Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gains and Losses

I am very surprised my last post received so few comments. I thought is was a subject universal to gamers, and gaming of the RPG variety. Perhaps not.

Contemplating death (In a manner of speaking), got me to thinking about the lives of player characters, and what, short of death, would strike them as a significant blow, or loss.

While thinking along these lines it occurred to me that PC death, extremely rare in my games as I've noted, is considered a thing to avoid by both player and GM alike, because you lose much more than your character. In the campaigns that I run, you lose all the plots, subplots, relationships with NPCs, and everything you've developed over however long you've been playing that character. It is that which my players fear. It is that which tends to make them cautious, paranoid, and wary of the reaper.

The subject of loss over death, and loss of what a PC has gained, oddly came up today with my one difficult player. OK, all my Players can be pains in the keister, but in that lovable, entertaining way your friends who you game with can always be pains in the keister. No, this is the one guy in the group I've mentioned before as the only guy I periodically think of kicking out.

In a discussion we were having (yet again) about his Traveller character going off and doing his own thing, against the grain of the plot and the rest of the group, he had the gall to say that of all the characters in the campaign, his had the most to lose.

Ignoring the sheer ego of the statement, I asked him why he thought that to be the case. What made him say so? He could not clearly answer. He simply said he didn't want his character to die.

Granted, that is true of nearly every character, belonging to nearly every player, everywhere, in every game, ever. Other than that...?

It got me thinking ever more deeply about what this PC had gained. What had this player and his PC really accomplished over the course of our 21 game sessions of Traveller so far?

The answer is...nothing.

Unlike the rest of the group, this fellow maintains the classic 'murder-hobo' mentality. He seeks to make money, and most of his attempts to do so involve discovering/stealing something of value before someone else gets to it. He also tries to wheel and deal with NPCs, looking to set up some cockamamie scheme or other to get rich quick.

He has made the least money of any character so far. He has also, comparative to how much he has, spends the most.

He has been arrested once, legally freed thanks to another PC's legal expertise, and nearly killed at least three times.

If this PC were to die in the next game, what would he leave behind? Who would miss him? What great event would fail to unfold?

You got me.

He has an NPC sister, but in classic Old School fashion, she is viewed as an NPC who can help him when he needs it. That's it. Like an Henchman or Hireling that he doesn't need to pay because she's family. Recently she was kidnapped, and he decided to go on a different mission that would benefit him, while another PC went to save the first guy's sister.

(Of course, she's kind of bad ass, and the rest of the group likes the character).

Now let's look at what the other PCs in the campaign have accomplished in 21 sessions.

1) Two have gone into business together, and through the efforts of the two of them and another PC, gained a contract with the security department of a major megacorporation.
2) In conjunction with the above, two of the aforementioned PCs have made deep connections and allies among Imperial Naval Intelligence and SolSec (Solomani Security).
3) Early efforts by several of the PCs developed a unique way of hiding a ship in the asteroid belt of a star system that they patented and sold to the Imperial Navy. The Navy has decided to purchase all rights to the idea for over one million credits.
4) On a more personal note, one PC has reconnected with his (NPC) son, and his estranged father (NPC), though the father is now missing in action. She also negotiated a contract with an Aslan clan that impressed the Aslan so much, they began to speak socially. Soon, the Aslan Clan Leader's younger sister and the PC's son were hitting it off, and they decided to negotiate, well, arrange a marriage. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg. If any one of the other PC's died, there would be people grief stricken, unemployed, enemies ready to pounce, Aslan ready to pounce back, investigations, conflict, madness! If these PCs were in danger of losing a NPC loved one (which actually has, and is happening in the story), they would move Heaven and Earth to try and prevent it, or take revenge on those who harmed their own.

I love this campaign. I love what it's about, where it's been, and where it's going. There have been rocky parts for sure, but overall, I can't wait to run the next session.

Then, there is just this one guy who, if he didn't show, or his character died, only he would care.

Never be that guy.

Barking Alien

Some Notes:

Today, July 23rd, is officially Batman Day! Happy 75th Birthday to the Caped Crusader!

July 20th commemorated the 45th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, and Neil Armstrong becoming the first Human being to walk on the moon. A big day for him, a giant day for mankind, and a major fascination and inspiration for me.

