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MoonHunter Sayeth 20171201 (Delayed)


Game Guru-Thread Shepherd
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Playing Yourself aka The Nuclear Mine Field

Since we are all gamers here, we can easily admit that we often think of things in the real world in game terms. Someone screws up badly, and we smirk and say to ourselves, "Rolled a Fumble". A friend strikes out trying to pick up a new friend, "Dude, Failed that seduction roll". Someone goes off on a hair brain idea, you confide to a fellow gamers, "Yah, he is Wis 4." It is all in fun and lets us use the descriptive power of game systems to model real life.

A thought exercise everyone does now and again is to stat themselves up in the game system of a choice. Usually it is a "version of themselves that exists in this alternate setting". It is you, looking at you, so everything is alright.

Then The Idea happens.

I seems like a great idea. It would be fun. You don't stop to think about
"What could go wrong?".

In the early days of gaming, we didn't know better. In fact many games said to assign yourself numbers and play yourself (adding a super hero origin or mystical event). Some writers got smarter and said, play yourself in 10 years (where obviously you trained like The Batman). Of course the hobby was all younger people back then, so we didn't need age rules for us in 10 years.

Still people kept having The Idea.

"Let's stat ourselves up and run ourselves in a game."

First thing, there is a reason we are gamers and not "adventurers". Most of us are not as competent in adventuring things as a character. But let us put that aside for the moment.

I am going to remind my dear readers that I have been gaming since 1976. I have done this a couple of times in a couple of systems. I have talked with others about when they did it. Let me give you my current answer to that question.

No. NO! One Thousand times NO!


Okay, that last bit is a bit excessive. However, I just want you to know what happens.

I have seen this done in the last 40 years of gaming. It inevitably leads to bad feelings and heart ache, and sometimes mental and social complications.

Let me give you some of the highlights that express the potential nuclear landmines here. I use the term nuclear landmine because when one goes off, it tends to cause others to go off or make the game itself a bit toxic.

The guy who compared his stats to his friends had his feeling soo hurt (I mean he was STR 8, DEX 9 CON 10, INT 18... and our jockish friend had great stats and a merely average INT... ). He left the game crying. He came back when we stopped playing this game.

Someone thought it was just the GM's opinions that were hurtful. People were making up their own stats. Someone decided that he was basically Captain America, with olympic level gymnastics (Okay he could do a handstand and a forward roll, but he was not....) Other people were similarly optimistic about their level of skill (you're as good as a PHD? Really). People began to call "bullshit". (And throw things as I remember it.) That game broke down in character generation. After a run to a pizza place and the comic store, we tried again.

So we had the group vet everyone's stats and skills. The player gave their idea for it and the group modified it up and down... usually down. Then people started to get petty and vengeful about other stats and skills. Still there were a lot of hurt feelings about that. That attempt died in a toxic pit. It took that group a few weeks to get back together and game.

Not in my game, but.... The player who thought he was "cool in the occult" but wasn't allowed to have any powers... not even ESP.. even though the system allowed it.. because the GM didn't believe him or in them. He became the game's problem player because, and I quote, "It was total bullshit game." (To be truthful, the guy did score a 1.6 on Zenner (8 of 25 statistically high).

It was not all disasters and people leaving in character creation. So long as you don't get hung up on the character sheets then the games seemed to work better. Or so you would think. Nope. I was still a mine field. These games were the gift that kept on giving.... in play.

Seemingly random things set people off. Since they were the character, everyone seemed to take it personally. Arguments like my group had never seen before erupted. Not about the expected mechanics, but about what to do and how... and who should do them. Screaming matches. My gamers were normally pretty laid back, but this came along... often when we ran the chronicle.

Then there were the seemingly innocent things that created responses way out of proportion. There were numerous. Nobody knew why it happened and people seldom explained. It just did.

Not in my game, but .... The player's character that found themselves in a socially (and potentially sexually) awkward situation. Not ready to admit things to themselves or out themselves publicly, he Rage Quit the game right there (we didn't have the phrase rage quit back then, but storming out while yelling does fit that bill). He came back when they stopped playing "The Nightmare Game." (Years later, we got an explanation as to why it happened.)

Oh and The Nightmare Game is what many of my players took to calling our run of six sessions, after the overlap of the groups happened.

A character was taken out of play due to injuries. He didn't want to play another character when everyone was playing themselves, so he sat out the rest of the the chronicle making healing checks in the village and being snarky.

The arguments about "what my skills should do" were on going. Never have I ever experienced that much argument about skills and what they can do... then or since.

The guy who died in game? He took it personally. He gave up RPG gaming. Soon after, he gave up talking to us.

You would think it would be about the manifest failures of yourself as an adventurer that would be the problems.

Oh no. The worst one? The one that did the most damage to me the GM....

The guy who "succeeded".

He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. He was on a streak of good rolls. He felt like such a loser in real life, that when he did well (and his character stats/skill were not out of line), he loved it. He always wanted to play this chronicle. He worked at pushing us together to game this chronicle. Even as we were shedding players, he was the driving force behind us playing. He wanted to play this chronicle even after everyone said, "no". He hounded me to run solo games. Which I did once or twice. He left dozens phone messages (he would of made a stalker proud). He just... well... When I told him in person that nobody is going to play/run this campaign anymore... he cried for like an hour... in a fetal position. He would not talk to me for weeks after that. He was my best friend.

Would I run this again?

Would I play this again?
Did you not read the above piece?

This is something you do when you're a teenager and never/ seldom talk about again.

While I like to exaggerate to make a point, there are few absolutes. Maybe an older, more mature group might have better luck at this. It might work if you create a "version of you" from an alternate world. This would create some psychological distance that might make it work better....

In honesty, I think the answer is still no.

I wouldn't want to run that or play as myself in a setting. I enjoy making different characters and personalities and then delving into what makes sense to them or makes them tick. In some ways it's exploring parts of myself or my views of others. The character actually being me, just doesn't work for that.

Think about the reason most of us play rpgs - to explore different personas in vast, imaginary worlds where we don't have to be limited by "what we'd do". I don't want playing ourselves to make people feel hindered and unable to engage with the game.

Also, let us think about that first point. Are you going to succeed as an adventurer? Do you have maintenance meds or medical issues? Can you survive a 30 mile a day hike? Really, how good are your melee/ unarmed combat/ firearm skills? Are you cut out to be an action hero/ story protagonist? How long are we going to survive?

Should you play this?

Now that's a very different question and the answer is maybe. If it's something that you and your troupe like the concept of and your able to disconnect from it enough that there is no potential trouble of hurt feelings and you'd have fun. Then sure.. your mileage might vary.

This one falls into the "have a honest discussion with your group" category. They might have some concerns or a history with the subject like I do.

Sure, you can do this. It might work okay. We had some people that overcame the issues with character generation and went on to play. Then things blew up... again and again. And thinking I did something wrong, I tried this a couple of times to see if it was me. Nope. It wasn't. In my opinion it is nothing but nuclear landmines waiting to happen.

Tip toe carefully in the glowing tulips if you try it.
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