|storylineday (storylineday) wrote in rp_tutorials,|
@ 2011-08-13 03:13:00
|Entry tags:||! resources, question: character creation, resources: communities, resources: tutorials|
Sarah TL;DRs: Temporary Characters and Unaffiliated
Note: This TL;DR is brought to you by roadmaps. It was written in relation to writing Temporary or Unaffiliated characters in that particular Marauders AU Universe but I've been given the impression that it might be useful elsewhere particularly if a player is having trouble getting interaction for characters. The characters mentioned in detail in this post are my own. Temporary Character for the US Stevie Laurel laurelluv, Temporary Character for the US Rueben Jones hoodooblues, semi-Temp Petunia Dursley petuney, Former Temporary/Now Perm Elena Kerr crackthewall, and Perm Regulus Black applefromvine. Also a mention of Leg's fabulous Temp-Turned-Perm Candy Reeser bowerybitch and a big thanks to Fin who edited this mess!
Previously On Shut-Up-Sarah | Temporary Characters and Unaffiliated Characters | Plotting And Characterization in Roadmaps |
I think people sometimes highly underestimate the challenge of a temporary or unaffiliated character. I’m putting both under this category because they both come with, in my humble opinion, similar pitfalls. For the temporary character—the player has a relatively short period to make them relevant and often few standard in-game connections. For the unaffiliated character, particularly ones who do not have standard canon, or in game pre-set connections, the character and player are inherently limited in the amount of posts they can respond and react to. Both of these types are, therefore, something that takes a little bit of effort to play.
Now, I won’t say I have always been successful playing temporary characters. I’ve failed multiple times in a hundred different ways—both in timing, how I decided to play a character, and my organization or lack thereof. However, I’m going to discuss here what I personally think helps make a temporary, or unaffiliated character, be able to lift off—however briefly. As I’m more intimately aware of them, I will be discussing my characters in each section as examples. It’s not because I don’t love other people characters but that I don’t know them quite as well. I’d love to hear other people’s takes, advice, and concepts.
Passion or Goal: I will harp on this to the day I die. Passion or goal for every character is highly important. Each person has something that drives them—and so should your character. Before you settle on collecting 1,000 pairs of shoes, however, you should think about the game. Is there a passion, a nitch, that might help the game? It does not have to be directly, but if you can find something that would push a plot it’s a foot up in an otherwise maybe not entirely hospitable in-game landscape. Stevie was created as a Librarian—her passion was books. In game, at the time, there was a plot about Hinting that Voldemort had been in New Orleans. Well, I could have just had her as a general researcher but instead I gave her a job to find books that seemingly tied into the fact that Voldemort could have been around. This highlighted her passion, her near obsession for books. It gave her something to make open warded posts about regularly. It also pushed a plot that, more or less, got her a little notice from the other groups.
Know Your Character/Conversation Choice. This, I think, is even more important in a global game than anything else. I’d also double this up by saying know your character (yes, fully, even if it’s a temp!) and know other characters. The first does not mean you must know about everything. For example, Petunia loves gardening. I know next to nothing about gardening—but I have google! In connection to that—know what makes your character happy, sad, or angry. Let them get upset; put them out there to piss off characters(unpopular opinions are very good for this and every character likely has one, somewhere). Knowing your character and what makes them tick means you can find ways to worm them into the situations you want more often than not—but it takes effort, it takes stalking journal entries, commenting on all sorts of stuff, jumping into conversations, stepping on toes, and making a ton of entries yourself. I’ll use my other New Orleans Temp character Rueben Jones for this one. He was my bonafide NICE GUY character. He was friendly, helpful, and he generally loved people. He just wanted to help out and do whatever and so long as people were nice to him he was pretty damn happy. Often confused—but happy. Now, think of it this way (courtesy of Fin) "if I saw this on someone's LJ, would I reply? If so, why? What are at least three things I could reply with and do those things give these characters something to argue or create a discussion about?" The character you’re playing—as a temp or unaffiliated character—is by standard NOT IMPORTANT to other characters. You have to make them important, or make them interesting (for example: Candy gets many responses not, perhaps, because she’s blitzing about as the most super useful Order Member ever but because she’s easy to reply to and characters feel somewhat inclined to respond). So despite the fact that I could give an oral history of the magical linage Rueben’s from and know him quite well—many of Rueben’s posts didn’t get a lot of responses. Why? Because they didn’t beg for conversations and even if they did? I sometimes made poor choices and cut the talks short by accident because I hadn’t quite figured out how to integrate him well. (This should be no surprise: I still sometimes cut conversations too short by poor conversational word choice.)
