Role Playing Education

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Re: Role Playing Education

Post by TheDeceiverGod on 6/30/2011, 6:42 am

An idea I have had for some time now, and something that I think will be beneficial to us all, including myself. While I know what a Dice Game would look like, and how to Gm one and various other things involving how to maintain an accurate flow of an Rp, I get the feeling, particularly in reference to the Dice Game, that many of the others on here are still unsure of how things work within a Dice Game, or how to maintain a balance between plot and freedom in a game. Too much of either and things can get hard to manage.

So I submit for your judgment

The RP of the Justice League


I will now be attempting to break down the Justice League Unlimited episode #1 Initiation, as though it were an RP, with separate individuals controlling the main characters, and a GM directing the plot.



The scene opens on a supermarket, civilians are running around, and a group of masked thugs with semi-automatic weapons are about to rob the place. They rough up the locals, but one manages to hit the alarm beneath his checkout lane. The alarm goes off and the thugs are prepared to hurt the person responsible.

This would be the opening post from the GM. He/she’s setting the scene, and right off the bat giving the heroic characters something to do. I personally might have made this a bank rather than a supermarket, just because the idea that you need 4+ thugs to rob a supermarket, and that one would have secret ‘we’re getting robbed’ switches beneath the checkout lanes is a little farfetched, but it’s just the opening scene so it doesn’t need to be something that important. There’s no super villains here, there’s no global catastrophe, it’s just some thugs robbing a store.

Green Arrow shows up with a shot to disarm the primary thug, a dramatic pose, and a playful quip.

Green Arrow would be a player character, and this would be his first post. In a Dice Game, that shot would’ve required an Attack Roll, in a regular game it would’ve been either a Called Hit, which we know we’re not supposed to do or phrased as something like “shot toward the thug’s gun” clarifying that their intention is to hit the gun, possibly knocking it out of his hand, but at very least to prevent him from shooting it at the helpless store clerk.

Green Arrow lines up a shot, but the thugs open fire on him before he can release.

Green Arrow lining up his second shot would likely be part of his first post, the last part, and it would be important for his player to mention that he’s lining up a smoke screen arrow. In a Dice Game, he might even have a power that gives him a bonus to Attack Rolls if he takes extra time to line up his shot (1:05-1:06) and would be required to mention how many of what arrows he has in his quiver, providing the possibility that he could run out.

The thugs returning fire would be the GM’s post. It would probably be a fairly small post, and in some cases might actually be part of Green Arrow’s post, depending on how much direct control the GM wants. In some games it is the responsibility of the GM to introduce NPCs, like civilians or common thugs, and then the Players who are fighting them control them. This is an act of faith in his players on the GM’s part, because he’s entrusting the players to control the thugs realistically. This is easier in a Dice Game, because the thugs would likely have a low-level character sheet, probably with less statistics than a base level 1 character.

(In DnD these low level monsters are called ‘Minion’ Monsters, and have 1 hp despite having full ability to deal damage & resist attacks. This is how heroes can kill dozens of monsters with one hit each. Our Dice Game probably wouldn’t have these because they’d be a pain to build.)

Green Arrow dodges the array of shots from the thugs, flipping along the tops of the store aisles and fire off his smoke bomb arrow into the barrel of one of the attacking thugs, it explodes and the smoke screen covers the thugs.

Green Arrow dodging and firing would be a post by Green Arrow’s player. In a dice game he’d be performing an Attack Roll and an Acrobatics Skill check with this post. The Acrobatics check to see if he can flip along the tops of the store aisles without slipping, and the Attack Roll to see if his arrow hits its mark. He’d also be defending against the thug’s attack rolls, with his Reflex Defense since he’s dodging the attack and not deflecting it with his armor, or enduring it with his mind or body.

In this case he’d win all the rolls. His Arrow hits the mark so his attack roll is greater than his target’s defense, he successfully flips across the tops of the aisles so his Acrobatics Check is greater than the Difficulty Check, and he doesn’t get hit by any of the bullets so his Defense Value is greater than the thug’s Attack Rolls.

Green Arrow’s arrow exploding and shrouding the thugs in smoke would be part of the GM’s post. The actions of the thugs inside the smoke, as well as the size and volume of the smoke screen would be up to the GM, except for in a Dice Game where the volume of the smoke screen would be generated by the item’s statistics.

A thug stumbles out of the smoke coughing, Green Arrow runs around the corner of an aisle and shoots him with an explosive net arrow.

The thug stumbling out of the cloud should likely be part of the same of the GM’s post as the generation of the smoke screen, and again, it maybe a little post, and the thugs might even be handed over to the players if the GM has enough faith in their ability to play both sides of a battle realistically. Which is of course easier to do in a Dice setting.

Green Arrow reappearing around the corner of an aisle and shooting the thug with a net arrow is of course, a post made by Green Arrow’s player. He would be sure to mention that he’s on the ground now, and that he’s using an explosive net arrow to attack the thug. In a Dice game, it Green Arrow would probably make a Perception Skill Check, to locate the thug as he stumbles out of the cloud, it’d be easy since he’s not actively trying to be sneaky and thus the thug would ‘Take 10’ on his Stealth check so Green Arrow would just have to score over 10 to locate him. Then Green Arrow’s running attack would be a, you guessed it, Attack Roll.

It’s important to note that thus far no one but Green Arrow’s player & the GM has posted in reference to this storyline yet. While the other players might be talking to each other elsewhere, J’onn J’onzz; played by the GM, is up on the watch tower telling Green Lantern; played by his own player, to go fetch Green Arrow, they’re not part of this fight at all. It’s not necessary for every player character to be part of every fight.

The thug is hit with the net arrow and slides back to the far wall of the store, alerting the other to Green Arrow’s location. The thug charges Green Arrow opening fire, Green Arrow dodge rolls and returns fire with a boxing arrow.

The thug getting hit, what happens afterward, and the second thug chasing Green Arrow down, is all things that should be posted by the GM, or by the player if the GM is allowing them to play both sides of the fight. Green Arrow’s response is Green Arrow’s player. It’s important to recognize how quickly Green Arrow is going through these thugs. Every time he performs an attack directly targeting one of the thugs, they go down and stay down, but also that Green Arrow has been intelligent enough not to try and take on a large group of well-armed criminals all at once, the first thing he did after introducing himself was to split them up.

In the Dice game, this would be because the thugs have a low amount of Health. Some small amount that Green Arrow could easily do in one hit, probably also encouraged by the fact that these thugs would likely be around level 0-1, and Green Arrow would be starting the game around 5-10, since he’s an experienced name.

However, even in a Dice Game, the thug’s response to getting hit by the net arrow would be up to his player. The individual would be rendered unconscious as soon as his health was reduced to zero, but he could easily slide across the floor to slump up against the wall and alert the other to Green Arrow’s location.

The boxing arrow lands and the thug is knocked back into a pile of oranges. A third thug is walking by and alerted to Green Arrow, and decides to turn and run. Green Arrow shoots ahead of him piercing a can of oil of some kind and causing him to slip, stumble and ultimately knock himself out on the gumball machine. Green Arrow then turns to one of the civilians and offers her a hand up. When the last thug attempts to shoot him from behind, and Green Lantern steps in to save him, they talk, they get beamed up to the Watchtower.

You can begin to see the flow of things, the GM or whomever posting as the thugs would post as the boxing arrow hits its mark and the third thug begins to run. The Player would post as Green Arrow as he deals with the second to last thug. Then the GM or whomever, would end their post with the last thug getting a bead on Green Arrow’s back, and Green Lantern; played his own player, gets to make a post in reference to the combat.

Green Lantern gets to take out the last thug, and then some player to player dialogue gets to happen where the GM actually isn’t doing anything. The two characters talk to one another for a little while, and then Green Lantern contact J’on via their com-link.

