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Nearly at the end! Sooooooooon, precious. I’ve talked a whole bunch about various lessons I learned from gaming, and how it’s changed me. I guess the thing I’ve learned from a few of my characters is that the line between rich backstory that informs the story and pointless trauma that you force on other players (or complain never comes into the game) is pretty darn fine.
I’ve seen a lot of people who came up with secrets in their characters’ pasts but didn’t want them to inconvenience their lives in play – that’s a missed opportunity. At the same time, I’ve seen people who are so wrapped up in their character’s trauma that it’s hard for them to do things that aren’t directly furthering exploration of that story. I have to admit, one of the ways I’m not always a great player is that if your character has a Super Drama backstory or secret life, I will go out of my way to not interact with it. Or possibly you. I’m just a jerk like that sometimes. But I’ve also recently taken the tack with one of my characters who was waiting to be saved from their trauma of talking to other people about their angsty stories. That can be a spur for self-realisation too.
This does come down somewhat to the cynical view I have developed that nobody else cares that much about my character’s story – and that that’s OK. The thing that gets me is when someone wants me to care about their story, but has no interest in caring about mine. But Monsterhearts in particular has shown me what it’s like to be a fan of the other players, to happily sit through emotional scenes that don’t further my character’s plot just because I’m so invested in their drama. At the same time, in a live game, or even a more hack and slash happy go lucky tabletop game, expecting that kind of investment from other people isn’t realistic. That feeds back into building a character: giving them ways to grow and change that don’t rely on other characters saving them, or on external plots that just happen to push the right buttons. Acknowledging when I want an angsty backstory to just be a motivation, told only in tragic flashbacks while brooding, and when I want to explore the story it seeded. Building NPCs into my backstory or everyday life who I can feel invested in, so if play doesn’t present those kinds of connections, I have something to latch onto that doesn’t need the spotlight.
By the way, this is why I like downtimes. As someone who is very anxious about asking for anything, and will beat myself up if a request is refused because I feel I never should have asked, downtimes are the one opportunity for me to have the STs’ undivided attention. If they don’t want to write downtimes, that’s cool, but I always feel a lot more comfortable about furthering my story in downtime than trying to fit it into uptime, when plots that involve everyone need to be the priority. Just give me a few downtime actions to have deep emotional conversations with my sire, or hunt down the serial killer who kidnapped my police partner, or use magic to confront my own guilt, and I’ll be happy to go along with whatever shenanigans occur in uptime.
I guess, really, what I learned, and what I’m still learning, is that it’s not all about me.