Angry people don't often shout

edited February 2011 in The Best of Story Games
One thing that bothers me, in RPGs, is that we often act stereotypes. Angry characters shout. Sad characters look sad. We act pastiches of emotion.

The problem is: there's little truth in these stereotypes. Try observing yourself next time you're angry. Chances are you won't shout: you might speak tensely, but you'll try to keep your voice under control. If you're sad, you might try to look happy or become withdrawn, but you probably won't look downcast.

I think that, if we acted better, we'd make our games more interesting and affecting.
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  • I remember reading once, I'm not sure where, that the best way to act drunk isn't to try and pretend to be drunk... it's to try and pretend to be sober. Because people can usually tell when you're trying to be something, so when you look like you're trying to be drunk, they just think, "bad acting".... but when you look like you're trying to act sober? They're more likely to think "drunk".

    I don't think it's 100% universally applicable in all situations, but it's definitely interesting food for thought that's stuck with me.
  • Your pastiche may be my shorthand, Graham. This may tie in to the discussion of immersion - are we performing? Are we collaborating? What's going on? If I have to communicate my guy is angry to four other people instantly, subtlety is not that useful.

    Maybe the need to communicate instantly is part of the problem, though... I know I thrive in a culture of intense, short-run, time-limited and conflict-heavy play.
  • Posted By: GrahamI think that, if we acted better, we'd make our games more interesting and affecting.
    Really: NO!

    We would be lousy as actors. What we are great at, however, is immersion. And immersion are best supported by effective dialogue-techniques. That is the road forward in this.
    Posted By: GrahamWe act pastiches of emotion.
    We do, initially, but as we play the character comes alive, if the game let it. It is important to understand that the character is built in play, not in the so-called "character-construction".

    Most of us are, indeed, capable of really subtle characterization, in the right game, as the layers of interaction leaves us more and more in the shoes of our fictional character.
  • edited February 2011
    Shorthand! Yes, that's a useful idea. But I wouldn't want to see that shorthand every time. In a slow-burn game like Montsegur, I wouldn't want shorthand, shouty anger every time someone gets angry.

    I wrote the thing about being drunk! It's true. Similarly, an excellent way to portray anger is to Try. Very. Hard. To Keep Calm.

    (Tomas, I don't think we're essentially disagreeing. Immersion isn't too far from acting. What I'm arguing against is bad acting, which isn't immersive.)
  • edited February 2011
    Posted By: Jason MorningstarIf I have to communicate my guy is angry to four other people instantly, subtlety is not that useful.
    I have to agree. In a gaming context, being a great actor is less about turning in an Oscar-worthy performance of outstanding verisimilitude, and more about giving your fellow players something they can recognize, appreciate, and fit into their imagination.

    Context matters a lot here. If you're playing at a fast tempo with a lot of momentum built up in the scene, I think going for the easy stereotype works: it lets everyone at the table grab onto the important information ("his character is REALLY ANGRY!") and keep moving forward. It's more about providing an appropriate and swift cue for them to react to than anything else.

    But in a slower scene, I think you can engage your inner Laurence Olivier and go for subtlety and accuracy, with great results; if you're seriously going for immersion, our brains are wired to read subtle emotional cues from other people, and the advantage for targeting your performance at that instead of just waving the big stereotype billboard is obvious. We have a gut reaction to someone who seems genuinely furious or distraught that we just don't get from Angry Yelling Guy or Boo-Hoo Boy.

    So I guess I'm taking a middle course here: I think it's absolutely worthwhile to improve your performance skills and be a better actor at the table, but at the same time I think that some moments in the game are best served by using easily identifiable (albeit inaccurate) stereotypes.

    edit: cross-posted with Graham, and I totally agree with what he says above.
  • edited February 2011
    Posted By: GrahamImmersion isn't too far from acting.
    I've reason to believe otherwise. Immersion is me, the player, tapping into my intuitive understanding of what a human being is, forming a character around my understanding of how to react and act in specific situations. Acting is being given a preposition of a character you are asked to portrait, and then setting about doing that character as described.

