Ways to deal with Characters in the setting
Before I go into this post, I want to explain something…I am not posting a (directly) world building article. But, there are a couple of reasons for that. 1st…I wanted to post this article. Second, World building is a HUGE topic. As far as RPGs go, it really is setting building, so any of the “Ecology” articles will be relevant. What are people looking for? The various and assorted dregs of ideas that I use to build new settings? Tools to build world/universe maps? Building stories and plot arcs? I guess I set the question too broad…So, I will be posting another poll…but it will be a fill in the blank…What kind of things do YOU want to see? And lastly…what do you think of my new layout? I might be playing around with them a bit in the near future. Please NOTE: The hexes at the top Right are the menu’s!
Now…to the point!
One of the issues that ref’s have is dealing with disruptive characters. The player is usually fine, but the character is causing problems (usually a psych type motivation or maybe a bestest) . The fighter who gets into fights with the least provocation…not with fellow PCs, but with NPCs…bar patrons, thugs, etc. The thief who feels the need to pickpocket every merchant they see, and relies on quick feet when the roll fails…the assassin who routinely murders people because they look at them cross-eyed.
None of these are necessarily BAD character types, but they can make for disruptive games. So, what can you do? Actually quite a lot, ranging from the “settle down” comment to the player, to the Blue bolt from the sky, leaving only a smoking pair of boots! (Yes, even if the character was barefoot…but that is a bit of a more gruesome sight…) But, this post has a bit of world building to it, so let me lean on that. I have already addressed some of the problems of the troublesome player, and will assume you have taken care of that.
The first thing is character boundaries. I have discussed the need for building a team of characters. So, the first thing to do, if your character wants to play a low down murdering scum bounty hunter / assassin, but your game is about lawful obedience to gods of light…you might veto the character. OR you might sit with the player, explain the arc, and see if this character can be led to a path of redemption. If that works, then you have a hook…the first priest who assigns the task has seen this poor urchin, and charges one of the paladins to convert him from his heathen and un social ways! (sorry…we are not worried about hooks…but that one was too easy!) If the character doesn’t fit the adventure, find out what appeals to the player and see if you can fit their wants into a character that does fit. Or, would everybody rather play a dark and EVIL campaign…(I will cover EVIL campaigns sometime). I won’t go into this discussion for now, we already have a given that the PLAYER is not the problem. The next, and perhaps most important thing, is societal boundaries. One of the biggest jobs for a ref is to try to suspend disbelief in a game about the Ahlflin, a small creature with small eyes, big ears and Huge teeth, who is driving the living spaceship at 100 times the speed of light through the heart of a black hole in pursuit of one of the mighty space dragons. Part of that suspension is to represent the society in which they live. And society has rules. I am not talking LAWS and I am not going to get on my high horse about legislation and morals…Rules for people to live together. No matter the setting, Killing people is bad. Behavior that disrupts society is BAD, and every society has a way to enforce that. A society is any group of people. a party of 4 have their own society. And they have ways of enforcing it. A star faring civilization of trillions of souls have a different society. The general rule is that the larger the society, the more rigid the standards. It is ok for a single couple to live however they wish, doing what ever they wish…but, when millions are involved, the rules are more restrictive to keep order, if not peace. So…how does this play to RPGs and reffing? ENFORCE THE RULES!
I am not talking about the game book. I am talking about the society. If someone attacks a city militia member, they will be, at the least, shunned. If no one saw it, and the perpetrator ensured their were no witnesses, then the militia/guard will increase their patrols…either nobody traveling alone or more often patrolling the area. If entire guard patrols are wiped out, then every available guard will be called out…they may fail morale checks, and for a while, your characters may rule a town out of fear…but that leads to secretive enemies, who may try to murder them…and eventually, they will send for a band of adventurers to deal with these evil tyrants. What about Assassins? OK. You allow assassins in your games, fine. Do you also include guilds, or are they all self-employed and freelance? Either way, the establishment will likely not appreciate people working “their turf” without sanction…and any assassin worth the title won’t kill for free…and they then becomes a target of the locals. Thieves and pirates will draw the ire of law enforcement. People who don’t pay the graft to the keepers of the shadow market will be separated from their outlet…at least!
How can you catch the player who is breaking these societal norms? Investigation! Somebody will be in charge of seeking out the ne’er-do-wells. How can they find them? What tools do they have? Magic? Science? Divine guidance? What value is magic in criminal investigation? How difficult is it to kill someone when you can bring in the local necromancer to ask the spirit of the victim who killed them? So how does your murderer keep the spirit from speaking…oh what games just that trail of crumbs could lead to! What about a theocratic society, based upon a pantheistic belief? They may use Paladins of the god of justice to investigate crimes. Priests of the goddess of Revenge to carry out punishment. Temple of the Patron of Slavers to deal with sentencing. Technology…extrapolate any CSI type show. In short, you can use whatever tools available to carry out enforcement of rules. Maybe is just the Biggest thug that hangs out at the dock…for a few coins, he visits the perpetrator with a whack-bonk. (What’s a whack-bonk? A leather bag filled with lead shot…whack someone upside the head, and you hear a bonk as the head bounces off the floor!). Maybe it is hiring gunslinger from San Francisco…he has a gun, and he travels! Summoned Demons? Summoned Angels? Created bio hunters that track a single DNA pattern that never sleeps? Or just calling the police. All of these can be used to keep players in line. Your game, no matter the setting will have some rules and some punishments. It may range from a death sentence by stoning for any infraction, to banishment, to weregild Man has inflicted some harsh punishments upon other men throughout history. Sometimes it is just because they were the enemies…but sometimes they were enemies because they couldn’t live in the rules of their society.
Simply put, think about the society. What are the rules of that society? How are the rules enforced? And then have your society enforce them!
That’s my story. Take it or leave it. My trucker buddies, they believe it!