Suggestions for Interesting Roleplay
I have not been DMing long, but I have learned a few things in my many, many years of roleplaying (Online chat, playing ‘make believe’ as a child, etc).
First and foremost, to the players:
Many player histories are quite well written, balanced and amazing... or at least they were back when Tolkien, Lewis and many, many great bards wrote their books/told their stories. As a roleplayer and a new DM, the LAST thing I enjoy is a god-moded, overpowered revamp of some folk hero. I understand that they have to stand out, but when 95% of roleplayers are a Drow that has turned against their own people, well... might was well name them Bob from Accounting.
Not that I do not think that it can work, but honestly, when was the last time you met 50 people that all had the same basic history?
To the DMs:
Ah, you are the canvas upon which the players paint beautiful tapestries that will be remembered for years! That is if you can relax, let the players enjoy the game, keep them in check, and balance 7000 plates on your nose. I know how hard it is to make a world, populate it, give it intrigue. The main issue I have had working with the DMs of the past, listening to them and observing them is this:
How many clichés can one player sit through without turning to the darkside and going total ‘munchkin’? Oh, the guy sending us out turned out to be the bad guy? What a surprise! /sarcasm
That young girl that had the world to prove (she WAS a girl, right?) turned out to be the missing princess? GASP!
Sorry to lay it out like this, but some of these ideas are older than written language. Yes, it is good to take them as a form of inspiration, but to basically have every story predictable is hardcore... hardcore boring for the players.
I am guilty of writing clichés, oh, I see the error of my ways. I have lost at least three groups to that.
I do not write this to point a finger, to demean or even to moan and complain... I write this hoping that the recent influx of players to the pen and paper style stay with us. Just to throw some caution to my fellow rpgers, my fellow fantasy/historical/scifi/whatever else kind of game you play buffs.
I have stated I am new, and I know that I know nothing. But I see. I feel. I sense a darkness in the heart of the gaming future.
Before you pull a cliché, ask yourself “How can I make this better, less... rehashed?"
I like this place, and I hope I do not make enemies, but if I must for the love of the game, so be it.
As a form of reaching out I’ll take a few clichés and revamp them, make them better.
1: Hero sets off on a quest to find something or someone, only to find at the end he had it/them with him the whole time (also known as the Dumbo effect).
Hero sets off on a quest to find said object, and DID have it with them, sadly, they destroyed it on accident/sold it/gave it away thinking it worthless and now must live the rest of their life knowing that they failed. (Can also be twisted that hero WAS the object, if you feel really M. Knight Shamalamadingdong).
2: The Vampire hunter that seems to always win, survives impossible scenarios (insert any type of hunter) turns out to in fact, BE a vampire, or part. (Known as the Blade Gambit)
The Vampire/werewolf/wizard hunter that always seems to win/survive turns out to not BE one of them, (now is a chance to avoid the Dragonheart complex), but actually is only fuled so much by hate that they lost every shred of humanity (or whatever race-ity) they had. They die lonesome and broke, having killed/shoved away everyone they ever held dear.
3: The hero is a shining beacon of righteousness, or perhaps the anti-hero (Known as Kal-el and Dirty Harry disorders respectively). They always have a wise quip, overcome odds that are impossible.
O.k., so this one we all have fallen prey to, I know I have. With this in mind I have on several occasions played my favorite person. Let me give you an insight to him.
He’s average height, I took a normal roll on all stats. Gave him a class, mild history (all of his family lives) and then the magic begins. I take away something of his that WILL hinder him. A warrior missing an arm, a deaf cleric, a blind bard. The disability makes the person have depth. Missing an arm? -2 to dexterity (losing an arm would have an impact on balance, attacks, etc.). How about a one eyed rogue? Depth perception would be a fun thing to toy with.
It’s the little things that make your beloved character stand out. Remember how heroic people thought Lance Armstrong was when he battled cancer AND won the Tour? Some of our favorite heroes had to overcome something... but try not to keep it clichéd; we do not need to drug someone’s milk just to get them on a helicopter, we don’t need yet another orphan who lived on the streets becoming the best theif because it was his only way... yes, these are good examples, but expand them!
On top of it all, remember we are all in this together. If the players aren’t having fun, ask them what needs to be changed. If you aren’t having fun (and are a player) talk to the DM about it, suggest things.
If it is some other player that is just pushing you too far with his exact copy of start by asking them why they do it, see if there is a compromise.
In my games, I make sure if someone seems overpowered, they roll against a “disability” chart. Imagine ‘SuperMan’ if he had a crippling fear of heights! Imagine if Riddick was missing an arm... woah, that just made him 25% more kick-posterior.
Above it all, please put some serious thought into your roleplay (DM and player alike), it will make the stories better, ensure more fun and above all... finding the bad guy and lich-slapping him back to the 7th level of whatever hellish dimension he spawned from.
Thanks to JonPaul "UncleDog" Carney for this contribution!