Friday, April 23, 2010

Burning Limitations

In a recent (sorry, friendslocked) post, a friend of mine wrote about her limits as a roleplayer: the things she never wants to have happen to her characters or in her games, no questions asked. Her limits, quite reasonably, include:

  1. Having a PC raped.
  2. Having a PC tortured, explicitly, on-screen.
  3. Having the PC's actions lead to a child's death (when the child is someone narratively important and personified - she has no problem with her PC's committing genocide or xenocide, for example, when the populations she wipes out only include children in the abstract).
  4. Explicit sexual content.

That's just the blacklist. She also has a list of things she wants used only with extreme consideration, such as her character becoming pregnant.

I find all of this eminently reasonable. It's good and important to know where your limits are in game. Otherwise, you're sure to discover them at a bad moment, such as the middle of a session when something happens and suddenly you're somewhere between retching and feeling like maybe not coming back next week.

Now, the weird thing is, my limits work very differently. No matter how I look at them, they all come down to the same central principle:

Let me play the game I signed on for.

Don't take away the power, situation, or setting element that makes my character cool. Don't impose new powers, situations, or setting elements on him until the game's style twists away from what I'm interested in. Don't traumatize him until he isn't the person I made anymore. Don't kill off the NPCs I want h
im to interact with. Don't kill him.

That said, you can do any of those things with my permission. Having my character change and grow is part of what I signed on for, after all. Change my character's powers if it adds to his story, traumatize him if it forces him to develop, kill of NPCs whose deaths will force him to grow, kill him if it puts a suitably dramatic cap on his narrative, just make sure I'm ok with it. Rape, torture, infanticide... I have a hard time imagining many characters whose stories would be enhanced by events this extreme, but they aren't off the table for me.

Lest this seem like a fake limit, I want to be clear - I am a real control freak about this. If you take away the game I signed on for, I will be unhappy about it, I will let you know, and I will expect you to do something about it. My limits are just as firm as others, they just lie in what I've come to see as a kind of odd place. I suppose it's because I'm a writer and I approach game as a writer. My character is my story, and while I'm ok with my character's story being dynamic, as good roleplaying must be, there's a point where I stop having fun.

I have my limits.

What are yours?

1 comment:

Amanda Borenstadt said...

That's interesting. It's funny, I haven't role played since I started writing fiction. We used to play the sort where we sat around the table with dice and paper and pencil- D&D and that sort. I miss it.

Hey, I tagged you for something. Come over and check out my bog. :)