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Rest, Relaxation, and Role-Playing

Erich S. Arendall May 23, 2000

It's not easy being a hero, just put yourself in the shoes of a PC sometime. Saving the world is a time-consuming responsibility that leaves little time for friends and family; and when the world has been saved it always seems like there is another huge threat looming over. So the adventurers (the PCs) run from one catastrophe to another, never getting a break. As exciting as this may seem, this can lead to not only the characters getting burnt out or apathetic, but eventually the players will tire of rushing from dilemma to dilemma. It's time for some character R & R, and we can fit some good RPing in there, too.

While a celebratory adventure can be fun and full of role-play, it generally leaves interaction completely up to the PCs and gives little for the GM to do or at least get excited about. However, what happens when the PC returns home? Have they been away from their spouse and family? Have they missed important classes or meetings? What's happened to their life while they've been out saving the world from a terrible fate? Time for the characters to pick up the pieces of their life that they left behind.

Characters should have lives outside their heroic duties; they should have friends apart from the other PCs (if the other PCs are even friends). Because characters should be real people. Well, imaginary people, but you know what I'm talking about. Don't get snarky. Many players avoid family and friends to avoid giving leeway for the GM to manipulate their characters, or out of laziness. More the latter than the former, I think. But no man is an island, and no character should be either. I'm not suggesting a 12 page dissertation to be handed to the GM about the character's family tree, closest friends and other acquaintances, most things can be developed on-the-fly, but the player should have some idea of what their character does when not on a quest.

"No man is an island." That's an important phrase in gaming. When a character leaves their home (or gets ripped away from it) they leave a void, and refilling that void they left can be as much fun as saving the world. Now the characters will have to deal with completely new problems. Has their significant other begun seeing someone else in their absence? Have their children begun practicing some illicit activities? And what of the character's friends and co-workers. What do they think of where the character's been? Can the character tell everyone where he's been and what he's done, or will they all stare at him as if he grew another head (or whatever else that might be unusual)? All the things that make soap operas so much fun, and so popular!

There is more to a game than just adventure, and role-playing is more than player character interaction. It is about drama. Drama is what makes not only soap operas popular, but wrestling, and goodly portion of movies and anime. That's the leading factor between a good book or a boring book. And what better source of drama is there than the events around a character's life? Again, it's time for the character to go home again.

In the end, this should have one of two effects: A.) the players will enjoy this new type of adventure and want to continue to see how their home-life turns out or B.) the players will be itching to save the world again in order to retreat from these more nebulous problems. Either way world-saving burn-out was avoided, and a long-running campaign can continue with rejuvenated players and GM.

Erich S. Arendall

P.S. To all those who sent me e-mails over the past month, I apologize, but they were lost in a server upgrade (and other mishaps) over the course of last month before I could read them.

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What do you think?

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