I have never talked with anyone about really good in-character arguments that I’ve had in an online game chiefly because I am sure that’s the first step toward sounding like a crazy man.
“Oh, yeah, this argument was great. I was really worked up and angry by the end of it, I really felt like I was actually arguing… what? No, no, I wasn’t really arguing with anyone, I was just pretending to be angry at my friends about things that never happened. And it got me angry in the real world! It was super.”
All joking aside, if you’re invested in the character you’re playing and what’s going on in the game, yes, you’re going to wind up transferring some emotion from the game into the real world. As a result, it’s a tricky place to be. You want arguments in-character to ring true, but you also presumably don’t want to have an actual argument with pretend people in a pretend game that you at least theoretically play to enjoy yourself. So how can you make sure that your in-game arguments are 100% focused on in-game emotions and not real ones?
The down side of roleplaying in any sort of game with solid mechanics is that the mechanics creep in around the edges. You don’t get complete control over your character concept – once your abilities start tying into mechanics, you have to start parsing what the larger mechanical implications of your choices are. Even if you have a perfect concept, it might either be overpowered or underpowered, it might not be easily possible, and so forth.
This is also the bright side.
Roleplaying forces you to fling your character concept not just against the stories you want to tell but also the realities of the mechanical environment you play within. In fiction, all you need to do is write a story wherein your characters are presented with choices and challenges that they can overcome as appropriate. In roleplaying, all of the ideas about what your character will be run up routinely against the reality of what the game finds acceptable and what the mechanical implications of those choices will be. And that usually serves as a great way to refine your character concepts.
Your character is the protagonist of their own story. If that’s not the case, then go play whoever the protagonist is, because they’re the one with interesting stuff happening. That doesn’t mean your character has to be the super-unique lone heir to some fantastic legacy; it just means that on a list of people who are moving forward in the story, your character should be up there. What’s the point of making your character just an also-ran?
Most people don’t have that problem, though. In fact, most people make characters who have tons of stuff going on, backstory, biographical elements, crazy stuff. Which becomes its own problem when you take into account the fact that if your character wants to get involved with other characters, you want to do so in a way that’s both respectful of the other person’s story and yet still influential. So how do you walk into someone else’s narrative without being either disrespectful or utterly forgettable?
When everything is said and done, that’s when you can take it all apart.
I recently wrapped up some pretty big roleplaying in Final Fantasy XIV. Well, “recently” more in the sense of “within the past month,” but that’s not the point. It was a big storyline with lots of moving parts, the near-death of the main character I’ve been playing for the past four years, and a lot of long-standing character threads finally getting resolved. Not that there aren’t still boatloads of story threads to be picked up, of course, and so as soon as it was over I started running a post-mortem on it.
So why do that instead of get started on the continuation of the story? Because a post-mortem, written or not, is a great way of examining how the whole event went down, even if it’s just from your perspective. The most effective tool in your arsenal when running events is the ability to look at what happened, see what did and did not work, and subsequently understand what could be done to make the next event run that much better.
If you started roleplaying far enough back, you almost certainly started it with tabletop games. Heck, that might still be where you do most of your roleplaying. The great thing about tabletop games is that they are pretty much fixed points in time, and if you want to start running a Vampire: the Masquerade first edition campaign, no one’s going to stop you as long as you have players. The books do not unwrite themselves.
A lot of what I write here is just as applicable to tabletop games as it is to online roleplaying, and I’ve said before that my background in the latter makes me far better at the former. But if you’ve never roleplayed online, it’s easy to erroneously assume that you can just jump in with all of that experience and take off. Realistically, there are substantial differences between playing online and offline that you have to get used to first. Some of them are better, some of them are worse, but none of them exist in a vacuum.
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