Asking more about playing multiple characters

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Asking more about playing multiple characters
« on: September 23, 2010, 10:50:58 AM »
Quote
PLAYING 2 CHARACTERS

__ create a second character to play, so now you’re playing two

Oh like it’s such a big shocker or so difficult to do. I mean, shit,
you’re the MC, you have 30 characters at a time, and your players
shy away from playing 2? The real question is, why don’t people
usually play with more than 1?

(I ask specifically about your games, figure this would be the right forum for it? Apologies if not!)

I'm curious! Vincent, can you talk more about playing more than one character in games other than Apocalypse World?

1) Have you or the groups you've taken part in done it, how often, and with what systems - things like that? It was a completely alien concept to me before AW, so I'd love to hear more about it. What's good about it when it works, and what can make it go wrong?

2) Would you say this works in any of your other games? Could a player go into Dogs with two characters, or IAWA with multiples? What do you think the pros and cons of such an approach are? Would any rules need to be tweaked?

3) And lastly, are there any games out there that you think are really, really good when a player plays multiple characters, regardless of whether or not the rules encourage it?

Re: Asking more about playing multiple characters
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2010, 05:04:11 PM »
I'm not Vincent, but I'll claim proximity counts for this one :) Also, I've played multiple characters since I started playing, back 30-odd years ago.

1) Have you or the groups you've taken part in done it, how often, and with what systems - things like that? It was a completely alien concept to me before AW, so I'd love to hear more about it. What's good about it when it works, and what can make it go wrong?

I'd say we wind up with some shade of multiple character roughly 50% of the time, regardless of system. Sometimes it's just as simple as a player 'doing the voice for' a minor NPC related to the player's PC.

Example 1: We're playing Dogs in the Vineyard, and your Dog is talking to the NPC cousin of my Dog, in this town we just rode into. The GM might be running the Steward in the scene, and a couple other NPCs, and then your Dog might ask the cousin "So where can we rest up before tackling this infestation of rats you have here?" and I might 'do the voice for' that NPC -> "There's a good dry barn out back of Uncle Hank's; I reckon he'd welcome you there." I'd probably glance at the GM first to be sure s/he wasn't planning anything, then next time we saw that NPC, I might 'do the voice for' the cousin again. It's not a fully statted up PC, but it's one way it happens. It makes for a richer, more diverse set of NPCs, since it's not just one brain running them. In a game like Dogs, with a strong GM, the GM gets veto power over any NPC of course, no matter how much I've been 'doing the voice' for it.

Example 2: Sometimes we've played games where we're going into a big event, like a town meeting or a wizard's council, and we go through and decide who's going to run which of the masses of NPCs. We still recognize that there are PCs and NPCs, but if it's you and me and Mitch (hi Mitch!), and we've got twenty NPCs at this big event, it's masses easier if we just divvy them up, talk a bit about their motives, and then just play them. This lets the GM not worry about keeping everything in her head, and instead she can think about story arc and fronts and cool details. When the big event is over, our PCs go home and the GM might make some notes about stuff that happened, in case she wants to bring any of those NPCs back, but it's not expected that we'll see them often.

Example 3: The other is when you do stat up two (or more) characters. How that works is I make two characters (or a second to bring in, as with AW), and play them both. It's a lot like cutting back and forth between plot-lines in a movie or TV episode or book - sometimes one character gets more screen time than the other, they are not always in the same scene together, and it gives me two points of perspective on the action.

That last is a HUGE bonus, and leads straight to the next part of your question: What's good about it when it works, and what can make it go wrong?

What's good about it is the ability to be two places at once! I'm currently playing Mox and Keeler in our AW game. Mox is the Angel, Keeler's the Gunlugger. Having two PCs means I'm twice as likely to be in a scene with another PC. I can have Mox be hanging with Brace, so I can take part in whatever's doing at home *and at the same time* I can have Keeler on a shopping running to Harridan's! I could be in simultaneous scenes with Rose and Amanueal (r.i.p), even when they were on opposite sides of the world.

The other major good thing is the ability to approach the setting from different angles. I can play Damvild the Bjornar, who's fairly pragmatic and family-oriented, and Oldoyn the flighty and weird Criamon, *and* the disarmingly friendly and slightly disturbing Jerbiton mage Ardesco. Playing multiple characters gives me more ways to engage in the over-all story, and more options in a given scene as to how I want to take part. Note: sometimes it's great to just play one character!

Brass tacks: If you're going to try it, make sure the two PCs are whole and unique characters, that you feel you can inhabit and play with solidly on their own. They need to be distinct, so your fellow players catch which is 'on' when you talk, especially if both PCs are in the same scene. I think we all unconsciously sit and speak a bit differently when we are in character; figuring out how your two PCs differ in those regards is a really helpful way to clue your fellow players in.

Things I noticed I was doing when I was playing Mox:
Mox is a bigger, older guy, who speaks with a tiny hint of uncertainty at the back of his voice, which is deeper and softer, less clipped, than Keeler's. Also, Mox tends to sit back in his chair a bit more, and he fidgets with his fingers a bit when he's worrying something in his mind.

Things I noticed I was doing when I was playing Keeler:
Keeler speaks clearly and with authority, but she's not in it for the love the way Mox is. If it's not her problem, it's not her problem. She doesn't fidget, she sits solidly but leans forward on the balls of her feet, ready to move.

Also, even the most quick-on-the-pick-up folks are going to mistake one PC for another sometimes - don't sweat it.

