Friday, July 20, 2012

Take my wife -- please!

I dunno what else we've learned from the 5e playtest, but it's exposing a fault line in my marriage.

Deidre and I played our first game together in 1989 or so. It was probably Marvel Super Heroes. A pretty good foundation for a relationship, but even the strongest foundation will settle a little over the years. And so it was that, during a postgame critique, we defined the sharp line that's separated our play styles for the last 23 years. As a GM and as a player, I think it's up to the players to drive the action and come up with the goals. She thinks it's the GM's job. CAN THIS MARRIAGE BE SAVED???

Yes, but we're going to annoy each other whenever I'm running a game that she's playing in, because my wife loves the Star Trek model of roleplaying. She has no interest in creating a character backstory or advancing a PC's goals -- she wants to be told where she is and what she's supposed to do, because that stuff isn't fun for her. I, by contrast, want the PCs to have backstories and goals and hopes and dreams and plans and etc etc etc. Not only is that my kind of fun, but I'm a very lazy GM who doesn't like to plan and I prefer it when my players are doing the heavy lifting for me.

I feel a taxonomy coming on.

My wife is what I'd call a Driver. Her PC is, very simply, herself with different abilities. It might have a history tacked on, but it's not something she wants to explore -- and she'll get mad if the GM starts mining it for material. The character exists so she can maneuver it through obstacles and use it to solve puzzles. She enjoys playing with it, but she doesn't identify with it just like you don't think of yourself as your car.

One of the other guys who's helped with our playtesting is Matt F. He's what you'd call an Actor. His main joy is creating a distinct persona, different from his own, and then getting that persona into conflicts. For example, the 5e playtest has two dwarf characters. Matt played the mountain dwarf and Deidre was the hill dwarf. The playtest doesn't give you any idea as to how the two kinds of dwarves differ, if indeed they do; their mechanics seem identical. But Matt was still trying to start some subrace rivalry with Deidre, sniffing and snorting about how We do things and how backward They are. That's what Actors enjoy.

Drivers don't. Deidre ignored it every time.

The other guy who's been involved is Mateo.* As a roleplayer he has a lot of the same tendencies that Matt F does -- the love of interpersonal tension, the desire to explore some other identity -- except that Mateo is, well, squirrely. While the Driver is solving puzzles and the Actor is interacting, Mateo is just making things happen. Often complicated, unorthodox, eventually-helpful-but-how-the-hell-did-we-get-here things. I'd call him an Imp. He likes to play.

It's hard to say what I am when I play; the subject is too close for me to examine it clearly. Of these three types, I'm closest to the Actor. My great joy is all that persona-stuff, but I'm not interested in being someone notably different from me, which is part of what an Actor is doing. I'm more interested in rooting myself in the setting and history and culture... I'll cop out and call myself a Historian. My approach, both playing and running games, is pretty close to what the excellent Lowell Francis described a few weeks ago.

Of the four, my play style is my favorite -- and Driver is the one I like least. It has the coolest name, though.

*Yes, we have two Matts and a Mateo. Everyone turns their head when you call.


  1. I bounced this taxonomy around with Deidre, and this is what she thought:

    1) She identifies with her car much more closely than I realized.

    2) Things like the dwarf subrace rivalry don't interest her because, she says, she's "too busy accomplishing things" when she plays. Again, she has little interest in *being* as opposed to *doing*.

    3) Although she doesn't want to play the way I do, she reports that she likes the Historian style a lot when the GM uses it. She appreciates the social and cultural backdrop stuff whether or not she wants to interact with it.

  2. I like the Driver/Actor taxonomy, it's simple and to the point. Although I realize that in most my playgroups Driver's drastically outnumber actors.

  3. You're more olde-skool, right? I think that the Driver style lends itself better to that kind of play, since Drivers aren't interested in Who They Are so much as What Problem Are They Overcoming. Nothing wrong with that -- I think a group is better if it has a bunch of different kinds of people in it -- but I was a theater person 'pon a time, and I have more fun when most of my players are pretending to be other people. My wife would rather put her imagination into crushing her enemies and hearing the lamentation of their whatevers.