I may not be on much for a bit. The blog will be powered down for a week or so while we refit the Warp Core, and run a level 3 diagnostic on the Communications and Sensor arrays. You may see a post now and then, you may not. Hopefully we'll be ship shape and out of Spacedock by mid-August.

Take care all!


  1. I wouldn't worry on lack of comments, I love campfire stories but something about that one seemed so personal, it would be like intruding. It's amazing your game hasn't fallen apart, going this long with a toxic player. It really shows how good a story you've got that it's lasted despite that.

    1. It is kind of amazing at that.

      The player in question, toxic though he may seem, has up to this point, been very entertaining. He is one of the few consistently action-oriented players, willing, directly or indirectly, to physically engage enemies, launch himself into zero-g, sneak through maintenance tunnels, and other cinematic action hero stuff.

      The problem now is that he is actually hindering the rest of the part, both figuratively and literally. His antics constantly threaten to throw everything from the safety of the PCs to the actual plot, out of whack.

      Again, initially I welcomed this, but as I was discussing with some of the other players, it no longer makes sense. There comes a time when a character who acts as his does no longer gets to be a member of the party. Why would the others PCs help, or even hang out with this guy? In real life, a person like this would be excused from the group.

    2. From this and the last post, it sounds like the player's attitude outside the game is the real problem. If his character was a jerk and died, the player could make a new character who isn't a jerk. But if the point of your campaign isn't that you're all murder-hobos, if the player knows that, knows no one wants him to be one, and he still is, then the player himself is the jerk, and all his characters will be. When I'm in a game, if just one person is an unconcerned jerk, it really sours the whole experience, no matter what he brings.

    3. You have a point there.

      There are certainly times where I feel like we'd all be having even more fun, this fellow included, if he were playing with a group with a similar mindset to his.

  2. It's funny what posts will get comments and what ones, sometimes won't. Just
    the nature of the beast, I say. Keep on blogging though. People are reading,
    even if they don't always comment.

    Cheers and boogie boogie.

    1. Thanks Ivy! Great to see you when you come visit.

      Bloggerally speaking of course. ;)

  3. I also feel like I rarely have much to add. I did see (somewhere in the blogosphere) that there is an inverse correlation between the amount of time it takes to make a character and its chances of dying in gameplay. If it took you over thirty minutes and an Excel spreadsheet to make your PC, then you're not going to like it when he dies from a goblin arrow to the throat.

    I have mixed feelings about PC mortality. I regularly play in a game system where the likelihood of you dying from a gunshot wound it high. What effect does it have on gameplay? Well, people are pretty damn slow about pulling a gun in a bar as a result. For me personally, I think that PC's should die from stupidity or intentional risk. If they do something painfully stupid, like jump off a cliff, then they are going to die. If they take a particular risk, usually with a commensurately high reward, then death might be on the table as well. I feel like there's something to being fair about that.

    1. I agree. But it's harder when you have a player like the one above, who doesn't see what he's doing as stupid or risky. It means that when something bad happens to the character, the player won't see their mistakes and try to fix them, they'll see everyone else being mean or unfair to them. Which is a real shame because if a character is played well, their death can mean something to everyone, and make the next character all the better for it.

    2. I wholeheartedly agree with you both.

      Part of my point in the above was, you can do more to a character than kill them. Killing a character is mechanical, and any GM can slay a PC. It requires no talent or skill. Hurting them without killing them, and in a way that is spiritual, financial, or social, and not physical, all the while keeping it interesting and entertaining for the player (and the group), is where the GM's ability is truly test.

  4. As the guy who typically does the bulk of the GMing for my friends, I live in fear of being that player whenever I get the chance to be a player.

  5. I think he is looking for a way to win. Being absent from the main plot is a way to stay alive/win. Knowing your GM prizes story is a way to stay alive/win. I know it sounds to simple an answer. But I've had these type of players in my games.

    1. I firmly agree with you Teresa.

      I also know, as the GM, that I don't exactly set 'win' conditions for my campaigns. Each of the players and PCs has their own goal (or goals). If you achieve those goals without overwhelming losses, then sure, you could view it as winning.

      Perhaps that is how he is viewing the campaign, though I am not certain what his character's goals are exactly, beyond making a lot of money, which he is kind of failing to do.