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Aug. 9th, 2005 @ 09:14 am How to Unmake a Social Monster?
One of the old chestnuts I heard when I first started gaming, and one of the few that's really stuck with me throughout the years I've played, is that regardless of what character they make, people will always end up playing themselves. I've had friends that can play nothing but surly mercenaries, shining paragons, and even one friend who can olny play underpowered world-wandering wide eyed types. And it's true, you can always see right through whatever framework they may have generated for their character, their new skin, as if it were ever-increasingly translucent, like the shades slowly being drawn back or grease slowly being rubbed onto a sheet of thin paper. Now this isn't neccessarily a problem, as people always find reasons to game, and people are drawn to familiarity, take comfort in old situations, so when a friend rolls up his 15th paladin in a row, you don't think "argh, another one," but rather "what would the party be without it's paladin?"

I do indeed play myself every time, or at least my favorite version of myself. Hyper, frenetic, a complicated rush of spur-of-the-moment decision making and razors-edge verbal riposting that tends to keep the party in good, fun, trouble as much as possible. In D&D terms, I favor dexterity and charisma and always play bards. In Exalted (my new love) terms, I favor the Night caste, Dexterity, Performance, and Lore. People are fairly used to me playing the hyperactive jokester character, and while they occasionally complain, I feel like I've got a good thing established, and I'm good at what I do.

So here's my issue. Determined to make something different and succeed at it for once, I've made an Exalted character that is absolutely nothing like me or my traditional playstyle. She's unusually quiet and still, a traditionalist instead of an innovater, would sooner dodge a situation entirely than tell a joke, and derives her greatest joys from simple magics and time spent alone with her familiar and the elementals she summons. I've played her exactly as I designed her, tough to talk to, weird to even look at or deal with, a social outcast with both societal reasons (she's from a shunned and isolated woodlands tribe) and personal reasons (she was the only child in her generation, a freak occurrence, and as such never had much childhood social development). The problem is I made her too weird. SInce she's so drastically unapproachable, she's viewed as a problem. Since she takes pleasure only in weird things and at weird times, she's viewed as psychotic. Since she's so intense and focused, she's thought of as a potential murderer (luckily, the group has an actual murderer, so that takes a little of the focus off). I'm starting to wish I had never made her or her weird personality, I get the impression the group would have been happier with another of my traditional characters, and I'm wondering if there isn't a good way to simplify what's essentially an overcomplicated mess of a character into a slightly more bare archetype without damaging previously established story.

Oh, and incidentally, Hi! I'm a new member of the group, my name shouldn't elude you for too long and I'm just happy to be here.
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megaman
theironjef:
From:maleus
Date:August 9th, 2005 05:41 pm (UTC)
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why change? you seem to be exactly what is needed in an Exalted game. Heck you are Anathema... what more needs to be said. haha. But no seriously... i applaud you for stepping outside the usual and playing something different. If your group cannot do that themselves... then obviously they are not the greatest role players in the world. Keep on doing what you are doing...
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From:efbq
Date:August 9th, 2005 07:56 pm (UTC)
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Often, in SF media, characters come on strong initially and 'tone it down' as the story progresses. No reason you can't keep the character as written, with the 'she's not so extreme once you get to know her' idea underneath it all.

Just try to have her respond positively (if a little weirdly) to other PCs attempts to interact.
From:wondahboy
Date:August 9th, 2005 08:03 pm (UTC)
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Experimentation is good, as far as I see it, but it can also get complicated. Also, depending on how "experimental" a character is, it can interfere with the group and fun. I ran a one on one game once, and my player played a character with a mien similar to the one you described of your character. It was fun for a while, but, after a few sessions it lost its novelty because characters with such tangled pasts have tangled motivations that are often difficult to roleplay and that sometimes get in the way of adventuring and fun. They're also very stiff and get boring to roleplay after a while. This may or may not be your character, but this is how it was for my similar one.

To fix this, try evolving her behavior. Have her open up little by little, and instead of leaving her as some kind of pariah, eventually make her at least a little sociable. Real, sentient beings change over time, or at least most do I think.
From:devil_panda
Date:August 9th, 2005 09:49 pm (UTC)
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Welcome!

Your group is probably just unused to the change in interplayer dynamics. Sure, you are certainly at least a bit responsible for your group disconnect. But I get the impression that the other players aren't making the transition easy on you.