    I started thinking on this some years back, when I had the chance to watch and talk with four people being "monks" on a middle-ages festival in Oslo. Two of them were larpers, and two of them were actors. There were no difference in performance between them. But; he actors got tired a lot faster than the other two. Each 30 minutes the actors had to rest, being totally knackered by the effort of so much improvisation, while the two larpers where playing on, shaking their heads in wonder over the actors. It made me think a bit about the differences in method between role-players and actors. I had to conclude that there is a real difference.
  • Your role at the table is also important. In a GM role, you have more latitude to perform, I think, since you are largely in control of pacing anyway.
  • Also, as GM, you're often to required to play many characters, while players play only one. Thus, you'll often do Shorthand Acting: you'll need to signify quickly that This NPC Is Angry.
  • edited February 2011
    Accurate vs dramatized expression of emotion will depend on whether you roleplay in the 1st or 3rd person. If you want to be "in" character, talk in-character, and show more than tell then dramatization is much more appropriate. That's why acting developed as a skill, to better portray and communicate the internal state of the character.

    On the other hand, if you like to roleplay in the third person with lots of description of what your character is doing, asides to describe what they are thinking, and, in general, if you like to tell more than show then this technique should add some real variety to your scenes. If you describe trying to keep your cool when your character is upset, or act like you're keeping your cool to mess with observers, you will go a long way towards adding immersiveness to scenes you are involved in.

    Don't forget, when most people are upset they shut down. Be it shock, anger, horror, or awe. It takes exposure, practice and/or training to overcome this. Ask yourself, does the character in question have practice, training, and/or exposure to the situational elements?
  • Another thing to consider:

    What's the difference in how someone who is habitually angry expresses that anger, versus how someone who is almost always calm and collected expresses their own, rarer, moments of anger?
  • Yes, I agree with you Graham. The Advancing Insanity Globule for Cthulhu Dark sits oddly with your OP.

    That globule struck me as very tired and not considered when I first read it Graham. It still does: madness manifests as screaming and laughing? Really? It's very much a stereotype of Cthulhu horror gaming, and maybe that's what you were aiming for with that globule. Is it?

    Cheers
    Pete

  • I donno what kind of people you hang around but angry drug users virtually always scream at me when I make them mad, which I do more or less every two weeks.
  • I've also noted that people who act angry are also not always really angry just using the emotional display to get their way with as little hassle as possible. Or that they build themselves into a fake sense of anger to give themselves "power" for lack of a better term when going into a negotiation/arguement. (how that relates to rpg's is hard to say)
  • JD: that's food for thought for my next game of Violence, or kpfs :)
  • edited February 2011
    Posted By: Graham
    The problem is: there's little truth in these stereotypes.
    Someone clearly does not have an Italian mother.

    I think there's a lot significance in this statement:
    Posted By: GrahamChances are you won't shout: you might speak tensely, but you'll try to keep your voice under control.
    The question is, why are you trying to keep your voice under control? Because you don't actually want to. You want to shout, but we're socially conditioned not to do that, as shouting just escalates the situation.

    RPG's, movies, books - these are all things that provide us a little bit of escapism. RPG's allow us to do the things we want to do - or see other people do - but don't do because of social structures. Not that that's all that RPG's are about, but it's certainly one thing. So, we can shout to be angry in an RPG because it's OK to shout to be angry in that context.
    Posted By: Jason MorningstarIf I have to communicatemy guy is angryto four other people instantly, subtlety is not that useful.
    Also, this. I tell people at work, "You'll know when I'm actually angry because I get quiet." I have a coworker who shows her anger by screaming, trembling, and crying. Different people express it differently, but shouting is universally understood to mean "angry."
  • edited February 2011
    Vernon, that's a really good point, actually. People display anger even when they're not really angry.

    Pete, yes, that particular rule isn't much good, is it? I don't know what I was thinking. Well, I do, but that rule doesn't express it well.
  • Posted By: Vernon RI've also noted that people who act angry are also not always really angry just using the emotional display to get their way with as little hassle as possible.
    I do this - or tell myself it's what I'm doing. But it quickly becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. I'm yelling at my kid to make her actually hear me - oh, look at that, my heart rate is really elevated now.
  • Don't forget that not all gamers are paragons of perception, able to identify the difference between Angry (Frustrated) and Angry (Conflicted) and Angry (Raging). Then there's the game itself - playing through Fiasco with two other players, I found that almost comically exaggerated characterization both kept the pace of the game moving and allowed us the freedom to be reckless with our characters; something that Fiasco very much wants. I routinely play in a DnD group that prefers to ham it up a bit, and use fourth-wall-breaking meta-information in their verbal dialog. It's just how they roll.

