Game the Game: Roll vs Role: Character Changes

Does your game of choice, or the game you are playing, allow for your character to change over time? I am not talking about changing your class, but that can be part of it. Can your alignment change? People change. Remember that friend in college who loved industrial music, and always wore combat boots. Now, he likes to play golf on the weekends, and listens to NPR.

People change.

Does your system allow for this change.

In designing my superhero game, I very specifically put in rules so players can rebuild their characters, from the ground up if they like. Why? Because it happens in comics. Because it happens.

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Game the Game: Roll vs Role: Know Your Role

The game was Shadowrun, I have no idea which edition.

I wanted to play a man of few words. A tortured soul, who rarely spoke. I had him envisioned in my head, playing out in cinematic moments.

Sadly, my gaming group got the best of me.

As players, we tend to gravitate towards certain roles, not in-character, but in terms of group dynamic.

Likely, a group of friends who play together will have a dynamic all sorted out. Con games can be wonderful opportunity to try on a different role hat.

My character was not able to be stoic, because we needed a leader, to plan, and talk to people, and no one else really wanted to grab those reins.

So, my man of few words became the mouthpiece.

It happens.

Some player roles:

  • Leader- bringing everyone together
  • Planner- likes to come up with detailed schemes
  • Talker- enjoys speaking to NPCS
  • Quiet One- some people enjoy gaming, and have an internal reaction, this is fine
  • Violent One- some folks just want to roll initiative
  • Punny One- you know this friend
  • Contrarian- in a scifi setting they want to be a halfling thief, in a fantasy setting….

There are more I am sure.

Know your own strengths.

In one of the best con-games I played in, last year, a Changeling: The Dreaming game, I fully admit I don’t know the game that well, and assumed the role of the Quiet One. My other players were all over the setting and rules, and were happy to assume other roles.

In my group dating back the longest, I used to assume the role of “asshole,” you know the type, likes to pick fights with other PCs, plays to their alignment, etc.

Time has changed me, when we got together for the greatest reunion game ever, I took on some planner and even leader duties.

A group doesn’t need to decide who will be who. It happens organically, and some groups will have repeats and will have archetypes not listed, and will be lacking some, and players will take on multiple roles.

But, the lesson is, be true to yourself, play to your strengths and…

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Game the Game: Role vs Roll: “I roll to hit!”

Game the Game: Role vs Roll will be a regular series approaching gaming questions through the wisdom of memes, delivering unto you, “wisdom” and “advice” about roleplaying and roll-playing.


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As GM, you have crafted a terrifying villain, he has depth, he has ties to the PCs, you even have his voice and mannerisms down. The PCs meet up with him, as he sits on his throne.

And just like that, you’re into combat.

Surely, you didn’t plan for this.

PCs can be kill-crazy murder-hobos/ crusaders for blood+justice.

How do you stop it?

Find better rules.

If you are playing a game that requires your NPC be ready for battle all the time, and must contend with the combat machinations of the PCs to survive, don’t expect your awesome NPC voice and description of the awe the NPC inspires to stop the PCs.

And, don’t make arbitrary rules.

Find a better rule-set.


Game the Game: Role vs Roll: May You Roll Interesting Results

The GM has a puzzle.

The players need to solve it.

Your character, a halfling (of course) named Burdock, loves riddles.

You, the player are not very good at them.

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The GM does not want a one-roll binary solution to this problem: player rolls a dice, the result is failure or success.

Especially because in most games, this degree of arbitrary success/failure can be calculated as a percent, and thus, loses drama.

Thus, a GM needs to consider the game mechanics, they need to allow Burdock the chance to shine, but also, they need to allow for INTERESTING RESULTS.

NOte the last part IN BOLD. I did not say if he fails.



Game the Game: Role vs Roll: The Wisdom of Mamet

Game the Game: Role vs Roll will be a regular series approaching gaming questions through the wisdom of memes, delivering unto you, “wisdom” and “advice” about roleplaying and roll-playing.

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Thanks to David Mamet, specifically the film Heist for the following quote.

You’ve had a long week, you’re getting together with friends to do some role-play gaming. The GM presents to you a puzzle. Your character has a very high intelligence, but you, you had a long week, and just had a fine summer ale with some delicious ribs before the game started.

You’re focused on the game, you’re not flipping through the latest issue of People magazine that the GM has lying around.

But, you’re just not good at riddles.

You like them as a story mechanism, but they are not for you, personally.

Many GMs would (privately) say that you are screwed.

Screw those GMs.

Return to the core precept of these posts, the difference between player and character.

“I cannot fly, but my character can.”

“I am not smart, but my character is.”

Now, the burden is on the GM to deliver unto the gaming table compelling game mechanics that heighten the drama, a straight d20+Int modifier to solve the riddle isn’t very compelling.

We will talk about that next.



Game the Game: Role vs Roll: The Puzzle of Magic Missile and Flight

Game the Game: Role vs Roll will be a regular series approaching gaming questions through the wisdom of memes, delivering unto you, “wisdom” and “advice” about roleplaying and roll-playing.

If you have had a character who can fly, did the GM every ask you how you flew?

Can you, fair reader, cast a Magic Missile spell?

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HOWEVER, GMs often require players to be intelligent, or to explain in great detail how they are accomplishing some task.

I am not sure about you, but I play RPGs to be able to do things I as the player cannot. If a GM is willing to accept a character can fly without detailed explanation, or cast magic Missile without the player being able to cast Magic Missile, asking a player to explain exactly how their character assumes a fighting stance, or even how they might solve a riddle, is ridiculous.

I don’t know how to fight, but MY CHARACTER does.

This is one of the most important ideas. So much revolves around this.

The difference between player vs character.

PS Super Grover is awesome because he believed he could fly, and thus was able to fly.

#rkelly #supergrover