You Cannot Rely On Anyone/Shit hits the fan and things change. So you plan for this temp or character to be affiliated with X character…but then suddenly that player leaves, or goes on hiatus. Well, shit. Look—things happen, lines are dropped, people decide to leave. By knowing your character and your character’s passions you can still be a viable piece in the game. In the same regard, try to think of that character outside of the already established relationships as you create them--if you build them reliant on other characters or character relationships from the start it will make them twice as difficult to play later. What else are they doing? Who else can they talk to? Really, as frustrating as it can be—it still opens up the character for a lot more possibility than simply limiting the to the only in or out you originally might have foreseen. Also, there are other characters around—you know what those other characters are going to do? Change everything you were planning and shake it up. While everyone tries to be as conscientious as possible they also have to be true to their characters and your job is to stay abreast of the situation and find out what that means for yours. Back up plans are also always a positive--just in case--as they keep things from stalling. I think these situations, though, have the biggest impact on temp/outsider characters because one little change for an outsider can make the result you’re looking for seem daunting. Similarly, with a temp the character has limited time and limited usefulness—there may not be an easy fix. For this one, I’ll note Petunia, who I originally created because of a request from our former Lily player. Now, I loved playing Petunia. I made her connections, I peddled her all around harassing people, and I even got her friends of all things. Then we no longer had a Lily. This not only called into question her back-story but also every relationship she had managed to gather. I am still playing Petunia, but it took some quick thinking and our next suggestion for players. Why did Lily leaving change so much? Because Petunia’s reason for being with the Order was because she thought Lily was in danger. No Lily meant that that plot never happened. Yes, I could have demanded the next Lily adhere to it but that seemed to be a poor way to welcome a new player who might want a slightly different relationship with Petunia. I just didn’t want to limit them even while I desperately did not want to reboot Petunia back to her house. Instead of either, an alternative history was devised. It is sloppy and a little awkward but making Petunia join them because of threats at home allowed all relationships to stay more-or-less as is while also allowing the next Lily far more freedom.
Flexibility. Not everything will work out. Sometimes, some plots or ideas are just not meant to be—they have to die early deaths and are mourned by those who loved them. <- note it’s especially true in this game because 1) things move so fast and 2) there are so many things/characters impacting situations. However, before mourning caps are put on, try being both true to the character and flexible. How? If you truly want X to happen but can’t find a way for it to happen…ask other players one on one or ask chat! Chat is especially good for this because different people make different mental connections and might get a great idea to help as the discussion occurs. I’ve seen a number of people do this and it always is amazing. I’d say eight out of ten times when the player is flexible and willing to give a little something works out. It is rarely perfect—but playing a temp and/or unaffiliated character really can be a challenge…especially if you are working on getting the affiliated with, say, a terrorist organization. My example for this would be Elena, a temporary character who I wanted to make a permanent Order member. I could see areas where she could work in the Order…but things went from bad to worse with Order member in-game relationships. I rolled it around my head and just could not see how I was going to get Elena in the Order without her running and screaming. Between Legs who helped talk me through an out-of-game possibility and Holly’s in-game surprise!save (with a mix of Krystal for good measure) everything worked out. It wasn’t entirely a clean set up…but because everyone was willing and to work with me and I had a clear idea mixed with a good dose of practical flexibility I couldn’t be happier with the results.
It’s Not About You. So, I’ve been advocating many posts and many responses, but I have to preface that you can also go overboard. I probably have, and we’ve all seen people over zealously commenting on posts even when their character may not have anything to add. Sometimes, it’s in character—the correct age response—but sometimes it’s enough to choke the other players. For example, I would say its in character for a teenage character to post often and angst. However, too much of that and it limits responses as players and characters feel they have been there, done that, and are ready to move on. Balancing posts is something I have struggled with myself. Last spring I had a job where I could do whatever I wanted. I was constantly online and posting. I probably choked half the players by my incessant posts and comments.
