Robert, from our newfound sister podcast Found in the Alley, has sent us a great response to our Dundracon podcast, so we thought we'd post it up here for all to see. We'll respond either here or in the podcast, but thoughts, folks?
(Strangely, copy/pasting this has caused weird formatting errors that I'm too lazy to fix.)
Response to Ace of Geeks Podcast Episode 9 - Live from DunDraCon
Hey guys, thanks for the plugs and kind words. Ryan and I really enjoyed getting to know you all
at DunDraCon and having you on the show. We really should do it again and I think that Ryan and I have an idea we would like to include you in if you are interested in.
I am having a great time getting into your show now that you have introduced me to it. I do
have a response to your DunDraCon episode though; namely the hate on larger form
LARPs, “Bodyguard” characters and “douchey player moves.” Forgive me if I perhaps missed the point on some of the statements but let’s get to it.
The hate on large form LARPs I found puzzling. As a person that lives to write, run and play in
these games I was concerned with why there was such near universal disdain for them in the panel. Is it something that is felt is inherent or essential to the large form game that results in poor writing and
throw away characters? I can understand the feeling of frustration from having a poorly written
character and it ruining your entire afternoon or evening. Is it that the panel feels that it is just easier to
write a handful of good characters and that in larger games the rest is simply filler? If so, then I agree if
you run out of good characters, don’t write filler just to make a quota.
However, I think that these problems only become exasperated in a smaller form game. One
poor character in a small game hurts the entire narrative more than in a larger game. In the larger
game a poorly written, or even worse a poorly played, character it is at least dampened by the fact that
there are more characters to pick up the slack. Not only that but I feel that a larger game presents more
opportunities for social interaction and the development of factions and cliques. Perhaps that is just a
functionalist’s perspective on the form and my own ego thinking that I do not write filler or throw away characters.
Speaking of poor characters there was much vitriol spoken about the “Bodyguard” type. I can
understand a bit of this annoyance in that the “Bodyguard” is tied to another character to the point
that it may sacrifice their impact on the narrative of the game. However, I love this character type. As I
mostly write and run L5R (Legend of the Five Rings, Magical Samurai RPG) the Yojimbo or “Bodyguard” type is the perfect place to play off the idea of duty vs. desire, or giri vs. ninjo the staples of samurai fiction for hundreds of years. If you force a character into making moral choices based upon what they should or are asked to do and what they want to do. This is an even more interesting choice in a RPG environment as the player itself is in conflict with the duty of fulfilling the role and the desire to make an impact on the story and be known. In the end there no bad “Bodyguards” just poorly written characters.
I will finish this up with questioning the idea of the “douchey” player moves. I found this very
statement to be odd coming from and presented to the folks of the panel. We have all suffered under
the problem player that only seeks to sow chaos and fuck the party & narrative in equal measure.
However, I feel that any player that seeks to find another path for the story and use their imagination
and inspiration that there is nothing “douchey” in that at all. In fact I know I speak for both Ryan and
myself when I say that this is mana from heaven for us storytellers. To have a player forget who they
are, embody the role that we have written and then take it a new direction or new heights that we
never could fathom. It is beautiful. In fact we take great pride in writing our games where as we see the
characters and the events set before them traveling down, only to have to tear that path apart by the
machinations and actions of our players fleshing out and developing the characters further. I would hate to have a player feel that it is outside their capacity to influence the story. After all if it was not for them, I would not have a game at all and their interest and enjoyment is my interest and enjoyment.
I hope this hasn’t been too rambling. Since meeting you all for the second or third times, but
actually getting to interact with you all in games more, hang out and converse as well as take in your
podcast, I have been in a deeply philosophical, wordy and thoughtful mood and I appreciate you all
taking the time to read this and all of my other rants. Trust me, more are on the way.
And now for Mike's response:
Hey, Robert, thanks for taking the time to not only listen, but really ingest the podcast. We're really excited about this new relationship, and if your kickass idea works out, it's going to rock the internet's face. Now let's stop sucking each other's dicks and get to arguing on the internet. :)
I think you did misinterpret what we were trying to say, pretty much across the board. :) The problem isn't that larger LARPs (or SURPs)are bad, but that throwaway characters are bad. If you can write 30 really compelling characters with stuff to do, that'd be fantastic, do it. We were talking about our experiences with LARPs where GMs seemingly wrote more characters just to write them rather than having them be integral to the story.
It's more about "write only as many characters as your LARP needs", rather than "don't write lots of characters."
The problem with douchey players is not players who play evil characters or change the game really well, because that's not douchetastic at all. The specific example I meant was a guy in the Terra Firma LARP who made it basically unplayable for me by literally physically inserting himself inbetween me and people I was talking to constantly. Another example would be a vampire player who manipulated Mae Linh's new player status and lack of rules knowledge to nearly bring her to tears. Those are people who are mana to the storytelling, those are douchebags who use LARPing for a personal power trip. At least for me, that's douchbaggery. When my character got murdered by a Daimyo, that was just him playing the game, and when later the same con one character poisoned every single character in the LARP to death, that was also just playing the game and doing it deviously and well. At least for me, we were talking about folks who go out of their way to break the game for personal power, not people who play evil or douchy characters really well.
And finally, the problem is not that Bodyguard Characters exist. Like you said, those storylines can be very interesting. The problem is when Bodyguards are written just as "protect your master, rah rah rah." Or, even worse, when you get what happened to Mae Linh, where all of her stories involved people the woman she was guarding would never interact with, but she was told she HAD to stick by Nicole's side. That gets frustrating, because the player has no ability to roleplay. On the other hand, if she had been forced to bodyguard Captain Shea, who was my character's opponent for her affections, that would have been really damn interesting and a good story.
Anywho, that's my thoughts on the matter. Let me know what you think, Robert, Jarys, and the Ace of Geeks listening audience!