Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Exploring Characters via Dungeons

Limpey of Aldeboran has again posted to clarify his thoughts on the quote by Dragonsfoot posert Evreaux in his thread on Megadungeon Mapping over at DF.  "We explore dungeons, not characters."

The fact that you are a character does not mean that you have character.

The way Limpey describes his idea of 'exploring dungeons, not characters' matches my own.  It isn't one or the other.  It's that the exploration of the dungeon, or the bomb-blasted wilderness, or the vast reaches of space leads to character development. 

Exploring a character's distrust of the federal government, or belief in Mormonism, or an inability to choose between the boring but caring guy and the sexy but dangerous guy, DON'T necessarily lead to an exploration of ancient crypts, nuclear wastelands, or strange new worlds.  Don't get me wrong, it can.  But it doesn't necessarily.

A will lead to B, but B may or may not lead to A.

When A leads to B it may not be Nobel Prize/Oscar worthy characterization, but it will develop somewhat.

As Limpey succinctly says,
I explore dungeons, not characters, and through
the course of exploring the dungeon and having the adventures, the character is
formed. The character is not a collection of adjectives, he or she is the
product of events.
 Or, to quote the old proverb, adversity builds character.  That's at least what I mean when I say "I explore dungeons, not characters."


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  2. My stupid work computer screws up everything. Alright, I'm going to probably write about this tomorrow on my own blog. I have this urge to write a rebuttal that's not nearly so polemic as what I originally had. Suffice it to say, I detect an undercurrent of smug superiority. I, for one, have had more fun playing point-buy games like Vampire: the Requiem and purposely set out to explore a theme and characters as opposed to 3d6 per stat and then everyone ends up playing an uninspired version of themselves in armor or wizard robes.

  3. Please do, Dave. I'll be eager to read it.

    I'm not intentionally trying to sound superior, but IME I've had a lot of great game experiences where people let their PCs develop in play, while ones where everyone showed up to the table with detailed characters in mind tended to be, to use Forge/Edwards jargon, full of 'drift' and 'incoherent.'

    As always, YMMV.

  4. Oh, no, YOU don't sound superior. You sound fine.

    As for "drift" and "incoherency" in game, a lot of that depends on the psychology of the players. I've mentioned before how out-of-game trust and friendship usually leads to teamwork in game, whereas casual acquaintanceship or the presence of more narcissistic players can lead to too much in-party conflict, backstabbing, sabotage... and ultimately "drift" and "incoherency." This, I guess, is what Edwards discusses when he talks about social contract in games. Some people are inflexible. Look at some of the stories Brunomac has on his site. Doesn't matter if you're playing 3d6 six times or not, problem players are going to muck up your game.