How much do you care for other Playing Characters?

When we play, we usually have our own PC-Playing Character (let's leave aside for a moment games which don't give you a PC but a community or shared/rotating PCs etc..).

Of course, we do care about our own PC (in different ways - depending on our approach and the game style - from power-play to "let's see how this will end").

But what about other players' PCs? Do you care about them? And how?

Do you enjoy the story of another PC more than your own, sometimes? Why? Because you're just a witness or play a minor role in it? Or for other reasons?

(and maybe: how much is this influenced by your relationship with the other Player?)

It's maybe a bit vague, I'm more brainstorming than making a point here...

Comments

  • Short answer: quite a bit.

    Longer answer: I think I often care about the other PCs in a way that is akin to how I care about characters in books and TV shows. I might empathize with them or feel fascinated by them or infuriated or infatuated or whatever, but I'm basically engaging as an audience member. I can remember specific instances where another PC was at a crucial moment in their story and the GM cuts back to me, and I felt a familiar twinge, half-annoyance ("dammit, get back to the good stuff") and half-admiration of good storytelling.

    I also care about the other characters in relation to my PC. When I'm on my game as a player (and as a GM, for that matter) I'm looking for interesting ways to intertwine our stories or bounce off of them or give them a little spotlight or whatever. Many of the characters I'd say were my favorites were my favorites partly because of the relationship they had to my character, but I don't think "my" connection is especially important. More of it is that having interesting relationships (especially with other PCs) is what makes an interesting character.

    And yeah, I also care about them as expressions of my friend's creative impulses. I like pretty much everyone I've ever gamed with (even the strangers), and seeing what they create and digging that is a part of digging them as people. And that can cut both ways, i.e. not just being interested in the character because I'm interested in them, but being more interested in them because of the characters they create. I feel like I've gotten closer to various folks through playing with them. In particular, I think of my friendship with Mark, a guy in my local gaming group, which was both strengthened and colored by a fictional friendship between his PC Roger Blackburn and my PC Billy Ray in a long-running Call of Cthulhu game.

    So yeah, basically all of the above.
  • Short answer: theoretically yes.

    In practice I only care about other PCs when they've got substance going for them. This is surprisingly rare in some games, while in others it's more common. If a game's creative brilliance comes from e.g. the GM's setting and character work, while the PCs are mostly witnesses, then there's little reason to care for other PCs aside from your own.

    Some players are consistently interesting at the table, in which case I'm likely to care about their characters. Others are less likely to spark any interest. It's really more about the player than the role, when all's said and done.
  • Let me put it this way: except in certain very narrow adventure-centered types of gaming, if I *don't* deeply care about the other PCs, it's a huge problem.
  • I care about other players, so naturally I care about their characters.
  • ok, assuming that we all care in a way or another (either really caring like 'I want this character to be strong and kick some dragon asses'.... or caring like 'this character is a great tool for whatever story i am enjoying...')

    assuming that... do you find the distance between you and that other player's character makes it easier to enjoy (and care...) as @amphigorist also said, in a way that resembles that of the audience of a story?? (be it a book, a movie, etc..)

    (again, I know I am still vague but I am not 100% sure where I am going here... and thanks anyway for your attention and aswers)
  • I like to discover more about another person (ie player) through play than they might reveal in other circumstances; games that dramatize, or at least refer to, this possibility tend to result in more intense experiences.
  • do you find the distance between you and that other player's character makes it easier to enjoy (and care...) . . . in a way that resembles that of the audience of a story?
    Could you clarify? I am not sure which piece of this is the important one. Are you asking if the audience-like caring we have for other characters is easier or more enjoyable than the invested caring we have for our own characters?
  • I apologize if this topic is somehow unclear - it's just because I've collected some impressions but nothing solid...

    I've looked at some players - i.e. while GMing my City Of Judas (a Pbta hack); and while being another player at the table - and I've noticed a couple of types of behaviors... but I haven't monitored this for long enough to know for sure it's a real pattern... and I was not sure where I was going with this topic:

    - some people are invested in the overall story and would use their own character, and/or other players' characters, as tools for that purpose (in a good sense); they are usually equally involved about their own PC or other players' PCs, and deal well with the spotlight

    - other people are very careful and protective of their character; so much that sometimes this causes a bit of a stall in the game (I imagine their characters are to them more of a portrait than a tool; moving their character is hard for them). This seems to lead them to enjoying watching other players' characters more than their own - because they're relieved of the burden of 'fear' for their own PC safety or success (or their personal issues with making decisions)

    Now, this is nothing new (some players find it easier to care about the overall story rather than a fantasy about their own single character; some people are maybe a bit more creative, or more at ease in speaking in front of others etc...).
    Except that I found myself noticing more and more the fact that those players that somehow get stuck with their own character (for various reasons), at the same time do really enjoy looking at what happens to the others. There is probably a part in this caused by the other players' ability to play better for the story (1), but it seems that the key is being relieved from their own fear.