Now again I point out that in the standards of the Role Play, Green Lantern and J’on probably already had contact, and that the GM is playing J’on and he’s already told Green Lantern to go downstairs and pick up Ollie, and that they were probably talking, maybe even setting up for the big pow wow with the majority of the invitees while Ollie was busy helping the little guy.

The two being teleported to the Watchtower would be the GM’s post. Not only because J’on J’onz is technically the guy controlling the teleporter, and we’ve previously declared that the GM is playing J’on but because the GM is the only person who, is allowed to, without advance consent, relocate players.

But Decy, that sounds like God Moding!

Yes, yes it is. There is a reason GM and God Moding have the same initials.

Though for the record, Green Lantern did invite the GM to relocate them with his ‘ready’ so it’s not like it was a completely unprovoked teleportation.

Big grand shot of the justice league and all their new associates.

Basically everyone here except for Green Lantern, Super Girl, Captain Atom and Green Arrow, is played by the GM. Batman, Superman, J’onn J’onz, Aztec, Gypsy, Dr. Fate, Elastic man, Plastic man, pink bubble gum genie dude, they’re all the GM.

Now there’s a bit of a disconnect because of the time that happens behind the opening credits, but one assumes that it’s not really all that much, that mostly what happened was Superman walked up and called for everyone’s attention and then started talking. This would be the GM’s post, probably following a post by Green Arrow’s character reacting to getting teleported up to the Watch Tower.

While Green Arrow was fighting with the thugs down on Earth, the other player-characters were up here talking with all the various NPCs the GM is controlling, or, if they wanted to be nice to the GM, with each other, since the GM is only one person, it’s nice to occasionally be nice to him/her and make thing’s easy for him. Don’t go around talking to a dozen different people all at the same meeting… it means that the GM has to post as a dozen different people, while fighting against Green Arrow as the thugs, and maintaining three other conversations with the other player characters.

Superman gives his speech and Batman talks to Green Arrow one on one.

Again both of these characters would be being controlled by the GM of the RP, so this would be one post. I would separate it by a [ hr ] hard line rule, so that it’s clear that the two characters are unassociated, and as a matter of fact, at completely different locations. Superman is on the stage, Batman is way in the back of the crowd.

Now just because the other Player Characters aren’t doing much ‘on screen’ doesn’t mean that they aren’t posting. Supergirl could be talking to Aztec about this or that, maybe talking to Stargirl about the perils of being a young blonde super hero girl, or maybe Plastic man is hitting on her. Maybe Captain Atom is talking with one of the other members of the League who have been in the military, like, Green Lantern for example.

J’on hands out the mission.

This is the most blatant plain basic GMing there is. There’s a mission ‘quest’ to be done, and there’s a group of heroes ‘adventurers’ who are willing to do it. However, despite the fact that J’on has to assign all the player characters to the mission, he gives reasons for each of them, and doesn’t actually assign Green Arrow to the mission. Leaving it up to Green Arrow’s player to be proactive and get himself on the dangerous mission that’s going to be oodles of fun.

And in part, the GM has already made openings for him to do exactly that. GL is the same person who went to pick Green Arrow up, and they’re taking a Javelin down which isn’t the way Green Arrow came, but ultimately if Green Arrow doesn’t take an interest in getting himself on the ‘adventure’ team, then there’s only so much the GM can do.

On the mission

As the characters begin to interact with one another we can begin to pick up on subtle things, like their alignments. They’re all ‘Good’ characters, they’re all in the Justice League after all. But while Captain Atom and Green Lantern are both characters who have been part of discipline-centric organizations, IE the Air Force & Marines, Kara and Ollie are more ‘Chaotic’ types, Ollie actively showing his distaste toward Captain Atom, well, existing, and Kara being glib about going off to face the dangerous mission in the no-fly area.

Now, once the group encounters the locals, we can notice a bit more of the GM’s hand at work. Assuming it was a Dice Game, the militant soldiers with the rocket launchers could be ‘hidden’ from the character unless they had a high Perception check, since none of the character, except maybe Ollie, are looking around they’d be ‘taking 10’ on their Perception Checks, and even if Ollie isn’t, it’s likely that as a semi-stealth related character himself, he has the highest bonuses to his Perception Checks anyway.

So it make sense that he’s the only person to notice the bazooka soldiers, however, we can tell that whomever is a good GM, because Ollie held back from the group and the bazooka soldiers didn’t attack until Green Lantern, Captain Atom, and Super girl, all people who could realistically withstand a bazooka attack, even surprised by one, were well ahead of where Ollie, someone who could not realistically withstand a bazooka attack.

Again we get a look at the character’s different Alignments as they react to the unprovoked attack. Captain Atom stands back and waits for orders, Kara wants to leap into the fray and fight back, while Green Lantern stands there being outraged that they attacked without reason, while Ollie comes running up to point out that just standing there isn’t helping. Lawful, Chaotic, Lawful, Chaotic.

Green Lantern deals with the militia and the boss guy shows up to turn the Justice League away.

Again virtually everything here except Captain Atom, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Super Girl is going to be played by the GM. The militia people would probably have been just like the thugs from before, maybe a little better off, but again, ‘minion’ monsters that could be knocked out in one hit. Green Lantern chooses to disarm them, and again, Green Lantern is probably an even higher ‘level’ character than Green Arrow, so he can do that easily.

The boss of Korea, or wherever they are, shows up, thanks the Justice League for showing up, and politely asks them to get the hell off his lawn.

Green Lantern’s running the show, and, in another display of his ‘Lawful’ alignment, he does what the local government wants him to, and goes back to his ship, and then calls his superior officer, another person played by the GM, J’on tells him that he did the right thing not hurting the official, but that the problem isn’t getting any better.

Green Arrow goes rogue

Here is another example of the character helping the GM. Just like before where the GM relied on Green Arrow to involve himself in the ‘adventure’ here he relies on the characters to continue the adventure for themselves. J’on tells John that they can’t do whatever they want, they have to respect the government’s wishes. Again a ‘Lawful’ action.

Green Arrow steals the Geiger counter from his teammates and runs off on his own to face a possible giant, definitely nuclear, probably monster. If there was any doubt that he’s a ‘Chaotic Good’ stealing from his teammates to help complete strangers should eliminate those doubts.

He runs off to find the monster, and finds the escaping civilians. In a Dice Game this would probably take a Perception Check, that would be receiving a bonus from the fact that he has a Geiger counter to point him in the right direction.

Again the GM shows his hand, as once Green Arrow stumbles across the civilians, a danger right up his line of work occurs. The truck crashes and it’s up to Green Arrow to save the driver, before getting yelled at by the local government. In a Dice Game whether or not his arrows hit their mark, or whether the cables snapped or held would be up to the roll of a die, probably something based on the item quality of his cable arrows, and a couple of Attack Rolls performed targeting a stationary object, which would make it easy to hit.

The monster rears its ugly head.

I would like to point out that before the monster shows up, by standing as tall as the hill the Green Arrow was just on, we had a nice little traffic accident get Ollie out of the ‘going to be fatally radioactive very shortly’ zone. Score another point for the GM.

Now we also point out that the monster, who’s radioactive death beam could probably turn Green Arrow into fried green beans with one hit, doesn’t actually target the bridge with its radioactive death beam. It uses said beam to cut the bridge in half, and then leaves.

Giving Green Arrow the chance to save the local government, and his hat, and then pursue.

Round 1: FIGHT!

