Monday, October 25, 2010

Just Hand Me A Pre-Gen

Last Thursday, we were making PCs for a Sci-Fi RPG called Diaspora, and I took forever. I always take forever making RPG characters. Or rather, I always take forever coming up with a good idea, so the only time I can hammer out a character in a reasonable window of time is if I've got a really good handle on the setting, and know what sort of character types are appropriate. Otherwise, it'll go like it did Thursday.

I spent most of the session just staring at a blank character sheet, and rereading the half dozen planet descriptions the GM had given us, without feeling the least bit inspired. I just couldn't wrap my brain around the setting, or figure out what sort of character would be the least bit helpful in the scenario. Whenever I did get an idea, I ended up shooting it down internally as either uninteresting, or inappropriate to the setting. Which is funny, because the character concept I finally settled on was almost certainly just as inappropriate as any of the far simpler concepts I dreamt up and shot down on the way to that PC. So now I'm stuck playing sort of an alien cyborg jellyfish that lives in a suitcase, and I'm probably going to undermine everyone else's suspension of disbelief, because, well, it's an alien cyborg jellyfish that lives in a suitcase. What was I thinking?

Yet I can't really back out of it, because one element of Diaspora is that everyone makes their characters semi-collaboratively, and has the PC to the left and right of them worked into their backstory. I'd like to ditch the alien cyborg jellyfish, and the suitcase he rode in on, but I can't without being a further disruption, at least to the two players who were sitting adjacent to me. I think the whole situation would have been much better if the GM had just handed me a pre-generated character and told me to play it. I might not have like the role I ended up with if he'd done that, but at least everyone else would. Of course, with the semi-collaborative backstory system Diaspora uses, it's really not feasible to have just one person play a pre-gen.

I get myself into these sorts of pickles all the time as a player - and yet as GM I can improvise like a pro and am never at a loss. When running the table, I'm almost always at the top of my game, but as a player more often than not I'm a nervous wreck heavily impaired by analysis paralysis.  I wish I could understand why two outwardly similar facets of the same hobby provoke such entirely different response patterns out of me, and why the one with lesser responsibility is the one that freezes me up. I'm tempted to say it's some sort of anxiety disorder or neurological trigger associated with my Spasmodic Dysphonia, because often on the days where I'm spinning my wheels like this, I'm also battling with SD the whole night. Sounds like a great excuse, except this last time, I was having no SD problems at all, yet I still took forever and eventually made a painfully ridiculous alien cyborg jellyfish in a suitcase. What the hell is my problem?


SiderisAnon said...

Ignoring the big psychological words, there is a trait we humans have where we do not like to make decisions that deny us future options. I've seen it talked about in video game design a number of times, where players want to leave their options open as long as possible and stress over having to make a final decision. (Like you get only two professions out of ten.)

As a GM, you have virtually infinite options all the time because you are the GM. As a player, you are being locked into a single role, which then denies you all of the other possible roles out there. (Even if you'd never have played them, the human reaction is to be opposed to not having the option.)

You're not the only person I've seen have this problem. It's also the same basic underlying human quirk that makes certain players create ten characters before the session and then not know which one to play.

SiderisAnon said...

I found one of the articles about this.

"Well, part of the reason is that humans hate to lose choices. Or, more to the point, we hate to lose options. Psychologist Jack Brehm3 coined the term “psychological reactance” to explain the concept that we really hate to lose options or freedoms once we think we have them."

r_b_bergstrom said...

Thanks for the insight, and the link. I'm not certain that's the core of my problem, but I'm guessing it's least a factor in it.