First let me start with the clarifications and disclaimers that the more hysterical reactionary readers will likely ignore anyway but I’m giving it a shot regardless:
The following game concepts generally have one thing in common that make them bad: a complete lack of any research or background. I give new players a few months to fill in the blanks – particularly if they are new to gaming in general and/or were throwing together a character to try out the local game, play at a convention, etc. I expect more from more experienced players. That doesn’t mean you, the player, needs to be an expert on everything your character is (this is for FUN after all), but you should at least do enough research to be able to make some interesting conversation at a game. For instance, I made a character that was skilled at various forms of fortune telling. I read about these forms, had the fortune telling “equipment” (if you will) on me, but was not skilled at fortune telling. The main thing was to be able to talk the talk enough to be interesting and to not make those who are skilled sprain their eyeballs rolling them.
Keep in mind: I’ve played some of these concepts and I’ve seen some played well, but the vast majority of these characters I’ve interacted with were poorly researched and thought out and about as interesting to role play with as a stump. Think of this more as guidelines for how not to role play these character concepts.
Geisha (usually played by Daeva or Toreador if playing in the Old World of Darkness – OWoD – setting)
Hi, I have this neat Geisha outfit that I bought/made/had made and so I’m playing a Geisha character. I haven’t done any research though so, really, I’m just playing dress up and hoping you’ll be so impressed with my outfit that you’ll overlook the fact that I haven’t read so much as ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, much less done any actual research about them.
Tips: Read at least one non-fiction book about Geishas that has good reviews. Know what time period your character needed to be living in to be trained as a Geisha and what skills/talents they would be expected to know at that time. Think about when they were turned as a vampire and why they continue to dress as/be a Geisha. What mannerisms would Geishas exhibit. What kinds of things can you find out to tell people that they might not know about Geishas from bad movies/fiction books? You know, things you can talk about at a game.
Vampire Whore/Madam/Pimp (played by same as above)
Same as the Geisha in that no actual research has been done – beyond bad stereotypes found in equally bad movies (and maybe not even that). Basically the player is dressing in their idea of vampire sexy or like Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch(Google it). They have not thought out how their character feeds, keeps a client base, keep from being arrested, dealing with their workers being picked up (in the case of being a Madam/Pimp), thought about how they deal with their workers during the day – much less during the summer when it does not get dark out until 10pm. They haven’t put much or any thought into why they are a sex worker or when they started being a sex worker and why. Really, they are just dressing slutty and hoping that their fellow gamers will be too transfixed by their cleavage to notice their character is a one dimensional stereotype. Sadly, this strategy works more often that you would think.
Tips: At the very least you need to think out when/why you became a sex worker and why you continue to be a sex worker. Here’s a hint: if your character kills all or even most of your clients you are doing it wrong. The occasional abusive bastard – sure – but it would be noticeably odd for you to not have many/any repeat customers. Here’s hint #2: Everyone wants to be a “high priced” hooker/madam but it is more worthwhile for the tabloids or a police sting operation to go after you than one of the average street walkers. Look how long the Green River Killer went on before being caught…
Side Note: The first character concept I created on my own was a vampire whore. There was a history for how she came to be a street walker (as a human), why she was embraced, why her sire was not in the picture and why she had come to the city. I could tell you her reasoning for being a common street walker. I could tell you how she survived without a haven until she had one. I could tell you how she stayed out of trouble. She was young by vampire standards but not many knew that and she was a powerful person in her domain because she had “more influence than God” via the game mechanics. I’m sure some members of my family would be alarmed and horrified to see the number of books I have on Prostitution & Sex work on my book shelves – along with various other odd titles I have for character research which include books on making booby traps, disguising oneself, changing identities, various fortune telling books, books on Goddess religions and etc).
Biker Brujah (OWoD)
He’s loud. He’s obnoxious. HE ONLY SPEAKS IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS!!!ELEVINTY!!!!!111 He smells (because you know, real men don’t wash or some shit like that). He has a leather jacket and rides a motorcycle. He’s about a subtle as a bulldozer over eggshells. That’s right he’s the Brujah biker – party of one… *sigh*
Tips: Know more about what motorcycle your character plays other than “Harley”. There are lots of different models of Harley Davidson motorcycles and they’ve been around for a lot of years now. When did you get it? What does it look like? Do you fix it or do you have someone else fix it? If someone else – who? Where? Are parts hard to get for that model? When did you join the gang? Where’s the rest of your gang? Either have a good story about what happened to them or consider getting other local players to make biker game characters to play with you.
Grunge Wearing Gangrel
All I’m asking is that you have more to your character concept besides the fact they wear flannel or camo shirts.
Tips: Back story – get some.