The tanks, controlled by the GM, are doing their best to distract the monster from the retreating civilians, but are unfortunately not actually hurting it, and attracting it toward, yet more civilians. Leaving it up to Green Arrow to spray the thing with explosive arrows, smoke grenade arrows, and probably anything else he has that he thinks could possibly hurt a giant radioactive skull monster. Bet he’s missing those supermarket thugs right about now.

In a Dice Game, this monster would probably be classified under ‘Boss’ he’s big, he’s mean, he’s well armored, and he’s probably got at least as many abilities as the players, plus ten times their health. It’s going to take everything they’ve got to take him down, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Just when it looks like Green Arrow is going to get fried, since he, ya’know, got the giant skull monster’s attention, probably due to a large number of attacks that didn’t actually deal any damage due to the thing’s *ahem* ‘Monstrous’ AC rating. Sure his attacks are hitting, but they’re not hurting it.

Green Lantern flies in to save his bacon. They dodge a few beams, probably getting a bonus to Reflex Defense due to being tiny in comparison to the giant monster, and again for being in the air and ya’know flying.

Arrow and Lantern exchange some dialogue, and then Captain Atom and Super girl come up with a plan, ironically, the exact same plan J’on had when he selected Captain Atom… gee, it’s almost like, no it couldn’t be. Could this monster have been specifically built to take on these heroes?! By golly GM you’re so clever, you saw that Captain Atom was going to be one of the players and picked a radioactive monster. Too bad about Green Arrow being utterly pathetic in comparison to these other characters, but just you wait GA, GM has a plan for you yet.

Now in a Dice Game, Captain Atom’s draining ability would probably have an upward limit of how much he can hold, something like LevelD20+X HP of any monster with the ‘Radioactive’ keyword, thus making it so that he can significantly weaken it, but takes time to adjust to the energy so he can’t kill it in one hit.

Captain Atom hurts it, but hits his upward limit before he can finish it off. So Super Girl does what she does best, hits things really really hard. Though while she’s doing that because this boss monster probably has at least as many abilities/Powers as the characters, she’s probably taking damage from his ‘Radioactive heat shielding’ or something of that nature.

Meanwhile the Greens are doing their best to get the NPC GM controlled civilians out of the blast zone, because they’re responsible adults like that and know that irradiated corpses look bad on a superhero’s resume, even if they’re just GM controlled third world country citizens.

The monster lands one blow on Super Girl, and because Super-people do not automatically weigh as much as they can lift, she’s sent sailing into a mountain, and probably takes some damage. Again, in a Dice Game, every time this monster makes an attack it has the chance to hit her, and deal minimal damage, because she probably has something that says she takes –X damage from all attacks, this is more evidence of a monster been built toward the audience, and another good reason why it’s important to let your GM know what type of character you intend on playing early on.

The last of the citizens are being saved and the monster is upset about that, either that or upset because the last two flying things that tried to hit him are now face down in the dirt, either way it turns its giant radioactive gun on Green Lantern, and we’ve given a perfect example of Armor Class failure. In a Dice Game, you have 4 Defenses, Armor Class, Reflex, Will and Fortitude. John probably should’ve gone with Reflex, because his Armor Class apparently wasn’t high enough, even with his ‘Green Orb of Protection’ bonus. He gets fried, and because he’s can’t actually take shots to the face if they break through his green energy, he’s in serious danger of contracting cancer.

The monster turns to leave and Green Arrow struggles with the fact that he’s utterly pathetic in comparison to the people who got smacked down. It’s time for a tactical retreat, and for him to start using his head rather than his pointy things.

A breakdown in the chain of command

With Green Lantern making saving throws against Lunge Cancer, the team is going all caput. Two Chaotics and one Lawful that doesn’t have their respect, doesn’t make for a very good team. Green Arrow wakes up calling for his ex-girlfriend, and then gives the team one more order. To go talk to the guys who built the monster–cough GM cough- Okay so technically that’s Green Arrow’s idea, but Green Lantern made him think of it, we’ll call it 50/50.

They go talk to the locals once again, and this time they’ve kinda had it with the, we don’t talk to outsiders thing. Super girl makes an Intimidation Check, and the GM isn’t going to fight her for it. The locals happen to not only know the monster’s weakness, but have the equipment required to exploit it. Once again, the GM is making things easy for the crew, also, oh what is this… you mean we just need to shoot these long cylindrical things into a circle on the monster’s chest… gee who do we know who’s good at target practice… Hmm… Can I buy a vowel?

I would like to take this time to point out that the other ‘Lawful’ character has taken charge of the group. Chaotics traditionally don’t make very good leaders, imagine taking tactical advice from Super girl or The Creeper, and you can probably figure out why.

Round Two: FIGHT!

Off to a dramatic start and then Captain Atom explodes. To be fair, in a Dice Game the man would probably have ridiculously high Armor Class and like 10 health points. So once anything breaks through his armor he’s kinda screwed. Probably would need something else in the same Power along the line of not being able to be rendered unconscious. Anyway, with the local anti-radiation guy going all Chernobyl on the team, the GM has to realize that this team is in very real danger of losing to this monster.

Luckily he/she has already provided the players with a way to defeat the monster, a way that doesn’t involve being immune to radiation, or composed of it.

It ends up a matter of Green Arrow living long enough to win one of his Attack Rolls. Which ultimately requires him cutting one of the heavy lead poles, in half and attaching the end to one of his arrows. In the Dice Game this would be represented by Green Arrow not being able to use any abilities or receive any bonuses that require him to be using a ‘Bow & Arrow’ since he’s not using the arrow part of the bow with the carbon rod by itself, but when he attaches it to an Arrow, then it is a Bow & Arrow and some extra carbon, and he gets all his regular attack bonuses back, and gets to make the shot.

Now in the real game this would probably be required to be done a couple of times, but in the show we don’t have time to show him doing the same thing over and over again, plus it’s more dramatic if he kills it in one hit.

So Green Arrow turns the monster off, and then Super Girl break’s its face. Then it’s back to the Watch Tower to watch Captain Atom put on some new pants and get a debriefing. John Steward gets to play Charles Xavier, and the GM gets Batman & Black Canary to get Green Arrow to reconsider joining the league. Some nice wrap up and we’re all happy, roll credits and being planning the next great arc of the game!


So I may have been a little heavy on the 'this is how it would work in a Dice Game' thing, but really, outside a Dice Game it's a lot harder to do stuff because you don't have a mechanism for it, or at least I think it is... I mean, outside the Dice Game there'd be no difference between Green Arrow shooting with the heavy carbon rods, than with half of one attached to an arrow. It would be the GM posting 'the heavy carbon rod falls short of the monster's chest' and 'bounces off the monster's armor' which could be depressing for the players and some GMs might not do that because it could look like them trying to make their monster win.

GMs, EVIL doesn't get to win. Ever. It's an unwritten law of the universe.

(Except when the players are evil, then the GM is good and the good guys have to lose...)
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Re: Role Playing Education

Post by TheDeceiverGod on 8/19/2011, 2:56 pm

So, to make a long story short I started browsing TV Tropes the other day, and upon finding it the virtually endless source of information that it is, set my mind to finding some way to use its data to my own ends.

To sum up that didn't work out all that well and now I've decided to just link to pages that I find useful, and give something of my opinion on the various tropes I'm calling attention to.

To start off I'd like to point out that Tropes are Tools. Just because they occur everywhere, doesn't mean you're unoriginal for drawing from them, or using them. If that were true, then they wouldn't be as numerous as they are, because other people would go 'I don't wanna do that, that's a trope!'

Now that being said, there are Bad Tropes. Character Derailment is one of my personal least favorite, probably because it's the evil twin of Character Development but there is a reason any trope is indexed on the Bad Writing page.

