Monday, October 16, 2017

Playstyle Trumps Mechanics

You ever hear the phrase "Perception is Reality"? It sounds false if you think about it literally. Obviously there is the perception of a thing and the reality of a thing. Scumbag salesman make a career out of selling something as more than what it is, they make it appear to be better. Other people are often wowed when something seems better than it looked at first appearance. Even so, the saying has a purpose. For a lot of things perception is reality. If something is perceived as being unfair, you will have to fight to prove that it is in fact fair. And if a character is perceived to be the most bad ass mofo in the game, that is how people will treat them.

A Tale of Two Characters
In an L5R game I was in there were two characters: Eiji and Gen. Eiji and Gen were almost mirror builds of each other. They were both Kakita trained bushi with solid dueling stats, iaijutsu, and kenjutsu. However, when you asked the other players in the game they would have told you that Eiji was the much better duelist and that Gen, while able to fight, was more concerned with court and talking. People were shocked to find that Gen had the exact same stats as Eiji for dueling, and vice versa for court, but the perception was there. Why? Because that is how the players played the characters.

Same Build Different Character
In one Star Wars game I'm in there is a player with a Technician character. The technician is maxed intelligence, mechanics, and computers. The character is a mad scientist, constantly making new weapons and doing science with a thought to "can I" instead of "should I" he's a great character, but perhaps not the most moral or ethical character and is responsible for untold devastation because of some of his creations.

In another Star Wars game I'm in there is a player with a Technician character. The technician is maxed intelligence, mechanics, and computers. However, she is nothing like the above character. This character is a skilled mechanic and slicer, but not a mad scientist. They're just getting involved in modding weapons. They don't even want to touch explosives. They don't know the first thing about making better weapons.

Both these characters have the same mechanics, but they're totally different if only because of the scale they're happy working in.

How You Play, Not What you Play
The point of all this is that a character gets their heart and soul from how you play them, and not what you're playing. Yes, a Rogue is mechanically built towards sneaking, ambushing, and stealing. However, that doesn't mean that every Rogue is Vax'ilidan from Critical Role, Tasslehoff Burrfoot from Dragonlance, or any number of other Roguish archetypes out there. The same is true for other roles and builds too.

This is one of the reasons I often chuckle when I hear a system is "too open to allow for much diversity." The player is responsible for that. The mechanics to make the game work. Story is one thing the game can only help along, not actually do for itself.

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