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Old 03-28-2020, 06:55 PM
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Feeling Like You're Doing It Wrong

So we're a diverse lot. That's an understatement of legendary proportions, but it warrants stating. This is no longer dndonlinegames. We're a crossing of role-playing games. We share a common thread of appreciation for a style of games that might have little to do with each other beyond aspects of their general format, but it still unites us.

Each of us has a different history. Some of us are grognards from the days before the internet. Some of us started RPing as kids. Some lived through the IM/Chatroom era. Some of us RPed on MMOs.

I have to admit I've gotten discouraged by my experience and the resulting sensation that I'm just doing it wrong, and that the "right" ways of participating aren't viable for me.

I don't emotionally connect to characters. I may have "channeled" a character once in my five years of role-playing. It just isn't something that works for me. Emotions are not a strong suit for me. I connect to things through intellect (not that mine is in any way substantial, just that it's the primary tool used). I think "what would [character] do" rather than any intuition or emotional bond.

And in my myriad conversations with other roleplayers, it's pretty consistent that I'm an anomaly.

I get suggestions on how to connect authentically with a creation. I get all the advice. It just never seems to be compatible.

I don't mean this as complaint. I'm not trying to be fixed at this point. I've accepted that if I'm going to portray a character, it's going to come from my head, and not some deeper alignment of "soul" because we're all wired differently.

What I do want to search for is others who feel a draw to RPGs, but also feel like some facet of their experience doesn't feel "right". Does anyone else feel like they're "doing it wrong"?
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Old 03-28-2020, 08:29 PM
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I literally just walked out of ANOTHER game because of how bad the disconnect was. You may be an anomaly, but trust me, I get it. I think we all get it.

I'm really not much of a role-player when it comes down to it. I love these games, I love writing and telling stories, I love getting to divulge the contents of a characters history and motivations... But there is no emotion to it, and I often play characters who are close to my personality as a result. Yet even then, I seem to constantly upset other players as if I am offending them personally, when it's only an interaction between fictional characters. And I'm so tired of pulling my punches, I already post PG-13 level out of respect. I don't want to play my little pony everywhere I go, I want to play characters with highly damaged pasts and bizarre personalities because I have had a damaged past, I want to portray bizarre characters because I feel like I have to hide in the real world.

So yeah... I seriously have no idea what I am doing wrong, either. I've never felt like I belonged anywhere, maybe I'm just a terrible person?

Playing by post hasn't felt "right" for a long time, but I'm determined to figure it out.
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Last edited by OrianaOleander; 03-29-2020 at 01:25 AM. Reason: Because I'm an emotional idiot
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Old 03-28-2020, 08:38 PM
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Ziether, you're not as much of an 'anomaly' as you think.

I have connected emotionally to only one of my characters in 30+ years of home games (and in my shorter time here). And the reason in my case is, I think, exactly the same as it is with you - I am simply not emotionally-connected IRL either. That isn't to say that either of us is a bad person. I am capable of empathy, but for me it is an act of intellect and imagination, rather than emotion.

IRL, this was a disadvantage when I was younger - it made me very socially awkward.

As I've grown older, however, I've increasingly seen it as an advantage. Deriving empathy from intellect and imagination, rather than emotions, allows me to access that empathy much more reliably and universally. Indeed, I have begun to observe that for people that derive empathy from their emotions, their empathy is inconsistent. They feel strong empathy for some, and limited (or no) empathy for others.

This isn't a criticism, because people are what they are. And that's mostly good... just not perfectly so. Just as you and I are not perfect. You work with what you've got.

So, how does this apply to RP-ing? Well, very strongly, in my opinion.

When I RP, I simply don't emotionally connect with my characters because this is not in my fundamental nature. However, I can still achieve a great deal of personal satisfaction from my characters in other ways:
1. As a mechanism for expanding my intellectual understanding of others. This is very much the experiment I'm currently engaged in in After The Quake (see signature for link). Not to create a female character that is kick-ass and awesome and inspiring to a generation of young girls... but to create a female character that faces the cultural difficulties that women have traditionally faced, and to think about how they 'navigated the minefield', so to speak.
2. As a satisfying fictional creation, in a writerly sense. In other words, to create characters that other people find entertaining. I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of that.
3. As an expression of, or exploration of, philosophical principles that interest me.

Anyway, I hope this was useful for you.
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Old 03-28-2020, 10:06 PM
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One of the things I always try to do before debating anything is understand the terms of the debate.

So... my big question is what do you mean by "emotionally connect" with regard to a PC?

Before I could answer whether I do or I don't (I have my thoughts about it already, but I could be wrong), I would need more info...

What is your idea of emotionally connecting? What does it mean? What does it look like to you?

