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Good evening, afternoon, or whatever time it happens to be there, ladies and gents! I happen to be Andy, who happens to be a freelance web designer, musician, writer, and whatnot.

Roman Catholic, student of tabletop gaming, and someday soon I'll have my own designs in the field!

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Multi-Character RPing?

First and foremost, sorry I haven't gotten a post down, I'm trying to get back into the rhythm of working on posts, after having been out of it for a while. And, well, last night I got sucked into an epic conversation that took place in tandem with playing Portal...yeah. It was awesome, but I didn't write up my post last night. So it's a bit later than I'd like. That's okay, though, because I came up with a cool topic.

It All Started...
...with my playing in a very unique RPG system, called FactionRPG, developed by one of my fellow forumgoers at Myth-Weavers, a forum site dedicated to roleplaying games. The basic premise of FactionRPG is that each player, instead of controlling one character, controls the actions of an entire faction, and roleplays out their discussions and arrangements with other factions, deciding on in-game actions to be taken after a fixed length of plotting with other factions. Actions play out, things are destroyed, secrets are found out, and then it's back to scheming again.

All in all, it's a very interesting system...kinda like Diplomacy, but less of a board game and more of an RPG. It's all about shifting alliances and figuring out how all of the assets you control fit into the grand scheme of things. It also got me thinking on a completely different level of RPGing. The rules are so abstracted that individual characters' powers are never defined explicitly. Rather, what is defined is their relative power level, which denotes their strategic importance. What did that do? It focused the system more on running an organization with multiple characters.

A New Responsibility
I wonder if this sort of approach couldn't be taken by more new RPGs. The "play out one character" aspect of RPGs has been stuck to so frequently (barring innovations like Burning Empires), it would be a great breather to get something so remarkably different. What if you were in charge of not just one character's story, but all of their stories? Not only could this allow for greater ensemble drama, but it could also bring in entirely new dimensions of roleplaying.

Another interesting problem this solves is the problem of character death. In traditional roleplaying games, losing a character is something that becomes tough to do, which is probably the reason most roleplaying games make dying so hard for characters. Though there's some exceptions, the general rule seems to be against fatality. That's a design choice. When you've put so much work into your character, choosing feats, ability scores, getting magic items that work together...you don't want to have to do all of that work all over again, to make a completely new character. I can understand that.

This approach fixes that. When you're distanced a bit from characters, losing a character is no longer a total loss. Sure, it's a loss, and it's pretty major, but it doesn't mean you have to start over all from scratch. To me, that can make for a much better story. In drama, characters come and go, live and die, but the organizations, the groups, the things they belong to--those live on. It's only rarely (and climatically) that an organization becomes destroyed utterly, to the point where a player would have to make a brand new one.

Another unique approach would be to have players focus on building up a dynasty, somewhat like what I've heard Pendragon does. In this approach, characters have a limited lifespan, but that's part of reality. There's always going to be a new character who comes after, to carry on the legacy. As long as character creation is somewhat simplified, this can work out quite well. I think it's a cool idea too.

So, that's all the thinking-about that I've got for the moment. I may end up coming back and fleshing this out...or who knows? I may decide to make this into a system of its own.

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