A nice page to browse in your free time might be the Stock Characters page. Frankly it probably has just about every stock character type out there, and I'd be surprised if you haven't met at least a dozen of these guys before. I'm a particular fan of the Action Girl, Briliant but Lazy, and The Chessmaster are some of my favorites, but The Evil Prince and The Caligula (named for the utterly crazy real-life roman emperor) can also be fun, but generally needs to be done better than most modern medias can manage, they tend to make them pretty Flat Characters by just saying they're crazy and leaving it at that, when they have the potential to be so much more. (The Original Caligula named his horse to the senate, the utterly crazy move of a deranged mad man, or a brilliant way to blatantly point out that the senator-naming-system needs to be reformed, at very least to require sentience among nominees? You decide.)

Of course I don't have to tell you that Tropes deal with more than just characters. They do actions too, some of my personal favorite are the Batman Gambit, the slightly less believable Xanatos Gambit, and the more preferable, at least in my mind, Xanatos Speed Chess. Though of course with any gambits, particularly in a role play setting where you can't control the other characters, you've gotta watch out for the Gambit Pileup and try to make sure your gambit doesn't turn into Xanatos Roulette which with the exclusion of Darkseid-esque characters tents to be outright unbelievable, and more or less annoying to other players, and it's important to note that, particularly in the case of the Xanatos Gambit that your character may not survive to see his victory, but will posthumous enjoy it if your gambit works. The page explains it better.

Now, one of the main reasons I am making this post is to call attention to character traits that are pretty much tropes. Now we all like good Emotional Torque and any writer no matter who they are or what they're writing should attempt to have some kind of emotional response garnered from their writing. But as we all know, there are some people out there who simply shouldn't touch the written word with a ten foot poll. I bet you've just named a few in your head, maybe they're a 'popular' author *coughTwilightcough* maybe they're just one of your friends who thinks their writing is the bee's knees and won't be told otherwise. Regardless, it's probably not entire their fault you hate them with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. Okay maybe that's a little harsh.

But I will tell you of something I with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. Wangst. Hissssssss...

I HATE Wangst. Everytime I've said anything about 'annoying whiny characters' I am talking about Wangst. "A pathetically whiny character who insists on crying (often loudly and repeatedly) about a Dark and Troubled Past or event instead of, you know, trying to deal with it and stop being depressed all the time." I Hate Hate Hate Hate Hate Hate Hate it!

And let me tell you why.

Now there's nothing particularly wrong with a Dark And Trouble Past, or even being Cursed With Awesome. Even employing both of these things in the same character will not be enough to earn my ire, though it will cause me to watch you very closely. But think of it like this;

You're your character (I know I generally try to discourage thinking like that but bear with me); You've lost a fight with the Joker, (or similarly put at the mercy of a psychopathic sadistic character), he has you strapped to a chair, it's one of those old electro shock chairs and he has the leather straps all pulled down so tight that your fingers are going numb. Oh wait, that's not because of the straps, that's because he's been stabbing you on and off for the past eight hours, and you're suffering from pretty serious blood loss. It doesn't look like help is coming, or at very least not going to get there in time. You're faced with the very real possibility that you're going to die at the hands of this mad man. Your head is heavy, your hands are numb, you're covered in your own blood and more than a little loopy from the blood loss. Something in a dark corner catches your eye, so you stare at the shadows for a little while. Nothing appears to actually be their, but you can't shake the feeling that something is staring at you from just out of sight. You feel cold, partial because you're sitting in a pool of your own blood, partially because the icy hand of death is snaking its way up the back of your neck. Oh that's probably what that un-see-able thing in the shadows is, Death. You were starting to wonder when he'd get here.

Then you sudden realize that his being hear means you're actually going to die if you don't do anything. At that realization something primal takes over, you don't really know what it is, maybe fear, maybe will, maybe the Joker punctured your adrenal gland with one of his two-hundred and seven stabs. Whatever the reason, you suddenly realize you don't want to die, you don't want to give up. You start fighting again, thrashing about, kicking your hands and feet and generally making a fuss. The Joker is stunned since you've been pretty quiet for the past six hours, and maybe he thought you were dead already, either way he moves in for the kill just to shut you up, he's had his fun.

And just then your team busts in kicks hims squarely on his ass saves you and gets you to a hospital. Maybe they all give blood to help you out, either way you spend a couple of weeks/months in the hospital recovering from being a pin cushion.

You know why you're not allowed to whine about any of this?

Because if you're the kind of person who breaks down, who buckles under the weight of the world, then you're not the kind of person who survives that kind of situation, and certainly not the kind of person who survives that kind of situation and then goes back to doing exactly what got you in that situation in the first place. If you're a weak person, the kind of person who's not strong enough to stand up to what the world throws at you, and let's face it that's exactly what Angst is, then you don't get to have that sudden spurt of the desire to live, and if you were that kind of person, and you do have that sudden spurt of the desire to live, than you still don't whine about this, because you're too busy trying to reconcile your previously whiny demeanor with the fact that deep down you really do want to live, despite it all, you want to live.

And after something like that you can't really complain if someone shot your dog. Yeah, it sucks, but you're going to go on living with it anyway, why? Because you want to live. Oh your brother got raped by a she-male Cerberus tentacle monster? Again, that's pretty bad, and you're allowed to be mad about it, and even allowed to go hunt down and murder said abomination, but even if your brother kills himself as a result, you're still going to go on living. Why? Because you want to live.

Because when you stared into the face of death, you refused to bow down. You decided you're going to fight, and scratch and bite and swear until you no longer have breath enough to do so.

That being said; you are allowed to question existence. It's my personal opinion that good angst is done best when it's implied by a character's actions, but not screamed from the hilltops by their voice. Characters are ultimately people, they have things that they think about, and they have things that they don't think about. Good angst in my opinion, is when a character has something that they need to deal with, but don't want to think about.

Rose Wilson is Slade's daughter, no matter what she does, Slade will always be her daddy dearest, but she doesn't really want to think about that in the day to day, maybe she's afraid of the conclusions that she'll draw from it, maybe she's afraid of what those conclusions will mean about her life, or maybe she knows exactly what those conclusions mean for her, and it depresses the hell out of her. Maybe it's that she'll never be normal maybe she like her life before or maybe she's just afraid of what she inherited but whatever it is, she doesn't like thinking about it. So she thinks about other stuff; Sex, drugs, rock & roll, it doesn't really matter what, as long as she doesn't have to think about her past.

Now, I suppose I should probably mention the polar opposite of Wangst, Angst? What Angst? Now I personally don't hate this as much as I do Wangst, but frankly there's not a lot that I do hate as much as I do Wangst, and honestly, depending on the media, this is much more tolerable and occasionally believable than Wangst. Sometimes it's done really poorly... a recent example that comes to mind is the new Thundercat's cartoon.

Their home is destroyed, their king is murdered, they're on the run from an ancient spirit of evil and an entire species that they've systematically repressed for, oh, only all of recent memory. Oh and up until about a weak ago they didn't know technology existed and that army of people who are thoroughly upset with them have Gundams, among other things.

Do they complain? Nope; well Liono does, but he has Issues.

Other good tropes to check out, particularly when crafting characters, are Good Powers Bad People, Bad Powers Bad People, Dark is Not Evil, Bad Powers Good People, Boxing Lessons for Superman and of course the nicely organized compendium of Superhero Tropes.

But really all I wanted to do was rant against Wangst, and I think I've done that fairly well. So remember.

Wangst about anything, and I'll kill you.

Seriously
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Re: Role Playing Education

Post by Vandal on 8/19/2011, 11:48 pm

Got lost in reading Superhero Batman Tropes. But great advice on the wangst. I find it helpful.

