Articles

Representational role play

In Uncategorized on 2009-01-07 by Kyle Maxwell

I’m starting to change how I think of my play style, less as a “role player” and more as a “story teller”. “Role player” carries this set of expectations on it, where the focus is more on posturing and “acting” than the underlying story. Typical examples in SWG include the stereotypical “cantina Sith” who just dress in black, set /mood evil, and /glare at everyone, or maybe the “Fandalorians” who get a helmet and proclaim themselves great warriors but never even bother to follow the resol’nare if they can even spell it.

Many of the disputes and problems in the RP community happen because of a lack of immersive mechanics, and so now I try to take a different view of what I do in the game: I take the general gist of what I did in a session, or over several sessions, and de-localize it, so to speak. What my character does in-game becomes more representational and less direct narrative. You might call it a symbolic rather than literal approach.

For example, Coronet is much bigger in Star Wars canon than in SWG. It’s even bigger than the entire SWG planet of Corellia, so we treat the game version as just a representation of the “real” thing. Players focusing on “second-by-second immersion” often don’t like buffs, because these buffs don’t represent anything in-universe. But a representational approach means that those sorts of things really just reflect a more powerful or capable character, and in fact even obviates most of the discussion about combat systems (/duel vs. /emote vs. dice). “Buff Wars” still present game design challenges, of course, but not necessarily role play challenges.

So if Grozchiir goes off and (say) kills 100 Trandoshan NPCs for a collection, it goes into his background as having fought for the Wookiee resistance. for a time. This means that gameplay, including PvE and PvP with or without other folks being around ICly, becomes a way to advance the character’s story.

Note that this isn’t just about writing a story, it’s about creating one. People can do this collaboratively. A pair of pilots who often fly together in PvP create the story of two wingmen, for example, or maybe a group of hunters do a slayer collection together and now they have some shared background to call upon, even if it wasn’t “strictly” IC.

While I like to have a thread behind my characters (an in-character background, a purpose for what they do), I sort of prefer not having the in-depth posturing and social interaction that characterizes “hard-core RP”. But by focusing on representational RP, I can still tell a story without going to the lengths to try to twist the game into something it’s not.

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