It’s also important to realize your character is not the most important. While drama and trauma (Elena’s crash and burn after Sid’s Death or Regulus’ semi suicidal views of life) are gloriously fun to play—its short lived and, often, leaves all other characters with little to react to aside from comforting your character (which can get boring for both individuals). For example, say a close family member of your character dies. This gives drama and opens up potential for character development to your character and perhaps a couple other characters, but more often that not, it would do little to further the overall plot and likely will not further many minor side plots either. Break-ups, killing, and having a baby are often the same. These situations really isolates your character because they’re going to be dealing with their grief (or focused on one aspect/emotion) and will probably be very unpleasant to play for a very long time. It’s also potentially unpleasant for other players whose characters don’t have much to do except react (feelings of discomfort around the character, anger or sadness for the character, etc) and comfort/blame him. While that sort of plot can be fun in a PSL, a group game has to be more centrally focused and playing out some scenarios realistically can be difficult and it potentially isolates your character. Instead, figure out why it’s important to you to play that plot and how/if it will contribute to your character’s development. Is the development worth the possible isolation and nullification of contacts? What are ways you may be able to lessen the isolation or get other characters more involved? In many cases, there are easier ways to get the same result without risking isolation and while involving more characters. For example, someone may want their character to gain independence from a parent’s death. Killing off that parent creates a lot of angst and other things for the character to be dealt with in private in addition to their sudden independence. This means that despite the initial desire to have the character become independent—it instead isolates the character. This isolation would likely take precedence over the independence the character just gained. An easier way to do this might be outside influences—friends making jokes about over attachment or an outside influence forcing the character away from their parents. Both of these would likely involve multiple characters and create a wide range of interaction for all of them.
A more personal example of isolating behavior can be found in my first few months here playing Regulus. I played Regulus just after he left the Death Eaters--he was hated by just about everyone, surrounded by people he either did not know or did not know on a friendly level, and realistically he was dealing with a whole change of situation plus past sins. I isolated him--not on purpose, but I did and there were no characters to pull him out. Why would they? He very well could have been a spy, after all. This was boring to play, to some degree, and highly uncomfortable as I couldn’t quite see a way to branch him out quickly. Isolating your character means they’re angsting alone and not all that involved. It took breaking away from that (which awkwardly for Regulus meant realizing he’s likely going to die soon anyway) and forcing interaction for things to change in game. It is, honestly, best to try to avoid a situation like that if at all possible. Isolation often begets isolation. It’s a cycle, and it’s very hard to break out from.
Moving on, plots, if you are planning them, should at least try to be accessible to as many characters as possible. Not all players or characters will say “Oh, yeah, I totally want to do that!” but by making a plot that does not solely affect two or three characters (or, even worse, just your own), you are making connections for them and pushing the game forward—even if it’s only on an adjacent field. Really, truly, if you look at a game as a whole—your character, particularly if it’s a temp but also if it’s an unaffiliated, is a pawn. It will not always be the most important character on the field—and often they really shouldn’t be. This is something I know I have struggled with.
What’s worse, however, is when you do something unconsciously and then realize later you just stepped where you did not mean to and possibly wrecked something for other players. I’ll use the last battle for an example. I had no plans for my characters to get majorly involved but since there was a little bit of a dearth (or felt like one), I tossed both Elena and Regulus out there. Regulus I was successful in making him virtually useless (just there talking about food and drawing)… Elena, I made a pest. I didn’t want glory for her, but I misinterpreted a comment (that Elena clearly couldn’t see) during the Kingsley/Moody fight. When I realized I had just tossed her in unnecessarily I was quite embarrassed. I’d pulled someone else’s plot towards myself, and I wanted to delete it—but by the time that dawned on me others had responded. The moral of this story is that as a player you have to be conscious about both planned I AM CENTER OF THE WORLD plots and UNPLANNED I JUST STEPPED INTO THE CENTER RING FML moments. Note: these things happen accidentally. People don’t always think through the consequences of their character’s actions for other players, how much a plot might get out of hand, or how outside influences may effect it. Usually, if you talk to other people, they can help you turn things around.
That’s my tl;dr with one last comment. If you are even considering making a temp character permanent, it’s important to keep that in mind close to the beginning. That way, it’s possible to forge the connections necessarily for that to work. Many times, people wait too long with their temps to do so, or burn too many bridges, and that narrows opportunities available and, as a result, the believability of the transition.
Long and short? If you’re going to be playing a temp or a character outside of the organizations: do your research, be ready and willing to work hard for it, and know the character well enough that they can stand on their own two feet. While I think all of the above is important for any character in a game temporaries and unaffiliated characters face an additional challenge through a smaller innate network or limited time.