I remember the first time I sat down with a group of roleplayers – whom I’d met through the Nanowrimo (it’s a big project that I’m a volunteer for – 50,0000 words in 30 days over the month of November. It’s quite literally, a blast!) and it was widely agreed that I would be a *great* addition to the group. I’m not sure whether it was a mix of stage fright, having not roleplayed since before my kids were born, or both, but those first sessions were horrible!
The next game was better though – it was easier to play, but I still felt something wasn’t quite right. It’s taken several years to get to the understanding that I’ve found, so I thought I’d save new writers the soul searching of "do I suck as a player?"
You don’t – you’re just not used to someone else being in control of the story.
That’s not to say that the GM has sole ‘control’ over the story – the best games are designed to unfold themselves, within guidelines that the GM provides and the players either explore or explode. But as a writer, you might have instincts that lead you to do something else – especially if the story is floundering or nothing seems to be happening. After all, it’s a cardinal writing sin.
No matter what your instincts, you’ve got to let people play out their character development, but still preserve yours. Character development might be following an assassin’s lead because it gets the mission done or it could be a mage threatening to torch a vampire if he doesn’t behave himself, but whatever it is, you have to follow it through.
Writers are legendary for writing themselves out of corners – in the case of roleplaying, you should try to get out of tight spots, but you’ve got to do it without meta-gaming, and without doing something that your character wouldn’t. And that’s the hardest line for a writer – or anyone creative to walk. How do you know whether your character would MacGyver something together because they’ve had a stellar idea, or if they’ve got this knowledge that’s untraceable on the character sheet but work well for that specific roll?
And that’s the big question – and is the difference between your garden variety roleplayer and your overbearing gamer. It’s not just writers that do it, but I’m always aware, as a writer, that I’m always careful to play within boundaries that I set up, for myself. Sometimes I talk with the GM, but in many cases I just work with the character sketch I’ve got. Sometimes I follow my instincts and go for the solution that I’ve come up with, but mostly, I do my best to roll with the punches.
Kai always loves meeting new and returning Nanowrimoers!