    In short: one of the short descriptions of an RPG is: "it's like a book, but then you get to make your own choices as the character, and the story evolves from there".

    It looks to me like for some people (2) that get into RPGs to have the power to make those decisions, in fact enjoy more looking at others making decisions, while they freeze (and enjoy less) making those decisions for themselves and their own characters.

    ... thanks again for sticking with me on this perhaps pointless stuff

    -----

    (1) please ignore the "play better" or worse in terms of criticism... the focus is on something else

    (2) it's not a criticism, again... it's just me trying to understand if there's room here for addressing different roles/play styles with design or ideas...
  • Interesting!

    I can't say I've seen this as a consistent thing (it seems like a passing phase, to me, before a player figures out their preferences and learns to act on them), but I've definitely that thing where one player is afraid that something bad will happen to their character, and it keeps their engagement with the game at a very careful level.

    If there is another player at the table who is willing to throw their character under the bus and cause all kinds of drama, people sometimes start to enjoy that character's storyline and shenanigans more than their own - and might even have their character tag along (but carefully!), enjoying their story vicariously.
  • In practice I only care about other PCs when they've got substance going for them .... Some players are consistently interesting at the table, in which case I'm likely to care about their characters. Others are less likely to spark any interest. It's really more about the player than the role, when all's said and done.
    This. Many this.

    Played a RPG last weekend. One girl played her character well. It was a one-shot with pregens, but she embraced her character and played it so well (and made me laugh so much) that I became invested in her PC. I wanted her to succeed.

    The opposite was also true with one guy, who played his PC like it was a video game character. Sure, he engaged in conversations -- but the PC's actions were all simple. The PC didn't strike, he rolled to attack. The PC didn't get annoyed when someone brought up his dark past, he rolled to attack. Etc. I liked the player, but I didn't give a tinker's cuss about his PC.

    The one exception is when some jackass plays a PC in a sexist way where you get the vibe he/she is trying to hit on players through the PC. That might legally count as "interesting", but it's annoying.

  • Sorry in the delay in getting back to this topic. I've written some stuff about this also in an Italian forum and I will try to bring here some of the comments I received:
    - some see characters (their own, and others') clearly as "instruments" (either to generate the story, push the story forward, explore the setting, etc...). They seem to perceive a little difference between their character and others' characters
    - there is some agreement (but I wouldn't say this is the majority of the cases, just frequent enough to be noticed) that sometimes others can bring at the table something that feels fresher, less stereotyped (perhaps this is just because it comes from someone else)... but bear in mind that this doesn't seem to be the majority of the cases
    - I would assume that probably the majority of the people writing to me here or in that forum would be quite "active" players (I mean, naturally inclined not to get stuck in a game, especially in a "modern" game that gives more fictional authority to the players and does not put all in the hands of the GM)

    So, let's put aside for a second the first concept that I expressed in a previous post: "the distance between you and that other player's character makes it easier to enjoy (and care) in a way that resembles that of the audience of a story". This was my first thought, but now my focus has shifted.

    I am now curious to look at players who are apparently less "active" at the table.
    This perhaps happens a bit less - or almost never - to some of you (either because you have one or more groups which are fully functional, or because you play via hangout and select carefully your gaming group etc), but I've seen this happen at the table, locally, where I play. Some are friends, others are just people of the group or people I've met only once... but at least half of the times, at the table, there's one person (usually one, maximum two) who's very silent. Let's call it a "passive" player, just to give it a label - but you can suggest other names if you want to.
    Among the various reasons for this "silent" behavior - there is one that interests me more, which is a sort of paralyzing fear (well, this sounds too dramatic...) that makes some passive players enjoy RPGs mostly by looking at other's adventures. They do not take, though, the same risks when it comes to make their characters to act, thus probably enjoy the best of RPGs mostly as some kind of audience.
    (This doesn't mean that caring, enjoying another player's character, is to be passive)

    Do you think there's a way to address this, in terms of mechanics?
    I will try to present a simple example, hoping it will make some sense. In DW is not uncommon that a more active player will bring into the fiction some serious trouble to deal with, while a more passive one would probably just tag along in the adventure, accepting whatever the other characters' mission requires.

