Here's an article I've been sitting on for a while, about how sometimes a loss can be more interesting than win in terms of IC conflict. We don't seem to have a lot of threads dealing with this concept, but tangentially related, Character Flaws and Why They're Better Than Strengths is an excellent read.
Kintsugi: An Argument for Losing
There is an early Japanese practice known as Kintsugi; it is said that shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa once sent a broken tea bowl back to China for repairs, and when it was returned, the repairs were done by means of ugly metal staples. This caused local craftsmen to examine the piece and search for a better way to repair it. The method they came up with was to fill the seams with a lacquer resin sprinkled with powdered gold – creating a piece of pottery that was much different than it was originally, but still beautiful to behold.
This, of course, lends itself well as a metaphor – and is therefore one that I will shamelessly use in regard to character development.
Roleplay’s strength lies in its diversity; a person can write by themselves and create a fantastic story, but, in my opinion, this lacks the built-in excitement that roleplay creates. When you roleplay your character, you have no way of knowing what might happen next, or how other players might react to whatever developments or stories you bring to the table.
With this in mind, we return to the concept of crockery: our characters, as they are in the beginning, are like unblemished bowls. They are a form of artwork, in that we have poured our creativity into them; some are simple. Others are complex. Each has the potential for purpose, and can be seen as an expression of the creator’s ability.
I’ve observed in the MMO roleplay community that we often want to shelter our characters, to keep them from straying too far from their original concept. Sometimes we’ll allow them their leeway, but only insomuch as the storyline has been planned ahead of time. It’s an understandable sentiment, as we may have spent months or even years roleplaying our characters- but not one that plays to the strengths of this particular creative medium. When we allow our characters to come away from encounters having been impacted by those around them, even if it entails a direction we did not intend to the character in – sometimes we end up with a character that is far more interesting and exciting to play than we would have otherwise.
It seems to be a general, agreed upon rule that no one may impose on another person’s character without that player’s consent. For the most part, this pertains to combat roleplay specifically – you cannot claim an automatic harm or kill. However, this also pertains to mental and emotional stimulus as well – no one can correctly claim that their character is automatically beautiful to those around them, because each character has their own concept of what may or may not be beautiful. No one can force another character to feel sympathy for their character’s plight as they pour their soul out over an ale. No one can make your character feel guilty, without you, as the player, agreeing that it is a reasonable reaction for your character to have.
With this in mind, we often have a habit of trying to preserve our initial character design and concept, and may artificially blunt the impact that other players and characters have – when we fight, we usually don’t receive character-altering scars, or amputations that cannot be magically fixed, without planning it ahead of time. We resist changing our characters unless we have decided beforehand that they should change in this way, and it’s this impulse that I’d like to address.
When it comes to roleplay, it’s the impact of other players that really helps to shape a character; without the creative influence of other minds, we really might as well be writing a novel or story. By letting other players influence our roleplay, and even wreak change upon our creations, we are broadening our own horizons and really getting the most out of roleplay as a medium.
Though the bowl may have been beautiful, by allowing it to crack and fracture and even break, we are given the opportunity to embellish it in ways we could not have predicted. By taking a punch and losing an argument or fight - or even so much allowing our characters to be persuaded by something that was previously against their core beliefs – we are creating an opportunity to broaden our character’s insight and explore an evolution of thought and action.
By allowing our characters to come out the weaker for an interaction, they may ultimately become better and more fascinating to play with.