Episode 210: Characterization

Hosts: Joe, Megan, Todd

In this episode, we discuss how characters are built in games, from the mechanics, to emergent stuff that happens in the game, to the backstory you bring to your character.

Sh’notes!
2:30- What have we played.
22:24- Topic.
57:00- Rants

4 thoughts on “Episode 210: Characterization

  1. Pingback: Jank Cast Episode 210: Characterization – Megan Pedersen

  2. Nice episode, I feel like y’all only scratched the surface on this one. I like the idea of characterization coming in the moment, from choices. So in a RPG context every time you have to make a choice or speak in character (which I guess is a choice) you decide in that moment who your character is, based on what has come before, and then from the directors stance, what you want to happen. in a video game context like Mass Effect every time you come to a decision point, the game is asking you to characterize your version of its protagonist to be either Paragon, neutral or correct. 🙂
    As much as we’d like perfect consistency, characterization changes (outside of intentional character arcs) whether we want it to or not. This comes from the gaps between play sessions, differences in our emotional play state (bleed), and the (almost necessarily) fluid nature of characters in the shared imagined landscape. This isn’t a bad thing most of the time because it’s minor and we modify our characters slightly based on the outcomes we as players would like to see.
    In a recent game of Eclipse Phase I just ran over Roll20 I had all the characters introduce themselves with a dream sequence. I made it very clear that this was to be an opportunity for solo storytelling and had everyone else follow the microscope rules of shutting up and not helping as to preserve a unique vision. It went over really well, even if we had a few more pauses for thought than normal, and even over Roll20 the characterization was very clear and shined through.
    That’s another thing, characterization is much easier in person or through text than it is online which has always been one of my bigger pet peeves with online gaming. In person you get to use all of your senses, through text you get to expound as much as you’d like, online you’re normally restricted to voice and actions. It makes you work harder and practice which brings a lot to in person games.
    Yet another thing, how quickly does a character come to you? Are most NPCs at the same level of characterization in their first min of screen time as say an ApoWo character? Obviously we know more about the ApoWo character but does that come through right away or do you build that character up with every interaction/decision? I would say the later. Another way to say that would be: Are most characters defined more by what’s on their sheets or what’s in our heads?

    Could y’all post a link to 183 days from the rants section? I seem to be having trouble finding it. https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#newwindow=1&q=183+days+rpg

    Oh, have y’all ever Janked (that’s now a thing, I’m making it a thing) about practicing for RPGs? If not, I have a potentially stupid topic for a cast, Do You Practice for RPGs?
    We practice writing, tennis, medicine, improv, calculus, sex, woodworking, and juggling; why not RPGs?
    This may be something that I’m alone in doing but I first took up acting in local theater partially because I thought it would bring something to my “craft” of role-playing.
    A lot of the time when I’m watching movies (especially bad but interesting ones like “In Time” or Divergent) I’m thinking about how I would translate that into a game (Fate conversion and Misspent Youth in those cases) and I’m logging away interesting choices or details that I can later bring back to the table. Staying in genre can be difficult when you have 5 different peoples conceptions of what noir is. But when you reference a movie or book everyone is familiar with then people are suddenly on the same page both conceptually and thematically. In general when I’m about to play in a game, or even worse run one, I often immerse myself in fiction of that genre to get it right. which seems like practicing a genre for an RPG to me.
    I’ve watched more than a few online videos on voice acting (see Roll20 stuff above).
    My bedside readers are fiction and things like Long-Form Improv by Hauck and Writing 21st Century Fiction by Maass.
    I’ve even run experimental one shots before to test out narrative concepts, like extreme flashbacks that only tie in tangentially to the main story, or practice something else unusual. I’ve never really retroactively declared anything longer than a one shot practice before but my first couple of fumbling forays into RPGs with D&D (because of coarse it was D&D) could certainly be called practice.
    I know RPGs aren’t supposed to have a goal per se but what I’m striving for are improvisational stories that surprise me, thrill me, and touch my heart. What I’m after is a fluid game with little overt communication about it between players in the moment (all I’m asking for is mind reading here!). What I desire is a game that could be written down and sold as a good book and I feel like that takes practice.
    I practice to impress others,
    I practice to feel more relaxed and confident,
    but most importantly
    I practice to have a more distilled, better quality of fun.

    P.S. Your’e welcome for the text wall!

  3. I practice for RPGs, but generally when I know that I’m going to be doing a character thing that doesn’t specifically come naturally to me. For example, I practiced accents and vernacular prior to heading into the studio to record with One Shot Podcast a few weekends ago. That to me felt more like acting than playing a game to me, and I approached it like I would a performance gig. I’ve done prep work for Jank Cast APs before when I know that we’re recording a specific thing for an audience to listen to, because again – it’s a permanent thing that will exist for people to consume as entertainment.

    As far as games I’m not “performing” in, I do tend to research things that will be instrumental to my character so that when the time comes for me to add to the narrative, I can do it from an informed place. I did some prep like this for my latest Mountain Witch game, mostly so that when I was describing things my samurai used and wore that they were correct, and so that when I added detail into the narrative, that it was period correct. I find that I draw a lot of my RP in the moment via improv and Meisner technique skills I’ve learned over the years, so from a perspective of relationships and allowing myself to be affected by actions/dialogue/events, I prefer to be a blank slate in game. This does not, however, keep me from making speeches that I WOULD HAVE SAID in that perfect moment when I get home from a game session that I just didn’t think of at the time. My cats love them. Even though it’s a weird little unpacking mechanism I have, I do find it helps to set me up for the next session, because I can practice my character’s voice and their intentions.

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