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Re: Role Playing Education

Post by TheDeceiverGod on 10/19/2011, 8:53 pm

Character Brewing
Rule #1: Don’t take it personally!
Nothing I say here is directed at anyone in particular, or any one character in particular. This is simply my method and what works for me. It may not work for you, and if it doesn't that is fine.

Starting Off

Whenever I start a new character, I like to pick an Archetype to base them off. Just something to pick traits like fashion sense, history, personality, origin, abilities or combat role from.

Archetype

  1. typical specimen: a typical, ideal, or classic example of something.
  2. original model: something that serves as the model or pattern for other things of the same type.


I know lots of people may be loath to the idea of using an existing character as the basis for their new all original character, and I can understand the urge not to do that. It can be easy to fall into the trap of making them too much like their archetype. It can be hard to say how much is too much, and it can be even harder to recognize when you're making the mistake of making your character too much like their archetype. It's something you just have to be cautious of, and be aware of.

Multiple Archetypes

One easy way of deluding down the effect an archetype can have on your character is to pick a couple of different characters to pull traits from. This way your character doesn't end up being a 'knock off' of your archetype.
Cautious Reminder: If your character pulls traits from too many well-known characters they can become a Mary Sue very easily, and very quickly.
The concept is fairly simple, you pick some characters and pick some of their traits and see what fits. Now; obviously there are some things that don't fit together very well, for example, Raven's origin story, and Dick Grayson's home life. Half-demons don't generally join the circus, but you can make almost anything work if you try hard enough and tweek a few things. The trick is to decide what you want, and what you don't need.

For example, if you really want that 'I was part of a traveling circus until my parents were killed' back-story, but also really want that 'I have dark magical super powers' then you can put the two together, circuses will often have soothsayers in addition to acrobats, but this does mean that there will be parts of both that you have to give up to make the combination work. Soothsayers aren't bound to be any kind of stars, even the real ones are going to have to deal with the doubt caused by the fake ones, and again; half-demons don't join the circus. So this Raven/Grayson hybrid character isn't going to get to have been from the 'world famous' family, and won't get to be sired by the lord of hell. Which does mean you'll have to come up with something to explain A: where your character's powers came from, and B: why they're part of the circus. But come on, if you took everything from established characters, there would be no fun in making a new one right?

History

As we all know by now; I'm a big advocate of expansive histories, but due to recent events *coughMakingHundredsOfCharactersForHubCitycough* I am beginning to respect how some people can loath making histories.

Histories are hard. They're long. They can be vastly uninteresting, and honestly, they're probably not going to get read. So why make them at all? Because histories don't only explain what kind of a life your character has had, but they give you a chance to express what kind of a person they are. Your character's history is essentially your character's first post. It's you explaining to the other players, what kind of a person you're going to play, and how you're going to play them.

On a Personal Note: I don't think I've ever read a truly bad history written by anyone on here. Now truthfully, I don't read every history of every character. I think it'll taint my posts with knowledge I shouldn't have. If I read that a character lost their mother, I might have my character, which would have no way of knowing that the other lost their mother, insult them with the classical 'your mother' lines, when otherwise I might not have. But I have read histories on other sites. I and have been hurt by how bad some of them are. I honestly cannot express how often I have read "Is the last of his kind" "is a member of a rare clan/species/guild" "is a hybrid *insert canonically warring species here*" or any combination of those such things and I cannot express how painful it is to read histories that are written for the sole purpose of making the character seem 'dark' 'troubled' 'emotionally wounded' 'driven' or anything else under the sun. I have seen histories written in first person, I have seen histories written in the most atrocious gothic font or such neon pink outrages as to make them nigh unreadable, and I have seen histories where the first line is something akin to "I am the twisted darkness of the underworld." and I am SO thankful I don't have to deal with that on here.

I find a good place to start a character’s history, is frankly, at the beginning. When where and why were they born? And of course to whom, this is where if you’re stuck, you can hark back to your archetypes, but be careful, don’t just copy & paste another character’s history as your own, but maybe your parents were similar people. Now they don’t have to have had the same career to be similar people. Bruce Wayne’s parents were billionaires, that was basically their career, but they were also good honest people who loved their kid. At the same time, Roman Sionis’s parents (Black Mask) were also billionaires, but they didn’t care about their kid in the slightest, kid got a raccoon bite and they didn’t get him looked at because it would look bad socially. Same career, different people.

This is an excellent chance to pull from different archetypes, take the career from one character, or their parents, and take the personality from another, or their parents.

Now you can make your character’s history whatever you like, base it on whatever you like, they’re your character, you can light them on fire and then dip them in vinegar if you want to, but it’s important to remember, that they might not react the same way you would, or even could. I first started this because I wanted to talk about the Dark and Troubled Past and I wanted to talk about it not to dismiss it but to advocate it. It dawned on me earlier that every character in the Teen Titans cartoon line up had a Dark and Troubled Past. Robin’s parents were murdered. Beast Boy’s parents died in a flood. Raven’s parents are the devil and a nun. Starfire’s parents sold her into slavery, and Cyborg’s parents experimented on him. (for the record Terra’s parents also experimented on her.)

Now, think about that for a second. Think about how varied the personalities of these characters are. Think about how, despite both having lost their parents and being adopted by superheroes, Beast Boy and Robin are so utterly different people, and try to think about why they’re such different people.

It’s not just the Teen Titans. J'onn J'onzz; the Martian Manhunter, is the last of his species. So is Superman (theoretically) and yet they’re radically different people. J’onn J’onzz lost his family, his parents, his wife and his children, along with his entire species and in fact his entire planet to tragedy, and yet he’s still a sunnier guy than Bruce Wayne.

That’s because everyone has a different way of dealing with tragedy, or in fact, life. You can throw the same events at different people and end up with radically different results, and to me, that’s what’s fun about making new histories. You get to come up with new, different, reactions to the same events. What if Dick Grayson had hated being an acrobat? What if his parent’s death, though tragic, gave him the chance to pursue his real dream of being a computer programmer? Picture; Dick Grayson in a knit cap with 5oclock shadow and a bulky high powered laptop under one arm. He might, given a few years of distance, view that event as the best day of his life, the day he got to leave the circus, rather than the day he lost his parents.

Just because a character has a Dark and Troubled Past does not mean they have to act like it. Beast Boy actively acts the fool in order to numb the pain of his past. He’s an individual who both recognizes that he’s a super hero, and that that’s every kid’s dream, and that being a super hero sucks, because you’re always fighting crime, your friends often die, and more often leave to go fight crime elsewhere, but he’s made a decision not to dwell on the sucky parts of being a hero.

So remember, if you’re giving your character a Dark And Troubled Past, you have to decide how they’re going to react to it, and remember that how they react to their past is part of who they are. If your character is going to rush into a burning building without a second thought, then something about them makes them into the type of person who does that, maybe they value life that much, maybe they don’t value their life at all. It’s up to you.

Side Note: I fully and wholeheartedly believe that Bruce Wayne is chiefly a superhero because he’s suicidal. He doesn’t think he should have survived that night in the alley; so he goes out every night and tries to die, but he wouldn’t be honoring his parent’s memory if he made it easy, so he does everything it takes to stay alive, but when it comes right down to it, if he came face to face with death itself and knew there was nothing he could do to stop it. He’d just smile.

Do keep in mind however, that history is not just fluff. Surely Batman would be a different person if his parents were never killed, but there is quote by the Martian Man Hunter that, in my opinion hit’s the nail on the head.

J’onn J’onzz wrote: I am Mars' sole survivor. There is a reason for that

If you character is the last of their kind, or if they have some ability that people don’t normally have then they should have something that separates them from the rest of the species. Starfire & her sister gained Starbolts by being experimented on, Superbaby was put on a rocket, and Wonder Woman was born from clay & blessed by the gods, even among their own people they’re exceptional.