I know you say that you don't, so what do you think it looks like, from your vantage point at least? What do others describe/tell you?
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Old 03-28-2020, 10:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Admin Dirk View Post
What is your idea of emotionally connecting? What does it mean? What does it look like to you?
The state that is described to me is one where access to the character's responses and thought processes is essentially instinctual. The person creating the character can portray the character's authentic reactions to any number of stimuli without having to ask "what would [character] do?" The one time I can recall connecting like that was when I was pondering a character's response to turbulence in a budding romantic relationship, and the next thing I knew I'd written a poem from his point of view and had tears in my eyes. There was no thought going into it at that point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Admin Dirk View Post
I know you say that you don't, so what do you think it looks like, from your vantage point at least? What do others describe/tell you?
What I hear from others is regular instances where, while the author is not the character, the perspective of the character rises to the fore and can be described in vivid detail without having to individually think about each aspect. A cohesive whole is just "there". Often people discuss sensory triggers to achieve this state (not chemical states).
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Old 03-28-2020, 11:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ziether View Post
I don't mean this as complaint. I'm not trying to be fixed at this point. I've accepted that if I'm going to portray a character, it's going to come from my head, and not some deeper alignment of "soul" because we're all wired differently.
Ziether: I think I play a bit differently than you, so this isn't the exact type of response you were soliciting, but I just wanted to say that after reading through some of your in-play posts, I think any party would be lucky to have you in a game. Exactly as you wrote, some people play from the head and others from the soul—and this site is interesting precisely because it is more conducive to having a group of players that are a random mix of styles and personalities (rather than a self-selected group of friends with similar interests and personalities IRL).

Selfishly, for me, as a new player, I love seeing different styles of portraying a character and am glad that we're not all "fixed" to the same levels of connection to the characters and the same way of portraying them. I enjoyed reading your posts of Kissmia (sp?) they brought a different flavor to that thread—and your stat blocs are a work of art (can I quote them and model some of mine off of those?)!

So, thanks for sharing your thoughts (and for giving me the chance to discover your game threads).
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Old 03-28-2020, 11:41 PM
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It may portray a level of consistency which in no way reflects what actually happens, but I think I'm about 80/20, with eighty being intellectual and twenty being emotional. I find, at least for me, the emotional connection comes and goes as I play.

For not doing it right though, I actually try to work with all those silly things like carry weight, trade goods, soap, etc. and it often appears like I'm the only one. I feel silly when I have a list of gear filling the slots on my inventory and everyone else has maybe four items listed.
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Old 03-29-2020, 12:23 AM
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If I was to play my characters emotionally, every single Shadowrun character I've ever had would have the Vindictive flaw; I personally value people who think about what their character would do over their instinctive response - if you're reacting instinctually rather than thinking about how the character would react instinctively, are you really playing as the character or just projecting yourself into the scene?

Your posts and formatting are all fantastic, the content is solid too, so where's the issue?
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Old 03-29-2020, 07:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ziether View Post
The state that is described to me is one where access to the character's responses and thought processes is essentially instinctual. The person creating the character can portray the character's authentic reactions to any number of stimuli without having to ask "what would [character] do?" The one time I can recall connecting like that was when I was pondering a character's response to turbulence in a budding romantic relationship, and the next thing I knew I'd written a poem from his point of view and had tears in my eyes. There was no thought going into it at that point.



What I hear from others is regular instances where, while the author is not the character, the perspective of the character rises to the fore and can be described in vivid detail without having to individually think about each aspect. A cohesive whole is just "there". Often people discuss sensory triggers to achieve this state (not chemical states).
Thank you.

Based on that, I don't play any of my PC's from an emotional connection. They all come from my imagination, my intellect, I guess. I can picture some of the better ones in my mind's eye, i can think about what they would do in situation X or Y, but it all comes from the mind, not the heart.

So I am much more in your corner of the playing world than the other.
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Old 03-29-2020, 09:41 AM
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You’re not alone. I often ask myself ‘what would my character do’? Sometimes I feel a visceral response for my PC, but this is definitely not the norm.

However, I don’t see why it matters. Whether you connect to characters through emotion or intellect, whether you take ten minutes to dash off a post or ten hours, whether you construct a post from a ‘rollplay’ or ‘roleplay’ perspective first: the only thing anyone else will see is the final product. All that matters is what you actually post—who cares how you got there?
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Old 03-29-2020, 12:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ekidnu View Post
However, I don’t see why it matters [...] Who cares how you got there?
I get what you mean, and tend to agree, so Ziether feel free to correct me, but... I think the issue is that there is at times a strong social disconnect between these two types of players, and when they don't have the same approach/perspective, all kinds of other misunderstandings open up between people. There's no helping the maturity level of people, so it can be really difficult to know how to adapt to people with such different mentality.

In most circumstances, yeah it shouldn't matter. We play the game, we have fun, no need to look too deep into it. But from my example, the issue is the emotional player took my logic-based roleplay "insult" personally. and even when I tried to assuage the matter, it conflated into more drama. I know I share some blame as well, but the frequency of these issues (even in live tabletop games) seems to come from this same disconnect between approaches, logical vs. emotional players.

