What is that your cover or something? Are you hiding from the underworld or a non-registered psi?

Player 3: Nope. I'm just a baker. My father was a baker. My mother was a baker's friend, and I was born in the boredom and the powder. So when I reached my prime, I left my home and the oven's grime and headed down the turnpike for Seattle. [Ed note: apologies to Paul Simon]

There comes a point in character development when because of the character a player has developed they've immediately isolated themselves from the group. Eventually all the characters have to meet and interact, if only to develop a sense of where the game may be going. Should player 3 continue on his current path, the only contact his character will have with the other two will be selling them a bagel while they're on their way to kidnap a corp. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I like the group to stay together for as much as possible, it insures that none of the players get bored or feel left out. I have no problems with inner-party conflicts, in fact I myself have played a number of characters that have betrayed their party, in secret of course. However, if the act of creating a concept and playing that role go too far the players will be primarily alone in their universe.

A large misconception of gaming is that it is the GMs responsibility to get the characters together and keep them together. Wrong. It is the responsibility of the GM to give the characters a valid reason to be within the group, and to keep the atmosphere within the game as well as bring challenges, both personal as well as party challenges, to the characters. It is the players job to keep their characters within the party by manipulating their personalities and goals to suit the game.

This does not mean to break character, but to notice the hooks, however subtle, that the GM gives or develop a hook of their own. Let's pretend the above players did get into a situation early in the game, preferably the intro session, where the characters did meet. Player 1 and 2 came into the bakery and were planning their kidnap of the corp. The GM could let player 3 overhear the conversation and leave it up to player 3 to decide what their character was to do. As I see it player 3 has three obvious choices. Player 3 could say his character was enamored with the rough and tumble lifestyle of a shadow-runner and ask if they're willing to take on a greenhorn. He could somehow inform the unfortunate corp. Or he could go about his business and pretend he never heard.

Should he choose the first option, the responsibility of group management is placed on players 1 and 2. Should he inform the corp., he has done enough to get involved in the game and allow the GM to provide another hook for the game (players 1 and 2 confronting player 3 for snitching). It would not be the first time, however a character would just choose to go about their own business, perhaps for the purpose of trying to get the game (or portion of the game) centered around them and them alone. Of course some players simply go too far playing in character, forgetting that it is a game and it's really the interaction of all the people involved that make the game fun.

Players need not necessarily form their group as a fully cooperative unit who has worked with each other for years, but they do need to remember to consider the GM and pay attention to the leads and hooks the GM should lay out for the character. Trust me, the GM has enough work to do without constantly thinking of new hooks for the character - and it beats the heck out of a GM telling you what your character wants.

-Roll saving throw versus bad-gaming
Erich S. Arendall
Shadow Sprite


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