I have come to the conclusion that a large portion of my long-standing trouble with integrating with narrativist/literary RP is that I expect driven teamplay -- when in a team environment, I expect teams to focus single-mindedly on their declared goal, and all the participants to have the complete picture, or "have the flick", about the surroundings and the path to that goal. In literary environments, though, this declared goal is usually an IC goal (it can be OOC if everyone's set their social contract out ahead of time, but that is uncommon in large-scale community RP environments).

As a result of this, I find myself latching onto the in-character goals of either my own character or another character, and running with them to the expense of the table's out-of-character literary goals. For instance, take the idea of someone going to one of my characters "hey, here's this ring we need you to dispose of" and said character simply chucking it in a fusion reactor and going "done". Yet, if I try to take that drive away, I'm left with no motivation to engage with any RP presented to me. Am I stuck in a catch-22 that means that I shouldn't attempt literary (narrativist-system or freeform) RP as a player, and instead stick with "crunchy" systems, or are there strategies I can use to mitigate this in the absence of a source of clear OOC goals (such as a social contract)?

(Sidebar: this doesn't typically occur to me when I DM because I can adopt a sandbox-simulationist approach, treating the NPCs as walking control panels the party can manipulate in various ways in order to get various reactions, nor does it occur when I play systems like D&D because the party model in a D&D game with any degree of combat focus winds up putting me on the same page as everyone else at the table.)

Original example of how working too strongly towards an IC goal can disrupt the OOC goals of the players at the table:

I once was asked to play the archnemesis of a nobleman; bastard half-sibling bent on taking everything the nobleman had, you know? This triggered me to start dreaming up elaborate plots where my character would impersonate said noble and frame him for crimes, or give politically sensitive orders (such as assassinations or even promotions/demotions) that appeared to come from him.

Furthermore, I had thoughts of building up to possibilities of taking over the noble house by some means -- whether by tricking said noble's fiancee into having a heir by the bastard half-brother, or by kidnapping and impersonating said noble. However, this was rejected out-of-hand by the nobleman's player, because he was after a simple source of drama for his character, not a determined, focused adversary bent on making his nobleman's life a walking hell by any means necessary. My approaches simply went too far in carrying out the bastard half-brother's IC goals, without taking the OOC goals of the other player into account.


closed as too broad by Joshua Aslan Smith, DuckTapeAl, Miniman, GMJoe, BESW Jun 29 '15 at 3:33

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you provide a specific example of how working towards an IC goal goes against the OOC goals of the players? And maybe define what you mean by narrativist? Looking at the wiki article on the GNS theory, narrativist does not mean non goal oriented play and therefore your pursuit of IC goals shouldnt be a problem. \$\endgroup\$ – MC_Hambone Jun 28 '15 at 5:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MC_Hambone -- I'm referring to systems and games where the focus is on "what progresses the story best" vs "what is optimal to achieve the characters' IC goals" (of course, this is a moot point when the two align :) \$\endgroup\$ – Shalvenay Jun 28 '15 at 5:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Narrativism as a gaming style may be helpful. But yes, using examples rather than jargon will be more conducive to universal understanding of the problem you're facing. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jun 28 '15 at 6:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ As a side note, if someone tells you you need to dispose of a ring and you have a fusion reactor conveniently to hand, there's no reason not to just chuck it in (This means you Isildur!) \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Jun 29 '15 at 3:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ After finally understanding the question I removed my answer. my advice would be if you really don't want to play the character to the best of your abilities and you wanna make a choice thats best for the "story" just ask the other players what they want you to do... after all they are helping tell the story and it sounds like you just want to cater to a guy who made the mistake of making you his enemy \$\endgroup\$ – MC_Hambone Jun 29 '15 at 8:33

"All-Consuming Motivations"

The first issue is that most people in real life, and honestly, a great number of fictional characters in media, aren't running on "all-consuming motivations". They may have strong motivations (which is usually key in media), but these motivations are also tempered or given challenge by other motivations characters consider important as well.

For a great number of people focusing on character-focused roleplaying, and specifically Narrativist play, watching characters have to wrestle with these competing motivations and finally make decisions between them, is the point of play.

As you note, the key issue is that it's disrupting play for the other players, because what you're doing doesn't fit with what the rest of the group is trying to do. When you create a character, you can always ask, "Hey, is this a side motivation, a central one, or an overwhelming drive?" Usually in media, it is villains or very damaged heroes who run on an overwhelming drive where they literally do not care how much they sacrifice or have nothing to sidetrack them.

Driving towards a goal

To be honest, if you want a game where every character is driving towards the same goal, you'll need to play with a group that decides that's what they want to do. The scenario, the characters, will all be built around that concept. ("We're going to depose the king!")

If you don't have that conversation up front, then you can't expect that to happen. Roleplaying works by communication, and no one has figured out telepathy or mind reading yet.

Motivation for you, personally

If anything less than all-consuming motivation doesn't seem fun to you, there's no advice that will make it fun for you. Take note of what you find fun, find ways to communicate it clearly, and find people who want the same fun. Then, if nothing else, you won't waste time trying to "fit the square peg in the round hole".


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