Factions and skill mechanics help somewhat with this as joining the thuggish bravados will probably tie you into combat or getting several engineering / hacking skills will get you closer to the techie side of the game.
But aside from that, it can be hard to know what connects to where or to think about how character choices might push you away from what you’re after. You may have joined the Diplomat’s Guild and have a full set of negotiation skills, but if you play someone always spoiling for a fight and trying to declare war, your character might not be invited to the gently-gently diplomatic soiree off in a back room. Instead you might find yourself with frequent invites to bar room brawls and war room planning, which might be just what you’re after. Or it might not be.
With new games it’s even harder. You might join the right faction, take the right skills and pick a suitable personality, but how much diplomacy is there in this game? What if there’s only gunboat diplomacy and intimidation? What if it turns out that you really like the espionage side of the game and being a diplomat is too high-profile for that?
Well this is much more difficult to figure out before attending the game. You can ask other players about their characters, and see what kind of gameplay they’re getting, or you could talk to the game master about available options and what the game is like. You could also play NPCs (Non Player Characters) for the first session or two so you have a better idea of what the game is like. Or you could create a new character if the old one just doesn’t fit right.
The other problem people can have is when they create characters that work better in movies than in LARP. If you want to play a thief, are their options for stealing from enemy factions or NPCs, or will you only be able to steal from your friends? How happy will your in-game friends be with your character? What are the odds they’ll start leaving them behind?
Here are some examples of common character “barriers” that might prevent you from doing what you want to do.
- Do you love politics but have chosen to play an aggressive, crude or snarky character who is the proverbial bull in a China Shop? Folks might avoid bringing you along to delicate diplomatic matters.
- Does your character hide from even the slightest whiff of violence? You probably won’t be getting much combat in game then.
- Does your character glare and scowl and threatens everyone they meet? You’ll find it hard to get that sweet, mushy romantic sub-plot.
- Does your character snarl about the stupidity of wizards and try to undermine them at every moment? Probably not going to be invited into the magical secret society then.
I recommend reading The Accidental Hard No for more information on this particular issue.
So how do you find out where the fun stuff (for you) is in a particular game? What questions do you ask the Game Master or other players? And what advice would you give to new players for how to get involved in the fun stuff?