Roleplaying games and problems with characters and general storytelling

A fragment of the Garden of Remembering
Posted by Apheori (talk) at 26 July 2016

There is a bit of a problem with paying these games, as with a lot of writing and storytelling, that most people just don't have a terribly good understanding of how social dynamics work, even if they're good within their own social circles, because things get very complicated when you have interactions across various demographics and cultures. Which you see a lot of in tabletop games.

Where a player doesn't necessarily know how to act in a given situation, a gm also may not have the slightest idea how things should actually be reacting to them (let alone all the different things, since the village harlot will have a far different response than a soldier passing through or the local angry old man who doesn't want to talk to anyone and is just sort of secretly hoping they all die soon), and there's a lot of inconsistency in how different gms handle it, too. So you see behaviours that never should have worked in the first place being reinforced, and gms resorting to punishing players arbitrarily instead of playing out what would actually happen in light of their actions. They come up with more contrived versions of the same scenarios instead of coming up with different, more reasonable situations that could still stump them, or even only would stump them precisely due to their behaviour. These are likely to be more social situations, or incorporate more social aspects, such as a potential ally and source of information or other help being alienated by their behaviour and thus never coming forward. And then they need to find different ways of getting to the information, such as digging up some ancient ruins and fighting crap there just to find out the big bad was in the city all along. But by doing so, they also find something else that helps fight the bad, so it's not a total loss, just a different route to the same end.

For a random example, suppose they go to a party to find information. They probably won't get thrown out. They probably won't even get into any fights, unless they actively start them. But nobody's going to want to talk to them, either, especially if they're going around pestering them after doing weird things. It's like what happens a lot for the less socially-adept people in unfamiliar social gatherings in real life, but compounded by having an actual goal and going after it badly. Behaviours that don't work here shouldn't work there, either.

Unfortunately, that also only makes sense if they're playing a charisma/social level that they can actually achieve themselves in some fashion, so if they are playing a high social character and just screw that up because they don't know what a high social character should actually be doing... well, that's kind of just bad RP. Except perhaps it's also not something to discourage actively because it's also an opportunity for the player to practice and learn, and try things they'd be far too timid to in real life. Or something.