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Episode 333 – character secrets
by Dan Repperger

* (0:29) Grab a copy of Fear the Boot’s anthology, Sojourn!

* (1:25) A patent troll takes on the sum of podcasting.  You can make a donation to the legal defense fund here.

* (4:23) Player secrets.  As we’re introducing the topic, Wayne throws out the idea of different angles — regarding the same secret — being divided among the players.

* (7:19) John’s Wasabi Theory of player secrets.  The problems that player-character secrets can cause within a group, if misused.

* (11:06) Using secrets to draw in other characters instead of excluding them.

* (12:42) Why Dan blames the GM.

* (18:27) Putting some pressure on the other players.

* (22:36) When character secrets work well, even as the core of a game.

* (31:44) Whether the players all knowing the secret helps when their respective characters don’t know.

Hosts: Chad, Chris, Dan, John, Wayne


Comments (4)

JohnMarch 13th, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Very glad to hear you promoting the Patent Troll Defense Fund. The trolls must be slain!

Samuel PennMarch 19th, 2014 at 4:33 am

Second podcast in a row where I’ve wondered whether anyone on it has ever played Ars Magica.

Character secrets are effectively story flaws. You take them (as negatives, so they give you points to spend on other things), but they’re really just story hooks which the GM can use to provide stories around your character. They can be secrets (they often are), but they’re designed in a way in which they have to come out in play – that’s the whole point of them.

There’s lots of guidelines on making sure one character’s story flaw doesn’t dominate the entire game – but generally every major character has one, so everyone gets a chance at being in the spotlight. Never had any problems with them.

GM NPCs are also common in Ars Magica – you pretty much can’t do Ars Magica without them. In a saga which lasts decades of game time, NPCs have to develop along with the PCs. In troupe style play (multiple GMs, players playing multiple characters), you’ll have lots of GM PCs as well. Again, it’s never been a problem in a game.

Jacob WilliamsonMay 2nd, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Kind of wish you’d come down harder on PC secrets that are kept from the table as a whole, I’ve been in several games where they’ve been crippling for a number of reasons–usually some form of resource is withheld from the table (whatever the game’s version of 50 character points spent on Lycanthropy or Dragon powers that can never come to the surface, or worse, valuable plot points and info gets thrown into the character’s well of silence.)

Characters that require notes, hushed conversations, pronoun discussions, the GM leaving the table, or a PC committing to a course of inaction to protect the secret–I find that the “Fourth Wall Secret” character is usually played by someone without a strong sense of party unity, usually a new-ish player–are a terrible drag.

“Character with a Secret from the Other Players” is just another flavor of the ultimate game-killer, the stone-cold, silent loner, which every newbie wants to play but no-one–including seriously experienced players–*should* play.

DanMay 6th, 2014 at 11:20 am

Jacob, I can’t say my experience has been all that different from yours. I’ve seen secrets done well and play out well, but it’s the exception. Most of the time it ends disastrously and/or is a sign of a player that isn’t interested in fitting into the group (both PC and player dynamic).

I’d love to give you some complex reason about why we weren’t harsher on them like, “We wanted to represent all sides,” but it’d be disingenuous in this case. The main reason we pull some of our punches is because many of these stories are drawn from past or present games–which our friends know darn well–and we don’t want them to feel like we’re using the show to shred them.

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