Wednesday, 9 May 2012

How special is your snowflake?

“Special snowflake” is a term paraphrased from Fight Club about PCs, and their players, who have to be unique and the centre of attention.

Of course, PCs absolutely should be the stars of the show, and wanting your PC to stand out from the crowd is a common desire. But how unique is too unique? I suspect it’s a knee-jerk response from the GM and other players.

What got me thinking today was seeing the plot-revealing cutscenes for the cancelled Werewolf: The Apocalypse computer game. In it, the PC is a pure White Howler, a member of the werewolf Tribe that became the evil Black Spiral Dancers and no longer exists. That’s possibly the number one classic Werewolf: The Apocalypse snowflake. I can imagine a Storyteller rolling his eyes as a player suggests it. It works fine in a one-player game, but becomes a problem if there’s anyone else at the table. A White Howler and four regular Garou is a recipe for a chronicle about a White Howler and some other guys.

(A friend running Werewolf once used a White Howler cub as an NPC MacGuffin, and we got to be Big Damn Heroes by rescuing him from the Spirals, but he didn’t take over the chronicle.)

Why is this an issue? It looks like a shortcut to hogging the spotlight, upstaging the other PCs by being more unusual than they are and expecting more of the plot to focus on the snowflake.

It often connects to other problems like ignoring the feel of the game as well as the other PCs (If told that the game was set in 15th Century Florence would their first question be “can I play a ninja?” - a gamer joke which predates Assassin’s Creed by years) and trying to actively wreck a game by playing counter to it or less actively trying to warp it to be the game the player wants to play, regardless of what the GM and other players want.

There are times when oddball PCs are fine, and there are games where particular PCs can be much more strange and important than others - I have a whole ’nother blog about a game where the default playstyle has an ordinary person travelling in time with a two-hearted alien - but it’s not a PC problem, really, it’s a player problem.

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