Saturday, December 30, 2017

Character Creation: Breaking the Ice

I was thinking about romance and love in RPGs today, and honestly I don't have anything profound to say on the subject that folks smarter than haven't already said.

I will say, though, that I came at RPGs from kind of a weird place; my first players (well, not first, but what I would consider my first real players) were theater kids, not gamers. Also a lot of them were women, and so they approached gaming by thinking about character and motivation and relationships rather than (or in addition to) powerz (remember too that I started with Marvel Superheroes, not D&D).

What that means is that I had years of gaming where relationships weren't a joke before I played D&D with dudebros, and the "wench" lines started to come out. And even then, mostly I was into horror games, and that led me to World of Darkness, and my first WoD game was Wraith, which of course is all about relationships (well, it's about a lot of things).

All of this to say: One of my favorite moments in gaming ever was playing in a mixed WoD game with lots of homebrew craziness, wherein a player (male) got down on one knee to propose, in character, to his character's girlfriend, played by the Storyteller (also male). It was a really beautiful moment, one of the best I've ever seen, and there was nothing violent or even conflicted about it, and it was only possible because of the level of trust and work that this group had.

Games that are about romance and love and so on, specifically about that, are hard to play for a lot of folks because it's not what they're used to, and because they require a level of trust that other in-game activities don't, and because they require men, specifically, to access a lot of shit that we're socialized not to express. But man, you get the people together and it makes for such a fantastic time.

With all of that in mind:

The Game: Breaking the Ice
The Publisher: Black & Green Games
Degree of Familiarity: Haven't played it, just read it. It's short.
Books Required: Just the one.

Making a character for this game solo is going to be hard, because everything - chargen included - is built around two people making characters together. I'm going to be taking some liberties with the game, as such, but I'll try and stick as close to the process as I can.

The first step would be establishing a romance genre and a rating. Because it's just me and therefore this character won't actually get played, I'll opt for the steamier end of things and take inspiration from erotic/sexual romances like Original Sin, 9 1/2 Weeks and (yeah, fuck it) 50 Shades of Grey. Sure, there are problematic elements of all of those, but there are problematic elements in pretty much any genre of romance you can name, so we'd just have to work through them. Let's assume the rating we're working with here is an R - sex can happen onscreen, but the more graphic elements don't get shown.

OK, so then we do a thing called the Switch. That's where each player takes on (for purposes of the character) an element of the other player. Since I don't have another player, this is all very hypothetical. The obvious one is gender (that is, I would play as the gender of my other player, if it's different than mine), but again, I don't have another player, so let's assume I'm staying male.

Since sex and the exploration thereof is a part of the genre, let's assume that the Switch I'm making is that the character I'm playing is submissive (the S bit of BDSM).

Next thing is a Word Web. I'm to choose my character's favorite color. I'll pick green, why not. At this point, I'd write "green" on a sheet of paper, circle it, and then I and the other player would take turns writing words branching off the color or off those words until we have 12. However, since, again, it's just me, I'll do these 12 m'self. Scuse me a minute.

OK, so that gives me:

Green --> forest --> hike --> lost
New --> fear --> excited --> anxiety
Life --> growing --> plants --> garden --> food

Not bad. I use these words to build Traits. Traits are divided into Self, Work, and Play, and they're inspired by the words I've used in my Web.

Well, looking at this, I get the feeling that my character is either young or sheltered in some other way. He's either outdoorsy or wants to be, and potentially works in a capacity that lets him grow things or does so as a hobby.

Let's say he grew up on a farming commune, with a group of people who were isolationist, but not creepy or violent about it. He learned how to farm, grow things, and prepare food, but living in a city (even a fairly small one; as an aside, my mother used to teach at Defiance College and it was amusing to hear her students refer to Toledo as "the big city") would be new and scary to him. But he's doing it now - why? I think I'll hang onto that question for now.

So for my Self traits, I'll put down Sheltered, Grew Up on a Farming Commune, Bad Sense of Direction. For Work, I'll put down Works for a Restaurant, Grower/Gardener, and Poor (what he does doesn't pay well, but in romances even people with low-paying jobs can afford apartments). For Play, I'll put down Hikes in Parks (it's too hard to get a real forest) and Likes to Watch People Eat (like, eat together).

Neat! So now I need a Conflict; this is something that will cause an issue on our first date. I have money issues, but in the genre we're dealing with, that would cause a power imbalance that frankly I don't find all that sexy or fun. I think, instead, we'll say that his family is looking for him. That implies that he left the commune under less-than-ideal circumstances, lets us play in a kind of "fish out of water" sort of arena, and sets up some interesting conflict down the line. Given the genre, there's potentially enough of an edge that it could be dire or scary, but it could just as easily be silly or farcical.

That's really it for chargen; we'd decide on a setting at this point, but "medium-sized city" sounds about right. I'd want the "movie" to start in late spring when everything's blooming.

Oh, I do need a name, though. Let's call this guy...I kinda want a hippie name, something plausible but weird. Oh, wait, I got it. His name is Patroclus (Achilles' lover). He goes by "Pat" in his new life, but I like the reference to classical Greek. This movie might well have a larger "battle of Troy" theme going on, with a talented screenwriter. I also think his mother, still back on the commune and played by Sharon Stone or Diane Lane or someone like that, might wind up being a kind quasi-antagonist.

That's me done, then!