Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ravenclaw. The New Slytherin.

One of the most important features in a Harry Potter based role playing game, whether the canons are there or not, is that all originals have to be sorted into one of four houses. Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin. These houses often dictate what a character will be like because they each represent different personality traits. This creates an interesting culture for all characters involved. This system puts everything out in the open. All attitudes, prejudices and family histories are pretty much on display once a dorm assignment has been declared.

I've been surveying Harry Potter rpgs and here is a breakdown of what really goes on once someone decides which House they will stow their crap in:

Perception of each House:
: Noble & Brave
Hufflepuff: Smart & Friendly
Ravenclaw: Strong & Mysterious
Slytherin: Evil, Evil, Evil, Evil, Evil! Evil. Evil? Yes, evil.

How an author describes their character:
: "stands up for what’s right," "speaks up for herself," or "tells it like it is"
Hufflepuff: "nice to everyone," "very smart," or "a little bit on the shy side"
Ravenclaw: "stands up for herself," "won’t take any shit from anyone," or "mysterious"
Slytherin: "evil," "not nice at all," "grumpy," "bitchy," or "wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley"

How they play their character (a.k.a. the crushing reality):
: like a smarmy git who does nothing wrong
Hufflepuff: like a dull nerd who does bland and dull nerdy things in ways that are bland
Ravenclaw: like a Slytherin oughtta be played
Slytherin: like a constant victim who does everything wrong

How do they treat members of other houses:
Gryffindor: with an unspoken superiority
Hufflepuff: with dull, bland, nerdy friendliness
Ravenclaw: with an unspoken superiority
Slytherin: with vile contempt and bitter hatred

How do they treat members of their own house:
: with an unspoken acknowledgment that they rule, they are cool and others drool
Hufflepuff: with dull, bland, nerdy friendliness
Ravenclaw: with an unspoken acknowledgment that they rule, they are cool and others drool
Slytherin: with vile contempt and bitter hatred

Types of storylines they give themselves:
Gryffindor: They show their courage and tout their limitless bravery until you want to puke.
Hufflepuff: They remain dull and bland in groups of pale, boring nerds like themselves and do safe, mundane things.
Ravenclaw: They have sinister, evil plots going everywhere. They can mess with everyone and get away with it.
Slytherin: They have sinister, evil plots that whimper and die because everyone knows their up to something.

Blood Types and Family Life:
Gryffindor: Half Blood, brought up as a muggle
Hufflepuff: Half Blood, brought up as a muggle
Ravenclaw: Half Blood, brought up as a muggle, well versed in Dark Arts
Slytherin: Pure Blood, children of Death Eaters, well versed in Dark Arts

Family Income:
Gryffindor: Middle Class
Hufflepuff: Lower Middle Class
Ravenclaw: Lower Middle Class

How do they dress outside of the school uniform:
Gryffindor: Casual. Jeans. T-Shirt.
Hufflepuff: Skirts. Khakis. Pocket Protectors.
Ravenclaw: Casual. Alternative.
Slytherin: Black. Leather. Emo. Goth. Dominatrix.

How do they act in class:
Gryffindor: Ambivalent because they know they will do well.
Hufflepuff: Attentive and work hard to learn and will do well.
Ravenclaw: They know better than the teacher and will do well.
Slytherin: They know better than the teacher and will show off how awesome they are.

Classes they excel in:
Gryffindor: All, effortlessly.
Hufflepuff: All, with much study.
Ravenclaw: Defense Against Dark Arts
Slytherin: Defence Against Dark Arts

Classes they hate:
Gryffindor: Divination
Hufflepuff: Divination
Ravenclaw: Divination
Slytherin: Divination

House Points:
: Fighting for the Top Spot
Hufflepuff: Usually in the Top Spot
Ravenclaw: Third Place
Slytherin: Last Place

Quidditch Pride:
: Love the game.
Hufflepuff: Best at the game.
Ravenclaw: Could care less about the game.
Slytherin: Can’t hold a team together because all members are busy brooding.

Final Analysis:
: Walk around like they own the place and they do.
Hufflepuff: Dull, bland and nerdy. Pale too. But will kick ass in Quidditch.
Ravenclaw: The new Slytherins.
Slytherin: Festering in impotent rage. Or becoming an Anti-Slytherin.

The Emergence of the Anti-Slytherin

Too much Slytherin is a bad thing. As the Harry Potter series grinds to a halt in July with the final book, it’s becoming painfully obvious to most Slytherin authors that Slytherins need to change gears fast or just gvie up and become Ravenclaws.

The anti-Slytherins are still victims but aren’t filled with as much hatred for themselves and others. They want to escape the bad ways of their anscestors and are rebuilding their reputations after the whole Death Eater snafu. They are kinder, gentler Slytherins who are well-adjusted and graciously accept all characters from all houses and every background. They may dress alternative but underneath that crusty Avril Lavigne exteriorior, they are dull, bland, nerdy and should have been sorted into Hufflepuff.

In Conclusion

There is no such thing as an original plot. There is no way around these stereotypes but some deviation now and then might be nice. A good mod should shake up the stereotypes dealt to each type of student. Throw in boggarts and trolls once in a while so students don't have to rely on their boring, predictable personalities to generate a stories. This avoids ruts and encourages longevity in a role playing game.
Also, co-ed naked Quidditch. Just consider it, won't you?