    When you do find a group that you can play an intense psychodrama, that's rare and special and to be treasured. This is the problem I had with A Penny For My Thoughts (full disclosure: which I own, and is amazing). The game really needs people who are willing to be serious and that you can trust to be on the same page as you narratively speaking. Same with Grey Ranks (full disclosure: which I do not own, and am unsettled by).

    In any case, I do hope you find players that can play the social angle. It's a blast when it happens.
  • image

    Today's Basic Instructions web comics breaks down this principle to where everyone can understand it.
  • Yeah that's an interesting point Jamie, the pretending to be angry will tend to lead to real anger. (Ironic that we're discussing this on the internet, home of fake anger and the violent screaming rants)

    This is one of the things that seems to be a problem for "immersion" or at least some descriptions of it. If you get your emotions flowing and your are deep into the situation and these emotions become your own then your not really this imaginary character any more. It's more like putting yourself in a different situation. For some that might be what they want, for others they say the goal is to feel like someone else and I think the line gets blurred.
  • edited February 2011
    Posted By: GrahamI think that, if we acted better, we'd make our games more interesting and affecting.
    Right on, Graham.

    I'm concerned, though, about the difference between encouraging thoughtful, communicative performance and acting, a skill set that not all gamers have or have honed. I think there's an important difference between what constitutes good acting for the stage, for the screen, for the workplace, &c., and for the game table. I'm concerned about the difference between encouraging and elevating the skills of players and creating just another vector for Doing It Wrong in play.

    That is, I've seen players withdraw from a valid creative decision because they don't think they could pull off the performance they'd want their character to give. I think the writerly and directorial decisions (e.g. "This character should be angry now," or "This character displays a level of rage that is uncharacteristic or downright odd for the circumstance.") are sometimes more important to communicate than the performance is important to capture. Sometimes it's better to communicate with your other players as collaborators, and then perform some shade of your intent, than it is to count on your acting alone when, really, many of us are not great actors.

    The player says, "Gronk goes apeshit. 'What the hells do you mean we're going to let these kobolds keep their idol?!' You haven't seen him this mad since his hireling died. His eyes flit over to the cave mouth, where the kobolds are tied up." There's a lot of information in there, a lot of cues and suggestions that might get lost or go unnoticed without the narration, while the wizard is opening his third beer or the thief is shaking the empty crisps bag, you know?

    So, yes, we should be curious about acting and its skills in much the same way we should be curious about writing and its skills, and various other skill sets that intersect with our play. It's a wonderful and wise piece of information—that yelling is merely one way to convey anger—to be sure. But what constitutes good acting at the game table is bar to be raised or lowered at each table, right?

    Informing decisions about acting for roleplayers is a great subject for a book, though. I'd love to see more ways that acting can merge and blend with narration to form the kind of hybrid text that we use at the game table, not quite improv and not quite poetry or prose. I'd love to hear more advice that adds tools to the kit for the roleplayer as performer.

    Thus the player can also say, "Gronk goes real still. He looks the wizard right in the eyes, his gaze unmoving while he quietly says, 'We're not letting those kobolds keep their idol.' That wasn't meant for the kobolds to hear." The player is still showing, because some things are left unsaid outright, but it doesn't depend on the ability of the player to pull off the performance he or she wants to see from her character.

    I'm also a big proponent of players (e.g., the GM) asking each other questions about each other's performance, during play. This would absolutely beat to death a performance intended for the stage or screen, in my experience, but the game table isn't quite a stage.

    tl;dr:
    Posted By: Jason MorningstarYour pastiche may be my shorthand, Graham. This may tie in to the discussion of immersion - are we performing? Are we collaborating? What's going on? If I have to communicatemy guy is angryto four other people instantly, subtlety is not that useful.

    Maybe the need to communicate instantly is part of the problem, though... I know I thrive in a culture of intense, short-run, time-limited and conflict-heavy play.
    I think Jason may have said in seven sentences what I chose to go on and on about for an eon. And yet I post it anyway. :)

    Cheers,
    Will
  • edited February 2011
    Posted By: Will Hindmarch
    I'm concerned, though, about the difference between encouraging thoughtful, communicative performance andacting, a skill set that not all gamers have or have honed. I think there's an important difference between what constitutes good acting for the stage, for the screen, for the workplace, &c., and for the game table. I'm concerned about the difference between encouraging and elevating the skills of players and creating just another vector for Doing It Wrong in play.
    This is my concern too. I think a distinction needs to been made between encouraging good acting--which is a professional skill that, like any other, requires lots of training and education--and encouraging more complex role-playing. The former is, I think, just as potentially alienating as asking that your players be able to perform complex math or memorize large blocks of information. Also, just like those expectations, expecting your players to give professional (or even college theater group) level performances has the real potential to create a nasty hierarchy at the table.

