I had a discussion with someone about playing an established character in an RPG. the genre was superheroes, so we were discussing playing an established superhero, as opposed to making an original character.
Their opinion was that there was no way they wanted to play an established character.
I love it. My argument was that actors want to play Hamlet or Juliet. If you are given full autonomy in playing an established character, but can make them your own, why would you not want to do this, to put your stamp on them?
A community is raided, pillaged, destroyed, most of the citizens killed.
Revenge comes next right?
But what if it was the PCs who brought the death and destruction?
Bring your NPCs to life, make them care about something, give them motivations.
And, don’t allow your PCs to get away with murder, literal or figurative.
Sometimes people can be terrible. They can use and manipulate us. These can be NPCs in your game, they can complicate the lives of your PCs.
But, what happens when a PC loves an NPC and they don’t love back? Or when an NPC loves a PC and they don’t love back.
This doesn’t make either party bad, it makes them real.
You don’t need to be a psychology student to know there are studies proving memory is fallible.
Can you play with this in your RPG?
How can you have players accept that their characters might not remember something or might remember it incorrectly, without the players feeling like they have no agency?
Most roleplaying games focus on the set-pieces for task resolution, but, I would argue, that which happens between the action is far more interesting i terms of character development. Allow your players (and their characters) to develop and foster relationships outside of the game sessions. Encourage this. Keep an open mind about relationships between characters.
Always ask yourself, what would be really interesting? If the villain falls in love with the hero? Yes. If the villain is related to the hero? Yes.
But, can you figure out a way to motivate a hero to ally with the villain?
I recently sat on a game design panel with a designer who is making a living in the game design industry. When asked what are some of our favorite mechanics, he cited the karma system in the Marvel FASERIP system (DC MEGS uses a similar system). Even as a young nerd, I knew the Karma system was horribly flawed.
Because higher powered characters will have to use Karma less frequently, and thus be able to translate it to XP more readily.
Maybe it is a success, maybe this is the first 1% system, designed to keep the powerful powerful, while the little guy perpetually struggles to keep up.
Batman is the best, right?
Driven by the murder of his parents, he always has a contingency plan.
What is his weakness?
I’m going to tell you, it’s not what you would expect, and it might blow your mind. In a world where people can fly faster than the speed of light, bring batman’s parents back to life. Have them very concerned with his extracurriculars.
And, see how the player reacts.
What is the motivation for the PCs in your game to adventure?
And, if you need a hook, take it away.
See what happens next.
There is a fallacy among many roleplaying games, the idea of a sandbox game, one where the PCs have absolute and utter free will to go where they want and do what they want. Many games claim to encourage this style of play, but i would argue the fallacy is that many games are level based, and require a GM putting work in to prepare for encounters and the like. Therefore, if a party decides to do a 180, ignoring the carrots the GM has prepared, will the session be exciting and immersive. Games that are forward-facing and/ or PbtA can do this more easily, but are they designed for longer term play?
One of my design goals with Retrostar was to create a game mechanic that encouraged this off-the-plot-rails style of play, making obstacles easy to deal with, and giving the GM moments to regroup and gather their thoughts.
PCs get into trouble in a bar fight.
Next scene, we discover one of the characters has become engaged to of the “enemy” characters.
Ok, you’ll need to make 5 climb checks….
Not even getting into the wonkiness of d20 percentages, what this says to me is that your game is about climbing.
If, when running a supers game, you ask how everyone is getting to the fight, yours is a game about transportation and movement. We don’t ask questions in comicbooks when in the next scene, everyone, including Cap, are flying out of the air to engage in combat.
Do you really want your game to be about? Why?
At the start of the scenario, we were locked in a room, with no equipment. Outside the room stood an armed guard.
We were expected to overpower him and escape.
None of us wanted to die, so we spent a really long time trying to figure out how not to do. We found a knife, but none of us had Proficiency: Knife, and Proficiency: Sword didnt count
But later, when I made s super-critically successful Charisma check, nothing happened, because the plot must go on, in spite of the rules and the rolls.
Pick a side of the fence and stay on it, are we playing a game where the quibble between knife and sword proficiency is legit, or are we playing a game where we should ignore rules and logic?