    Do you think it could be worth it to assign to these more passive players for example a set of moves (i.e. like the compendium classes in DW) for fictional roles like "sage" or "mentor" or "guide"?
    They could have a stronger character (they're less prone to the temptation of abusing it), hopefully this would make them a bit less passive (less fearful), they would have still a role in the fiction - but more of a support role (which probably they would end up taking anyway, although less formally). There would be some meaning for this in the fiction, perhaps even a better fiction where instead of everybody-is-a-hero you'd have some more prominent characters, and others with a less prominent role, and finally, this would not rob the passive player of his enjoying the main story, but with a less active (and for them, maybe less demanding) role.
    Is this something worth considering, or am I really talking bull**** over here? (it's entirely possible)
  • Davide,

    This is very familiar to me. (And, in my experience, can be related to a huge variety of things, both good and bad.)

    There used to be a lot of discussion about this kind of thing back on the Forge forums. Sometimes there were players who were happy being passive (and would benefit from a mechanically-supported "sidekick" role - Eero's talked about doing this explicitly in the Solar System at some point on Story Games), and other times there were players who had some kind of fear or hangup and a slight change in the way the group ran the game would "bring them out of their shell" immediately. (I have a story about this I can share when I have more time.)

    From a less "fun" angle, sometimes it has to do with something serious. The player is going through a rough time in their life, like abuse or depression, and spending time at the table feels good for them, but active participation is beyond them at this point in time.

    So those are three possibilities, off the top of my head. There may be others, of course!
  • @Paul_T thanks for the feedback

    I am interested in how this was addressed in the Solar System - do you recall any of the details?

    It would be important to know the reason behind a certain approach (might help to find a proper way to build the correct tools for the game), but sometimes it's a temporary phase, sometimes it's something personal (temporary or not) that players might NOT want to discuss or disclose, sometimes the players themselves do not even realize it...

    So I am trying to see if there's a nice way to build a more comfortable road for them to take; I am thinking especially in terms of something that
    - could be taken by the player (not imposed by the GM)
    - would not be perceived as diminishing, but just a different role in fiction, and be rewarding (this is why I mentioned that sometimes it can be even funnier to see others in action, than our own character)

    Right now, I am thinking mostly in terms of roles in the fiction - allies of the main characters that maybe are taken by a stable NPC sometimes, but that would work great with a real player behind. As always, suggestions and thoughts are welcome.
  • I am interested in how this was addressed in the Solar System - do you recall any of the details?
    The SS text doesn't address this directly (I think - it's been a while), but the World of Near does; my prescription therein is simply to correctly recognize a player who wants a passive role (or is not ready for an active role in what TSoY demands, or whatever), and then act in Story Guiding in a manner that supports and encourages a functional sidekick role instead of trying for a non-functional protagonist with a player who doesn't want to (or may can't) do it. It is curious, but despite the relatively constrained GM role in the game, everything you need to actually change to account for a support player instead of a protagonist is methodological - no rules changes are necessary. This is good, as it means that the Story Guide can work stealthily if necessary, avoiding the need to label players to their face.

    I should emphasize that I do not recommend sidelining players as a solution to creative differences or interpersonal problems. Encouraging a player to take on a simple, passive role as the Watson to another player's Holmes is mostly for situations where lack of creative motivation or lack of skill makes the player uncomfortable or unable to act as a protagonist, but they still want to play. It's similar to how D&D handles player quality issues - you let the weaker player play, and let the rest of the group carry the game forward, with the hangers-on getting dragged with the rest by the default party dynamic. It's just that while this is an entirely default arrangement in D&D, in a drama game you need to actually arrange for the characters to form a group with a clear leader, so you don't accidentally end up leaving Watson to run some insipid side plot alone in the middle of nowhere to the detriment of everybody.
  • @Eero_Tuovinen thanks for the advice. I will look into the World of Near...

    I am sure there are reasons in assigning this decision to the GM, and letting the GM address this with his own tools; I am really interested in how you addressed this in World of Near.

