PCs in the Gallery

Last night, I talked about looking at your plots from the point of view of a minor character who was in some way or another associated with them, and mentioned that one of the ways to do this was to run a smaller game with one or two people taking tangentially involved parts. I find running such games to be quite satisfying, when it works—but there are a lot of things that you’ll need to take into account if you want to make it satisfying on both sides of the screen.

First, of course, is That Predestination Thing. If your player is more interested in exploring characters’ reactions to the events you’ve already run through or finding out what originally happened, it isn’t such a bad thing to have a story in which certain things absolutely have to have happened in a certain way because that’s how they went the first time through and you don’t want to deal with a paradox. On the other hand, if you can’t find something for the character you’re running for now to affect, the player has every right to feel a bit dissatisfied. And while you might have a subtle enough touch to guide the player into setting in motion events that you know happened and never before had an explanation for, there’s no guarantee that the player or the character are actually going to do what you expect them to and set the events off. Needless to say, it works a lot better when the player knows exactly what he’s getting into and his own limitations.

Staying true to the original source material can be a pain in its own right. In the solo game I’m currently running, we covered scenes that I originally ran getting on for five years ago, the logs of which are on a wiki I can’t depend upon to load quickly for me and on a computer that overheats if you look at it funny. This makes consistency a bit of a challenge. And meanwhile, you’ve got your player accidentally muddling up consistency. So overall, if you’re the kind of person who obsesses over keeping everything consistent, you might want to rethink looking at your plot through another player’s eyes.

You’ll probably want to stay away from the main characters where possible, whether by giving your new main character a reason not to talk to them or just by keeping them in the distance somewhere. There are two reasons for this: one is that the scenes in which the original characters are doing just about everything are by necessity difficult for the new main character to do much of anything in, and the other is that that’s, well, someone else’s character, so you’re likely to need either a really good sense of them or the original player as a guest star.

Last is the balance between old story and new story. If part of the draw of this game is looking at the other game from a different angle, you’re probably not going to want to keep the old plot too far away. But on the other hand, if all you’re doing is playing tour guide through the remains of legendary victories and even more legendary critical failures, wouldn’t it be easier on both of you just to convert it all into text files and let them read it if they want to?

As I said before, this doesn’t mean that playing, rather than writing, through an alternate view of your storyline is a bad thing. It just means that you’ll want to choose your player and your style with more care than you might in an ordinary game.

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