Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Interview with a Storyteller: Adam Lopez

So, ladies and gentleman, I give to you the amazing, the incredible, Adam Lopez! No pushing please. Autographs at the end of the article. This maaaay be my fiance and the guy who runs me my absolute more favouritist game in my absolute favouritist genre, but I'm not biased or anything. Nope. I run this blog with absolute journalistic integrity.


So, anyway, on to the questions.

Shannon: "So, why the World of Darkness?"

Adam: "The World of Darkness is a simple system but with a great deal of variety. If you put your mind to it you can make basically anything in it. Generally I wouldn't have ever said that horror was my thing but there are certain deep questions and in-depth exploration of a person's psyche that you get out of horror that you can't get anywhere else. Horror's confronting. And it's through that confrontation that you actually learn what a person is like. It's the same for characters. People who make characters for a WoD game are going to think a lot more about how their characters would react in certain situations than they would in D&D, for example, or many others."

Shannon: "Your interest in in-depth characters probably explains your complex and interesting NPCs. You have a real knack for breathing life into characters but just how do you manage to make an NPC feel so real?"

Adam: "I find that a lot of other STs and Players get annoyed when I show up to a session because I generally show up with a blank piece of paper and that's about it. I've always had a knack for envisioning things in my head and then attributing different things to it. For example, generally when you think of an alley, you might think of alleys you've seen in movies but I have a real knack for seeing the alley but also picking it apart. Seeing everything in the alley. Where doors might lead. That kind of thing. So when my players go into an alley, I already know that that door leads to the back room of a cafe or that the types of things that might be in the dumpster.

I've always also been good with people. When I talk to people I try to see where they're coming from, really put myself in their shoes, so when I think of an NPC I do exactly the same thing. I can very quickly attribute different personality traits when the NPC has a request for the PCs, I know exactly why he's doing it, what his true motivations are, how he feels about having to ask for help, how he feels about the PCs just based on what they are wearing or the way they act. I don't particularly know how I have this ability. I just always have.

As far as putting yourself in someone else's shoes, that's what roleplaying has always been for me. The desire to walk a mile in another person's shoes. Explore a life and a personality that I'll never know. And it's always fun to make yourself a little bit awesome on the side."

Shannon: "Reminds me a bit of how authors say they work. Do you ever find yourself watching a movie and putting yourself in the character's shoes? Or eavesdropping on people and trying to build a story from that?"

Adam: "Yeah. I used to do that a lot when I was a kid. Creating stories for toys I was given or that sort of thing. I used to try to write but I've never really been good at it. I've never been really good at creating a good story structure. I find PCs help with that. PCs have their own story they want to explore so things come more naturally that way whereas if you have to create the story by yourself it makes it a lot harder. I can describe a scene but I can't tell you where it's going to lead. Also when you're STing, the goal is to create isolated instances that link together toward a grander scheme.

I try to avoid now the temptation to take inspirations from movies and books that I've read and that sort of thing and insert it into the game because it's often recognisable and it can often create attachment to NPCs that you probably shouldn't have. There should always be the options for your players to react badly to an NPC or to not like their personality. Forcing them to deal with someone who they wouldn't is pretty bad practice. Also making anyone appear to have power beyond that which is obtainable of the PCs is also a pretty bad move unless they're the villains, of course, in which case numbers should still be able to take them down."

Shannon: "So are there any tricks to breathing life into characters?"

Adam: "Give them flaws. Real people are fractured individuals and those fractures have a root cause which blends into things. So when you spend enough time digging, which I shouldn't do but I do, you start figuring out what makes people human and once you can figure out why people do things that you think is irrational, you can bring that into your NPCs reactions in a very natural way and that's what makes them intriguing."

Shannon: "That explains why I find their reactions to things so intriguing, but how does a person portray a different demeanor? Y'know, that set of subtle behavioural cues that is so identifiably them?"

Adam: "I guess the best way to say it is stereotypes expanded. If you have to depict a dock worker, everyone has a preconception of what a dock worker will be but a stereotype of a dock worker is not going to engage people and isn't very accurate. So you take that stereotype and you add things. Maybe instead of being a gruff, grumpy man from the wrong side of the city, he's kind, light-hearted, perhaps even cultured, but then you ask yourself 'why?' Why is this person different from what I assume he would be? What if he has a child? What if he is raising a child without a partner? Now he's having to work long hours at a bad job but for the best of reasons.

Or maybe if we take the stereotype of the gruff dock worker to another extreme, what if he's on the take? What if it's his job to work these kinds of hours so he can tell the PCs that he sees nothing? That they're looking in the wrong direction? What if that same dock worker who's on the take is scared of the people he's taking money from and takes the cash from fear? Will he help the PCs or go with the party line? What if that's why he's so gruff in the first place?"


So there you have it. He really does do awesome NPCs, by the way. I just wish I could somehow find a way to crack out the last few secrets so I can do it myself. My NPCs are generally 'good enough' but they just don't seem as alive as his do.

Anyway, next week we'll have an interview from a Changeling LARP Storyteller.

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