Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Roleplaying for/as Dummies

It may well come as no surprise to you, the fictional readers of my blog, that I enjoy the odd RPG session.  ‘Odd’ being the appropriate word.  Very much from the character-driven style of playing, I tend to do strange and silly things like pretending not to know what my character doesn’t know and not stealing everything that isn’t nailed down.  This is because I place the emphasis on the ‘role’ part of the game.  The standard spontaneously violent kleptomaniac characters are not in my usual repertoire and tend to interfere with my style of play and how I enjoy the game.  But that’s okay, because I tend to play smart, vicious, petty-minded characters who can and will attempt to screw over characters they’ve taken a dislike to; and when the rogue who was just sent into the next room to check for traps comes back with three hundredweight of gold medallions and a suit of platemail armour and refuses to share anything… then I can pretty safely assume that my character is going to grow an immediate dislike of him/her.  Rogues, don’t test me on this.  I’ll irritate the hell out of you in an instant if necessary.  As an unrelated side-note: I tend to play a lot of Rogues.

But that’s just my take on the characters I play.  Indeed, it came as a bit of a surprise to me, being a generally shy and compliant little sausage (no laughs at the back), that when I rolled up a character and played him, he would usually be an acid-tongued, spiteful little prick.  I’ve tried to broaden my RPGing repertoire, but the current hurdle I can’t clear is that of playing a stupid character.  I understand that this could be construed as a bit of an ego-trip on my part, and I don’t want to come across as repulsively arrogant.  However, intent is rarely a guarantee of success.

The problem with playing stupid or low Int characters for me is the fact that as I am a character player, I’m somewhat shackled by the mental stat line.  The more mechanics-focused player has an easier time of it, I think, because they’re not as concerned about their character not acting on information s/he wouldn’t know and is generally fine to confine the character stupidity to the occasional int-check and then just get on with the rest of the game.  I mention this, because a little while ago, a few of the Overlords got together for a monthly Dark Heresy session (that is sadly on hiatus at the moment) and I randomly rolled up a character just for shits and giggles.  One of the odd things I like doing with some RPGs is rolling up random characters to see how plausible they are, or how I can tie all the character quirks together in a narrative.  Turns out, I’m a nerd.  Who knew?

The character I ended up rolling was a Feral World Guardsman called Drukk.  Not the smartest cookie in the jar.  Strangely though (despite the roll penalties) the intelligence of this character was actually fairly decent and this intrigued me.  So I went forward and figured out a backstory, justified his quirks and abilities and decided that I’d make a big concession to his upbringing and make the character illiterate.  After all; all your regular guardsman needs to know is which end of the gun fires lasers and not to wipe your arse on the Uplifting Primer.  Illiteracy was a hell of a lot more difficult to implement than I thought, especially because as a party we were usually given our orders as a written briefing (which I naturally refused to read!).  It was a challenge and it made things interesting.  The problem was, as a player, I was devising plans, spotting things and figuring out the situation, but couldn’t let my character do the same.  There was also the problem of NPC interaction.  Charisma tends to be low for the standard unwashed caveman and that tended to result in a lot of failed tests whenever I tried talking to people about anything other than how to kill a man with a pointed stick.  As a lot of the fun in an RPG is character interaction, I felt a little stifled playing as Drukk.  If I was playing more like my standard character, the mission could have gone very differently.  We could have kept our cover for more than the first conversation for a start…

So after a while I found that I could either jack in the usual style of playing strong on the character and opt for the more game-based approach, or I could start a new character closer to the type I can play.  I chose the latter.  Unfortunately, the hiatus started about then, so I haven’t had an opportunity to test him out yet.

But when I do, I bet he’s going to be an acid-tongued, spiteful little prick.


Will said...

But playing stupid can be so much fun! Rather than explaining can I recommend you listen to the Fandible podcast. Their Rogue Trader sessions feature the amazing ork freebooter Barsher da Barsher. Very much played for laughs but a great example of how a stupid character can work.

Meatshield said...

It's not like I didn't have fun playing as Drukk, but my frustrations at the limitations of a character being that dense were too much for me to really enjoy him.

Thanks for the podcast recommendation though! I'll give them a listen.

Will said...

And we play games for enjoyment. Fair.

Hope you enjoy their show. For contrast I'm also going to recommend The Emperors Currency, higher production values and a totally different style of play.

Keep up the good work!