Friday, January 28, 2011

Discussion: Alternative Means of Being In Character

Last week at the L5R game I ran, I had an interesting situation pop up. The game was, for the most part, just down to 3 of the 5 players. One player couldn't show up, and the other was at work until about 3/4 of the way through the session. So, what was so interesting? Well, for the most part I only had 2 players actively playing in the game. The third, was off being in character all on his own.

How does that happen? I can hear some of you asking. Well, the player in question is playing a smith, and in the last session he was given a special order. At the beginning of this session, it came up again, and the player's mind went into overload with ideas. He ran upstairs, grabbed a notebook, sat back down, and began to doodle out ideas for different weapons and tools he wanted to make.

Now, at several points over the course of the game, I turned to this player and asked if he wanted to do anything. Each time, he said he was just sketching out the designs, and happy doing so. I can only take him at his word for this, but he did seem to be doing this in character the entire game.

So, how about you guys? Have you ever had a similar experience, where a player found a way to be In Character for almost the entire game, without really having scene time? How did it work out? Did it benefit the game? Or did you need to pull people away from it to get them involved with what else was going on?


  1. Seems like a valid use of roleplaying time. If the rest of the party needed the pc, they knew where to find him.

  2. I'd say that this is a somewhat un-fun way of role playing. While technically valid, it's missing out on the idea of getting together. He could have done that by himself, at home. You've mentioned how you're willing to reward players that put in extra effort when they come to the table. This player was doing that work in session. So give him the bonus that you would normally give a player for doing the drawings and that's it. He didn't "play" the game, he played around the game.

    I'm not against drawing while playing, I've drawn a lot during play (especially when not my turn). I've also had players that kinda hang back and just tag along. I don't give them the rewards of an active player. If they're happy with that, then they can just hang out. If they want more, I tell them to get more involved.

    Players just hanging out dampen the spirit of the active players. I'm not entirely sure why, even if they're not talking and causing a distraction. Maybe it's because players usually associate being involved with enjoying the game. If someone isn't involved, they seem like they're not having fun.

  3. Emmet, I'd agree with you on it seeming unfun. It isn't something I'd be particularly happy doing at a table. As far as losing the in game bonuses, well, the biggest 'in game' bonus in this game currently is development of personal connections and plots. Which, as I mentioned, he didn't get very much of since he was happy drawing away. Also like you said, he isn't getting "extra work" bonuses, since he did it in game.

    On the last part, I think it depends on the group and the players. I try to monitor the players in my game for stuff like that, and, in this case, the one player drawing wasn't a hindrance for others. Can it be a hindrance? Sure. It just wasn't this time. Though, that could be from having only 3 people at the table. One person being quiet seems more infectious with more people around for some reason.

  4. I would say if he is actually enjoying what he is doing AND he is not hindering the other players' enjoyment of the game session by doing it, then I do not see why it is not a valid choice for the session.

    It becomes a problem if it becomes a habit. I don't know how much L5R revolves around adventuring, but obviously he cannot assist the party in an adventure if he is wrapped up in Smithing the entire session.

    I would suggest that if it becomes a persistent problem, have the Characters bring it up IP first since, as you say, he seemed to be doing the design work and such In Play. If that does not get him involved, then you need to speak with him as a player OOP.