Players and the Portrayal of Characters in a Fictional Setting

Posted: September 1, 2011 by pointyman2000 in Advice, Articles, Roleplaying Games

In conversation with rvelasco over instant messenger, the conversation drifted towards an interesting topic.  It’s no surprise that Fantasy or Sci-Fi settings can be difficult because of the degree by which it differs from everyday modern settings.  There’s a certain amount of effort (or discipline) to be applied by the GM in order to portray a given setting to be consistent.  NPCs may speak in certain ways, societies may view certain issues with views different from our norm.

It should be noted therefore that Players should bear the onus of responsibility to portray their characters in such a fashion that fits with the given setting.  It’s not really asking much.  Many people would think nothing about expecting a GM to improve or do better with running a campaign on each new game they play, but it’s not often that you hear Players thinking about whether or not they’re doing a good job of pulling off a character.

Perhaps it’s my Simulationist nature kicking in again, but I appreciate it a lot if a player puts in some effort to generate and portray characters that belong to the setting.  I don’t feel that it is particularly difficult to pull it off as long as the players in question take a moment to consider the societal norms and culture of the character they’re portraying.

Think about it this way, when you portray a character that reinforces the reality of the setting, you’re making a positive contribution to reinforce the feel of the setting and the enjoyment of all the other participants of the game.

  1. Anthony says:

    I don’t think it’s your simulationist side, but rather your narrativist side. Some worlds (i.e. Rokugan) have a very powerful feel to them, and that feel is completely shattered when a player refuses, or outright tries to work against, the setting. There are clans to help with this (Crab and Unicorn come to mind) but even then, there are simply norms and ways of thinking that if the players – and GM – embrace, the game feels a lot more….magical.

    That said, I’m constantly reminded by how bless my current group is. As a group, everyone is interested in improving their play, and helping others improve their play, complete with actual discussion of what aspects of a character are working or not working. It can be rather interesting to hear the debates sometimes too.

  2. I much prefer it when player buy into the world but some groups are more interested in making that effort than others.

  3. drakharios says:

    I think it helps to offer in-game rewards for behaviors you want in the setting. That’s why I lean heavily toward using Renown/Glory mechanics as much as possible. For my Hari Ragat setting, I’m also offering something all players love — power. To gain the blessing of the anitos, the ancestor spirits, one has to act in ways the ancestors approve. 🙂

    • Hey Dariel!

      Speaking of Hari Ragat, please make sure to drop me a line when you launch it, I’m very eager to check out your work, and I’ll make sure to pimp it out here on Life and Times of a Philippine Gamer.

  4. drakharios says:

    Thanks Jay! We’re playtesting already. I can send you the playtest version if you like.

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