I hate review scores and I always have since the age of, oh, let’s just say ten. Don’t get me wrong; I understand the why behind them. I know full well why people have felt it necessary to append a whole written review with a score at the very end, a quick and easy sound bite. But I think that anything more ornate than a thumb up or down is gilding the lily, and even that has a central problem of obscuring the most valuable part of the review: the actual review.
What I do here could not be construed as “reviewing” beyond demos and the occasional Patron-sponsored piece. I have no temptation to do scored reviews, and we’ve already seen a few high-profile gaming news sites yank scores from their reviews. But this is an issue that goes beyond just video games. It’s something that we’ve had to deal with for years in movies, comics, shows, and almost everything else. It’s trying to boil a whole lot of factors down to a number. It’s silly, and it’s destructive, and it’ll be best if we can get rid of it.
Your character did something very bad, and now she needs to pay the price.
Every character screws up sometimes. I’ve talked extensively in the past about the fact that characters need to be able to make mistakes and fail at various point, and I stand by it; a character who never fails is a character who isn’t interesting to hear about or interact with. You will fail. Just like in real life, your characters will wind up making bad choices, backing the wrong horse, and trusting the wrong person.
Next, the part where she picks up the pieces.
A failure that doesn’t have impact on your character’s life is functionally nothing; you want every failure to have some long-term impact. That means that every failure stings, and things don’t just go back to normal the next morning. Sometimes they don’t ever go back to normal. When something gets broken badly enough, it doesn’t get fixed, and sometimes the broken parts will just be lingering with a character for a good long while.
Just because two people both roleplay doesn’t mean that their roleplaying is compatible.
What I try to do with these columns is give you a picture of how to be a better roleplayer and offer some character-development food for thought. That’s the long and short of it. Best practices, good ideas, verisimilitude, all of that. I very occasionally touch on stories that are pretty played out and hard to take seriously, but the reality is that if you and your friends are comfortable roleplaying half-dragon vampires over in Star Trek Online, more power to you. Enjoy yourselves!
Not everyone is willing to be cool.
Tone policing is essentially the act of going around and telling people how they should be roleplaying based on your personal idea of what characters should be like. It’s imposing your own rules on what someone else is doing. It’s also really shitty behavior that gets sort of glossed over on the flimsy pretext of “but I care about roleplaying” as if that somehow excuses you from making other people’s play experience demonstrably worse.
So your character got just plain screwed up.
I’m a big advocate of the idea that however bad things might get with a given character, you can accept the imbalance and move on. Like a cat, characters don’t need a great deal of herding. But just like you may have to eventually address the fact that your outdoor cat stinks to high heaven and does need to be washed, eventually you might have to sigh, grit your teeth, and realize that something is rotten in the state of your character. You’re going to need to repair.
Fortunately for you, there are tools in place to help you do just that. Somewhat less fortunately, those tools range in overall utility from being super helpful to being kind of severe. So let’s talk about your tools, the long-term effects of using these tools, and try to provide a framework for deciding which option is right for correcting your particular problem without the usual costs of labor.
If you’ve never played Dragon Age II, you missed out on some great lying. The whole story is told with the framing device of Varric Tethras being interrogated, and his interrogator knows full well that Varric is a liar. What she has to do is sort out which parts are outright lies, which parts are exaggerations, and which bits are the truth.
This, I think, is the goal of pretty much everyone who roleplays a duplicitous character. And it’s hard to get to that point, because you need to be a liar who’s just trustworthy enough that no one knows where the lies start and the truth begins. It’s forever a fuzzy line, and while no one can quite trust your character they also can’t discard the possibility…
It’s hard to reach that point, though. Much more often, you just wind up with a character who no one trusts and quite possibly isn’t a whole lot of fun to play. So how do you make a better liar? How do you make a character where everyone knows they’re lying, but everyone still wants to hear what they have to say?
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