Appearance

I have long said that what a character looks like is entirely up to their creator. I stand by that; but (there’s always a but) what your character looks like can, should, and if I have anything to do with it will affect how people (read: other characters) judge them. People dress up in costumes for a reason. Batman does it to strike fear into the hearts of criminals, Superman does it to show that he’s not trying to strike fear in the heart of anybody, the Flash does it to hide his identity, and probably reduce wind shear, and The Martian Manhunter does it so he doesn’t give people heart attacks.

That being said, if you’re a 14 year old girl dressed up like a tulip trying to convince a 36 year old mobster with a shotgun to mend his ways and go to jail peacefully, you’re going to have a harder time than if you’re a 20~50 year old six foot man dressed liked a bat.

Hub City Note: There’s no shame in favoring the Badass Longcoat over the cape and tights, or ignoring the coat altogether.

That being said, costumes and appearances should have some considerations to what is available to the character. Bruce Wayne has to be careful not to arouse suspicion when mass producing military grade Batman costumes, Jason Todd has to steal 90% of his armor & weapons, while the Central City Rogues have their own personal tailor, and they respect that without him they’d be in a hole. (I think they actually actively protect and defend the man, but ask Blood she’s more up on all things Central City.)

Wonder Woman got her armor from the gods, Wally West chemically treats his costume, and Batman’s richer than god while the Green Lantern and the Marian Manhunter are theoretically naked, (Green Lantern is technically wearing green energy, but Manhunter just shape shifts his skin into clothes.) Clothes (when worn) have to come from somewhere, and that’s something to keep in mind when designing an appearance. Sometimes, in my opinion, a character who scrapped together a costume can have a cooler look than one who just pulls theirs from Hammerspace because you can tell when, where, and why the character picked up individual pieces of their costumes.

Abilities

I like to divide abilities up into three groups, Physical, Mental and Metaphysical, with physical abilities being anything ‘physical’ ranging from acrobatic ability to an enhanced metabolism, mental abilities being anything ‘mental’ such as telepathy and clairvoyance, while I generally just throw anything that doesn’t fall into the other two under Metaphysical.

Now personally I generally do one of two things when it comes to powers, I either draw them from an existing archetype, or come up with wholly new ones. Honestly I doubt there’s a third option there, but I’m sure someone somewhere will find something at some time for some reason, if only to show me that there is a third option. Though when it does come to powers, I do like to add some originality to the mix.

Physics Note: if your character weighs 100 pounds, than even if they’re capable of lifting 10,000 pounds, anyone who can lift 100 pounds can throw your character as far as they like to try. So remember being strong isn’t necessary better than being heavy. Darkseid weighs something like 8 tons (approximately 16,000 pounds) so even if you’re super strong, hitting him hard enough to make him move is a feat, but if you also weight 8 tons then it’d be just a normal guy hitting another normal guy. (With a whole bunch of feather weights milling about.)

I would like to mention however, how easy it can be to overload a character with superpowers, even if you technically only gave them one power. The whole X-men franchise is built around characters who are given only one technical super power, but then take that to the logical extreme (one of the reasons I love it) Charles Xavier is only a telepath, but when it comes right down to it he could nuke an entire city with a thought if he really wanted to. Similarly Jean Gray is only a telekinetic (with minor telepathic abilities) who when uninhibited (by her humanity) is capable of ripping people apart on a molecular level, and no, your super powers don’t extend to your molecules, unless you’re Wolverine.

While on the other hand you have characters like, well, Superman, J’onn J’onzz, and even Batman. When it comes right down to it, Batman shouldn’t get to have ‘Bat-Shark Repellant’ he should have to make due punching said shark in the super-sensitive nerve clustered nose with his combination-taser-brassknuckle-clawgloves like everyone else, and by the same note, Superman doesn’t get to use his super-vision to locate your chi-points while simultaneously using kryptonian-kung-fu to kick you in the nads.

But like everything, there are exceptions. In this case J’onn J’onzz is the exception; he’s a shape shifter. That’s his one superpower, but at the same time he can’t do things like shape shift into kryptonite, or turn himself into pure energy, but he can make his fist as solid as steel, his bones as fluid as rubber, or himself a light as air, thus, arguably all of his later abilities are derived from this one. While at the same time; no matter what shape he takes, he’s crippled by his one weakness, Fire.

Even though J’onn can turn himself into steel, he’s not only extremely vulnerable to fire (Martian skin boils at something like 106 degrees and keep in mind that’s the skin’s boiling point, I would imagine it’d be uncomfortable significantly before that) but he is pyrophobic, so even if his ‘skin’ isn’t necessarily skin at the moment, being around fire is probably going to make it difficult to concentrate.

Side Note: Martians are also apparently able to become addicted to anything with Choco in it, so the Man Hunter might not be looking at your chocolate birthday cake just because it’s delicious and moist.

For the record I would however like to say that ‘concentration’ linked powers are vastly annoying to GMs. Sure it might not be a problem to telekinetically lift the sofa to vacuum under it, but who’s to say that the noise of a vacuum is any different from the noise of an AK? Sure the gun’s probably going to be a measure louder but if you can ignore one sound you can ignore any other right? And after all who’s to say how much concentration it really takes to lift a sofa, is it any more or less than lifting a car, does or should weight factor into it or is one object telekinetically indistinguishable from the other?

By the same token, clairvoyants and telepaths are equally annoying unless the game has been designed to specifically handle them somehow. Telepaths essentially require every player (or at least the ones dealing with the telepath) to write out their character’s thoughts as dialogue, while clairvoyants are just generally difficult because in any Role Play setting, unless the GM has a very clear an defined goal for where things are going, the future is extremely unwritten.

Mental powers in general can be an immensely grey area best only attempted by veteran players playing with an open-minded group of close friends, because most of them allow their owner to essentially god mod. Particularly outside dice settings there’s no real function for saying ‘you recognize an illusion as such’ or ‘you’re able to protect your mind from invasion.’ It’s entirely up to the players’ discretion and can easy turn into ‘you see your dead mother’ ‘no I don’t.’ ‘yes you do, and she’s trying to stab you.’ ‘no she isn’t because she’s not there.’ Which just isn’t much fun for anyone.

That’s not to say that mental powers can’t be played well, but it requires more than one strong player to pull it off. If your player is trying to telepathically locate someone else’s it’s up to the other player to throw you a bone, and done well, this can be an interesting and exciting set up for an adventure, but done poorly and it can be, well, painful to watch frankly.

Which isn’t to say that physical powers are any better, or any easier to wield, but they are at least less likely to end up in a glorious ‘battle of wills.’

Combat

Ultimately when considering powers for a character, you should consider not only how those powers would affect their life, whether it’s Cursed With Awesome or Blessed with Suck, but how that power is going to effect the playing of the character. This primarily revolves around combat, in traditional RPG combat, characters can take upon one of three positions, forward, reserve, or support, and of course there are roles within each group which can have various effects on the flow of combat.

Traditionally; forward members are the guys who stand in front of their teammates, whether it’s because they have bulletproof skin, an invulnerable energy barrier or the ability inexplicable block lightning bolts with their bracelets, these are the guys who get hit. (Whether or not they can also hit hard is purely academic to the position.) I like to divide these guys into three groups of their own; Tanks, Brawlers, and Bruisers.

Tanks are your “Steven Mandragora”s of the world, these are the guys who get hit by ten tons of iron and then stand back up. They’re really difficult to knock down, and while they might be able to kick some butt if they get lucky, odds are that their big punch is going to be taking punches. Usually these guys are slow, bulky and at least a little overweight, this is to offset the fact that they can take N^206 of your punches, because for every 206 punches you can land, they can only land one, if they’re lucky. The phrase ‘meat shield’ comes to mind.