In my experience, one of the things that separates average RP groups from exceptional ones is how they handle these sorts of transitions. Exceptional role-players encourage experimentation and spontaneity at the game table, and assist their fellow players in incorporating new characters into the in-game group. Could it be that this isn't happening? Is there anything they could do to accomodate the new character better?

Of course, I could be totally off here.
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From:theironjef
Date:August 9th, 2005 10:57 pm (UTC)
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Oh, I was operating as if it was completely my fault. What I feel I'm primarily guilty of is making a non party character. Everyone knows a player that does that fairly often, makes the character that's secretly evil, or is a drow in disguise, or has plans to become an abyssal, or even just generally acts disruptive or like a loner, and everyone knows how damaging that can be to a simple game. What I did wrong here is make a character that's just too aloof and alien, and actually tried a little too hard to play her as such. She'll probably tone down just a bit, act more human and normal, unless the story spolight focuses in on her, in which case she gets to go back to her quiet, intense self.
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From:tacky_tramp
Date:August 10th, 2005 05:35 pm (UTC)
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I would caution you against seeing this particular character's "non-party-ness" as exceptional with regards to your track record. Your characters' usual, utterly irrepressible boisterousness has caused party dissonence as well (and with your current gaming group, no less!) Not to psychoanalyze you publicly or anything, but you might ask yourself how taciturn Mah-Ti and obnoxious Bec are *alike*, and what that says about the parts of your self you choose to play out on the RPG stage.
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From:tacky_tramp
Date:August 10th, 2005 05:38 pm (UTC)
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(in case it wasn't obvious, ironjef and I are longtime gaming buddies)
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From:theironjef
Date:August 10th, 2005 05:42 pm (UTC)
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Hmmm...

Food for thought, indeed. Bec is a maniac, but he was decidedly easy to tone down and was also my first Exalted character, so I really wanted someone who would be willing to play with all the toys a Solar gets. Further, it took us a while to really isolate where the problem was with the party unity in that one, until Rain's player sent an email stating "Careful, my character may very well kill you" or something to that effect. End result, we determined it was a personality clash between Rain and Bec, and not an actual issue inherent to Bec's style. Brian actually quite likes Bec, his character just can't stand him. He made a taciturn little man, and I made someone perfectly designed to irritate such a person. Overall, that turned into an opportunity, as we've just begun to bring the two into a *grudging* appreciation. The rest of the party likes both of them just fine. Well, almost.

Now Mah-Ti is something else. It's not the characters that don't like her playstyle, it's the players. She's too hard to socially interact with. She's not a decision-maker and rarely makes a factor of herself. That's what her real corrections need to be, says I.
From:icewinddragon
Date:August 10th, 2005 12:46 am (UTC)
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Firstoff, welcome to the group!

Regarding your character - i would say that it is a major question whether you like her and enjoy playing her or not. I for instance found out that while the array of characters i can play is vast, the only characters i enjoy for an extended time are characters who i might have been - given different circumstances. From an extroverted powerful mage over a secretive and mysterious ranger to fascistic dark paladins ... all those are personalities (no powers sadly ;-] ) that i could have become had i grown up in a different environment - but when i recently created a thief whom i considered quite an interesting character i noticed quickly that while i would enjoy playing him for an adventure or two i would not want to play him for an extended campaign. (Why? Because he is not an ethical person at all.)
So, if you feel like you are happy with your character despite the fact that people will likely have some difficulties interacting with her and though she may not be a person who is easy to like - then definitely keep her! Some characters just do not have a very easy and successfull life - it is part of their charm. I tend to say suffering makes heroes - supermans are boring.
Perhaps what might help could be a few words with your storyteller: if all you want is acceptance by the other players characters, give them a chance to get used to you. Prove to them that you are an asset to the group, and that you will occasionally save one of them risking your own hide - here it will be very useful if the storyteller sets up an appropiate situation. Maybe all you need is some more time to converse with the other characters, get to know each other and form some bonds, something that may be a little bit hard if your storyteller tends to rush his adventures.
It is to be expected that over time she will develop a little bit more interpersonal skills, get a tad bit less weird and have her edges smoothed down - but if that changes her that much that she looses her style it seems very likely to me that you will no longer enjoy this character. That is in my eyes the ultimate question you should ask yourself: Are you willing to put up with the troubles and pains such a character will put you through because you enjoy playing her, or not?
It likely will not be easy at first, the group may take a few sessions to get used to you playing a different character if what they know and expect from you is a totally different image, you may even run into a few problems because your storyteller cannot deal with your character at first - so whether enjoying the achievment of widening your boundaries by developing and playing a completely different character and learning a little bit more about yourself in the process is worth the hustle or not is something that only you can decide.