Friday, May 4, 2007

Fucking with Warren

I could have called this post "Playing a Canon," "Playing a Dead Canon," "Playing an Evil Canon" or "Lay the Fuck off of Warren, Okay!" I didn’t but they all could work. Whatever title I could have chosen, however, will be touched on in this post. All the things I’m about to talk about are universal to all canons, especially dead and/or evil ones.

This essay is going to be rather personal but I think it speaks to many problems that are inherent in playing any canon. My passion has usually been Buffy the Vampire Slayer rpgs so, naturally, I have tons of experience playing canons in them. My favorite canon of all time was Warren Mears. There was a time when I played him in nearly every club on a particular forum site. I was so good that I was getting invites to play him in new clubs and on other forum sites. I say ‘was’ because I will never play him again. Here are four reasons why:

Living vs Dead vs Back from the Dead vs Alternate Universe

If you aren’t familiar with Buffy, Warren was a bad guy on the show that was killed by Willow because he accidently killed her lesbian lover, Tara, because he was really trying to kill Buffy. Warren might have told Willow in those last moments before death that he was gonna walk away from her torture but he didn’t. She skinned him alive and kapowed his ass with a giant fireball. The series ended and the real Warren never came back.

This left me with several choices as to how to play Warren. The most common choice was play him returning from the dead. I had to come up with several wacky ways that allowed him to return and cause trouble. Then it became really ridiculous bringing him back and expecting him to pick up where he left off. Canons recognize him and depending on how they are playing their characters, most shut Warren down right away. So much for not God Moding or allowing a natural give and take between characters. Same thing happened to the Dead Warren I made (meaning he was sort of unDead but not a vampire). I’ll touch more on that in the Warren vs Mary Sue/Gary Stu Chapter.

Sometimes my Warrens existed in worlds where they were never killed or got they sucked in from other universes where they’d escaped death. These Warrens faced the challenges of remaining evil and facing the Mary Sues/Gary Stus or these Warrens turned good.

Good vs Evil

Spike was a character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer who started off evil. The only way he gained longevity on the show was to slowly turn good. Personally, good Warrens were as fun for me to play as bad Warrens (I could play Warren doing any mundane task and just get a great big kick out of it) but at some point, he’s not the Warren we all know and love anymore. He might as well have been a made up that latches onto the Scoobies because there’s nothing else for him to do except battle bad guys with them. BOOOOOOORRRRING!!!!!!!!!!!

Maintaining an evil Warren takes tons of cooperation from others and that’s not likely in a club of different personalities. Many people wouldn’t accept that I was Warren and I could wield the power of merging magic and science to build machines capable of bringing about the apocalypse. Instead I faced characters who were all, "Yeah? So what. You just look like a puny, little nerd to me."

Warren vs Mary Sues/Gary Stus

Suethors have no concept at all of good role playing. There’s no honest give and take because Suethors just take. More than take. They suck. They need to dominate every storyline and crush all conflict because they don’t want to create a story where things happen to them. They just want to come out of all situations looking wonderful, flawless and sparkly.

Mary Sues tend to catch on right away that Warren is trying to trick them. They instantly know he’s up to something the second they see him. He opens his mouth to try and get a dialogue going and they shoo him away because they instantly think he’s sleazy. I know I gave my computer screen the finger several times as a Mary Sue wouldn’t give me the time of day.

Gary Stus are worse. They usually have too much testerone and very little weiners so they don’t really care if they God mode or not. As soon as Warren is on the scene, even if he hasn't been sneaky yet, they grab him and beat the shit out of him. I’ve put up with many ass kickings on his behalf because some asshole Gary Stu has to prove something even though Warren may just be standing there putting batteries in his camera or looking at a hamburger he wants to eat.

Warren vs Sex

As Eddie Izzard put it, "If you’re a bit of a bastard, you’re more likely to get shagged."

On television, Warren spent most of his time being horny. You could make a good case that he probably became evil because of his sexual frustrations. When I played Warren I had to take into account that he thought most things out with his penis before his brain.

Now take into account all the chicks, like myself, who love a bad boy. Chicks throughout the rpg world were throwing themselves at my Warren. Little rpg Warren couldn’t swing a little rpg cat without hitting some honey who wanted to bang him.

I always had to ask whether or not the person I was role playing with was a kid or an adult. Kids, naturally, I said no to. Even if I wasn’t clear over someone’s age, I just said no. But if I knew the person was an adult, I decided to do the deed. I found out the hard way that once I let some chickie get into Warren’s pants, it was hard to get her out again. Maybe I just don’t get turned on by rpg sex like other people do but I found it boring and after, chicks were needy. I’m sure the real Warren would have been thrilled with this but I was getting annoyed with all the whiny, clingy chicks that were lining up to take him to bed and not let him go. Under my watch, Warren became a booty call for Willow, Anya, Amy, Faith and some made-up, half-demon witch named Jessica.

I have run out of interesting things to do with Warren and I’m tired of the reactions he causes people to have. Perhaps someday I’ll get brain damage and think I have to play him again, expecting a new plot and new experiences to come his way but I doubt it. For now, I have happily put him to rest now and my sanity has increased ever since.