Thursday, May 31, 2012

Remembering Characters

This week was Memorial Day here in the good ol' U.S. of A., and I hope everyone took a moment to remember those who served/are serving.  And although LARPing is a pretty far cry from that, it did make me think about how we remember characters in the games we play.

Whether a character was heavily involved in plot or only known to a few, the player behind that persona probably spent a lot of time and effort on them.  We use our free weekends to be these other people, we spend our money on their costumes, and we get excited about their stories.  When they're gone, it's often a pretty bitter pill to swallow.

Bill has already talked about character death, but I was thinking more about how a game can remember those characters when they have died. 

One option that was discussed is making the character part of the game world.  Making them an NPC the player can play is dangerous, since allowing people to continue to play the same character, even as an NPC, can devalue the danger of death.  It can also make people who don't get this option feel left out, but there are certainly times when it might be appropriate and good for the story.  Just be careful! 

Another option, though, is to make the character continue, but not have them come into game.  In NERO with elemental transforms, this is easy to do - the character's spirit becomes a player for that element, and they become a Name talked about by others, or even a contact of some kind.  You can do it in other genres as well - maybe they are resurrected as a messenger for a deity, or turned into a steampunk cyborg.  Whatever happens, that character goes on into the sunset, as it were, and Plot can integrate them into their stories (they're just not the hero anymore).  This can be a fantastic way to nod towards a character that was heavily involved, though it can still run the risk of devaluing death.  And Staff should make sure to set clear boundaries with the player or as a policy!

So, what can we do that doesn't "cheat death"?  :)  Well, one thing is simply to keep a list of the fallen.  You can have it as a graveyard, or even get a plaque made, or write it on a banner to hang in your tavern.  That kind of thing can add gravity to your setting, but also it's an easy, meaningful way to keep characters in everyone's thoughts. 

Staff could also keep a more extensive record, something that could be posted on their website.  Maybe when a character dies, that player can write a short (or long, as you prefer) biography.  Who they were, what they did, and how they met their end.  This lets the player say good-bye, and also allows the character to be remembered for their contribution to the setting. 

I think that it's a nice idea to have options that can be done for any character, regardless of whether they had a transform (etc) or not.  It's hard to see your character just disappear as if they didn't matter, especially if you played them for years.  Having options like these can help players feel more like their stories mattered, and maybe help ease the disappointment that comes with character death and encourage them to keep playing. 

What other ideas do you have for remembering departed characters?


  1. I just have to give a shout out to Benson's great grave markers for Exiles. I love that you guys have continued that so well.

  2. Along the lines of the Exiles gravestones, at Triumph, they hang banners as game decor to remember perished personalities.