Saturday, September 12, 2009


"It" being "me," that is.

I enjoyed PAX immensely--it had a terrific energy to it. I played a bunch of great games, met a lot of cool people, got a little business done, and did my bit explaining what's up with Aion.

But that was last week. Apparently our booth--along with pretty much every other booth--had a microscopic visitor: swine flu! I still love PAX, but it did a decent job of decimating the industry for a week. Lots of people are just now emerging from the worst of it.

But seriously! I still love PAX.

And I love my family, who gave me a cozy quarantine zone downstairs. I mostly slept, but I finished a playthrough of Mass Effect. (It's a great, great game, and I'm on a "play the seminal games I never got around to" kick right now.)

The other thing I did during my flu-time was read Eclipse Phase, which is also terrific. It scratches a Shadowrun/Cyberpunk itch that I've neglected too long. And the transhuman conceit does a key thing I wish more games would do: make the game world match up with anticipated gameplay.

Eclipse Phase assumes that your character is going to die every so often--heck, maybe a lot. But the conceit is that your consciousness remains intact and gets downloaded into a new body. You might have some "missing time" and be unsure what happened to your last body (hi there, Captain Plot Hook!), but you're still fundamentally "you" and thus you've got some continuity with the ongoing narrative and familiarity with the other PCs. The other PCs don't have to do that "You look trustworthy, stranger! Join us!" thing.

Throwing a bone to continuity isn't possible in every genre, of course. If your game takes place in a licensed setting or one strongly based in the real world, you're kind of stuck. But any game with a strong dose of either the supernatural or the science-fictional should have an answer for character death better than "roll up a new character." That messes with narrative continuity, and it creates the immediate problem of "what does Joe do for the next few hours while we're all still playing?"

I guess my broader point is that if you're making up the fictional world anyway, you might as well make it a world where there's some sort of explanation for character continuity after death. And that's true whether the game is powered by electrons (Aion makes its PCs overtly immortal, for example) or polyhedrals (Eclipse Phase's transhuman thing or D&D's prevalent resurrection magic).

One of the intriguing things about Eclipse Phase--and this isn't for everyone--is that the whole "download your self into a new body whenever you want" thing lets players experiment and dabble in different character builds. That's further than D&D is willing to go without significant DM assistance.

I'm playing a 9th-level half-orc rogue in a game right now. I love Shivaji's personality, backstory, etc., but I'm not enjoying the rogue part so much. So I've tentatively opened negotiations with my DM: "You know, if something really dramatic happened to Shivaji, like he became a revenant or his body was permanently possessed by a githyanki, I'd be totally OK with that." Because something like that would let me keep Shivaji's look and at least a twist on his personality and mannerisms, but I could rebuild the character into something else.

The weird thing about the whole "character continuity after death" issue is that the desire for continuity can pull you in opposite directions. Is it better for continuity at your table if PCs have the same bodies and minds each session, accepting the continuity break when a PC dies? Or is it better for continuity at your table if PCs can "resleeve" with new bodies when the old one dies or is found wanting, but keep the same personality and history regardless?

Out of Context: Somebody probably said, "We should do something new this time around." They fired that guy, and made another awesome version of the awesome thing they did last time.
Music: Maria Rita, Maria Rita

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