22 July 2008

On Roleplay, Characters and Writing

Eric asked:
4E: worst thing ever or merely pretty awful?

The last edition of Dungeons and Dragons I played was AD&D 2nd ed., and that was back in 1992. I have no idea. :) Those of you who have it (or are looking forward to receiving it) may feel free to argue about it, however.

Michelle asked:
What's your alignment?

True Neutral.

That was what I got the last time I took an Internet test about it. I agree that it's accurate, and I like where I am.

To tie it back in with the first question, I'll add that one of the many things I dislike about D&D is the alignment system. I find that it's too artificial and arbitrary to pigeonhole people into nine categories of morality, and it's quite contrary to my preferred styles of roleplaying.

Jeri asked:
In your history of role-playing, what's your favorite character you've ever played and why? Describe the character.

Oh man... only one??? I think I'll do three. :)

1. Haywood Jablomey, a VtM vampire character in the form of an 8 year old boy (a Malkavian, for those who know VtM). His original name was John Smith, but the guy who took him in after his turning decided that it was a boring name and changed it. Said guy had a bit of a dirty mind... Anyway, Haywood is cheerful, friendly, and really not very bright at all. He's also a kleptomaniac, but don't ever confront him about it because "I don't steal! Mommy says stealing is bad!" Instead, he just "finds" things. Not necessarily shiny things or expensive things either - he'll unintentionally take just about any random thing that's sitting out somewhere not bolted down. One time he stole all the AA batteries out of some guy's TV remotes, then when the party moved on to ransack the guy's office, he dumped the batteries and took all the paper clips, and then when the party moved into a restricted lab area where everyone had to wear Clean Room suits and he was too small, he used the paper clips to make the suit fit him.

Haywood was my favorite character during the early-mid-90s, back when most of my social life consisted of tabletop roleplaying and LARPs. He's easy to play because I don't have to keep track of anything complex going on, and I don't have to think fast or intelligently. (I can think intelligently but only very slowly.) He was a hit with most groups I played him in because he made for great comic relief. In general, Haywood works best when he's actually part of a troupe, and not just running around doing stuff by himself.

2. Thomas Cougar, another VtM vampire character (a Gangrel), who started out as a Florida Seminole. After his turning, he exiled himself from his people and spent about 80 years alone in the swamps, until his great-granddaughter came along looking into her personal history, and dragged him back out. He then became a doctor who while he practiced western medicine, also knew a ton about the uses of plants (especially the ones from the swamps he was in) for medicinal purposes.

I made him for a realtime chat game in 2002. It became a solo game, and we basically went nuts with it for nearly a year. She was my best friend, and it was what we did. That game was the focus whereby she dragged me out of the abyss I was in at the time.

Later on, when we started drifting apart (as all my friendships seem to after a while), and we weren't playing as often, I started looking for something to fill the time while waiting for the game to continue, and that's how I came to RPoL in the spring of 2003. I put Thomas into a game there, and she made a character for the same game, which was called VtM: Eternal Nights. Umm. How to put it. Let's just say that it lasted for nearly a year and that there was a lot of drama. It took a long, long time before I could play Thomas in anything else (and now he's a minor NPC in a game I help run).

Thomas was also the seed behind just about all of my fiction. I made him, my friend really liked him and kept asking questions about his past, so I made an extremely detailed past (more detailed than any backstory I'd ever written for any other character). Then I made a city around him for where he was from before the start of the game. And in that city there had to be other characters of course... who were doing things of their own... and getting in each other's ways.... (For those familiar with my RPoLian history, "Detroit" originally started out as a game set in the city I made for him.)

So, yeah. Thomas was (and is) pretty important to me. ;)

3. Rumen Radomir, also a vampire, but one from the Anitaverse as described by Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series. He started out as a Hungarian monk in the Dark Ages who became the victim of an experiment on whether the purest of the pure (e.g. a monk) could avoid falling from grace if turned into a vampire - a test of faith. Since the answer is no, he was really mad about that and went on a rampage for a couple centuries revelling in monsterhood. After that he got better. He became friends with a necromancer during the 1400s, and the friend eventually became a human servant. Then a few centuries later (150 years before gamestart in modern times) the servant got killed by a vampire hunter. He got really mad about that and went on another rampage, until finally he calmed down about 50 years ago. He ended up in Sacramento, became the Master of the City's second after six years, and ... that's pretty much it actually because the game is dead now.

