Another jewel plucked from Zuckerberg’s gutter, is this. Every word below here is by Sarah Cook. I read this as a more poetic articulation of “win by losing”, and all the better for it. (On that, once you’re done here, go read susanne vejdemo’s lovely “Play to lift” too.)
I said somewhere that no one wants to play Teflon Billy* apropos of a hard nut NPC breaking down in tears.
I think what I also meant was that I don’t want to ROLEPLAY with Teflon Billy.
I have a personal dislike for unassailable powerful characters. Ones who never die, who never lose and who are never in any real danger of doing so.
Partly this comes from a sense of fairness in which I think that players of characters with power have a duty to play out a story and offer genuine opportunities for others to take that power from them.
Mostly it comes from my love of story. And story is about rise and fall. Life and death. I also love a good ending (which is why my characters die a lot) and have a tendency to play extreme, intense characters who are not sustainable in the long term.
The element that I’m really into is vulnerability. Fatal flaws. Achilles heels. The thing that you, as a player, build into your character as a hook for others.
Now, vulnerability can come in many delicious forms and I may be prone to build bigger self destruct buttons into my characters because I am a graduate of the Joyrider School with post grad qualifications from Bryony “Death Vortex” Baines.
I do think that they make characters interesting. And I also think they make Traditional Characters such as Punchymans into something that really flies. Legend of the Five Rings really sold it to me with grim faced Samurai and their secret lovers who they wrote delicate poetry to and pined over at stashed ribbon which could MECHANICALLY screw them in a fight.
See, it’s not a flaw unless it trips you up or has the potential to really ruin your day. Donald Trump for example is redolent with awful behaviours but they haven’t really held him back much.
It’s also one of the reasons I hate the “woman dies and man with dark hair and stubble goes on murder rampage” plot line. Aside from the sexist bullshit, the audience and the character are more or less invested in and reliant on this “murder rage flaw”, and it is FUNCTIONAL. The character derives strength, power and purpose and (almost always) conveniently has a ton of Obvious Baddies to kill with basically no conscience, comeback, or comeuppance.
Real rage isn’t like that. Real anger is indiscriminate, uncontrollable and leaves behind misery, guilt and a pile of broken things you once owned and friends you once had.
I don’t need powerful characters to have super obvious flaws. But I do need them to exist and to be discoverable in play. And I need them to be use able in play. Not an untouchable thing outside the abstraction layer like off camera family, but a here-and-now live issue.
*Northern idiom for someone for whom issues and problems just slide off, without impact. See also I’m Alright Jack.