I’m sure it’s something we’ve all thought of at some point but has anyone actually done it? I don’t mean playing yourself wandering around the Forgotten Realms with a bow on your back or a wand in your hand. I really do mean playing yourself as a character in a game in present day.
We’ve done it properly twice I think and I have to say it’s possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done with regards to roleplaying. We managed to get a taster for it during a Vampire TM campaign where we played ourselves as vampires but being undead a lot of our self-ness changed. We then ran the Hunter campaigns which we lucked out on and had two of our more graphic and imaginative Storytellers running the games. The opening to the second game still gives me goosebumps thinking about it.
With any usual game you put on your character like a set of armour and off you go. Everything you do is fantastical. Wether your your spelunking in a dungeon whilst playing D&D or hacking a security system during an attack on some random corporation in Cyberpunk 2020 there is always something going on that cannot happen in real life. Playing a dwarf fighting off an army of wolf riding orcs or getting a new set of cyberware installed detaches you from reality just enough for you to be swept along with the story. It’s like watching an interactive movie. Games along the lines of the World of Darkness series take it that step closer by setting the game in a modern setting and running campaigns in situations that 90% of the time you’d be doing every day anyway. Heading out to a nightclub or walking the streets is very easy to imagine but the fantasy element of being a monster still takes you to that movie like place.
Whilst our games were based on Hunter both our ST’s went out of their way to make sure our powers didn’t manifest early on and even when they did it was never a case of ‘what cool power did I learn today? The realisation of what was going on, baring in mind that as players we really didn’t know much about the system or how it fitted in with the WOD setting, along with the sheer horror our characters were witnessing made it really hard to detach yourself from the game. You were the character and everything you did in game was done instinctively. There was no hint of heroics where they wouldn’t be any and at the end of the night there wasn’t a session that went by that I didn’t learn something about myself. To this day I still hold them up as being the two campaigns that really worked and pulled everyone into the game and didn’t let them out.
I know why they worked. That sense of knowing yourself without thinking as well as knowing your party almost as well as you know yourself takes a lot of work out of the game. There is very little guessing how someone will react in a situation and you know far more about them than you would do with any ordinary character that you play never mind one that the other players play. Having your home town being the basis of the setting and all the places you normally go being used in game means the ST doesn’t have to work to get you imagining the game correctly. It takes all that hard work and focuses it purely on the story.
Now how do you make your other games work that well? What can you take from these kind of games that will work no matter where you set your campaign?