Saturday, August 05, 2006

Inside your antagonist

I am playing a two-player game of The Shadow of Yesterday; just me and Japser Polane (whom you may have met hanging out on The Forge). We both have a character and GM each other's scenes, which works absolutely fine. (And even today, when our characters were in the same scene for the first time, it posed no problems. I'll say something about that in another post.)

Now one of the problems I perceived is that although my character (a Zaru rebel dedicated to the pacifistic way of Zu) had a clear, cool and interesting antagonist, Jasper's character (an Amenni girl, 17 years old, daughter of one of the Amenni overlords in Zaru), although she was caught up in webs of intrigue and enmity, had no identifiable antagonist. What was I to do? None of the characters in her story seemed to be promising candidates for someone you could both loathe and respect.

While we were playing today, I hit upon an elegant solution. His character met my character's antagonist - and wham, one scene later, it was clear to us (the players) that he would be her antagonist too. To do this, however, I had to play the role of this guy, an evil elf.

This may not seem like a big deal, but think of it this way: I suddenly played the character who had been my personal antagonist for three or four sessions, and who will be my antagonist for many sessions to come. My antagonist, yes, because I identify to a large extent with my player character. I crept into the skin of my own enemy; I made decisions about his plans and powers; I gave a face to the thing I loathe most in the game world, to the person who may well kill me in the end. And all of this completely functional: no breaking of the Czege principle was involved.

My Life with Master has this great Master Creation phase, which ensures that the Master is something that all the players can feel strongly about. Now, what about My Life with Master with a rotating GM? Where you can actually play out the creature that you fear and loathe and hate whenever you step into your own character's skin? Would the game fail, or would it be even more powerful and cathartic?

1 comment:

  1. I dunno. It seems to me like part of the power of your experience lay in the other player giving a performance you could react to first.

    Although, I suppose you could manufacture something like that in character creation also. Just take a page from Dogs and give everyone one brief staked scene with your antagonist at some earlier time in their lives. Whether you get the better of them or vice versa, the stage is set and the hammer cocked, as it were. Maybe, each player frames the conflict, including who their antagonist is, then another player controls that antagonist for that one scene? Fleshes out their motives or mannerisms, but leaving deeper levels for the first player to discover in play?

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