    The latter, meanwhile, just means using the skills that you do possess and the training that you do have to approach the game's theme or scenario with greater depth. This is what we need to be pushing for, I think, and not necessarily a high quality of in character performances.
    Posted By: Will HindmarchThat is, I've seen players withdraw from a valid creative decision because they don't think they could pull off the performance they'd want their character to give.
    I do this, and it got really bad after we started recording our sessions to post actual play reports online. I started thinking, "I want to play this type of character, but I don't think I can do the accent/tone convincingly," and I feel like I missed some role-playing opportunities as a result. I've pushed to have actual play dropped from our podcasts in the future--they came out sounding terrible anyway--so hopefully now I can go back to playing without stage fright.
  • Posted By: TheWhaleSharkSomeone clearly does not have an Italian mother.
    I was thinking that too! That is, there's a cultural element to how we express ourselves, what counts as appropriate or inappropriate. I've been watching "The Cake Boss," a show about a guy who runs a bakery in Hoboken NJ (traditionally a very Italian community--that's where Frank Sinatra was from), and they are always shouting at each other--the Italian mother of this ethnically Italian family in particular. Anger is often appropriate: "What are you crazy !?" shouts the mom at her 35ish looking son. "Riding a motorcycle at your age! You have responsibilities! You have a family! You wanna break your neck? This is the last time! God help you if I catch you riding one of those things again!"

    And what does the son say? "Yeah, Mom, don't worry about it." He's not even fazed! He's used to her getting angry and yelling at him.
  • Posted By: Will HindmarchInforming decisions about acting for roleplayers is a great subject for a book, though.
    I actually wrote it last year. I must get round to editing/revising it.

    To be clear, I'm not arguing in favour of any particular style of acting. I'm arguing against bad acting: for example, people shouting to indicate they're angry.

    And I'm suggesting that people observe themselves and others in various emotional states and use that in their gaming.
  • Posted By: GrahamI'm arguing against bad acting: for example, people shouting to indicate they're angry.
    When I GM I have to find voices for many characters. I have to aim for efficient ways to play these roles. I don't classify these role elements between say sophisticated/subtle and simple/obvious. The guard captain might be a guy who yells a lot, it's a bit of a cliché but it's appropriate to this martial character and players will remember him for his burts of temper.

    OTH for the King's heir who's a control freak and can't tolerate contradiction, I'll want to act how he's trying to keep his anger under control. I'll pinch my eyebrows/nose junction and close my eyes, or display a very fake smile while squeezing the back of a chair until my knuckles turn white. I always have the option to bypass physical acting with a snappy description when I want to speed up things. Switching smoothly IC and OOC voices is really useful too.

    To me subtle, obvious and OOC description work fine in their own time but there's got to be variety. Re-using a very short list of tricks is the real danger IMO.
  • edited February 2011
    Posted By: GrahamI actually wrote it last year. I must get round to editing/revising it.
    You must!
    To be clear, I'm not arguing in favour of any particular style of acting. I'm arguing against bad acting: for example, people shouting to indicate they're angry.
    Bad acting isn't, in itself, a real informative phrase, in my experience. What makes it bad? For what venues? For which audiences?
    And I'm suggesting that people observe themselves and others in various emotional states and use that in their gaming.
    That I am 100% in agreement with. Observation is a vital part of acting (writing, too), I know, and it's one of the acting skills that gamers would do well to draw on heavily in their game-table performances and descriptions, in my opinion. It's part of having a widely stocked toolkit for characterization and creative choices, right?
    Posted By: bouletTo me subtle, obvious and OOC description work fine in their own time but there's got to be variety.
    I agree. There's got to be variety between them and within them. The language of the game table, in my opinion, is not quite the language of any other venue—it bears a lot of resemblances, though—and embracing the unique ways we combine and mix our descriptive styles is part of the form.

    Cheers,
    Will
  • Actually, I do shout when I get angry.

    Sometimes, yes, this is playing dumbass emotional games to get what I want, sure. But just because I'm being a dumbass and playing emotional games does not mean that I'm not angry.

