Memo, Please?

One of the things I’ve always found interesting about character development in RPGs is that it is possible to express it in such a way that some people (both IC and OOC) will notice, some won’t, and those that notice might notice different levels of change. With the right combination of trust variation, sidechats, and other factors, you can have characters do things like hop the fence a couple times with regards to their allegiances, take up a new skill, fall in love, what have you, and only with certain parts of the group the wiser. It’s nifty.

But isn’t it a bit of a problem if one of the people who hasn’t gotten the memo yet is the GM?

I can see it if the GM isn’t the kind of person who cares about character development. If the game overall is beer-and-pretzels hack and slash, and the development is just what happened when a couple of the players got together on the side and whispered to each other about wouldn’t it be interesting if.

I can see it if nobody’s aware at all. Sometimes these characters just change, without much obvious warning—little things condense into a pattern, and next thing you know you’ve got a realization and are looking at it trying to figure out where that came from. Or if one person’s only just aware, it was one of those conversations where things start clicking.

A surprise I could also see—though I think I-as-GM would be somewhat disappointed to be left out of the loop during the planning phase, as I enjoy connecting over plotting a good character arc. But that’s when it’s still being worked out; it’s not near as nice when it’s being implemented.

After all, the thing about the GM is that she’s the one who’s having to tailor plots to the characters. There may be things more annoying than coming up with an entire plot only to discover that the character’s stopped caring enough about that issue to be hookable, but I haven’t found too many of them. Besides, the GM’s the only one who truly knows how perceptive her various NPCs are; who else do you expect to figure out which of them has caught the hints and which of them hasn’t? And hey, it’s her world; she might have some ideas to make it even better.

The character development itself isn’t a problem; arcs are generally awesome and rewarding. But people who start arcing, and start being willing to share that and express it, really should give the GM a heads up.


  1. Shinali says:

    And this is why players who think the GM should be in the loop are handy to have, sometimes they even tip you off to character development for other characters!

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