I am sorry i cannot offer more specific advice, but for that you would have to provide me with some more detailed information on just how "psyched" your character is - i almost always play psychotic characters, and the range between "weird" and "completely nugging futs" is way too broad to give general advice as to how to integrate the character into a group.

Good Luck.

Pax vobiscum

IcewindDragon
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From:tacky_tramp
Date:August 10th, 2005 06:04 pm (UTC)
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I think there are gamers who play for the character, and gamers who play for the game. Game-driven gamers play because it's fun and interesting to solve problems and tackle challenges, especially as part of a group. Character-driven gamers like that, too, but for them, group dynamic is less important than immersing themselves in the reality of a complex character, solving the problem less important than exploring the way the character is affected by success or failure. I know I'm almost paralyzingly character-driven, and I wonder if you are, too. Possibly it's that that drives you towards these terribly interesting but socially-malfunctioning characters who are too intense to "go along with the group." They're fascinating to play, but not so good to play *with* for game-driven types (see your current gaming group). As long as prickly characters hold you in thrall, you're going to run into this issue. And I say -- have at it!
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From:theironjef
Date:August 10th, 2005 06:39 pm (UTC)
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Hee hee. I'm going to take this as an endorsement instead of an indictment of my anti-party tendencies. You're right. I do make overcomplicated characters, and it's because I enjoy playing with complexities and personalities more that I enjoy saying things like "as a fighter, I would very much like to fight right now." You = smart.
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From:tacky_tramp
Date:August 12th, 2005 06:57 pm (UTC)
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"Endorsement"? I was thinking "empathy" ... but that works, too. ;-)
From:devil_panda
Date:August 11th, 2005 05:55 pm (UTC)
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I've seen this dynamic paralyze otherwise very experienced gaming groups, with nobody understanding where the breakdown was occurring. Dealing with this is one of many invisible juggling acts in the game master job description.

Great distinction!

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From:tacky_tramp
Date:August 12th, 2005 07:01 pm (UTC)
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It's fairly hellish to get a group of all character-driven players, too, actually, as theironjef and I discovered many years ago -- one of our friends wanted to run an evil D&D 3.0 campaign, and gave us no instruction but to make 'em evil, and make 'em interesting. Well, each of us came up with a spectacularly interesting evil character ... and no realistic hope of getting them to form a party. The campaign was swamped before it started. And my beautiful Sorceress/Mindbender went on the shelf. *pout*
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From:theironjef
Date:August 12th, 2005 10:04 pm (UTC)
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My androgynous tiefling streetwalker! I had almost forgotten about hiiii... that character! That makes me cry.
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From:elvedril
Date:August 13th, 2005 01:52 am (UTC)

my 2 cents

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Maybe an odd way to introduce myself to the group, but here goes:

I think the problem is simply that roleplaying games, being group activities, are poorly designed for loner characters. If your character is really as much of an introverted loner as you describe her as being, then she should ditch the party at first convenience (as long as she can do it without endangering herself, and if she's a nice person the others either) to do otherwise would be bad roleplaying. If you want to get along with the rest of the party, you have to start by making a character that can get along with other people, lone wolf characters are great for books but terrible for gaming.
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From:theironjef
Date:August 13th, 2005 01:55 am (UTC)

Re: my 2 cents

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She's not a loner, she's just also not a talker. Probably even more infuriating, like having a cat in the party.
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From:elvedril
Date:August 13th, 2005 01:55 am (UTC)

Re: my 2 cents

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Oops, forgot to add the second part.

If you want to keep the character in the group, adjust her very slightly. Rather than being completely unreachable, make her only that way around people she hasn't bonded with. She clearly gets along with her familiar, so make her more and more social with the circle as she gets to know them. That way you get to keep most of what makes the character unique without offending the party.