    Okay, I don't shout Every Single Time I get angry. But, I'm a real person, so complex and contradictory.

    Now, let's talk about fiction. I demand greater consistency from my fiction, including the fiction made from certain types of gaming, than I do from real life. And, it is sometimes important that my audience -- the other players -- understand what is going on, and there is often a time constraint. If the other players don't get it right away, it means that the mood I'm trying for won't happen, which means other things I want won't happen. Not a deal breaker, but if I want something to happen, I do what I can to increase the odds in my favor.

    So, in a roleplaying game, this often means using shorthand. Not every angry PC or NPC of mine will shout. Some will get quiet. But, usually, I'll try to have any given character have predictable reactions. If one gets quiet when angry, that's probably what I want that character to do every time, for clearer signals.

    And, I may break character and say, "He sounds angry" or "You can tell he is angry" or "Make a Psychology roll. Made it? Okay, you can tell that, however calm he seems, he is seething with anger."

    Can I do better? Can I do more subtle? Often,not always.
    Should I? Sometimes. Far from always.

    In the sorts of larps I play, one principle that makes larping more fun for me is "If playing a villain, better to go down loudly and in flames than to be subtle and succeed." It's not a universal principle, of course. But, it often does make things better for everyone.

    For example, in a larp where we had a lot of mini-larps within the big one ("Across the Sea of Stars"), I was playing a very, very evil person. I read my character sheet, and thought.

    Hm. Ten to twenty minutes of this character. I could indeed play subtle, and possibly pull off a win. But, in that case, I decided to play a gloating, mustache twirling villain (without the mustache), explaining to the heroine how I was going to destroy her people utterly, and there was nothing she could do about it.

    Would it always have been the right call? No. But, for that player at that time? Yes. And, there was a definite feel of catharsis when her ally stunned the villain with a blaster.

    Realistic? Well, I would say that real villains aren't dumb enough to gloat and twirl their mustaches, even though I know that's not true. But, we were going for a certain feel. Oscar Rios's tabletop Call of Cthulhu scenario "Setting Sun, Rising Tide" had a very different feel, and a lot more subtle roleplaying. And, when the twist that the players knew was coming came, everyone thought long and hard about exactly how their PCs would react, making sure the answer felt right.

    But, both games were magnificent, each in its own way.
  • edited February 2011
    I think roleplayers act too much, as it is. Marshall Miller mentioned players who describe their characters action, rather than acting them out - I much prefer that kind if roleplaying. I have difficulty imagining the kind of game where the players roleplay angry characters by getting in each others faces and shouting at them. I have heard tales of My Life With Master scenarios at cons where the GM played the master very physically, walking around, standing over the player, maybe grabbing them, stuff like that. That kind of physical acting is way beyond what I'd accept in a game (and I know one or two players who if the GM acted like that, would get equally physical back, even with the benefits of authority the GM enjoys).

    So, I think acting can be too good, and too authentic - in a movie it's great, but for me, in a rpg, it has to be visibly inauthentic. Pastiche is good. Plus, there's nothing wrong with saying, "my character is angry," describing how this is expressed, and letting things go from there.
  • Posted By: NomdePlumehave difficulty imagining the kind of game where the players roleplay angry characters by getting in each others faces and shouting at them. I have heard tales of My Life With Master scenarios at cons where the GM played the master very physically, walking around, standing over the player, maybe grabbing them, stuff like that.
    Yes, clearly that is shit. I think we should do acting that isn't shit. That's what I was saying, really.

    I think we're getting hung up on the word "acting" here. I am specifically not saying we do big, theatrical flourishes and get in each other's faces. Why? Because it's unbearable to watch. Why else? Because that's not how people behave.

    There's a place for the shorthand acting Jason describes. But, more often, it feels like pastiche is the only thing we can do: we play cardboard characters in cardboard worlds that we've seen many times before.

    (Lisa, that's interesting stuff.)
  • I reckon there isn't enough shouting in our games.
  • Posted By: GrahamOne thing that bothers me, in RPGs, is that we often act stereotypes. Angry characters shout. Sad characters look sad. We act pastiches of emotion.
    Aren't you stereotypizing rpg players by saying this?
    I roleplay a lot of wrathful characters, and sometimes, when it's appropriate to the game, group and situation, I like playing the silent character who gulps it down and then waits for the right moment to serve you back, as vengeance is a dish best served cold. I don't like playing the yelling one because yelling people highly unnerve me. Just to provide an example.
  • I can see how acting "in the face" and getting physical will go beyond the pale for many gamers. And I wouldn't advocate this type of role playing as regular usage or for any circumstance (yelling with strangers at a con would be very awkward for instance). I also value Graham's advice when he says in his book that when people try to act too much they stink. He's quite right about it. But there's probably a cultural preference reflected in his position there, and I wonder how our Italian and French members might feel about this advice for instance.

