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Telling Stories: Getting better but never good

Yes, I know, it's a horrible logo. I'm not always good at those.A character who can solve no problems is boring.  A character who can solve every problem is boring.  But odds are that you’re more worried about hitting the second threshold than the first, because most roleplayers tend to make competent sorts.  Which is still fine… until, of course, you get to learning new tricks.

Everyone wants their characters to expand, obviously.  You want characters who change and grow over time, learn new skills, gain new experiences, and so forth. But at the same time, you recognize that having a character who can just smash through everything and solve every problem is just plain boring; it’s not fun to have a character with a skillset that can solve everything.

In video game terms, you always are getting better.  In narrative terms, you should never be so good that you can’t be touched.  So how do you strike a balance between the two and be just good enough to keep improving without becoming irritatingly invulnerable?

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Telling Stories: Importing tone

Yes, I know, it's a horrible logo. I'm not always good at those.There are a lot of things that I like about IDW’s current run of Transformers comics, but one of the things I like the most is the sense of tone.  Scott, Roberts, and Barber all have their own voices when writing stories, but they also all do a great job of creating the feel of a unified setting, with characters all working in the same space seven as they don’t necessarily share the same goals.  It’s heady stuff, well worth importing into roleplaying.

Obviously, I can’t import it directly into roleplaying due to the sad lack of a Transformers MMO (thanks for that, Jagex), but I can bring in parts of the tone.  Which is one of those things that doesn’t really get discussed much when it comes to roleplaying, despite the fact that it really lies at the heart of most imports.  When you’re bringing a character from other media into a game you’re playing, you’re hoping to bring some of the story developments and energy that they have in their original appearance, trying to carry that tone along with them.

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Telling Stories: Fuck immersion

Yes, I know, it's a horrible logo. I'm not always good at those.Immersion is a big deal to me.  I talk about immersion a lot.  I think it’s important.  I think that it’s unfair to blame the game for your lack of immersion, sure, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not important or relevant or necessary.

That having been said?  Fuck immersion.  When the time is right.

Immersion as a constant buzzword, as a priority uber alles, is the sort of thing that does nothing to help your roleplaying and everything to be counterproductive.  I’m not saying that immersion isn’t important, merely that it cannot be and should not be your foremost concern at every given moment.  There are times when you need to let your immersion take a backseat and remember that you are, in fact, in control of this character and their reactions.  Trying to use immersion as your constant and only catchphrase is actively harmful to creating a positive roleplaying environment.

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Telling Stories: Stopping points

Yes, I know, it's a horrible logo. I'm not always good at those.If there has been only one theme to the many things that I have written about roleplaying over the years – and there have, in fact, been many themes – I would hope that one of the ones that gets hit on the regular is the idea that no one should make you feel pressured to continue a scene when you aren’t having fun.  You should always have the freedom to say that you need to stop and take a break, or that a scene is making you uncomfortable, or the like.

You should also have the freedom to say that you need to take a nap or go have dinner with your family or just that if you stay at the computer any longer you’re going to develop some kind of infection.

Roleplaying is like any other activity insofar as it’s not fun when it becomes a slog.  A lot of people prefer to have roleplaying as an open-ended thing, an act I wholeheartedly endorse and agree with.  But it’s important despite that to have stopping points and give players the freedom to step away, and knowing that there are hard stopping points can ultimately make for better roleplaying.

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Telling Stories: The metaplot

Yes, I know, it's a horrible logo. I'm not always good at those.If you’re playing Final Fantasy XIV, your world got rocked pretty thoroughly a couple weeks back.  The conclusion to the game’s big storyline hit, and it has pretty staggering implications for the game as a whole and the setting that you’re roleplaying in.  It is, in short, a big deal.

But even though you have to go through all of the quests leading through these events with your character, it by all rights should not be a story that happens to your character.

I don’t mean that in the sense that the events don’t make sense for your character; it’s quite possible that they do.  But you cannot reasonably claim to be the most super-important person in all of Eorzea, and even if you do there’s the realize that what happened would make you persona non grata across much of the world.  So it’s undeniable that these big events happened, and you need to react to them, but you cannot have been at the heart of them.  So how do you react?

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