Brawlers are more common and arguably more useful. These are the guys who can give as good as they can get, odds are that if they go up against a tank, they won’t be able to take as many hits as the bigger guy, but they’ll be able to hit faster or sometimes harder than the big guy they’re facing, while at the same time, Brawlers aren’t going to hit as hard as Bruisers.

Bruisers are all fist and no fat. They hit hard, and though they can take a few punches themselves (they’d be a Striker if they couldn’t) ultimately in a Bruiser vs Bruiser battle it’s going to come down to who hit first. Bruisers are generally not that intelligent, be it because they favored brawn over brain, or because they’re used to solving problems by hitting them, but that doesn’t mean that Bruisers have to be idiots, sometimes they’ve just got other things on their mind, like grinding your face into putty.

Reserve members, despite the name, are in my opinion, often more useful than forward members. They’re the guys who stand just behind the other guys. Sometimes they’re guys who can dish it but can’t take it, other times they’re specialized to the point where, outside a certain set of circumstances they’re only slightly more useful than an average person, either way they’re not people who should be standing on the front line. The Flash is a good example. He’s a one trick pony, but it’s a really good trick.

What essentially defines a Reservist is their inability to stand on the front line. Being able to evade attacks isn’t the same as being able to block, resist, or ignore them, particularly for the guy behind you.

I, personally, like reservists, they’re more interesting than forwards, more tactical, more cerebral. Just like how The Flash has to find new and interesting ways to defeat opponents using the same power (Rather than just muscling through like Superman) reservists have to think to defeat their enemies, and because of this it’s a lot harder to divide them up into neatly formed groups, but I’m going to do it anyway.

Strikers are the first clutch. These are guys (actually more typically girls, but don’t blame me it’s just the standard) who can hit hard and fast, but maybe not take as good as they can give. Maybe they’re a fire elemental and despite being able to burn up an entire city, aren’t any less vulnerable than your average chick, maybe they happen to be utterly invulnerable to their given element, but utterly incapacitated by its counter. Or maybe they’re just a man with a suit, or ray gun, or both (Girls don’t get science-powers as often.)

Because Strikers can be so varied it’s hard to put a defined edge on where they stop and the next group begins, or even what the next group may be, but I think Artists might be a good name for the next set. Be it martial artists, magicians, summoners, or any other practitioner of some manner of art, the Artists are arguably a subset of Strikers. They deal damage just as quickly, but can offer more than just damage output to a group. Martial artists have, well kung fu, magicians have magic, and summoners can summon creatures who can serve whatever combat purpose they choose. More versatile than your average Striker, but also more vulnerable, magicians can get caught out of mana, summoners can get caught without their monsters and martial artists can, well, have their bones broken.

The final combat type isn’t even really a type that should be involved in combat at all. Supporters, now these aren’t the people who should be cowering during combat, but they’re certainly not the people who are dealing damage, and should never be the people taking it. These are the healers, the medics, the tacticians. Most of the time these guys are boring to play in combat, and really fun to play outside of combat, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not important to the battle.

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, sooner or later you’re going to get poisoned, shot, burned, brainwashed, or otherwise fall victim to the evils of the local evil guys, and when you do, it’s the job of the Supporters to get you out of it. They’re probably going to end up just being medics, but sometimes they can do more than that, maybe they can reinforce your natural powers, or augment your physical abilities in some way, or maybe they just know exactly when to hit, but they offer backup that, when it’s really needed, it’s really needed.

Telepaths often make good Supporters, they’re not going to be doing much attacking themselves, unless it’s a little psychic scream here or there to break someone’s concentration, but they can track the enemy without requiring line of sight, they can organize allies and beam information from one person to another at the speed of thought. If they’re really good they might even offer telepathic or empathetic healing, either eliminating an ally’s pain or taking their wounds unto themselves.

Occasionally Supporters fill their role not by aiding their allies directly, but by filling in the holes in the group’s dynamic. Any character who can jump from one combat role to another fluidly would ultimately fit into the role of support, because whenever the dynamic of battle changes, so can they, though as a general thing they tend to be less potent at any one job than a natural _____.

Keep in mind however, no matter what combat type you choose or prefer there’s always going to be a draw back and a weakness. Tanks can’t take the hits if they fall too far behind their allies, Brawlers can’t stand up to any of the more specialized types, Bruisers are easily outnumbered, Strikers can maybe handle Tanks, but Brawlers and Bruisers give them indigestion, while Supporters can’t do their job if there’s no one to support, or worse, if their team is too disorganized.
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Re: Role Playing Education

Post by archiesangel on 10/23/2011, 9:58 am

Great stuff as always Deceiver! I do have a question though from my English teacher. Where did the name Mary Sue come from? Or if the 'boring, average' character was literally called Mary Sue, what story did she come from?
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Re: Role Playing Education

Post by Vandal on 10/23/2011, 10:27 am


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Re: Role Playing Education

Post by archiesangel on 10/23/2011, 1:47 pm

Thank you. I had such a hard time trying to explain this to her. She couldn't get past the name...
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Re: Role Playing Education

Post by TheDeceiverGod on 2/10/2012, 9:51 pm

Dice Rolling Demo
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Re: Role Playing Education

Post by Loki on 2/10/2012, 9:51 pm

The member 'TheDeceiverGod' has done the following action : Dice rolls

'D20' : 5
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Re: Role Playing Education

Post by TheDeceiverGod on 6/18/2012, 1:36 pm

This amused me, even if it's pony-related and not super-hero related, its lessons about OCs are universal.

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Villains and more.

Post by TheDeceiverGod on 11/4/2012, 9:12 am

So I was browsing http://tvtropes.org last night, because that's what I do when I feel like I should be posting but can't get inspired, and I came across a few that I think are really useful to keep in mind when writing something; anything really but roleplays in particularly.

The first is The Villain Makes The Plot.

Now; while I'm a firm believer in this, and pretty much always have been ever since I was loving on my Magneto action figure as a little boy and completely uninterested in buying pretty much any of the other X-men, it's important to pay attention to in any story.

The page quote says it well "Any story where you have good guys versus bad guys can only be as smart as the intelligence of your baddest guy."

There's a reason there's never a story about Batman fighting random thugs, and just random thugs. If the villain is 'this guy who was mugging that guy' there's not a lot of intrigue to the story, and most of the time this shows up it's not because the story is about Batman defeating the muggers, it's showing that Batman does defeat muggers, or it's Batman just 'doing his job' until some bigger crime/criminal shows up and pulls his attention away.

To shade this in a Role Play tinted light I'm going to use Hub as an example, because the whole point of this was to psyche me up for posting.

The first thing I did when preparing for Hub, the very first thing, was pick the main villains. Those of you who're playing, or paying attention (all two of you) will know them as, Brother Flay of the Religion of Crime, Sebastian Blood of the Church of Blood, and Steven Mandragora of the Hub City One Hundred.

From the start I knew what kind of Role Play I wanted to host, I didn't want something where the Player Characters were flying around saving the world or even the country so I knew I had to keep my villains small, but there's more to it than just that. Darksied is a global threat, so it would make sense that the entire globe would want to participate in his defeat (and yes all villains no matter how fantastic have to lose at the end, that's the rule) So if I wanted to admit that the other heroes, Batman, Superman, etc existed, I knew I had to keep my villains small.

