07 Nov GM Lessons #5: “Secondary” Characters

An article for Role Players not Roll Players

Jet Liberson is one of the original playtesters of Immersion RPG, and has helped coax it along since its infancy. Passionate about RPGs, he is well known for his love of playing unusual (or sometimes outright bizarre) characters that never quite fit any sort of mould. See what he says of Immersion RPG here.

Like many of you I have spent a large portion of my gaming experience teamed up in a group crashing through dungeons and slaying opponents who have stood between us and the maiden fair.

I’ve also had a fair chunk of solo play, especially in the last few years with the early play testing of the Immersion RPG system.

Suffice to say I’ve done the gallant hero, many roguish almost-heroes, a handful of pretty useless but funny dudes and some not-so-ethical sorts who spent more time cackling and attempting to serve the party Barbecued Gnoll than actually providing a helping hand.

The problem with group play is in some way EVERYONE wants to be the main guy. We all deep down inside want to be the show stopper. I’m not saying we can’t work well as a team and bring in the gold, gems and glory, but if every character is the same we may as well all be fiddling with an X-Box.

Instead of tweaking out your character, min-maxing the pants off of him/her until you are playing some magic-enhanced steroidal half-dragon-half-demi-god of the joy-kill realm in an attempt to compensate and over take your companions. Just step back and think of how much fun you can have being a secondary style character, who places bloodlust at the bottom of the list.

And I’m not saying “Son, it’s okay to come in second. There is no shame in losing.” Tits to that buddy, we’re gonna win. But sneaky like.

For instance, early on in the Immersion game testing we had a large-scale four player steampunk campaign going.

Now four players is a fairly big group in my opinion, that’s a lot of activity to get through for one round of actions in a fight. What’s even worse than four players scrabbling for a hit on an opponent is when those four players have four different things to do in town. And then it gets even messier when they split up and all go off having different fights and so forth. Not that our story teller wasn’t capable – it can just take a lot longer to get from A to B.

So my character that time around was a wealthy, eccentric summoner called Hannibal. This chap was interesting in the fact that essentially he became the “quest giver” as he was the entire reason that four characters who would usually have little or nothing to do with each other climbed on an air ship and made a voyage in search of old Aztec cities filled with gold (and ancient demon-summoning rituals bwahahaha).

As Hannibal I was more than content to watch the game unfold and tug little strings here and there. Rick, the gun-toting cowboy, was the star of the show and rightly so, some of the rolls he got saw his character pulling off feats that would leave Hollywood action movie stars shaking their heads and muttering. As Hannibal I would sit back and let the “hired help” take care of situations – occasionally summoning up some other worldly entity when things got dicey. In that entire campaign Hannibal fired his pistol just once – not that there wasn’t cause to take action before that, but why should he, a man of noble blood dirty his hands if he didn’t have to?

Related:  GM Tips #20: Cooperative Storytelling Is the New Black

Instead he had other issues to take care of, such as which port he would be drinking with dinner, tending to the needs of his little brother Peter (actually a demon placed into the body of his deceased younger sibling…the conversations that were had with him in full Cambridge accent left a few of the players I was with questioning my sanity) and then there was always the need to perfect his rituals. It’s not easy placing the soul back into a dead body you know, especially when you wish to bind its will and create the perfect butler.

It’s all well and good to create a bloodthirsty warrior when you play a hack and slash system, but Immersion RPG is story based. The dice and rules are there to simulate a universe where your intention is put to the test by counter intention, much like everyday life. So treat it as such.

Your character can be anything you want them to be so why play twenty six Lawful Good paladins in a row? Instead, think about trying something new and exciting, and let the brutes do all the work for you!

*Insert dastardly cackle here*

Hannibal – “Now say good bye Peter.”

Peter – “Good bye. I’m very sorry I could not eat you.”

Hannibal – “That wasn’t very polite Peter, you’ll scare our guests.”

Peter – “Good brother, they taste better with a little fear to season them.”

Hannibal – “Oh Peter…”

-Jet Liberson

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Guy Fawkes image from Chris Rawlins on Deviant Art. See it here.

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