    There's real value in players dropping the self consciousness and fear of rejection when they role play. Sure most of us are going to play just as badly as the "once a year" amateur performer. And also there's the stereotype of the GM as entertainer that rears its ugly head. But often, beyond comedian talent (or lack thereof), you will find that gut reaction can take over the rational mind. Every one's a critic right? Every body is going to judge how caricatural Adam or Beatrice are playing their character. Except there's something quite magical about people playing a role with conviction, or at least without fear or concern. I find it puts off balance our rational selves and let us tap into a more visceral type of role playing. I've seen it happen many times, without it becoming some psycho freak show, all for the benefit of the table experience.

    Remember Graham is atypical here: everybody isn't a professional like him. Maybe he has a hard time dropping his analytical professional eye, but it might not be the same for others. And the thing is: enthusiasm is contagious. Two friends at the table start to play in a very involved manner and it may spark it for the rest of the table.

    Master Sifu says "When you focus on kung fu, when you concentrate... you stink." Sifu and Graham are really right, concentration makes you stink. their advice is to not overdo it and act as natural as possible. That's one way to solve the issue and it works.

    But once in a while, try the other way: play full guts and forget about how lousy your acting may be. Perhaps have a shot of whisky before to help you relax? If you're acting confidently it will spark another kind of game experience, I swear!
  • I've never been at a table where the acting has been criticised, except when people do bad accents. I was made to stop playing an hard boiled PI by a table of embarrassed Americans and given Biggles instead. Not everyone can do what Graham does (his Botswanan is something else) but I've never seen it be a problem.

    Perhaps all the real actors are crying on the inside every time they LARP. Another actor friend says she doesn't like LARP due to performance anxiety but it might just be a nice way of saying, "I can't stand all the shit acting".
  • edited February 2011
    Amen, boulet, amen!
    Posted By: Graham
    Yes, clearly that is shit. I think we should do acting that isn't shit. That's what I was saying, really.

    I think we're getting hung up on the word "acting" here. I am specificallynotsaying we do big, theatrical flourishes and get in each other's faces. Why? Because it's unbearable to watch. Why else? Because that's not how people behave.
    I have to object pretty strongly to this. I think these moments, if not realistic, are a lot of fun, both to play and perform. Also, they may be very fitting for a particularly melodramatic or ridiculous character. After all, the game in the example was My Life With Master. I don't think the performance described strays too far from the source material.

    But I think this brings up two larger points: 1) each group has its own standards about what is or is not acceptable and what qualifies as quality role-playing, 2) approaching play with expectations about acting quality--like thinking the behavior in the example above is "shit"--is likely to hurt your ability to enjoy the game and, if you press the point, likely to alienate or embarrass other players.

    That's not to say that it is impossible for RPGs to make you a better actor, just as they can make you a better critical thinker or broaden your perspective or give you empathy for others or improve your ability to do mental math.

    That said, I think there is a significant difference between self-improvement through role-playing and self-improvement for role-playing, with the former being a laudable goal for any game designer and the latter being a bit narrow as a personal goal and insufferable as an expectation for others.

    (This is coming from someone who has too often been guilty of the latter.)
  • Posted By: GB SteveI've never been at a table where the acting has been criticised, ... I've never seen it be a problem.
    Neither have I.

    Bad acting don't happen much in role-playing games for the simple reason that we don't "act" like in a movie or on a stage. We create characters mainly by filching on resources in our selves, expressing some inner idea of the world and its humans actualized by the game. This is a very different process from stage-acting. And thank God for that!
  • edited February 2011
    Really, guys. Forget the word "acting". I'm sorry I phrased my point that way. Let's go back.

    The main points are:

    1. I think we resort to stereotypes too often in roleplaying games and
    2. I think it's interesting to watch how people behave, in real life, and take that into our games.
  • edited February 2011
    RPG play often rewards exaggeration and for a lack of better description... loud players.

