Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Paradise Island -- Why a Mundane History is Vital

Some information for the players of my next likely LARP, Paradise Island, which I'm posting up here for both ease of reading and because my regular readers might be interested in some of my explanations.

So I've received a few character concepts for my likely upcoming rules-lite cross-genre campaign involving werewolves, vampires, mages and more.  Everyone plays either a mortal investigator into the supernatural *or* a brand new supernatural with little understanding of their kind.

While I've informed people that the supernaturals must have rather ordinary human histories while the mortals can have more exciting ones, a fair number of players have submitted some pretty epic concepts.  I understand why they have done this ... typically a bigger back story gets you more fun gameplay.  Unfortunately this won't be the case for the Paradise Island campaign.

The epic skills and specialties likely won't come up, fighting styles will lie dead on your sheet, and that epic history will only serve to further distance you from the more mundane characters in the group and the game itself.  Not the setting, but the game.

You see, this is a game about the ordinary brushing up against the extraordinary.  It's about exploring the sudden transformation of a normal person into some strange creature and finding ways to work that into your life as well as involving yourself in a pretty interesting setting.  It's about personal psychologies, social dynamics and interacting with the world around you in a simpler way than experienced in my previous campaigns.

There won't be a big meta-plot.  There won't be epic combats.  There won't be terrible political conflicts.  It will be about social interaction, mundane problem solving and the exploration of otherworldly locations simply for the sake of seeing them for the very first time.

If you take that campaign and play a supernatural with an epic back story, you will overshadow much of the present situation with equally big (or even bigger!) scenarios in their history and that's hardly much fun.  Plus it can be harder for your average person to relate to a Special Forces character or be wowed by their supernatural transformation, so you'll feel distanced from much of the story.

So let's talk plot using the example of a sullen teenage werewolf on holiday with her parents when she had her First Change.  Check out the following plot lines:
  1. Kid sister rocks up at the supernatural gathering to see what Big Sis is up to.
  2. Parents call partway through the game, wondering when she's done.
  3. Mother drops her off, checks in with whoever is in charge of the "youth center."
  4. Awkward flirty talk with the hot changeling.
  5. Deciding whether to come out to parents.
  6. Deciding whether to return home to an unknown situation or convince parents to move here.
  7. Figuring out how to fight spirits when you've only been in a few fist fights in your life.
  8. Realising that you can't eat chocolate anymore!
  9. Deciding to get drunk for the first time, throwing up and not being able to transform for the rest of the night due to health risks.
Now if we take the elite special forces guy, sure, we can give him an existential crisis about their future of never ending violence, never being able to retire and the like, but those are very Big Questions that few of the other characters can really get involved in.  Sure we can give him plot through a mortal husband, but those challenges will be the same even if he were working in insurance so why go with the Special Forces history?  Especially as you won't have the experience points behind it.

So here are some banned concepts and some reasons why:
  • Special Forces / Mercenaries: Your deadly history overshadows current story.
  • Private Investigators / Detectives: Some of the simpler mysteries will become too simple for someone with actual crime solving experience plus it will encourage the sorts of plot lines that focus on only a few individuals.
  • Amnesiacs: Brilliant for a solo game but terrible in a game based on different people interacting with each other.  If you have no history, you have nothing to tie you into the experiences of other people.
  • The Famous: While playing an aspiring musician can work just fine, if you're already famous you're going to have bigger things to worry about than anyone else and that will distance your character from them.

No comments:

Post a Comment