Monday, June 17, 2013

Family Problems Links

So you have a player whose chosen to give themselves a family member, whether as a flaw in a point-buy system or simply for some flavor, and you don't much know what to do with them because they weren't part of the plot you came up with.  Or perhaps your plots are all big, bad and nasty and you know you can only get so many 'kidnap the relative' plots in before the players start rolling their eyes and deciding never to have a relative next time.

So what do you do?

You read this article for a start.  It's fantastic!

I'm really looking forward to including more interactions with Lhye's mother and Miami's children + parents-in-law now.  Lhye's mother hasn't been a problem for awhile since they managed to find her in time (and rescue her from her own safe haven) and Miami's at a pivotal moment where he knows where his stolen books lie.  This is a good time to have them all start to matter a little more.

What if there's an important Santerian ritual coming up tonight so the In Laws can't look after Miami's kids?

What if Lhye's mother decides that, actually, she is quite mad at him for disappearing for ten years to another country in search of the fabled 'Nice Tiefling Place' when he could have stayed at home.  And what are they doing with all of this is piratey business?  If Andoren is so nice then maybe they should go there for awhile?  This whole traveling business has been mostly boredom and salt with the odd moment of the rest of them rushing off on their own.  As a Level 6 Bard, she's of their level and could easily demand to be taken along.

What about you?  How might this inspire you?


  1. I've come close to just saying no to this kind of thing to my players. They know that I won't always be able to include a myriad of subplots about things that are only important to one character, so this kind of thing tends to left to the side, free points if you will.

    The exceptions have been fun though. A player with a daughter - not a child, but a woman - whom was wooed by one of the PCs, but fell in love with a different one. It was fun because it involved more than just one character, and I think that's the important bit for me.

    1. That's fair. If there isn't a place for them in the game then it ends up being a bit of a waste and at best might disappoint players wanting their families to be involved and at worst encourages players to pick them for free dots.

  2. One realistic thing that might be hard to do well is just being there for people. However well you get on, family (and friends) can eat up an awful lot of your time, but it's both practically and emotionally difficult to deny them that, even in the short term. The 'cost' of family-as-penalties doesn't have to be one-way either; part of it could be the downside of neglecting those relationships, affecting the character's mood or making them worry.

    Maybe it's as simple as you always talk things over with the family, at least every other day. But making the time for that can be inconvenient to PC lifestyles. If you can't do that, you don't feel quite right, maybe a bit guilty, maybe building up stress, or maybe just missing them. So if you're away, or dealing with secret stuff, that becomes a problem; and maybe they can tell you're hiding things and start worrying about you.

    Sometimes there's other demands. You need to check in on Uncle Bob a couple of times a week to make sure he's still taking the meds, see how his health is (he'll never go to the doctor without a push), and keep a subtle eye on the fridge and the post. You need to visit Auntie Nell at the weekend so she gets out at least once a week, and handle her post because she struggles with paperwork and can't spot a scam. Your old mate Lex needs company and a chance to blow off steam, which sometimes means staying up until dawn with a bottle or two and some bad films. Your neighbour loves to chat, and will get worried if you start acting strangely, which is especially awkward as she's a psychiatrist. Your housemate has anxiety issues, so as well as just being there sometimes, you need to keep your housework under control and generally make sure you're not causing him any extra grief.

    If you think about it, a lot of PCs basically never hang out with any friends or family except the party, who often aren’t exactly friends anyway – wouldn’t you be feeling pretty lousy after a couple of weeks like that?

    I think basically you’ve got to treat the relationship with this NPC, rather than the NPC themselves, as the important bit. A flaw cost isn’t their existence, it’s the cost of maintaining a relationship with them, just as the cost of taking a bullet in the shoulder back in ’02 isn’t the story, but the ongoing Strength penalty.

    (I don't have much practical help though, as the closest I've come is overbearing relatives who send Cthulhu PCs off on what turn out to be Investigations).

    1. You have a lot of really good points here. It really is meant to be about the relationship and funnily enough the flaw can end up being more beneficial to the character because, as you say, its rare that PCs end up friends. I'm not sure why that is but, at best, there's am ambiguous friendship there where two characters sometimes end up messing about together. Having actual friends can't help but be a good thing for a character's psyche.

    2. It's going to depend on genre to some extent, but my take is that in a lot of settings PCs are basically colleagues. They might get on well and have a good relationship (or not) but it's almost never the same as being actual friends. WoD-type games tend to have PCs drawn together because they're outsiders and nobody else understands. D&Dalikes are typically either tavern acquaintances with similar goals, people who knew each other in The War, or straight-out adventuring companies. Cthulhu is probably the best one here, because people do tend to play relations or friends, although unless you also work on some backstory and flesh out the relationship it's hard to evoke that in play.

      Oh, I thought of some more! Lifts to the airport and moving house (or furniture, or bodies, whatever suits...) are good unbreakable commitments. Phone calls for bail money are good random events, and so are lifts home from inconvenient places (especially for kids or forgetful relatives).

      If you're doing secret stuff, then having to conceal it from cohabitees could be fun. Partners might get jealous, and parents worry about you. You cancel on your friend's night out, but then they see you across the street with some shady-looking characters. What exactly have you got yourself into? Why did you pick up a limp, and how come it's bandaged if you twisted your ankle running?

    3. This is the sort of thing that Werewolf: the Forsaken does quite well when you're playing a newly changed who's trying to maintain a dual pack life with a human life. "You stood me up to hang out with your new bikie mates? Why are you even spending time with those people?"

      "Sorry, but I had to kill a six-year-old girl whose soul was eaten by a spirit so I don't really feel like a fight," kinda doesn't cut it.

    4. That does sound pretty good. I suppose WoD has an advantage in that regard because it plays up real-life aspects, and isn't always urgent crises to solve right now.

      It's interesting, fiction does a decent job of bringing up this sort of issue, but it's one of the places where fiction and games diverge quite a bit. Maybe because in stories you usually spend time in the pre-weird phase and establish the relationships a bit, and you can drop backstory in throughout? In games you don't really tend to see six sessions of mundane life before things get weird; pretty much right off the bat you're turning into a vampire and joining an alien-hunting agency with four people you met in a tavern.

    5. I think there need to be more tavern scenes post-join-up for some good old fashioned RnR and less tavern scenes at the very start of the campaign where folks are just going to talk about the weather.

      I think the other trouble with family and friends is because, by the very nature of the work they do, the PCs try to keep their family distinct from the rest of the party. The time spent on solo PCs is, by necessity, going to be less than that spent on the group. Far less.

      This wouldn't be an issue with a two-man squad but either due to an absence of Storytellers or due to a D&D-esque perspective, games tend to run with 4 - 6 players (ideal for a D&D game) rather than a 2 man squad (which fits more with heavy story-based fictional genres).