    I see this at the Call of Cthulhu Masters Tournament at Gen Con and especially LARPs. The loudest players get most of the attention. So even if not all angry characters shout or sad characters cry... it's the most outwardly visible reactions, often exaggerated, that communicate the point quickest, clearest, and garner the most attention.

    Whenever I would play a subtle character in a Call of Cthulhu Masters Tournament, I would lose. Whenever I would play a loud character, I would always win. And I noticed the same in LARPs (where there is no obvious winning or losing). As a GM this was something I was always aware of and I would work diligently to create an environment to act against this.

    This was one of the reasons I was drawn to Dogs in the Vineyard. The way the rules are structured and how metagaming is encouraged, shy players don't get lost in the shuffle and are given extra confidence in play to express themselves without being loud.
  • Posted By: GrahamReally, guys. Forget the word "acting". I'm sorry I phrased my point that way. Let's go back.
    This is probably about cultural bias too. It's almost like drawing parallels with comedians is a big no-no or something. When I started reading English speaking RPG forums I realized that there's some kind of taboo out there. I had to get explanations about the word thespian and the cultural baggage that comes with it. There's no equivalent taboo about acting where I come from. Maybe it's not at play for Graham at all, and I apologize if I'm completely wrong here, but I can't help but notice signs.
    The main points are:

    1. I think we resort to stereotypes too often in roleplaying games and
    2. I think it's interesting to watch how people behave, in real life, and take that into our games.
    Great advice, again! Stereotypes are going to hurt your games, like say if you're using a silly Scottish accent when playing a dwarf without any thought beyond "that's what my friends do." But realism/subtle play isn't the only way. Once in a while outrageous, caricatural, loud and excessive will do the trick better. Again, it's more of an issue for a GM who's got to portray many characters. It's good to make some of them pop by using cheesy/loud/obvious tricks because it makes the GM's job easier. The difficult part is to understand when too much is too much, but it works.
  • Posted By: Graham1. I think we resort to stereotypes too often in roleplaying games
    I believe we have to do that, initially. No character will be anything but a stereotype at the start of the game. The real character is created during game-play, not beforehand. If the game is any good, it will make it easy for you to develop your character into something more. So you need to look at how games do this, Graham, or how they fail to do it.
    Posted By: Graham2. I think it's interesting to watch how people behave, in real life, and take that into our games.
    So do I. Lending some realism to our character-interpretation is good.
  • Posted By: bouletThere's no equivalent taboo about acting where I come from.
    Until this thread, I wasn't aware that there was any taboo about it at all. Maybe it says something about my formative gaming years that I just automatically associated roleplaying with acting -- the overlap between playing a character at the table and workshopping a scene or doing improv seemed kind of obvious. I thought it was especially telling that out of all the people who tried out gaming when I was in high school, the ones who took to it the fastest, enjoyed it the most, and really put a lot of effort into making their characters' scenes hum were all theater geeks.

    Yeah, there's more going on when you play an RPG than just acting, but the idea that acting has no place in gaming (or has nothing in common with it) still seems a bit weird to me. I'd think that working on your acting chops would improve your play the same way working on your backhand would improve your tennis game.
  • edited February 2011
    I'm not sure who has said that acting has no place in gaming (or nothing in common with it). More to the point, Graham has now said outright that he's interested in this thread being about the benefits of observation and the value of moving away from stereotypes, rather than debating acting as a term or its relationship to gaming. (I'd love to argue around that premise a bit, too, but it's Graham's thread.)

    I'm not the boss of the thread or anything, but can we talk, instead, about specific examples of behaviors or choices we've observed that we can import into our characterizations to add nuance or subtlety, diversity or depth?

    As a starting place, I'm curious how many different ways we can think of to express anger, in character, in addition to shouting. It's been demonstrated above, but I'd love to underline that rhythm of some angry voices—that. slow. restraint. that means. I could go off. at any moment. Or the intense question meant to give someone a way out of an angry situation before it erupts into something worse: "Are you saying that you think this fucking kobold deserves his idol back?"

    Anyone got any techniques they use to convey anger, sadness, levity, or something else in actual play?
  • Speaking is overrated.

    Really, it's too bad that mimes got such a bad rap. The good ones are incredibly impressive.

