Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Action Hero

It’s strange. There tends to be a love-hate relationship with Action Heroes, depending on the system. Dungeons in Dragons idolises these particular role and lifts it up as an example of the sort of fun-loving adventure that can be had in their system. World of Darkness tends to see Action Heroes as backwards Neanderthals who can’t handle roleplay or a decent story (which is so not true). I think part of the issue is that Action Heroes arguably underpinned the pen-and-paper roleplaying system in the very beginning when Dungeons & Dragons was largely about rolling dice and reducing hit points and thus a sort of Action Hero stereotype has formed that more ‘modern’ roleplaying games eschew.

So, before we go any further, take a deep breath if you’re from edgier RP backgrounds like the World of Darkness and say: “It’s okay to be an Action Hero.” Now then, what exactly is an Action Hero?

The Action Hero, like the Explorer, is a player of risk-taking characters but they generally don’t see their wild antics as a gamble with their lives as Action Heroes expect to win. Sure, they’re willing to acknowledge the possibility of defeat (particularly from bad luck and bad dice rolls) but they expect to have a chance. They loathe being frustrated by difficult bad guys (especially ones they must run from) and can’t stand boredom. Their energy and drive to move forward can make them disruptive (causing them to leave team-mates behind or start mashing buttons in the hopes of finding a way forward) or it can lead them to motivate the team (lending real energy and drive to the story arc as they surge forward).

Some people say that Action Heroes lack depth in their characters but this is also untrue as complex psychologies are often due more to experience, interests and/or skill than actual game play style. It’s just that they generally want to play larger-than-life characters and it’s simply more obvious when you have a 2D exaggerated character than when you have a 2D mundane character. A well-drawn Action Hero can be an absolute blast as they often end up stylistic and slick in a way that makes movies like Sin City such a hit.

You may prefer the Action Hero Role if your favourite characters were...

  • Larger than life.

  • Developed based on an iconic image of your character doing something cool.

  • Courageous, even fearless.

  • Always encouraging the other characters to move forward in the plot.

  • Likely to get frustrated if your team-mates were overly cautious.

  • Grew bored if your team-mates tried to talk their way out of every encounter.

  • Prone to taking risks but you were surprised / frustrated if it ends poorly because you were given terrible odds by your ST.

  • But simultaneously were happy to court death, and deal with the risk of it, so long as it was weighted in your character’s favour.

  • Generally quite skilled in combat, athleticism, driving, or some other cinematically awesome technique.

  • Tended to be heroes in ways that were quite glorious, even if the genre frowns against heroism.

  • Always happy to take a hit for a team-mate or lead the enemy away.
They prefer STs who are...

  • Tight with their descriptions (telling details are important but let’s get on with it).
    Describe combat and action sequences well (again, telling details, not whole paragraphs).

  • Willing to be throw in plenty of high-conflict encounters with people who can’t always be placated through conversation.

  • Inventive with ways to inject more thrills into the game (if foot chases are fun, what about foot chases across gridlocked cars and through alleyways).

  • A little more gentle with law-enforcement (so they can attack people without going automatically to jail).

  • High-tension goals with a great big apparent risk of failure but which the ST is happy to let the players win (bank heists, crossing enemy territory).

  • Happy if bar room conversations degenerate into random bar room brawls.

  • Know how to run a good chase scene.

  • Keen to get things moving so that the players can’t just sit on their laurels.

  • Are willing to say: “Yes, you can swing off that chandelier, land behind him, and stick a knife through his back”.

  • Not only are willing to allow it but are happy to reward that sort of ingeniousness.

  • Pleased to have a player that injects a healthy dose of momentum into the game.

  • Aren’t overly focused on consequences (i.e. cops, widows, etc.)

  • Run a more stylised game with larger-than-life characters (i.e. Sin City).

  • Utilise some interesting set dressings (volcanoes, rain-slick tarmac at an airport, church rooftops).

  • Remember the weather to make things more exciting (i.e. wet roads during a car chase).
Fictional Characters that fit the type:

James Bond.

Practically everyone in Sin City.

Videogames that support the type:

Assassin’s Creed.
God of War.

My Action Hero ratio is pretty low so if you are largely an Action Hero and you can identify more character preferences or ST antics that delight you, please comment below. If you’re an ST and have run a game with one of these, also comment. Also, if there are any other videogames that you think fit the style, also mention them in the comments below!

Or if there’s anything else. Y’know, to chat.

You can find the links to all of the five playing styles over here.

No comments:

Post a Comment