So I decided I wanted a mobster. Mobs are good villains, particularly for Super Heroes. There's that old quote form, I think the Watchmen about the origin of the Superhero/villain. "People forget it was the mobs who started it all"

Mobs make great enemies for a couple of different reasons. The first is that they've got a limited reach and limit motives, a mobster isn't going to be threatening the world with his death ray, he's going to be robbing a jewelry store. It keeps things simple. The second is that the mob has lots of faceless mooks the heroes can punch out. Slap a black ski-mask on a guy and he's fair game for the local caped crusader to kick in the balls. But the most appealing thing about mobs, from an author's standpoint, is the simplicity of their motives. They want money. That's it really, all the mob wants is to make money, sure some want to expand their domains, but why do they want to do that? To make more money.

You can reveal the mob to be working for the God of Evil as long as he's promised a big enough check after the end of the world. (You can also have him pause and think about it at some point for an impromptu Heel Face Turn just for added drama)

And that's basically what Mandragora is; he's a gangster. He's not Made of Evil. He can have redeeming qualities and the Player Character can feel bad about kicking him in the chin, some people might actually think he's a pretty nice guy and might work for him because he's a pretty nice guy (See Punch Clock Villain.) and that gives the Player Characters the chance to showcase that Good is not Nice, and that gives you the chance to point out that they might be worse than the villain.

The only real problem with Mobsters is that, since they do have simple means and motives, they can be pretty uninteresting, and if you protagonist/hero/Player Characters, decide that they don't want to stoop to the villain's level then there can be a certain lack of conflict. After all, is stealing from people really that bad if you keep the true psychopaths away from them?

And that's why I have a Complete Monster too. (This would be Brother Flay)

He doesn't care if you pay him. He doesn't care if you have a family. He doesn't care if you're a little blonde girl with a puppy as your only companion in the world. He's still going to turn you into a bloody smear if he wants you to.

This guy is a Card Carrying Villain and no one should have any emotional turmoil over defeating him. He exists as evil purely for the sake of being evil, or in the artistic sense, so that the Heroes can show off how good they are in contrast. If you have people going around doing things that are technically evil, but have good intentions then the heroes might have a hard time justifying kicking their teeth in.

This guy there's none of that. The heroes get to gasp and be outraged and damn his name and all from the moral high ground. If there's anyone who needs to die for the greater good, it's this guy. Of course they have to be tough as nails or else the reader/audience/players will be asking themselves why someone hasn't killed this obviously evil individual before. (A valid question)

From an author's prospective these guys can be really fun to write because how often to you get to ask yourself "How can I make this more evil?" You get to dip into your horror movie memories pull out what really scared you and then use it as your own, and you can even make them Obliviously Evil where they might not even realize that people die if you kill them. Which can be particularly enjoyable.

From the player's prospective these guys can be pretty fun to play off of simply because they are so unforgiving evil. You're never going to walk into a mobster's house, turn a corner, and see something ripped out of your nightmares, but this guy, who knows? Granted; you're not going to get a lot of non-combat interaction with them, if you do it should be through a wall/celldoor, particularly if they're 'Obliviously Evil' or 'Deliberately Evil' but trying to get into their head can be a fun thing for some players just the same.

Of course if you want someone the Player Characters/Protagonists can debate the meaning of good and evil with, then you can't really do it with the obliviously/deliberately evil guy, and the mobster might have no delusions about what he does, but that doesn't automatically make him a bad person, maybe he uses the cocaine money to build orphanages?

A Visionary Villain on the other hand. He'll talk your ear off about why he's right, of course any words otherwise might go in one ear and out the other, but he might have a point or two.

After all if there really are these Complete Monsters running around, it's not unlikely that someone is out there claiming a better tomorrow by any means necessary. This can be particular fun when the Villain shows up to save the heroes from the worse villains, and then turns around and tries to kill them next week since that can lead to a few questions of loyalty. Some of the Darker Heroes might even agree with him.




Though villains are only half the story; less sometimes, since most stories are written from the hero's prospective so the really bad villains might not even show up until late in the day and their motives may never be made clear. Though they should still have them.

I started writing this with the intention of just linking to a few tropes and leaving it to the reader whether or not they followed the link. I kinda failed to do that so I'm just going to roll with it.

The second thing that goes into making a story or setting up an RP is World Building.

TVTropes wrote:Worldbuilding has two separate meanings:

  • The creation of a Fantasy World Map, history, geography, ecology, mythology, several different cultures in detail, and usually a set of "ground rules", metaphysical or otherwise. Sometimes, such worlds will have a Creation Myth that's either hinted at or told in more detailed fashion. This kind of worldbuilding can go to the extreme of working out entire constructed languages. Authors typically revise constructed worlds to complete a single work in a series.

  • The work that goes into deciding the details of a setting. It's very difficult to write a story that contains absolutely no imaginary elements beyond what's described to the reader, so nearly every author worldbuilds a little bit.

I generally use it to refer to both at the same time, but either way it's a pretty damn important part of writing a story. It's also hard as fuck; that's why it's so much easier to write Fan Fiction than your own stories. You don't have to do as much world building, the rules, history, geography, ecology, and mythology of the world is more or less given to you by the canon. Fantasy Role Playing Games do this as well, generally they give their own 'world' that they set all the info in, so you can use their world or make your own. (I prefer to make my own, since theirs stretches to encompass everything in the game you end up with samurai orcs riding prehistoric unicorn-dragons)

The worst (or perhaps best) part of world building is that you get to include Author Appeal and as much or as little as you like. Keep in mind using too much can taint your work for people who don't like what you do, and this can present a problem. Add too little and you won't like what you're working on (making it hard to work on) add too much and you'll fall victim to Author Tract.

And obviously, there's more to world building than just what the Author likes (or at least their should be). You'll have to decide if Anyone Can Die or if Nominally Important characters will be saved. Including Heroes of other stories is a good way to make a world feel broader, just because the heroes are fighting this evil doesn't mean there isn't someone else out there fighting something else. (Though it probably won't be a worse evil.)

With more regard to authors than Players; Crypic Background References can be a good way to expand a world, you have to be careful about telling the reader too much about the world. (If everyone knows the sky is pink why would anyone mention it?) Player Characters can do this as well; though they've had to write out their whole history before hand, Ted doesn't know that Linda used to be a troll, so when Linda mentions that she 'used to love fishheads' he might look at her funny. It's a nice way to ease into explaining something about your character (how does Linda feel about having been a troll?) without performing a Character Filibuster.




However; I'm tired now. So remember that Talking isn't a free action. Protagonist Center Morality is bad m'kay, and above all avoid the Mary Sue
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Re: Role Playing Education

Post by archiesangel on 11/4/2012, 10:05 am

Great stuff as always!
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Example of Status Effects in a Forum RP

Post by TheDeceiverGod on 4/1/2014, 4:13 pm

Character stuff wrote: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellentesque suscipit faucibus aliquam. Phasellus at turpis facilisis ipsum tempus dignissim. Pellentesque in diam ac elit elementum blandit quis ut eros. In id bibendum lacus, quis pellentesque quam. Mauris tincidunt purus id aliquam commodo. Proin ac bibendum mauris, cursus adipiscing mauris. Maecenas faucibus et ipsum quis tempor. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Aenean sagittis fermentum augue et convallis. Aenean dui diam, blandit eu urna vitae, iaculis dignissim turpis. Vivamus auctor libero a odio tempor, sit amet semper justo fermentum. Something about an explosion involving Bob shielding Sally from the blast with his body.

Curabitur in sapien erat. Ut auctor ligula sed sapien eleifend, ut pulvinar quam adipiscing. Etiam aliquam augue non nulla auctor porttitor. Aliquam erat volutpat. Suspendisse velit elit, vehicula eu semper porttitor, sagittis quis justo. Maecenas porta justo a eros porta lacinia. Suspendisse vel varius mauris. Maecenas tincidunt lacus vel semper varius.

GM: Bob and Sally are temporarily Deaf. Bob cannot use his left arm as a result of his injury.
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Re: Role Playing Education

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