The game was set in 1990 in Sacramento, ran from late 2003 to mid-2007 on RPoL, covered all of two story days during that time, and got deleted three weeks ago due to inactivity. :( While it ran, it was by far the best freeform roleplaying play-by-post EV4R. All of my best writing was in that game, and it was the stepping stone between the roleplay writing I'd been doing (and steadily improving), and Nanowrimo 2004.

Rumen is now my top muse. He's very strong-willed and particular about me getting him down right. With as entertaining a past as he had, there are all sorts of stories I can write about him - and I've started to, trying to fill the void while waiting for the game to continue (which now it never will). Much of my past several months have been spent quietly worldbuilding for one of the bigger ones. In some ways he's a seed like Thomas. Same general fuzzy settings, except several centuries earlier in a different part of the world.

For short blurbs about some of my other favorites, there's my response to a meme back in 2006. For more about my trials and tribulations of fiction writing, I do have a blog for that over at Hobgoblin.net. That was my main blog where I wrote down actual bloglike material (stuff about daily life) before starting this one.


Jeri said...

I like Rumen (or does he go by Mr. Radomir?) too, he seems like he has grown to the point that he's exerting some control over his own destiny. :)

Eric said...

My own favorite character was a Champions character called Captain Nifty, in a late '80s campaign. Champions, for the uninitiated, was a superhero game, and Nifty could be best described as a kindred soul to The Tick (who didn't exist at the time!). Nifty's origin story was that he actually was a comic book character--a Superman knockoff from that period in the thirties when every comics publisher was trying to copy National Comics' success with the Big Blue Guy until National sued them out of existence. Nifty was given life in the contemporary world through an accident involving toxic waste, a back issue of Nifty Comics in a garage, and the imagination of a little boy who became Nifty's occasional sidekick.

Nifty's high point in the game came when the party was fighting a comics-obsessed villain who modeled his crimes after his passion. He also recognized Nifty. While being interrogated, this villain claimed his secret lair was "hidden in Wayne Manor, in Gotham City."

Now, the first thing you should know is that the campaign was set in the "real world," and Gotham City didn't exist outside DC Comics in the game, either.

The second thing you should know is that Nifty, despite claiming to be the world's greatest genius, was about as smart as a character in a cheap Superman knockoff funnybook given accidental life by toxic waste and a hyperactive child might be expected to be; i.e. not very.

"Gotham!" Nifty says, "That's another name for New York City!" Which would have been a brilliant deduction in Nifty Comics no. 17, but led to much eye-rolling and ignored comments by another player that everyone knew Gotham City in the comics was based on Chicago.

The result was a little side-mission-ette where Nifty flew to New York, discovered there really was a Wayne Manor inhabited by a nice little old lady who gave Nifty cookies and was puzzled by Nifty's insistence there was a secret villains' lair under the house.

Ooh, was the Captain disappointed when he finally, eventually, after thoroughly searching the house, and after giving it a great deal of thought, finally figured out the villain had lied to him, the rascally rapscallion....

Good times. Twenty years down the road, I still kind of miss good ol' Nifty.

MWT said...

Sounds like Haywood and Nifty would probably have a lot of fun together. ;)

Rumen has been strong-willed and temperamental since the beginning. Most of my characters are like that, springing to life in the first sentence I write for them, and exerting control over their own destinies, though with different approaches. Rumen tends to be very direct and detailed when he's mad at me, with lots of yelling, while Thomas will just dig in like a mule and refuse to budge, without telling me what's wrong, because I'm supposed to be able to figure it out myself. :P I also have another character (named Edward) that started out DOA because I had his backstory completely wrong, and he wouldn't come alive until I fixed it. That took a few years to figure out...

As a general rule, it works best if I just do whatever they tell me. ;)