Friday, December 12, 2014

How Will Your Character Die?

I did the 20 Questions for one of my L5R characters recently. I'm not sure I've ever done the full 20, but it was a fun way to go through and explore a character. For those that don't know, 20 questions is exactly what it sounds like: 20 questions about your character and different aspects of their life designed to help the player have a better grasp on who their character is.

In my opinion the best question of the lot is the 20th. That question reads simply: How will you die?

The idea here is to think about your character. What kind of person are they going to be? What about them is going to get them killed?

I like this question for a few reasons. For one, it lets the player know that death is not only something to be expected in this game, but not necessarily something to be feared. Two, it makes the player think about their character's vices and virtues and how those are going to interact with the world. Three, if nothing else, it gives the GM an idea of how the player expects their character to end up in mortal peril.

It is a question worth thinking about. Because of that, it is a question worth asking. So, how will your character die? How will the PCs in your game die? Have any of you even thought of it?

In the case for this character my answer was as follows:

Kotoba (the character's name) will die in one of three ways: he will drown, caught deep underwater with no way to escape his predicament; he will be betrayed by those he trusts and works for, a valuable piece on the board that has become more risk than use in the grand scheme of things; or he will be caught and executed for the crimes he commits on the high seas whether for those for Rokugan or those against Rokugan will remain to be seen.

Each of these tells us things about Kotoba that are valuable to know as a GM. The drowning bit says that Kotoba may have an inflated view of his capabilities underwater, or some other form of arrogance about it, that may get him into trouble. The second says that I - the player - expects Kotoba to be doing work for people with power and being useful to them, but to also at some point be just as much of a risk as a reward or a loose end that may need tying up. If nothing else this says that the player is interested in being involved in intrigue, learning secrets, and helping others with advancement in the 'political' game. Finally, the third one shows that Kotoba will be committing crimes, most likely piracy in this case, and that as a player I expect to be caught more than I expect to just be killed in the middle of an action sequence.

There are other questions of use universally in all games in the 20 questions, but how will you die I think is one that we should all be asking when we make a character. So, how will your character die?

1 comment:

  1. For me the first couple of times I got to that question I got hung up on thinking the answer was prescriptive, "this is how my character MUST die". Loosening my idea of it up a little helped: this is how I expect my character to probably die.

    I don't think I've ever wanted to say " peacefully of old age" of any of my L5R characters, even though for some it did work out that way.