Saturday, 5 April 2014

My Character Wouldn't Do That

This is a short storygame you can play with as few as two players as a brief exercise for roleplaying skills: the inspiration comes in part from reading spoilers for TV shows, where you find out "Next week, Character X kills the rest of their family" or something that sounds equally implausible, but then in context makes a lot more sense. This game is about finding the context that makes the implausible explicable.


One player needs to go in the hot seat: they will be playing the character whose life changes over the course of the story, chosen from the list below. This list only covers the bare bones of a concept, you will need to fill in the other details of their life, with particular emphasis on their family, neighbours and professional colleagues.

Characters

  1. A suburban householder and family maker.
  2. A decorated & respected police officer.
  3. A mature executive at a financial institution.
  4. A busy doctor or nurse at a large hospital.
  5. A reliable professional in a scientific field.
  6. An aspiring & principled politician.
The other players then choose a fate for that character, picked from the following list:

Fates

  1. Guilty of murder.
  2. Have become a highly successful evangelist or medium.
  3. Guilty of human trafficking.
  4. Given all their wealth and possessions away.
  5. Leader of a radical group, using terror tactics.
  6. Reversed their sexual preference.
Whatever fate is chosen must be true of the character by the end of the story: no loop-holes, no weaselling, no reinterpreting the meaning of them and no carrying them out as part of a bluff or cover story.

Whoever is playing the character starts by framing a scene which features them going about their ordinary
life: the other players are free to play any characters they wish in any scene. The other players form a collective GM, who determine everything about the story apart from the main character's thoughts, feelings, words and actions, which are always under the control of that individual player. After the first scene, each GMing player should get at least one chance to frame a scene before the character player gets to frame another one; each scene needs to follow on logically from what has gone before, you can't just switch from working in a hospital to being stranded on a desert island.

In each scene, the GMing players can each present one dilemma to the character player which requires them to make some kind of choice, even if that choice is to do nothing and not get involved. The decision must reflect an action of the character, not their circumstances: a legitimate dilemma would be, "You find a pair of diamond earrings on the ground: what do you do with them?" An illegitimate dilemma would be, "You've been stealing from work, who knows about it?", as the first part presumes an action on the part of the character, while the second part does not require them to take any action and concerns parts of the story that are not within their purview.

Each time they are presented with a dilemma, the character player must clearly state how they respond, including the thought processes that have lead them to that choice and any plans they have about what they will do as a result. In all cases, the character player must act honestly, neither blocking nor leading the story: the fate determined for them is where they will end up, so they shouldn't fight against it, but they shouldn't ever have their character act in a way that feels completely unnatural.

All the players should collaborate over the course of a handful of scenes to bring the character from their starting point to their fate, step by step, with the character making the choices that cement their destiny at every stage: the game is over at the end of the scene where the character finally fulfills their fate.The point of the game is to explore how the character gets from A to B in a credible way that satisfies all players.