More on Character Building, and On Getting Involved in RP

April 11, 2012 at 5:07 am (character design) (, , )

If you have trouble getting involved in the “best” RP–that is, the tinyplots and storylines that provide a break from endless slice-of-life vignettes and give your character a chance to play the hero in adventures–then your character build is one place you might need to look. There are several different problems that could be assaulting you, and any one of them is fully within your control.

It’s important to recognize these problems because all too often players get frustrated and decide that it is the staff that is targeting them, keeping them from all of these amazing opportunities. In reality, the staff usually has little to do with it. If a staff character seems to be blocking the player’s involvement these rumors can become even nastier, but the staff character is just the same as any other player’s character: beholden to act in an in-character fashion. This can happen especially when there are powerful authority figures dictating who comes on many of the missions on MUSH settings: a general, or a ruler, a faction head or a field commander who has every in-character right to say who should reasonably be involved. In a tabletop the GM often has to find some way to make even the most unlikely characters fit the plot…but on a MUSH, characters generally find themselves having to act and think more realistically, especially with the shadow of ICC and other character’s reactions hanging over their head. Let’s take a look at a few common problems.

You might want to play the ill-equipped professor who gets in over his head and rises to the challenge by his wits, but you’d best have a discussion with staff before you do it to see if they understand what you want to accomplish and to see if they are willing to give you enough of their personal time and plotting skills to make this work.

Your character lacks helpful skills.

I can’t tell you how many times shopkeepers and waitresses have gotten angry at me because I’ve told them that they are not going to be included on an invitation to go raid a vampire’s lair or crawl the Dark Dungeon of Dangerousness alongside the cops, soldiers, wizards, thieves and whatnot who might be able to actually help. They say that if the GM is only creative that of COURSE there would be a role for those people, to which I wind up thinking: red shirts and cannon fodder. Student characters are often in this category as well. Few experienced characters would be acting responsibly if they came along with a passel of apprentices, raw recruits, kids, or trainees. Sometimes theme allows for these sorts of issues,and sometimes students are exceptionally good at what they do, enough to be singled out (usually because they’ve either spent whatever character points they have in a productive direction OR because they RP so sensibly that they earn trust). In general, however, characters who don’t have the skills to face danger will be left at home. Nobody wants their death on their own hands or heads. Of course on a consent MUSH the shopkeeper might, improbably, live through the trip to Vampire Mansion, but this is also a reason why many MU*s are turning away from full consent in favor of an at least partial rolled or mediated system…it eliminates unrealistic RP like this.

Bottom line: If you want to investigate Vampire Mansion or The Dark Dungeon of Suck, create a character who is skilled enough to make the journey and who can prove it.

The Character Acts or Speaks Stupidly

I’m just going to have to be blunt here. Some people are really stupid. Really really stupid. Nobody wants a stupid person at their back. If this is your problem and you aren’t deliberately playing this way I am very sorry because nobody’s going to be willing to say this to your face, and you probably aren’t willing to hear it. Most stupid players I’ve met are extremely arrogant individuals convinced that they are actually Einstein and will get enraged at the thought that their actions are anything less than amazing. I could tell a story about an HE MUSH where a freaking diplomat got herself deliberately trapped with Lord Voldemort convinced that she was going to pull a spy maneuver of teh_awesome and slay Voldemort with her l33t skillz. When I told her she was dead with a capital D she insisted it was because I didn’t like her. No…I’m going to have to insist that it’s because you got in the way of the most powerful evil wizard on the game, and decades before the boy with the funny scar shows up to do something about him to boot.  When I told her that she’d simply been stupid (because I AM that blunt when my patience has finally snapped) she explained to me all of the reasons why this was the most intelligent thing anyone ever could have done. Like I said…difficult problem to deal with on both sides of the equation.

You Haven’t Put in the Character Work

This is going to be frustrating to hear because I know you want to go on the awesome missions right away, but unless you’re RPing in a military organization where anyone at all can be tapped (and you didn’t choose to play the Gimpy Quartermaster or the Secretary or the Recruiter  or the General’s Wife or something) most people won’t take you into the Dungeon of Doom unless they know you, like you, and trust you. This means you might have to put in 1-6 months of intensive RP around nothing but slice of life scenes which build relationships. This lets people know that you’re trustworthy ICly and that you’re fun to RP with OOCly, both vital elements. Maybe there will even be some big public scene and they’ll have a chance to see what you can do there, too. Eventually you’ll get asked along. Kind of like moving to a strange new town IRL.

You Put in the Character Work, But…

I know. MUSH people play so NICE all the time. There’s a reason for that. If you’ve chosen to play the insufferable asshole who makes teeth grit, particularly the teeth of decision makers, it’s going to be hard to get you involved. The whole trust part of the know, like, trust equation. Playing the asshole usually works better if you’re in a position to get involved in the awesome RP no matter what, or if you have an extensive OOC discussion with the decision maker where you pre-decide on a sort of frenemy relationship where he hates you but he knows he can rely on you…or whatever. Oh…it also works best when people have seen what you can do on other characters and actually trust YOU, too. Don’t expect to pull this as a complete unknown. It’s not going to work. Ditto for characters that like to sit creepily and mysteriously in corners. Ditto for the overeager and strange.

You made a twinky character or some other eye-roll worthy concept.

Perhaps you went in the complete opposite direction. You made a character SO useful that you went off the deep end into the land of Mary and Gary Stu, and now nobody wants to play with you because…well…you’re no fun to play with. Reel it in, tone it down, pull it back. Take some time to see what successful players are doing. Then emulate it.

You just aren’t paying attention.

You know all those awesome plot hooks that admin post on the bbs? No, I bet you don’t, cause 97% of all MUSHers never read the bbs. If they did, they’d see something like: Purple fog was over the city at 3 am last night. @mail me if you want to investigate, open to anyone. And then they’d actually be proactive and @mail instead of wailing on public channel that they never get to the “good” RP. You know how often players ACTUALLY take the bull by the horns and do this? If you said, “Approximately never” you’d be correct. Players seem to expect that the Plot Fairy will take especial interest in their perfectly crafted background, float down from the sky, tap them on the head with the star wand and give them all the story. To which I say: you could win the lottery too, but it’s easier to just read and respond to the thrice damned bbs.

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