The Players of the Game

“The person running the world makes no dif­ference, from the world’s point of view, it is the legend of various char­acters that matter. The characters are the suns about which the worlds and games revolve.”

Michael A. Stackpole

My Life and Roleplaying

Different Worlds #27

It is the Editor’s responsibility to ask the players to expand on their characters. Specifically, you should ask for a short paragraph from each player approximately once a month. Normally, you’ll ask for a Connection. Occasionally, you’ll want a childhood event, a description of a hobby or favorite book, or a description of the character’s views on a current event. You’ll also want to know what the character’s motivations and aspirations are. These needn’t be long descriptions, and you shouldn’t expect that of your players. The Connections, for example, could very well consist of three simple sentences--who they are, what they’re like, and what their relationship is.

If they’re too lazy to come up with three sentences, don’t worry about it. It’s their loss, so let it pass.

You shouldn’t specifically ask for anything extensive. Some people, after all, have jobs and other obligations. However, three sentences can be easily whipped out on the fly. Anyone can be expected to do that. If they can’t, or are unable to write, allow them to use a tape recorder or your answering machine.


Look at Grant Morrison’s run of Animal Man for an example of killing off lots of Connections in a good way. But realize that something like that can only happen once. Players are simply not going to stand for too much of it. And they shouldn’t have to.

Once you have a good list of Connections, use them in your adventures. You no longer need to make up relations and friends for the heroes to rescue--use the ones they’ve created. Connections can be hostages, targets, victims, and villains.

Be careful about killing them, though, especially off-scene. The character’s Connections are part of the player’s conception of the character. Changing them capriciously is like changing the character’s origin, background, or powers. You might do it once, but do it too often and it gets annoying, and takes away from the game’s fun.

Use Connections in non-adventurous settings as well. Friends will invite the character to dinner. Lovers will call the character in the middle of the night. Bosses will need extra work done quickly.

Past Events

You can use things that happened in the character’s past to make current adventures more interesting. Past events can be reasons for current events. Things and people mentioned in passing can become important to an adventure.

Motivations and Aspirations

Make sure you know the difference between what the player wants the character to be doing in the future, and what the character is planning to do in the future.

When you know what the characters are planning to do in the distant future, you can plan your campaign accordingly.

Activities Between Issues

At the end of an adventure, ask the players if there is anything their characters will be doing. Lab experiments and private investigations often require that the Editor have time to think about the results.

The Editor’s Journal

I recommend that each Editor keep a short account of each gaming session. This should include what happened, who the characters met, and what was left undone.

The Real-World date

[June 5, 1991]

What Happened

In May, the Lurking Grue decided to apply to Miskatonic University for the coming semester (September). Bouncer continues his quest for the better beer. Jason invents the CyberNerveª and looks for a marketer. Should net many bucks in the future.

In early June, the police inform Stephen that the grave of Huili Njoa was robbed. Stephen, as the Grue, follows the trail of the grave robbers to Boston Harbor, and discovers that their ship, which has since left, is from Rio de Janeiro.

If you take careful notes, your Editor’s Record Sheet for each adventure can be your journal.

Dealing With Players

Editing Wars

If players get into Editing wars with each other, try to intervene peacefully. The two players should discuss their character conception and come to an agreement over who should succeed. When two player character conceptions clash, the result shouldn’t be determined by who has the most Editing Points.

The Loner

One of the hardest character conceptions to work into a role-playing game is the loner. Loners make for great movies, but they don’t tend to fit into groups very easily.

Often, loners make great tactical leaders. They know how to intimidate.

There should be no more than one loner per group. This character should have some strong link that keeps the character in the group.

If you do end up running one character separate from the others, there are two ways to deal with it. Most simply, you can give the loner’s outside work a percent chance of success or failure. If you want to play the outside work, you should follow the guidelines given for running separate groups. Make sure that you give more time to the group than to the loner. If there are 4 characters in the main party, that group should get four times the amount of playing time as the single character.

Walk-On Parts

Sometimes, new players will arrive and want to play in your group, without having a character ready. Have some pre-generated heroes ready, with pre-generated links to the adventure and campaign, in case this happens. If a player decides to continue playing with the group, give that player the option of continuing to use the walk-on character, or create a new character. If they choose the walk-on, that character becomes their Player Character, and you’ll need a new walk-on to take it’s place.

Having these walk-ons helps keep your campaign from being cluttered up with heroes that were used once, and then discarded when their players decided not to continue with the campaign.