If it's not working, it will be because one character is just being sidelined, not getting enough screen time to flesh out into a full PC. This is fine if they are sort of taking turns in the spot-light, but not fine if you are just not playing that character. If you're not interested in them, in that angle, it's probably better to either let them fade into NPC status. If there's an MC or GM, they might be forgetting about that PC, especially if they are new to players running multiple PCs. In that case, you need to step it up and get your second PC involved in the storyline. Walk on-scene, say what that PC is doing ("Meanwhile, I'm over at the AutoMart stocking up on rusty screwdrivers"), get into a conversation with another player's PC. Playing multiples is not for everyone, or for every game.

2) Would you say this works in any of your other games? Could a player go into Dogs with two characters, or IAWA with multiples? What do you think the pros and cons of such an approach are? Would any rules need to be tweaked?

Some games are way more supportive than others - it's easy to play multiple PCs in In a Wicked Age, frex, but not so much with My Life With Master. 1001 Nights assumes the ability, and also teaches how to do it, to some extent. Dogs would be pretty challenging, I think, but not impossible. I wouldn't want to lead out with that as my first multiple PC game, anyway. I'll let Vincent speak to that more directly.

3) And lastly, are there any games out there that you think are really, really good when a player plays multiple characters, regardless of whether or not the rules encourage it?

We played Ars Magica for years - probably almost 10 years, if you combine the various games - with each player running multiple PCs. I can't imagine playing it any other way, and it really was the first to suggest 'hey, this is a cool option', alongside troupe-style 'GM-less' play. I think Primetime Adventures could work, although spot-lighting episodes would be a bit trickier. No real reasons I can see why Sorcerer and Misspent Youth couldn't work with multiple PCs. As far as rules encouraging it. I'm a bit hazy.

Re: Asking more about playing multiple characters
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2010, 05:18:28 PM »
VERY helpful, thank you!

There's a lot of thought-food in your post. I've probably got a ton more questions, but I want to digest all this first.

Re: Asking more about playing multiple characters
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2010, 03:33:41 PM »
Cool, I'll look forward to more questions!

Re: Asking more about playing multiple characters
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2010, 03:51:18 PM »
I've got some!

1) How do you deal with a player having two of their own characters in the same scene with each other? I asked this in the AW forum, but I'm still experimenting. Do you avoid it, or is there a special system involved? Do you think there's an issue of players pulling their punches against their own characters in that kind of situation, even if they don't really mean to?

2) What about sharing characters, or trading them off? I take the character this session, and you play him the next? Or even later on that session? Have you dabbled in that, and what's that like? Ever pawn off a character for someone else to play, and take on a new one?

3) Ooh, or what about multiple GMs? How is that like, passing the reins from one player to another? I'm thinking, like, In a Wicked Age here or something. Or have you ever tried one main GM and another co-GM or anything like that?

Re: Asking more about playing multiple characters
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2010, 07:09:18 PM »
1) How do you deal with a player having two of their own characters in the same scene with each other? I asked this in the AW forum, but I'm still experimenting. Do you avoid it, or is there a special system involved? Do you think there's an issue of players pulling their punches against their own characters in that kind of situation, even if they don't really mean to?

When I have two PCs in the same scene, I be extra, extra careful and obvious about visual cues. I don't go out of my way to avoid having them both in the scene, but I do elide any 'talking to myself over here' bits, and just sum up: 'Mox tells Keeler all about the stuff she missed.' When I have a player with two PCs in a scene, I make extra, extra effort to have (and communicate!) a clear sense of the physical space, and to pay close attention to their cues. I also go a little slower with the action, to be sure everyone's clear on who's doing what.

The last half of this question seems to assume each PC is strictly out for themselves. Yeah, generally it's not easy and really not much fun to play your own antagonist. I don't think it's a matter of pulling my punches so much as a practical thing. If I'm in a game with other people, I'm going to make them the targets of my PC's affection/distrust/antagonism. I have played multiples that didn't exactly get on, or that just obviously avoided each other, but it's been a little side bit of color, not anything that would come to punches, pulled or not.

2) What about sharing characters, or trading them off? I take the character this session, and you play him the next? Or even later on that session? Have you dabbled in that, and what's that like? Ever pawn off a character for someone else to play, and take on a new one?

I don't have a lot of experience with this, although there are games written with that particular design goal. Sorcerer works well with a couple people playing aspects of the same PC. I think playing shared PCs is harder, as generally I develop a direction I'm going with a PC, and then if you're going to run that PC next session, I won't be as committed in my play this session. It does work for NPCs, though, in the 'doing the voices for' aspect of multiple character play. And yes, I have occasionally picked up or laid down a PC that was not getting play from me or that I wanted to bring forward. This happened naturally in our longest running Ares Magica game, where I might start with a mage and her apprentice, but not really have a clear idea for the apprentice. Then if Vincent or Emily had an idea for the apprentice, they might pick it up and run with it.

3) Ooh, or what about multiple GMs? How is that like, passing the reins from one player to another? I'm thinking, like, In a Wicked Age here or something. Or have you ever tried one main GM and another co-GM or anything like that?

Multiple GMs rocks on toast when it works. When it doesn't, it pretty much breaks the session, maybe even the campaign. In a Wicked Age and 1001 Nights are designed to share GM-ship at a certain point. In order for it to work, the people co-GMing have to have good clear communication, and a shared vision of the world. If it's more a division of labor style, then maybe I GM big story, and you GM combat and Mitch (hi Mitch!) GMs magic stuff.