April 7th, 2012

elfish meme

Commedia dell'Oubliette

In a lot of various Dungeon Master's Guide-type books, there is usually a list of "types of Players." You know, something that breaks down the motivations & play-style of various stereotypical ur-Players. I've been thinking about this a little bit lately in the context of Oubliette, of the different "feel" to each campaign based on the interests & toolkit of the other people at the table. I grabbed the first two books with those kinds of sections-- the 4e Dungeon Master's Guide & the Pathfinder GameMastery Guide-- & I'll use them as diagnostic tools, & maybe try to come up with something insightful of my own to say. Like for instance, look at me: by the Dungeon Master's Guide I think as a Player I'm an "Explorer" & a "Storyteller," since I want to ask questions about the setting, but I also just want to make the Narrator's job easier -- an off-duty worldbuilder is still a worldbuilder. Left to my own devices-- or with a couple of drinks in me-- I become an "Instigator." Yeah, I will fiddle with the buttons. Yeah, I will try to take over the kingdom. In the Pathfinder categories I'm maybe a "Continuity Expert"? I will normally pay attention to the meta-plot even to the extremes of ignoring the current adventure.

Campaign One: Blaine

  • Bernie: By the GameMastery schema, Bernie is either a "Diva" or a "Thespian," which are both two sides of the same coin, I think. No surprise, but he's an "Actor" by the DMG scale. Bernie gets a kick out of being able to go almost Method with his character; he really strives to get inside their head. When he made a guest appearance in the current campaign, I really appreciated his ability to create a set-piece, to build vignettes with his character as the centerpiece, but to draw the other players into them. I think I'd call him a Creator, since he really had his own vision for his character, & was more into that interpersonal development than campaign storytelling-- he would build mythology & culture for his character & the best thing for the Narrator to do-- me-- was to grab that & incorporate it into the campaign. He'll provide you with a wealth of NPCs & subcultures, if you let him.

  • Gerd: By the Dungeon Master's Guide he's a mix of the "Explorer" & the "Power Gamer"; Gerd was always interested in the logic going on behind the scene & would try to figure out how the pieces fit-- no surprise, since he's a scientist-- & got a gratifying thrill out of being able to summon otherworldly demons to tear people to pieces. Speaking of diabolism, by the GameMastery system Gerd would be an "Antagonist." His character Emma was the odd one out; not that everyone else wasn't creepy & weird, but they all thought she was beyond the pale. While the other players were a range of anti-heroes, Emma would have been unrepentantly Evil on the alignment axis. Behind the scenes, though, Gerd was a huge help, creating hordes of ne'er-do-well Lovecraftian horrors & loathsome spells. I think I'd call him a Developer: he took some of the elements of Oubliette that I put out there, like alchemy & the King in Red, & workshopped them for the whole campaign.

  • James: James has had the most continuity with Oubliette, appearing in all three campaigns, so he's had a chance to really kick the tires. In his heart I know he's a heavily armored tank, but that is neither here nor there for the purpose of this question. Dungeon Master's Guide-wise he's a "Storyteller" first & an "Actor" second. I wanted to call him a Workhorse, since he's one of those Players who will just play Atlas with the campaign, if things start going off the rails. In fact, I think one of the problems with the second campaign was that his character Balthazar ended up disconnected from the rest of the group's story. Which is why I think I might call him a "Loner" by the GameMastery book's terms-- not that he'd wander off away from the rest of the group, but he tends to make characters who don't make compromises, which can lead to him being cut-off from the rest of the party. It is the streak of a Tragedian, & that is the best way to play it-- few Players will volunteer to have bad things happen to their characters, but James will.

  • Mike: He's a slippery duck & no mistake. He's an "Instigator" by the Dungeon Master's Guide & that couldn't be more accurate. If you put something strange in your campaign, Mike is the one who will try to poke it with a stick. He's the one who will do the things you least suspect...like have his bard build a secret second identity in order to become the leader of a bunch of gangsters. I think the best fit for him in GameMastery terms might be the "Glass Jaw" on account of the weird combinations he ends up building. In trying out everything, Mike can end up with a Character that is mechanically suboptimal. In the first campaign he played a Karnak poet who joined a secret society, dabbled in necromancy & took over a crime syndicate; in the second campaign he played a wandering zebra riding ghoul priest. I think I would say Mike is a Weirdo or an Opportunist; he will create strange stuff & fixate on the strange stuff you provide him.

Campaign Two: Malake &
Campaign Three: Anise

  • Radarless: Okay, I guess by GameMastery terms Radarless would be a "Flake," but that is too harsh; Tom is always upfront with the fact that his schedule is going to be wonky, & then, well, it is wonky. Actually, these GameMastery categories are overly negative; Radarless could also be a "Loner"-- he has a tendency to want to sneak behind everyone & stay hidden-- or even an "Antagonist," because he sometimes builds characters that clash horns with someone else in the group. By the Dungeon Master's Guide he's a "Slayer," since he's usually the driving force behind me including more combat in my sessions, but I don't think any of those really hit the nail on the head. Radarless gets a kick out of building characters, out of imagining them & their context, & I've been trying to guide him to extend that impulse into evolving a character. I might say he's a Phoenix; he likes to make a character, disappear for a while & then come back with that character radically altered-- possessed by a wendigo, a student of blood magic, that sort of stuff.

  • Sam: Sam is definitely a Developer, like Gerd. Sam is the kind of guy who will take a hook-- like the hashishin of a theocracy or the fledgling art of anabarics-- & run with it. He want to find one corner of the campaign setting & then push the envelope. I don't think I provided enough room for it in the second game, but in the current campaign he's really taken the science fiction aspects to heart. By the DMG he's an "Actor" & a "Thinker." Sam monomaniacally pushes his character's motivations, & will use them like a hammer against everything in the game, whether or not it looks like a nail. He wants to use his bag of tricks to short-circuit the challenges in inventive ways. He can be a "Rules Lawyer" at times, to use the GameMastery term, but once you impress on him that you don't care about the rules, or that another player might prefer a simpler solution rather than a more complicated ones, he lets go.

  • Tracey: I think about Tracey's method of play a lot, because I sometimes feel like I lose her, whether it is because I overwhelm her with details or what. I think Tracey, by the Dungeon Master's Guide, is a "Thinker," since she's really good at coming at puzzles from an unexpected direction, but she can become a "Watcher" sometimes & need prompting. She's playing a sort of "thief" character currently & I wonder if maybe a "tank" might be better, since I think Tracey excels at reacting to things intelligently, but isn't always aggressively proactive. She's also an "Actor"-- GameMastery's "Thespian"-- which is something I'm learning to exploit. I'm increasingly relying on her in the vignettes & "kabuki dream theater" segments, from her role as Kore the space princess to a plethora of smaller roles in the current campaign. I can't always predict the motives of her main Character, but I'm trying! She has elements of a "Continuity Expert," too-- she's good at surprisingly you with something she's been holding onto for the last dozen sessions. I think she's an Opportunist like Mike; she waits for her moment, then pounces.