I'm busy with a few other projects this week, but since I don't want to break my recent streak of regular Monday posts, I'm going to re-post something from the old Death Cookie archives. A lot of our newer fans may not know this, but early on Hex went with a brilliant marketing strategy of "let's be dicks and alienate our potential customers" and this article (which we also did as a panel at a couple of conventions) is an example of that. We've mellowed since then, but the article makes some points that will always be true of some gamers (not you, of course).
Working for a game company has its advantages. True, there aren't a lot of half-naked coeds running around and we don't get much sun, but we do get paid for sitting around playing games all day. Cons pay for us to attend and then give us free shit. People ask us for our autographs while we're there and we have access to all the behind-the-scenes crap. There are a lot of great things about this job, but all of them can't overcome the one thing that makes our lives miserable. Of course, we're talking about the gamers.
An Interview with GILGAMESH! Writer Leighton Connor, Conducted by Stacy Forsythe
The world’s oldest epic, The Epic of Gilgamesh, was written in its standard version sometime between 1300 and 1000 BC. Much more recently, in 2012, Leighton Connor adapted the epic into the RPG adventure GILGAMESH! Now, two years later, Leighton has followed that up with GILGAMESH!: The Lost Tablets, a supplement that includes additional plot summaries, characters, and GM notes.
I asked Leighton about these two books, and here’s what he had to say.
1. How did you come to discover the Epic of Gilgamesh?
Leighton Connor: I’d heard the name but I never really took notice of it until my wife was in seminary, and I audited an Old Testament class. There was an excerpt from the epic in our textbook. I got somewhat obsessed with Gilgamesh, based on that excerpt, though I didn’t actually read the whole story until years later.
I next encountered Gilgamesh in 2008 when I became a teacher. The first excerpt in our World Literature textbook was, fittingly enough, from the Epic of Gilgamesh. This time I was motivated to go out and get a copy of the epic, specifically the Stephen Mitchell translation. I read it and, what do you know, I loved it.
Last week, I talked about the fact that character sheets are inherently incomplete and that it might be a good idea to rethink them. This week I’m going to float a new definition of a character sheet: “A character sheet should describe the relevant traits of a character at a particular point in time and helps the GM and player understand the character’s role in the game.” Since that doesn’t sound all that different from the standard definition (and since stopping here would make for a short column), I’ll expand on that.
First off, the character sheet describes relevant traits. Relevant to what? Two things: The game and the character.
“You are not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your fucking khakis.”--Tyler Durden, Fight Club
If Tyler Durden were a GM, he might add that you are not your Charisma, you’re not your Gimmick, you’re not your Light Side Points, you’re not your Cheesemaking Proficiency, even that you’re not your Yum Yums. And I certainly hope that you’re not your fucking equipment list; there’s a special place in gamer Hell for those people.
Anyway, the point is that there’s a lot more to a character than the stuff that’s written on his character sheet. Most modern players will think that’s a pretty obvious statement, and it is as long as we’re talking about stuff that we generally classify as “flavor”: personality, physical appearance, style, and even things like personal relationships and lifestyle to a certain extent. I say “to a certain extent” because at some point we’re used to seeing those last two traits, and ones like them, represented on the character sheet. Sure you don’t need a stat for knowing “little people” or for living in a crappy apartment, but if you want the Governor to be your old college buddy or to be a wealthy jet-setter who lives on a palatial estate, you need a “Contacts” or “Resources” Advantage/Merit/Gimmick/Aspect/Whatever.
We all do it. You’re getting ready to play a new game and, unless it’s just a mindless dungeon crawl where the characters aren’t going to talk amongst themselves, the time comes to introduce your character. Maybe the GM wants you to describe to another player who his character sees sitting in the other corner of the bar with his back to the wall. Maybe the PCs have worked together before and already know each other. Whatever the case, it’s time to let the other players know who their characters are adventuring with, so you promptly begin introducing your character sheet:
“My character has a Body of 14...Gimmick is Weird Luck...Skills are Guns +3...WWPHITM? is…”
Some players aren’t quite so blatant:
“He’s an athletic guy...strange things always happen when he’s around...he’s a good shot...kind of looks like…”
But the effect is about the same. The other players get word salad of game stats or an inventory of abilities but when it’s all over they still have no idea who this guy who they’re about to ask to join them on a dangerous journey or who they’ve known for years actually is.