Role-playing BETWEEN role-playing sessions

Just because you only meet up once a week, once a month or once in a blue moon to role-play, it doesn't mean your characters can't live and breathe once a week, once a month or once in a blue moon. Unless your games are like a season of 24 and have no down time, ever, there's room for subplots and an interior life. And these days, you don't really have to meet up with a player to get this done!

It all depends on the campaign of course, but I've had a measure of success in modern/future games with mailing lists. Usually, we just use the "egroup" to set up gaming dates, open calls for new games, etc., but in one campaign, players were encouraged to share their characters' personal messages. Thoughts on the last game's events, seemingly addressed to an NPC or to another PC or to the entire gang, in character, added a lot of fun during down time. For my own character, I would post fake eBay notices for items I might have picked up in the game.

This open dialogue between players and characters helps keep a certain momentum in the game by reminding everyone that it's an activity they all enjoy, something often forgotten as the weeks stretch on between sessions due to so-called "adult" considerations.

On a GM-player basis, I've also had a lot of success with MSN conversations. Need to advance a character's subplot? Grab him on MSN in the middle of the day, change your nick to a villain's name and spam him with pure evil. Short chat conversations are perfect for random phone calls or market negotiations, and the service also allows you to send relevant pictures. I once had a villain send GPS clues to a player, who then Google Mapped it all out in time for the next session.

Using the Internet can yield fun results. A wild goose chase through web pages, representing a battle inside a character's psyche? Online two-player games to simulate a character's actual activities? Not everything needs a dedicated platform.

Granted, these are New School ideas, but don't ignore their Old School equivalents. Players can deepen their characters in between games by having them indulge in artisitic pursuits which they can bring back to a session (or again, share via the Internet). Does your Supers character like to change costumes all the time like the Wasp? By all means, bring your designs to the games. Your elf likes to write poetry? Go for it. Investing in your character is never a bad thing. And the GM can also support players by giving them optional homework. Sometimes, all it takes is a "wouldn't it be cool if you...?". In the campaign I'm preparing now, I plan to hand out a weekly newspaper full of background info, rumors and plot hooks. Some of it will pay off, some of it won't, sometimes based on players' interest more than mine. The player who pays attention to it will be rewarded, but the one that doesn't won't really suffer.

Sometimes it's all about keeping a campaign alive, and making players invested in their characters is the best way to do it...


Anonymous said...

And it's amazing how these little things can grab a player's interest 10-fold.

Timing is everything. If the GM can get a feel for when players' are starting to feel redundancy, then he's got the proper tool for knowing when to shoot these random mini-games to his players.

It's particularily useful in games that are set up to be a series of one-shots rather than a continuing plotline. Cause let's face it, one-shotter campaigns can sometimes feel redundant so adding those extra little subplots gives a continuity to the game and the players will get a feeling that there characters are more than just problem solvers.

Siskoid said...

Very true. It's harder to fit "downtime" in a game that has no downtime.

The way I'd do it then is to focus on a "flashback", to something that might deepen a character's background (and thus won't rely on rules and dice much).

I'm about to do this with our nascent Planescape campaign, doing a little something with each player on their Faction initiations, even though the game starts a bit later than that.

Jeremy Patrick said...

I've had good luck with giving out bonus experience points for any out of character stuff that helps flesh out a character or campaign, such as writing backgrounds, statting out rivals/allies/enemies, finding pictures, keeping an in-character journal, etc.


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