    I am looking at it from a slight different angle now, though... where it would be the player actually picking the role of Watson, rather than receiving it from the GM (openly or not). Maybe it has the potential to work also this way... maybe not...

    but in the meanwhile thanks to all of you for the useful feedback and advice so far!
  • I am sure there are reasons in assigning this decision to the GM, and letting the GM address this with his own tools; I am really interested in how you addressed this in World of Near.
    The central tool might be relevant to your concerns, actually: The Shadow of Yesterday features a "sidekick trap" in the traditional form of fantasy gaming: proffering a series of character concept possibilities with a few outlier options. In the case of TSoY these explicitly deprotagonized options are goblins (small, pest-like demihumans with weird habits and attractions) and rat-men (small, furry, animal-like and naive yet curious beings). These types of character options essentially act as honeypot traps for players who have difficulty relating to the idea of playing a protagonist character; the phenomenon might be familiar from e.g. Dragonlance gaming, where the Kender is the equivalent type of social outlier, "funny" character option. It's pretty likely that the guy wanting the play the Kender isn't planning to be a dramatic dynamo for the campaign, after all.

    (To clarify for TSoY enthusiasts, I'm not saying that all ratkin and goblin characters are played by players who "don't get it"; I'm just saying that a player who doesn't get it is more likely to be attracted to these character types. Both concepts certainly have potential as protagonists as well, as we've seen over the years.)

    What I advice in WoN is that the TSoY Story Guide should embrace the tendency of the sidekick trap to actually, you know, trap sidekick players. Once you know what form the passive player's passivity or disruptive player's disruptiveness is likely to take, it won't be difficult to prepare game content specifically to engage with that character concept constructively. You could even actively suggest that character type to a player who you know will play like one of those critters anyway. The Kender is not a problem if you consider it as the player signalling that they don't have what it takes to play a bold high fantasy protagonist :D

    So that's one way to arrange for the passive or disruptive (I group these issues together because they're both rooted in creative inability) player to self-select into the Watson role: give the players a list of character roles where there's a clear contrast between the Holmesian and Watsonian options, and let the player self-declare themselves the sidekick. That's certainly much easier socially than "Hey Bob, based on our prior experiences in playing together, how about you take a B-string character so as to not ruin the game for the rest of us" :D
  • Man, I don't know if "passive" and "disruptive" are really all that similar. IME, often the most disruptive players are also the most creative. That includes me—I'm hideously disruptive if I think the GM is fucking up the rules or is playing against the spirit of the game or whatever, but incredibly creative.
  • Yeah, I guessed that'd be a sticking point. It suffices to say that I had particular kinds of passiveness and disruptiveness in mind here. There are of course many reasons for why people might act in ways characterized by those words. For some types this Watsonian theory of sidelining players doesn't work at all.

    The kind of disruptiveness I mean is emblematized by this teenager I knew, who'd manage to waste half of each and every session of TSoY in pointless extended conflicts related to his ratkin's latest attempt at outsmarting the nearest authority figure. Real Mickey Mouse stuff. I credit him with much of the inspiration in learning how to manage that kind of disruptive-because-I-don't-understand-what's-going-on players.
  • Ah, I get what you're saying. Disruptive because not on the same page as the rest of the group regarding the game's purpose. My disruptiveness tends to come when I feel the GM isn't on the same page as the designer regarding the game's purpose.
  • Let me put it this way: except in certain very narrow adventure-centered types of gaming, if I *don't* deeply care about the other PCs, it's a huge problem.
    Yes. Very much yes.

    I don't have to like your PC. I have to care. I have to be interested and engaged.

    This doesn't mean that I can't zone out -- occasionally. But I should want to see the movie about your PC.
  • Ah, I get what you're saying. Disruptive because not on the same page as the rest of the group regarding the game's purpose. My disruptiveness tends to come when I feel the GM isn't on the same page as the designer regarding the game's purpose.
    That bothers me less, honestly. Sometimes only a microscopic bit less, if I think the GM isn't running a good game. I've had a couple of GMs who didn't quite get Fate and didn't trust the system.

    Sometimes, somewhat less, if the GM is running a fine game, but one of the things I was hoping to get out of the game is a better understanding of how the game is intended to run. Sometimes, a whole lot less if I think the designer is either wrong or right -- but not designing the game the group wants to play.

    A very, very minor example of that last: Aviatrix has a house rule for Trail of Cthulhu that has Stability penalties kicking in at -1, not at 0. I've adopted this as well. There is nothing wrong with the rule as written, at least, in theory, but I find I get confused if I keep it 0, but not if it's -1. The mechanical difference is minimal.

  • Wait! So how do you deal with that kind of disruptive player?

    That's interesting...
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