Yesterday I talked about how I brought Annorah around from stagnation to a place, albeit a brand new, shaky, unstable place, within the Feathermoon RP community. Finding her welcomed in the group from a plot/story standpoint, I realized very quickly that she was going to be a difficult character to keep “in check” with regards to other people’s RP.
Annorah is a Farseer - a Shaman trained in the art of scrying and divination, of speaking directly with the Elements and using that connection not only to see the past and the present, but to look into the future. Her combat skills are weak, but her ties to the Elements are incredibly strong.
Which means, basically, that every time I RP her in that function, whether it be in a simple parlor “fortunetelling” trick or in a serious scrying attempt (as was done on Sunday for Bricu and Threnn), I have in my hands the ability to “god mod” and ruin other people’s stories. Giving Annorah the ability to see the future, as well as see (even remotely) anything going on in the past or present, gives her the opportunity to be incredibly powerful. But it also makes her really fun – and an unusual plot element or ability.
So how do I keep that in check, and make sure that I don’t accidentally squash someone else’s long-planned story?
First, I make sure that her powers are limited: by her own knowledge, ability to understand what the Elements show or tell her, the time she has, and the amount of preparation she puts into a Seeing. A quick scrying in a black bowl of water with a candle flame won’t yeild the same kind of complete responses that a fully prepared Spirit Walk would. I also allow for the Elements to say no, to speak in cryptic riddles, or to simply be unable to see something at a certain time.
By placing limits on the character and her oracle, I actually make her interactions more fun as well as more controlled. If she were able to simply stare into a candle flame and see anything and everything anyone wanted to know… she’d be kind of boring.
Those limits are not just something I place on myself though, which leads to the real way that this kind of a character actually works within a group.
(This answer won’t surprise many long-time readers of my blog.)
The entire time that Annorah was scrying for Bricu and Threnn, I was in whispers making sure that she was only “able” to see the things that Bricu and Threnn were OK with having turn up at that point in their story. Bricu gave me an excellent framework, and I worked within it to make a meaningful interaction that left all of the characters with something to think about. (The lack of closure actually spurred on some other writing with Annorah, who is now one step more involved – but still very much on the periphery – because of her skills and training.)
Annorah actually did three scryings on Sunday evening – Bricu and Threnn’s, one for Arrens, and one for Ulthanon. Each involved at least a quick “tell me what you want her to see, and whether you want her to be direct about it” kind of conversation, others involved more planning. Arrens actually gave me the thumbs-up to do a little creative “seeing” for Arrens just to freak him out.
By keeping that line of OOC communication open, I keep the story progressing as the person writing it would like, while still having the creative (and very fun) element of scrying and far-seeing. The word of another character is final in these situations as well. Obviously there’s room for a conversation about what would or wouldn’t be see-able, but when someone says “I don’t want her to see more than XYZ yet, my character/the story isn’t ready for more”, that’s where Annorah stops – either because she gets tired, or something clouds her vision, or the candle gets blown out by a draft.
OOC communication makes the character “usable” – and makes it so that other people are curious and want to see what she might “See” for them.
Obviously most of this is character specific. Annorah’s particular flavor of “powerful” is relatively easily tempered by making sure that other players know what’s going on. But the same goes for other character interactions that contain power. Fight scenes, warlock summonings, anything having to do with powerful magic is best at least loosely worked out with other players. That way everyone involved can have fun and know that they still retain the ultimate decisions about their own character.
RPing is not about anyone else doing anything they want to your character and you being forced to respond to it. (That’s pretty unfair actually, because then you don’t get to decide, for instance, if your character gets their nose broken or – in extreme cases – is killed)
Communication, especially in situations where there is an exchange of power, is vital to allowing everyone to have fun with the RP.
Oh and PS: If you’re on Feathermoon and see Annorah around, don’t be afraid to ask her stuff. Though be warned, she lives with one foot in the Elemental world most of the time, so she can be a little bit strange…
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