    This is making me sad I haven't gotten around to playing that caveman game where you only have, what, 14 words to use to communicate. "Ug"? I can't remember.
  • Posted By: RogerThis is making me sad I haven't gotten around to playing that caveman game where you only have, what, 14 words to use to communicate. "Ug"? I can't remember.
    Better than that robot game where you only have "0" and "1"...
  • Is there anything wrong with a player just saying "My character is angry" and then talking? Rather than trying to have the other players guess the motivation, just put it out there.
  • Posted By: GrahamReally, guys. Forget the word "acting". I'm sorry I phrased my point that way. Let's go back.

    The main points are:

    1. I think we resort to stereotypes too often in roleplaying games and
    2. I think it's interesting to watch how people behave, in real life, and take that into our games.
    Ok good point and there I'm curious about one thing. I want to ask everyone because that was my experience. Is it enough when a game tells you to make your characters realistic and believable?
    When we played Apocalypse World and the Master of Ceremonies (Rafu, btw) read aloud the part about the players' responsibility of creating realistic characters, that actually worked greatly. I don't know if it was the group, but in your experience, does such a rule actually help?
  • Posted By: merb101Is there anything wrong with a player just saying "My character is angry" and then talking? Rather than trying to have the other players guess the motivation, just put it out there.
    I'm a big fan of doing that, yeah; it's clear, it's fast, and it's effective. In practice, I like doing both whenever I can: both explicitly describing my character's emotional state to the other players, and trying to portray it effectively. It's more fun for me (both to do and to observe), and covers all the bases.
  • Posted By: RogerThis is making me sad I haven't gotten around to playing that caveman game where you only have, what, 14 words to use to communicate. "Ug"? I can't remember.
    Og. And I'm running my first ever game of it later this month! It looks hilarious, but I guess we'll have to see...
  • I have never had any problems with someone a) playing a more adventurous and fearless version of himself and b) just telling when his character is visibly showing feelings. However, I've been embarrassed for some players who go for emotional or loud approach. So, I agree.

    When in character, I pay more attention to what I say than how I say that. If you say "Man, you're not in charge any more. I'm calling the shots here now. So just take a fucking seat and enjoy the show.", you don't need to shout or speak slowly or have long pauses to sound angry or threatening. The "script" will do it for you. Being subtle or even monotonous in your delivery will allow you to say pretty wild stuff while still sounding natural. Even if the message is very apparent, the delivery doesn't need to be.
  • I also really enjoy the sort of roleplaying where the intent is more to communicate than to portray. "You've never seen his eyes look so cold before," speaks volumes. Then you can act as much or as little as you want.

    One danger of trying too hard to portray your character (especially through the portrayal of stereotypes) is the distancing from the other players. I've always enjoyed those games when the players were smiling at each other, giving each other high fives (or saying, "Awesome!"), and clearly communicating their enthusiasm for what was going on.

    I've had several bad (or just uncomfortable) experiences where players tried really hard to portray a simple emotion, without taking time to communicate interpersonally. For instance, I've seen these two many times (although the first is much more common):

    * You're playing a game. The player on your right keeps glaring at you and making disparaging remarks whenever you speak up. Is s/he actually pissed off at you, have you done something to offend them? Or are they just trying to portray that their character is angry? It sucks when you can't tell. A smile or a wink now and then (breaking character for a moment) would improve the game 300% in a situation like that.

    * You're playing a game. The player on your left has this huge wooden smile on their face, supports what's going on loudly, and speaks very positively about what's happening in the story ("Another victory for the league of justice!"). Their portrayal is kind of... fake. Are they acting badly in-character, or are they pretending to enjoy the game (because their character is currently happy, and they're trying to portray that) while, in actuality, they're bored or upset or not having fun at all?

    Same as the first example, I by far prefer when players spend more time "out of character", so the social cues are easily separated from the fiction that's happening. I suppose "method acting" could be done in a roleplaying context to great effect, but, man, it ain't easy to make that work, compared to the fun of collaborative story-telling that gets everyone excited and pumped at the developing fiction.
  • edited February 2011
    Posted By: Paul T.One danger of trying too hard to portray your character (especially through the portrayal of stereotypes) is the distancing from the other players. ...

    I've had several bad (or just uncomfortable) experiences where players tried really hard to portray a simple emotion, without taking time to communicate interpersonally.
    Well...again, clearly, that's awful. That's precisely the thing I'm arguing against.

    Seriously. Forget the word "acting". I simply think we use stereotypes too often and that we can learn from watching how people actually behave.

    Eero, yes, that's the stuff I'm talking about. Lovely.
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