The Corner Brooder
This is a character that sits in the corner or leaned up against a post or something and looks angry. That’s it. This is often played by someone who then complains that no one interacted with them at the game. I’ve got news for you: If my character doesn’t know you and no one introduces her to you, she’s not going to approach you if you look cranky unless she has a job that makes it her business to know who everyone is, because your character might well be stronger and kick my character’s ass for bothering you.
Tips: Make sure there is someone at the game who knows your character and who he might be interested in talking to. Otherwise, when you get bored of standing there looking pissy, please feel free to put on a neutral look and come join in some conversation happening in game or something.
The Terminally Shy
If you look like it makes you really uncomfortable to talk to people, they usually either avoid you or they will decide to mess with your character by getting up close and in their space. You do not get to whine about being ignored or getting picked on if you play this concept in a room full of predator characters.
Tips: If you want to play a shy character then team up with a more outgoing character. Have at least one topic that your character is excited about and will bring her out of her shell. For bonus points – have your character be well able to kick ass and take names if people harass her too much. It’s not that you are helpless – you just don’t like crowds maybe…
I’m an Expert/Important Figure in (insert religion of choice or profession of choice here)
I know fuck-all about this religion/profession but I’m an industry leader all the same. Hell, I don’t even know any jargon or terms that are common with it but – hey – my sheet here says I have 4 dots in it so just work with me on this – okay?
Tips: It’s LARP – Live Action Role Play. 99% of the game is TALKING to other players. Please have something interesting/informative to say about your character, how they got into their religion/profession, and how they got to whatever position they obtained, etc. The higher up the ladder the more you should know. At least know enough to fake it (because, really, I’ve worked for CEO’s who couldn’t find their fucking email application after they minimized it so how hard can it be??).
Please do the world a favor and don’t use the OWoD books or ‘Bury Me Standing’ as a guide to how to play a Gypsy/Rom. There are a fair bit of more reliable and respected (by actual Romany) resources out there – most of which can be checked out from the library. If you just can’t stand reading non-fiction, at least read ‘Mulengro’ by Charles DeLint. Know how they are thought of and treated in Europe. Consider that you might pretend that you are not of that clan. Consider playing the character with some subtlety (Google it).
Last (for now) but certainly not least: I’m a Teddy Bear Carrying Malkavian/Crazy Person
I’m a complete idiot AND batshit insane. I’m too fucked up to really be able to function on my own and have not put any thought to how I live and get by – much less how I manage to not be institutionalized and a walking breach of the Masquerade. The other predators in the room don’t exercise Darwin’s Law on me why?
Tips: It’s far more interesting and terrifying to find out someone you thought really had their shit together is actually completely insane. That would be the subtlety thing again. If you must insist on playing a character with “Multiple Personality Disorder” at the very least take the time to Google that and learn what that designation has been changed to. Also, people with multiple personalities not only go to great lengths to hide the fact they have them from others, I have yet to meet someone with this condition that was not aware of the other personalities. For the love of humanity – do some research and stop regurgitating bad Made for TV stereotypes into the game!
Side Note: I am responsible for a vampire Brownie troupe showing up at a game at Norwescon some years back. We made these as one-off characters because we had come up with Brownie outfits and thought it would be fun. The player that ended up portraying their “father” had the hardest time and I owed him BIG after that. We had an explanation for how this happened (that would be background), why each character had the quirks they had, why we were at the convention (everyone would just think we were in costume!), and we had made merit badges based on the vampire laws – in child speak. We were offered safe passage and asylum by the Prince of Bellingham at the time – because we were clearly able to function in vampire society despite the fact that we were children. One of us was played by a man over 6ft tall with goatee. I have the pictures to prove it. Yes I did know I’m twisted and wrong, why do you ask?
Do you see a pattern here? Most of the issues with these character concepts stem from a lack of thought, research and depth. The biggest difference between table top and Live Action games is that in LARP most of what goes on in a given game is character driven. More specifically, character conversation driven. There are plot seeds dropped here and there but we spend a far greater portion of the game sitting or standing around socializing in character. You don’t need to be a scholar or be a great speaker to make the game enjoyable but you should know about your character and at least something about what they are supposed to be good at. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time and energy either. In the internet age many things can be found with a bit of browsing.
One of the most amusing characters I interacted with in the past was a woman playing a super model with 4 or 5 dots in the Sexy trait and a fair amount of fame. On the surface this might have made me roll my eyes but she was connected to another character who introduced her around and she did things like create mock portfolios to show people her “latest work” – so she had something to talk about at game. You’d be amazed how much little things like that can add to the enjoyment of the game and role play in general. Give it a try. The results might surprise you.
Editorial comment from the Geek Girl What Rules: Word.