You've probably seen those jokes on the net about "Real Men,"
"Real Roleplayers," "Loonies," and "Munchkins." Well, this little
meandering is for Real Roleplayers. It's for the folks who
really want to get to know their characters. If you're
not into getting into your character's head, knowing things that
probably will never have any bearing on a game, you'll probably be
bored. That's okayjust go on to some other part of the page.
I don't mind.
Okay, are some of you still here? Good. 'Cause I want to
talk about one of the coolest ways I've discovered to get
to know a character. It involves making stories in a dark
Now stay with me. I know that sounds weird, but it works.
You need a couple of things first, thougha fairly decent
knowledge of your character, and at least one co-conspirator.
It's hard (but not impossible) to do this by yourself.
Now, the next thing you need to do is find a dark room
and a comfortable place to sit. One of you should "steer" the
story, though it's possible for both/all of the participants to take
turns at this. Figure out a storyline. It could be as simple
as "the characters meet for the first time" or as complicated
as a complete shadowrun. But the important thing is that you
get into character and stay there. This is where the dark room comes
in. It's not absolutely necessary, but I find that it helps
some people (including me) lose their inhibitions about pretending
to be somebody else. In the dark, you can't see the other
peoples' faces, and they can't see yours. It also helps, of
course, if you're pretty comfortable with your co-players.
After awhile, you might discover some things. For example,
you might discover that your character doesn't really "click"
for youthat he or she might have been a fun concept,
but just doesn't have the "staying power" for you to keep
interested over the course of a campaign. You might also
discover, as I did, that you and your co-players can literally
go on for hours at this. It is truly a magical
experience when all the players are tuned into their characters
and the "story machine" is humming along, driven by the
personalities of the participants.
For me personally, this exercise works best when there are
only two participants, but your mileage may vary. It's best
when the story doesn't get in the way of the characterization;
there's nothing that stops a session faster than arguing over
who shot whom and how effective it was. We find that the
"pick a number" system works best when needing to resolve
somethingone person chooses a number between 1 and 100,
and the person attempting to do something tries to guess
the number. The more difficult the task, the closer they must
get to the number to be successful. The player picking the
original number gets to decide how effective the action was,
based on the proximity of the guessed number and the actual one.
This system works really well when the participants trust
each other; it's simple, nonintrusive, and easy to resolve.
Remember, the characterization is the important part here,
not the plotline. If things get a little weird in the plot,
just go with them. Sometimes they'll lead to something better
than you intended.
This exercise is great for exploring characters' internal
reactions to things, and also for exploring how these internal
reactions are displayed outwardly. For example, how does your
character really feel about accidentally shooting a
child bystander in a firefight? Is he/she resigned to the
inevitability that these things happen? Secretly broken up about
it but reluctant to show it to his/her teammates? Does he/she
break down with guilt, or just shrug it off? Take it from me,
if you're really clued in to your character, you might
just find out some things about him or her that you didn't know.
When this happens, it makes the whole thing worthwhile. It
also makes you a better roleplayer next time you're playing
the "real" game. You don't need to think about how your character
will react to a situationyou'll know. Even if you've
never encountered this particular situation before, the character's
personality will drive his or her reactions, and the answer will
be right in front of you.
This kind of thing is what Real Roleplayers live for.