Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Character "Backstory"

I should know better than to wander over to ENWorld, but occasionally I do (often Google or Bing searches take me there, actually.  And then I sometimes I look around at other stuff, and sometimes I even get caught up in discussions.  Like I did here.  And then the few old real friends I have that I'm actually interested in corresponding with, such as Ovinomancer in the thread linked there, will show up and we get to chat again for a bit.  Anyway...)

Anyway, this is an interesting discussion, although a bit long, and it's interesting for two reasons.  One, of course, is the topic itself.  I've got fairly strong feelings about "backstory," both because I'm opinionated and have strong alignment with some specific tastes, but also because of a lot of experience I've had about what does and doesn't work well.  I feel strongly that "let me tell you about my character" fan fiction isn't very useful to either the GM or the player, although if a player really wants to do that, I won't tell him not to.  (I may well tell him I'm not interested in reading it myself, of course.)  Keep in mind that many of the most intriguing and interesting characters in fiction come to us without much in the way of backstory.  James Bond.  Who is he?  I dunno.  He's a spy and an inveterate alpha male and a cold warrior.  But what's the story of his childhood? How did he become who he is? Don't know, don't care.  Wolverine?  Marvel specifically avoided giving him a backstory for years and when they finally published Origin, the miniseries that spelled out his backstory, there was a lot of concern in the office that they were going to ruin the character by explaining where he came from.

Rather; I think tools that suggest adventure possibilities and tie the group of characters in the party together are much more useful than backstory.  For this reason, both FANTASY HACK and AD ASTRA have hard-coded into the rules the character ties process, which resembles quite closely the Phase Trio from FATE.  I also really like Chris Perkins' Point of Origin process, although it requires a bit more work on the GM's side (scroll down through the file to about the 5th or 6th article.  It's called "Point of Origin.")  It's especially useful in settings that the players don't know well; I've always found that many (if not in fact most) players struggle to create meaningful roots to the setting when they don't know anything about the setting, and some suggestions are highly welcome—even if they end up coming up with their own after all.

Of course, it's also interesting because since I used to be an ENWorld regular, I've become more familiar with a lot of things, including Vox Day's socio-sexual taxonomy.  Pemerton, from the thread linked above (and probably Tony Vargas too) are very stereotypical gammas according to that taxonomy, and because of that, their behavior and responses are actually quite predictable.  My friend Ovinomancer is giving them the benefit of the doubt by continuing to argue with them.  This is destined to be fruitless; they've already been logically destroyed, and yet they refuse to stop moving the goalposts and redefining things in such a way that they're not wrong, precisely when they've been proven without a doubt to be wrong.  They probably have only not run off in a fit of nerd-rage because the rules of the "community" specifically prohibit them from doing so, and they value their membership at ENWorld more than they value the right to flounce out on Ovinomancer.  I'm also a little surprised that they haven't plonked him yet, but it probably has to do with the fact that they've managed to convince themselves that they haven't been proven wrong, that they don't look like chumps and fools because of their mental gymnastics to try and maintain their Secret King status as the Guy Who's Always Right, etc.  Gammas can be surprisingly socially functional in a limited sense if they can convince themselves that they've maintained their dignity—it's only when that's taken away from them that they really flip out.

In any case, these gammas and SJWs have been indulged and enabled at ENWorld—which is exactly why I don't often like "hanging out" there anymore.  Although five years ago or so, at the peak of my disillusionment with the place, I didn't have the vocabulary to describe what was going on, because the vocabulary only exists in the RedPillLand on the internet, and in books like SJWs Always Double Down and stuff.  Although I naturally gravitated to incipient red-pill beliefs, naturally, I didn't have enough of a scholarly foundation in the intellectual tradition of describing it to understand it the way I do now.  Now, I can tell you exactly why I dislike ENWorld so much, whereas before, I just thought that it enabled a lot of passive-aggressive morons.

Anyway, for the rest of the world, happy Thanksgiving!  This is gonna be a spotty week for blog posts; I haven't really done anything of note yet, and it's unlikely that I will, quite honestly, even post anything else until next week.

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