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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 75 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: How do you explore "being another person"?  (Read 4978 times)
Tomas HVM
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« on: October 15, 2003, 09:40:57 PM »

It is often said that roleplaying games let you explore being another person. However: I've never seen any real discussion on how we do this (other than the gender issue). And it raises many questions:

    - What kind of limits exist to the immersive qualities of a player and his role?

    - What kind of limitations may be imposed by the game/gamesmith?

    - What kind of possibilities may be opened by certain ways of doing the games, or by instructing the play of roles?

    - How do we strenghten the experience? And the fun in it?

    - How do we make the player create a role to fascilitate the exploration/expansion of his own personality?

    - How do we make the acting of roles a truly benign, possibly a terapeutic, activity?[/list:u]
    Many of these questions have implications I do not agree in, but I prefer to know the answers, rather than stumbling over some heavy and dangerous principle by chance, in my incessant work as a gamesmith.
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Tomas HVM
writer, storyteller, games designer
www.fabula.no
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Posts: 262


« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2003, 01:57:28 AM »

Speaking as a Method Actor sort (from Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering), I attempt as much as possible to give a character sufficient depth of detail to seem real to me. This includes more than just the typical appearance notes such as height, weight, hair color, eye color, etc. The tiniest details are vital to me, like the fact that a character wears his hair long for cultural reasons or has a birthmark on the back of his left thigh.

I want to know intimate psychological details... a character's long- and short-term goals, motivations, relationships, philosophy of life, education, prior accomplishments, formative experiences (whether from childhood, adolescence or adulthood), beliefs and values, approach to love and sex, ability to express emotion, etc. The details can hit too close to home, at timesm and become difficult to roleplay without hogging the spotlight overmuch.

The biggest limit is genre. It is not always appropriate to trowel on layers of deep emotional complexity, for example, when playing more cinematic games. It can still be satisfying to have that complexity as a foundation for one's decision-making while immersed, but it can detract from play if one gets too deep. Still, there are exceptions to everything... I've played in rather (oddly) philosophical games of Teenagers From Outer Space and Paranoia!
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2003, 09:16:48 AM »

This is a huge topic that might do better if divided into parts.

For example, there are tons of limiters on immersion in character. From not being in the same actual space as the characters (even in a LARP, the living room is not a spaceport), to having only a small amount of data to work from, typically, in terms of interpereting the character.

You could write a book about that, alone.

Mike
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AnyaTheBlue
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Posts: 187


« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2003, 09:32:10 AM »

I think there is a social contract aspect to things.

Some people, to reference another thread, cannot suspend disbelief if someone is playing a character of a gender different than the player's gender.  This can 'break' immersion for some part of the play group.  Likewise, if you have contention over the GNS techniques and approach for the game, that can lead to 'breaking' immersion, too.

That is, if you are immersed deeply into your character in a Method Actor sort of way, and the person next to you at the table is all about quoting Monty Python and other anachronistic things, well, that can 'break' the immersed player out and hurt the overall group enjoyment of the game.

I guess what I'm saying is that I think the play group would need to be in general agreement that immersion of this sort -- Exploration of Identity, if you will -- was going to be an actual play priority.
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Dana Johnson
Note that I'm heavily medicated and something of a flake.  Please take anything I say with a grain of salt.
Tomas HVM
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« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2003, 11:07:30 AM »

Quote from: AnyaTheBlue
...if you are immersed deeply into your character in a Method Actor sort of way, ...
On a historical festival two larp-friends of me were monks, walking the festival area selling "absolutions" with two actors. My friends were a bit surprised with the actors, as they were completely exhausted after half an hour. I saw them in action, and the two larpers made a show as convincing as the actors.

After talking the experience through with them, and comparing it to similar experiences, I concluded that the approach to the task was different for actors and roleplayers.

The actors were acting, using techniques learned over years, as adults at dramaschools. Their method is focused on immersion with a time limit. This is effective for stage-play, as it is short and final.

The roleplayers were playing, using their natural ability to pretend, learned over years as children in backyards and schoolyards, or anywhere. Their play is focused on flow and timelessness, and well suited for live roleplaying going on for days at a time.

So I consider "immersion in a method-acter sort of way" to be ill suited for roleplayers, and possibly a dead end when trying to understand how the immersion may be strenghtened or directed in a roleplaying game.
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Tomas HVM
writer, storyteller, games designer
www.fabula.no
DNAphil
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« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2003, 11:50:36 AM »

- What kind of limits exist to the immersive qualities of a player and his role?

I think that there is a social contract that exists in the game that helps drive how deep a player gets into their character.  I had a vampire game where every character was deep in character from the time they arrived, because that is how we set up the tone of the game.  Likewise, my Xcrawl group does not have more then a surface of their characters, because my campaign is not about deep character interactions.  

- What kind of limitations may be imposed by the game/gamesmith?

As a GM/DM for the last 15 years, I have not ever hindered someone from getting deep into their character.  The only problem that has arrisen, is that a player has a lot of personal material, that I don't have time to fit into a game session.  But it should never hinder a player, that abundance of material will be useful somewhere down the line.

- What kind of possibilities may be opened by certain ways of doing the games, or by instructing the play of roles?

I have created a great metagame in my latest D20 Modern Campaign, by having the players take part in an online metagame, between each session.  By doing this, they get to refine their characters, and they can interact on topics that could break the concentration of a game.  For instance, one of the characters in the game had to reconcile with his estranged girlfiend.  We played the session by a series of emails, and I just dont think it would have been as serious if we had to look each other face to face.

- How do we strenghten the experience? And the fun in it?

As a GM, I will complement my players anytime they get into their character deeply.  And I think that is the first step.  Reward good behaivor.  Also, I find if my characters are deep in their game, it only helps me get deeper in my game, and I produce a much better session.

- How do we make the player create a role to fascilitate the exploration/expansion of his own personality?

I take care of this by defining at the begining of a campaign what my expatiations for the characters are.  If the game is deep, then I tell them that is what I am looking for.  Also, I always start my campaigns with a session of nothing but questions for the characters.  I orginally got this from Amber Diceless, but I have carried it to every one of my campaigns.  I use the questions as a tool to get into the players heads and get a feel for what they are thinking.  At the same time, as I listen to their answers, I give follow up questions to make them think more, or to get more information.

I dont think that players should be limited to exploring their own personalities.  They shoud explore aspects of it  or various 'what if' ideas.  My games are a stage where my players can look at parts of themselves or play out things that are leaps from their own personalities.  My only requirement is that they develop it enough to play it , and to let me play off of it.



- How do we make the acting of roles a truly benign, possibly a terapeutic, activity?
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DNAphil
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