Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Greatest RPG I Ever Played: Part 3, The Character

Playing Jama In The Game:  When I built Jamadigni Renuka I’ll admit to basing her on the Jamadigni from Adam Warren’s Titans: Scissors, Paper, Stone. Both characters are young, powerful magicians, who tend to be show-offs with regard to their magic talents. But once the game started, “Jama” became her own person, and not a just a knock-off of an established concept.

Jamadigni Renuka,
XSWAT Patrol Officer
(and eventually, Director
Something I’ve noticed about myself, is that I’m a terrible person for playing pre-generated characters at a Con. I can’t just “pick-up and go” when it comes to a PC I‘ve created (or been given). I usually need a few sessions to get into the character’s mind and get a feel for how the character should be. Jama was much the same. The initial concept -- a fun-loving college student who happened to be able to whip-up all sorts of spells -- quickly found herself in a very dirty and dangerous line of work. The first few sessions opened both her eyes and mine, giving me a feel for the horror aspect of the game and thus enabling me to rework Jama’s personality as she realized the true nature of XSWAT, their job, and the threats they opposed. So while Jama might still pull such stunts as watering her house plants with localized rain showers, and calling upon the spirits of the air to straighten up her desk, she also knew that fun and games and jokes were best left at home or in the squad office -- not on the street.

At the same time, I wanted to try and have Jama come across as, well, not me. I wasn’t going to fall into any of the common traps one might find when playing a cross-gender character -- Jama wasn’t going to be a nympho, lesbian, butch, man-hating, whatever. I wanted her to be a person. So, I played her as a person first and female second. I had a set of Psychological Limitations to guide me, a paragraph or so under “Personality/Motivation”, and some definite “don’ts” (such as “don’t be a stereotype”). I also realized that I could occasionally have Jama be, well, “emotional.” That’s not to say she’d break into tears at the drop of a hat, but that Jama didn’t have to be the strong-jawed silent type -- there were four or five of those on the team already! So she could show apprehension, fear, sadness, nervousness, and the like. Not because she was a woman (well, that was part of it, since I felt a woman, especially an anime woman would tend to be a little more expressive of her of feelings), but because she was a person.

Curiously, playing Jama this way never had any of the other players (or PCs) regard her as “weak.” (Well, maybe at the start some of the PCs did.) Instead, I think it made her seem more real, more human, and made her moments of bravery (and she had many) come across as that much more heroic.
Jama And The Other Players:  I’ll admit, it can be a tad uncomfortable to play a female PC in an otherwise all male group. When I was doing the Kazei 5 PBEM it was easy -- everything was handled by text-based stories and email. But face-to-face? What do you do if the male GM has a male NPC start flirting with you? Flirt back? Those with more confidence in themselves will say “yes!” Me? I chickened out. Jama never had a romantic relationship while the game was in progress and the one time the GM presented a possibility, I (and thus Jama) decided the would-be suitor couldn’t be trusted and turned him down (I’m still not sure the guy was totally on the up-and-up....).

On the other hand, the other players seemed “go with the flow” and see Jama for what she was (a female PC) and not not see me when dealing with her. It helped I worked up some concept art early in the game, cementing her look at the start. In fact, one player commented that later, more “realistic” artwork didn’t fit his mental image of Jama, which was that of the “little sister” of the team.

As the game progressed, Jama become far more than “the little sister.” Her magical talents and skills proved to be very valuable at times, and once the scientist character left, she became the only real research specialist we had. As many PCs (and players) said, when Jama talked, you listened (it didn’t hurt that the GM himself admitted that Jama’s... err, my ability to put clues together forced him to stay on his mental toes). I also found it interesting that no one had “PC” tattooed on their forehead. No one felt the need to defend the actions of another just because they were a PC. In fact, some PC actions started some serious arguments -- well, many not a heated argument, but certainly strong disagreements and the like. Jama, however, along with Nathan Carpenter (the paladin character), almost had the “PC” stamp. Messing with either of them was a sure-fire ticket to having the rest of the PCs seriously consider actions that would get them kicked off the force.
Jama And The GM:  I have it on good authority (from Ross himself) that Jama was both a blessing and a curse. She was a blessing, as she made a great hook for many plots. While all of the PCs had their moments in the spot light, he needed someone to be a primary focus for final phase of the game. Someone who would be able to come up with the solution to save the world. And with the scientist out of the game, guess who he picked? Curiously, this revelation didn’t cause PC resentment (as in “why her?”), but made the PCs even more protective (hence the line “Save the Sorceress, Save the World”). The GM even  introduced a lecherous Internal Affairs officer who made some not-so-subtle advances to Jama and the rest of the players seriously debated how to best do away with said officer without attracting any notice.

Jama was also a curse to Ross, as he could feed her all sorts of information dealing with the metaplot of saving the world; but then Jama (meaning me) would figure out what do with it! At one point I was asked “What’s Jama’s INT?” “18” I replied, only to be told, “You play that INT well.” Later I asked “Should I buy Jama Deduction?” only to have everyone else (GM and players included) state “Why? You’re doing fine without it!” And, of course, came my crowning moment, where I checked my notes (a small spiral-bound notebook is an essential part of any game I’m in), and uttered a low “oh... sh*t....” As the GM (and other players looked on), I literally dragged the paladin’s player out of the room and told him “I know what’s going to happen next.” That stunt resulted in the game ending an hour early as the GM had to admit, “I didn’t expect you guys to figure that one out like that.”
If you'd like to check out Jama's character sheets (for HERO System 6E), click on this link.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article and a great summary of character construction; looking at concept, creation, originality, motivation, and so on, as well as the interaction of character with others. I found the discussion of gender and avoiding stereotypes to be especially interesting, given that it's something of a "hot button" issue for me. Very nicely done.

    Have I ever mentioned how envious I am of the SA campaign?