So having talked a bit about types of gamers, and elements in a character you may be thinking I am totally nuts, or you may be wondering how to get everyone on board and try to get a little more role play in your game.
Lets start out with what players can do to encourage each other to add a bit more depth into their characters.
The first and easiest thing players can do is to ask each other questions about their characters. Imagine an exchange like this…
Player A : So you have a pretty cool sword in game, I mean you put a lot of money into it. What makes it so special?
Player B : Its big and does a lot of damage.
Player A : So did you give it a name?
Player B : Why would I do that?
Player A : Well you know how in most of the good novels and movies the hero always has a name for their really cool weapons. Heart Seeker, The So and So family blade, and other stuff that they can call out during a fight. You seem to like that sort of thing so I thought you might have named it.
Player B : hmmmm…
It is a little thing. It is not asking the other player for a background. Some players wont bite on the suggestion and you will have to try other little ways to get them to add bits and pieces as you play but I think you can see the lots of ways you can get this going. Ask someone playing a Ranger why that species is their favored enemy. Ask a Wizard what makes the specific spells she has so important. Ask the Cyborg what part they got replaced first.
I have found that even with the most dedicated power gamers little questions like this over time can lead to players thinking past the numbers and developing much more fleshed out characters.
Some players have a bit of a challenge thinking about things like this at first, so the second thing players can do to help each other out is to make sure that when you do ask questions you are ready to follow up your questions with examples from popular media that the other player might be familiar with. This may require a bit more effort on the part of the player asking the question, but it will be worth it in the end.
The third thing is that the most powerful examples you can have some times are what inspired you to make the character you did. Did you have a fully fleshed out idea in mind? Did the way the dice rolled up the characteristics remind you of another character? And if in these examples you have to blatantly admit that you stole some ideas from a book or a movie, be honest about it.
Lastly, be supportive. When players step outside their comfort zone and play a new character type, or try to develop a background for the first time, it can feel intimidating. Not everyone has the confidence to jump into anything more than making the numbers match up right off the bat. And that is totally cool. Players need to support each other. You are a team after all.
Now from the GM’s perspective there is also a lot you can do to help encourage players to make a fully fleshed out character.
First is that you can pick a game engine that gives you ways to flesh out your characters more. Cyberpunk 2020, Palladium Books, and Role Master all make you or give you the option of walking character creation through your characters background to build them in a story like fashion. The Cypher System and Over the Edge have you build a character with descriptive terms so you sort of start them out in the flesh. Champions and GURPS build with a point base that requires you to take faults and flaws and quirks to round out your point costs. These added details can be fleshed out at any point to add more depth…
Actually here is an example from a Champions game…
Player A : I need 25 more points to finish off the character.
GM : Do you have any Hunted flaws?
Player A: No
GM : Ok then put down Hunted by Bob 11 or less. We can figure out who he is later.
That exchange ended up resulting in one of the strangest NPCs I have ever seen, and it actually got more than a few players involved in not only the characters story, but in to the NPC’s story as well.
So other than picking a system that encourages character depth, what else can a GM do?
Controlling the table is another thing. By that I mean enforcing that when players are at the table they are in character. The fastest way I have found to do this is to set a rule that anything said at the game table is said by the character. If you are using out of game information at the table it is bad for the player and their character both. If they keep themselves in character at the table you can offer bonus XP or other rewards.
The third big thing is to, from right at the beginning, reward players for going more in depth regarding their characters. XP for doing backgrounds, material rewards or something else for coming up with art that fits their character (drawn, photoed in cosplay or copied from online). Something for adding a soundtrack to their character. As long as you set the expectation for the players from the very first game session and you remain consistent in your rewards this sort of things can make players reach a bit deeper for the possible rewards. Now then if you are not applying this equally to all your players, you will cause a rift and screw up the group and you may well loose your gaming friends. So keep an eye on yourself. And if someone speaks up. Listen.
The last thing is something that should have come first in all likelihood but so it goes. That is to actually talk to your players. If you have three players who want character depth and story and three who just want to break stuff, you may want to consider two groups. If you have only one player who wants to do deep story then you might want to see if you can do that outside of the regular group sessions so that the player can work out the story. If you have just one player who wants to just destroy everything and not role play at all, consider bringing that player to your side of the table. Put them in charge of the monsters and the monsters tactics. You will likely need to scale down the power of your NPCs due to the new levels of aggression they may have. But that is all good too.
I am sure that as players and GMs you will come up with other ideas, or just pan the idea and go about your business. Just remember that in the end it is your game, and your characters. If my suggestions are not the way you want to play, that is totally awesome too. It is your game. Play it your way.
Now gimme the dice, I need to role up a random game generator generator.
hope you all continue to have fun and play nice with each other. 😉