I suck at changing character trajectory part way through game. I manage it at some low frequency, by accident, but the vast majority of the characters I play are immovable and inflexible in their world view and decision making. On the positive side, these characters can be anchor points for other people to play with and interact with. On the negative side, that rigidity leaves me unable to adapt to IC or OOC changes.
Some games benefit from having a rock at their center. Spock in his unshakable logic is a reliable fixed point from which other characters can deviate. They create contrast that highlights the impact of actions and decisions that change things. Steady characters are predictable from an OOC perspective, and so can provide play of an expected kind. But their predictability can also mean they get left out. Why talk to the second mate if you already know they’ll try to stop you? Unchanging characters get old, even in short games.
Some games rely on unchanging characters to create tension. This is a common tactic in our Secrets and Powers games. Writers rely on players and their characters resisting compromise in order to create resource and time shortages, or on them refusing to share secret information to resolve confusion. Those shortages often make up the bulk of drama in games, and if players capitulate too early game games can run out of content. On the other hand, if players refuse to budge ever, then some plots will find no resolution. They may even struggle to really transition from plot hook to actual plot. Call it too much of a good thing if you’re being generous.
Playing the static character over and over has earned me something of a reputation for it. And is not always a good one. A lot of LARPs are about change, – about the key moment, the key decision, the tipping point. And characters who don’t change to keep up get left behind. Players too maybe. Why talk to my character at all, even in a new game, when you can fugue out what I’m going to do without it?
So I’m trying to figure out how to play characters that change. And I don’t really know where to start. I tend to dig into my character’s psyche pretty deeply. I get pretty lost in their heads, but somehow it is just a snapshot. It isn’t dynamic, I can’t see them change or grow. In exploring their past, I focus on what aspects of their life, what decisions, what philosophies brought them to the point they are at now. I want to be in their heads, I want the immersion, I want to react as they would react, not as me. But this approach doesn’t seem to leave room for growth and change.
But I’m not sure how to let go of, or modify, this approach either. I dislike silly games, and I can’t stand character inconsistency. I want predictability, or at least reliability. People doing random stuff in games just for shits and giggles drives me nuts. I guess I’m not that kind of a happy-go-lucky person? I prefer my entertainment with at least an undertone of seriousness, so I self select into more serious games, sometimes dealing with pretty dark topics that require respect and careful attention from the players and organizers.
Maybe that’s my problem? I was better at changing direction when I first started LARPing, back before my anxiety got a hold of it and I developed a need to be seen as a “real gamer,” and “someone who takes this hobby seriously.” Because ultimately I want to be in the room where it happens. I want to be known in the wider community, I want to matter, I want to have an impact. But back when the stakes weren’t so high, when it didn’t matter so much to me, I just did whatever. I acted semi randomly. So not actually what I’m trying to achieve now (conscious, deliberate change), but something more dynamic and adaptable than where I’m at now.
Another road block is the need to “win.” I know, I know, LARPing isn’t about winning, but let me explain before you get the torches and pitchforks. I like winning. By which I mean I like feeling like I accomplished something. Which means that switching up my character goals feels like cheating. Like I’m abandoning the true and right in favor of the easy. I know intellectually that doesn’t follow from a character that is growing and changing and adapting to their world, but the mental block exists none the less. And I really don’t know how to dismantle that one.
A friend from L.A. recommended playing games that have a structure that encourages character change and growth like “Just a Little Loving,” which takes place in the acts that span several years. I’m the one game I played in such a style, which was a 3 hour game, not a weekend long to be fair, it fight really help. I played “will that be all?” A game about servants on an English estate during the first and second world war. And all I ended up doing was doubling down on who my character was too start. She just got more intense. She didn’t grow, or change her mind, or anything of the sort. Like a dog on a bone, I get my teeth in something and I just can’t let it go.
Much musing and many experiments to follow as I try to figure out how to do this.