One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed in rpg games where the PCs experience some sort of sudden change to trigger their current state as a Superhero / Monster / Other Being is that a lot of the time, most Players are perfectly fine with dropping everything that their characters were used to doing in order to pursue something different.
It’s an odd decision to make, honestly, and perhaps we GMs are also to blame from putting too much focus on the shiny new status quo to think about just what this kind of change might really be like.
I’ve been thinking about it a little more, and perhaps I’ve stumbled upon one of my pet peeves when it comes to those kinds of games. People don’t just get to drop everything that they used to be for the sake of something that changed their life right now.
Let’s go over an example:
Natalie Wong is a twenty-something Chinese-American and up-and-coming Account Manager for an international Marketing Firm. She’s single (and dating,) relatively successful, anxiously waiting for her promotion and has just enrolled in a Masters course to further her education.
Then we slap her with a standard PC life changing event. For the sake of something simple, let’s say that she Awakens as a Mage (from Mage: the Awakening.) Natalie is given a sudden and shocking glimpse of the world as it truly is, and becomes able to change reality to her will.
At this point in a game, most GMs tend to focus heavily on the alternate world. The bizzare and mysterious occult workings behind the scenes, as Natalie is drawn deeper and deeper into this new society with the help of new Mentors or friends that are in the same boat.
But at the same time, it would be a disservice if the GM didn’t play up the fact that even if she’d Awakened, Natalie still has a whole bunch of dreams from her mundane life before her Awakening.
- Being a Mage doesn’t make her asexual. She’s young, and wants to find Mr. Right. So dating is still definitely in her list of things to do.
- Just because she can change reality doesn’t mean she can quit her job. She’s put too much effort into getting to where she is, and she’s proud of her work. Natalie is not about to disappear from her firm, in fact, she might even try to use her powers to, uh, help her along with that promotion that she’s been angling for, because she deserves it, right? Right?
- Her Masters Course might be something she’d have to drop, but she couldn’t risk doing that without making people curious, she’s already committed to it, and the bosses higher up might see it as a sign of her being unable to follow through if she quits, so she sticks to it, even if her Awakening has put an even greater strain on her free time.
Take note that none of these three are related to her Awakening per se, but they’re all good launchpads for complications and story elements that can come up due to the spanner in the works (i.e. the Awakening).
I’ve seen some players complain that some games like Mage: the Awakening are boring because “I don’t know what characters are supposed to do.” I’d like to answer that by saying that games like these aren’t going to hand you a roadmap or a to do list. Instead, they throw you into a situation where you have to deal with how a life changing event can screw with your status quo, and the goals you’ve set as a character.
If your character doesn’t have a goal or life to begin with, then there’s no point in looking for how these games are supposed to provide a direction. These kinds of games work best when you come up with a fully-fleshed out character with dreams, relationships, ambitions, fears and hopes first.