Peaceable Demeanor #8

Cover of TWH #185, the issue this zine appeared in.

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Collie Collier's zine
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Copyright © 1996 Collie Collier

*sigh* My last TWH zine, although I did not then know it... Soon after this, Glenn Blacow died, and Mark Swanson (the other collaborator on the creation of TWH) decided to let TWH die with Glenn.

TWH and Glenn, RIP.


By annihilating the desires, you annihilate the mind. Every man without passions has within him no principle of action, nor motive to act.
--Claude Adrien Helvitius

"We trifle when we assign limits to our desires, since nature hath set none." -- Christian Nestell Bovee

I am a person who likes to play for a very specific reason. Simply put, I like to see how people react under stress. This is not something I can ethically test or study in real life. Thus, I game, and push my PCs (and sometimes fellow players!:-) hard. I like strong characters who are in a state of change, because they tend to have le grand passion. It is passion, and the changes it causes that help define a PC for me. It is also, for me, the situation that calls forth the most effort and skill when role-playing.

If you've seen or read "Les Miserables" you've seen characters with passion. All the people in "Les Miserables" have passion: Valjean, the thief-protagonist, is running for his life, while trying to retain his morality. Inspector Javert, the antagonist, is (within his version of morality) obsessed with tracking down our hero -- the law shall prevail. Almost all the other characters have their passions also: Fantine, the unwed mother, is desperately trying to make ends meet, and it kills her. Marius, the idealistic student, is torn between the ties of love and friendship. Eponine, the street gamin, is desperately trying to show Marius both that she loves him, and that she is old enough to be loved in return. She also is killed by her passion.

As you can see, this passion isn't always a happy thing in literature. Sometimes it isn't happy in gaming either. This can be a real down side to playing this type of character. Also, they tend to strongly influence everything and everyone around them. This isn't a terrible thing unless it is making someone else in the game unhappy. At that point I, the player, am faced with the need to make a decision. Will I alter the character conception? Will I force the unhappy person to lump it? Will I fight the direction others wish to go so that I can follow my character's seeming destiny?

"You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration." -- James Allen

There is a solution; play the PC everyone is uncomfortable with anyway. You probably will get to see your PC under pressure, because the unhappy person(s) has not been dealt with. You will probably be somewhat under pressure yourself. After all, you have chosen to ignore any problems other people are having with your character. The situation will probably get worse. You can be really obstreperous while hiding behind the shield of character concept (as an aside, I think I would dearly love to throttle the next person who whines "but it's in character!" at me in order to excuse behavior that would shame a spoilt child!). However, no-one will actually complain to you personally if you are careful in how you obnoxiously "character-concept" your PC.

"The sleep of reason produces monsters." -- Francisco Goya

Other considerations to this type of play directly concern the GM. Say I decide to follow my character's apparent karma, and to hell with everyone else. I should not really be surprised if everyone else, in disgust, goes in a different direction than I. Nor should I make life difficult for the rest of the group, who are gaming while I am not. After all, the GM is going to have to run, in effect, two separate games -- one for me, and one for everyone else. I will probably have a fair amount of non-gaming time on my hands.

"Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth." -- John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Say I decide to amend my character to appease the unhappy person. I may get stuck with a PC that is not really what I wanted to play, and I am now unhappy myself. The GM may be pleased -- she has only one game to run. On the other hand, if I work at it, I can probably make her pay emotionally. *sigh* Lovely.

"I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind." -- Antoine de Saint-Exupiry

There really are no absolutes in this type of scenario. Someone(s) must compromise. But I have found that my reasons for gaming are often such that heavy (as opposed to thoughtful) compromise hamstrings the very thing I enjoy most about the PC. It is not that I must always play the aloof, snotty ninja assassin. It is that the temptation to stray from the path of righteousness on the part of a PC is often both strong and fascinating to study. I've only found one real solution to this problem -- solo play. Has anyone else discovered some other way to deal with this? Has anyone successfully played in a game where everyone is a strong player? How do you play strongly without intimidating the GM or dominating the game? Is there balm in Gilead? :-)

"Passion is universal humanity. Without it religion, history, romance and art would be useless." -- Honori de Balzac

This may sound silly, but I just discovered something disturb- uh, surprising recently. I dropped out of the Vampire game I was in several months ago, mostly because I realized my PC was running the show. This wouldn't be so bad except that the GM played favorites, had lost control of the direction of the game, and knew it.

I don't like having favorites in a game. As I've said before in Peaceable Demeanor #2, "'s frustrating and/or humiliating if you're the scapegoat, and too easy if you're the golden child." I was the unchallenged and unassailable golden child. Unchallenged by the other players, and unassailable by the GM's plotlines. I don't know why, but I always seemed to instantly figure out his machinations. This made him feel defensive -- not a good attitude if you want to co-operatively tell a story. Once I made a casual, throw-away comment, and discovered I'd solved a mystery which was supposed to last for several sessions. *sigh*

Recently, I found out the GM was afraid to talk to me about something which happened in the current version of the game. Put precisely, the GM asked one of my roommates to tell me something had happened to some property of my PC's. We're talking about property, not a character, in a game which belonged to a PC that hadn't been in the game for months, and had been sent on a world tour so I, the player, could bow out gracefully.


"Why should I have nightmares? I give them to you." -- attributed, on the net, to Steven King

What did I do that was so scary that the GM won't/can't talk to me about the game anymore?! My roommates aren't helping any. They just laugh, and say things like, "Well, you can be pretty intense, Collie." Fiends! :-) This doesn't explain it to me. I mean, it's just a game! I don't tie my self-esteem to the PCs I play, so the GM shouldn't think I'll break down. Is the GM intimidated by me (he must be!)? I don't feel intimidating! So I'm throwing a question out for the Hunt to gnaw on for a while. What do you do when people won't talk to you about their problems with your play style? What do you do if someone seems both intimidated by you, and really unwilling to talk about it? Denying it doesn't make it go away. Maybe somebody else has experienced this and can explain how to fix it to me. Sorry if the above sounds somewhat disjointed.

"We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality." -- Albert Einstein

Comments on TWH #182, #183, #184.

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  • Last Updated: Mon Aug 4 1997