I likely have an abysmal irl Luck score as well, but that's another topic, I spose.

EDIT: I seem to remember back in the day, ads on Games Seeking Players would often list a ratio of "Roleplay vs Rollplay" which seemed to help sort out these types of players, but I feel like I never see that anymore. Am I behind the times or what?
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I've decided to end my gaming hobby. Even among introverted fantasy gamers, I feel like an outsider. D&D has come to represent disappointment and rejection for me. I leave this record to remind myself to never come back.

Last edited by OrianaOleander; 03-29-2020 at 12:08 PM.
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Old 03-29-2020, 12:12 PM
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Maybe I'm the oddball then. Most of the characters, at least the play by post ones, are writing themselves after the third or fourth post in a game and sometimes sooner. More than once I have been reading a post after I wrote it and having to ask that character 'where the hell did that come from?' because it certainly was not what I intended when I sat down to type it out. To be honest, now that I am pondering it, I do not really actively think too much, with exception of word choice, when I'm actually writing and the words are flowing. I'll do plenty of thinking or plotting about things in between posts, but once I've sat down to begin typing and started up that character's soundtrack I have grown to accept that for most of my characters I lose any active control over what they do. It's strange sometimes.

Unfortunately, this channelling, if you really want to call it that, doesn't extend all that well to live games(either online or F2F), and is mostly limited to this format. It can also be fickle, only present some, most, of the time but then occasionally leaving me without that ease of writing in a sort of 'poster's block' that I just have to wait through.

Sorry if this is unhelpful, just relating my own experiences. But to reiterate something you said earlier, we're all wired differently.
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Old 03-29-2020, 12:39 PM
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Not to digress too far, but to me, Role Play vs Roll Play is more of the style of the game, not the way you approach character portrayal.

Role play means that the focus will be more on PC interactions, social situations, intrigue, puzzles, mysteries, investigations, etc.. Potentially, a more rich and intricate plot (but not always).

Roll play means that the dice will have a bigger role, ie, more hack and slash, kill the monster, find the treasure. Potentially, more "frying pan, fire" scenarios where fighting your way out is more likely.
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Old 03-29-2020, 01:33 PM
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I enjoy games more when I can be that connected with a character, but it isn't always that way. In fact, I think the vast majority of my games haven't had that connection. Off the top of my head, I can only think of two characters who I've had that with, and I can think of instances where I've ended up crying IRL because of things that were happening to them.

I recently revived a game with one of those two characters, but I wasn't really able to get into her head even with time and effort. That was disheartening, to say the least.

There is no right or wrong way to play, but I understand that feeling. I've been such a bipolar mess lately, every other day I think about throwing in the towel and dumping all my games again. The posts that I do get out often feel artificial. Dunno, life suck sometimes, sometimes it doesn't. For what it's worth, every time I've read your writing, I've always loved it.
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Old 03-29-2020, 04:01 PM
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With very few exceptions, I write characters who are intended to survive, overcome, and thrive, and that is my ultimate failing as a writer.

For me, writing a character with drama and emotion has always been akin to writing a character with a severe handicap. It's one thing to play a character who struggles with a physical or mental disability, but another entirely to play a character who consciously self-sabotages. It's not that emotion is inherently bad, but long-term successful adventurers realistically need the kind of self-discipline that would prevent outbursts and cultivate a certain level of detachment. (The lives of trained professionals are notoriously monotonous and bad material for entertainment.)

However, it's impossible to meaningfully connect to a character that lacks depth and personal conflict. If an interesting character manages to survive, that's great, but expecting them to survive forces the player to restrict their behavior to a very narrow selection of safe, predictable choices. (Safe and predictable translates to boring for both the writer and the reader.)



I'm finding there are three things that are really necessary for proper connection and character development:
(1) Embrace mortality from square one. (Not just accept it in principle, but internalize it as necessary and beautiful.)

(2) Write the adversary first. (Protagonists are defined by the tragedy that motivates them. Without a strong adversary, your hero is a nobody. Don't rely on the DM to give your character purpose.)

(3) Write a private story for your character before the game starts. (Not a descriptive backstory. This is an introspective exploration between you, your character, and the villain/calamity that started your hero on his/her path. Give your character life before introducing them to an audience.)
As with most real relationships, deep connection comes from shared trauma. In early life, you can form these connections passively through school, work, or otherwise. With literary characters, you have to be an active participant. Consider being the Dr. Watson to your own Sherlock; Tell the story from the perspective of a close friend who cares about your protagonist, but isn't in the driver's seat. Speculate about what could be going though their mind, rather than writing from a position of certainty.


Since I see that you're not a CS member, I'm going to assume that you aren't enjoying the benefit of a personal, private thread. If you can spare the cost of a membership, I'd highly recommend it for that resource alone.
This is intended to reflect my personal progression in response to "feeling like I'm doing it wrong", rather than as commentary on how anyone else ought to approach RPGs, so this advice may not be applicable to everyone who reads it.
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