Playing Yourself

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?

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10 Comments

  1. PatrickWR says:

    I don’t know about playing myself, but I’ve had great fun playing non-powered, non-heroic characters in various games, usually horror. My group’s best effort was with Little Fears, the game of childhood terror. As expected, we all played little kids, age 8-13, and we had virtually no special powers. It was exciting and terrifying at the same time — because as kids, we all thought we were invincible, so we were able to advance the plot in ways that would have been unheard of for a group of hardened D&D adventurers. That is, until we came face to face with a slobbering were-pig in the shadowy halls of a gothic cathedral. Then we sobered up and started strategizing, but by then it was too late.

    PatrickWRs last blog post..Warmachine night at Black Sun Games

  2. Bartoneus says:

    We had a GURPS game several years ago where it started out as very low point characters based on recreating ourselves as best we could in the game system. From there we all gained hilarious and unique super powers, and ridiculousness ensued!

    Bartoneuss last blog post..4th Edition: Playtest a Barbarian

  3. Dave T. Game says:

    Yes, in GURPS, for two (linked) campaigns. However, in both cases, it only started out in the present day and then we jumped around through time and space to different settings.

    I’m itching to run a one-shot game using Dread where the players play themselves- my high school buddies and I playing us in high school during a zombie invasion.

    I think part of the issue is that we really have no way to know how we’d really react to the situations presented unless it actually happened. When playing another character, we can always justify it as “that’s what this imaginary character would do” but can end up not being sure how we’d really react to a situation.

    Dave T. Games last blog post..4th Edition: Playtest a Barbarian

  4. Storyteller says:

    I actually played a 24-hour LARP in high school where the characters were ourselves. We pretty much just acted out our days like normal, but when friday night rolled around… I still have my old laminated “magic license” for using magic legally within the bounds of my home town. Good times…

    Storytellers last blog post..Gamebuilding #2: The Beginning

  5. Dave T. Game says:

    Of course, Bartoneus and myself are talking about the same campaign, which wouldn’t have happened if comments were not held for moderation. :-P

    Dave T. Games last blog post..A Closer Look at 4th Edition Multi-Classing

  6. Bob says:

    Its only the first comment you make that gets held. After that they show up straight away :p

    Had to many bad encounters with spammers on my other blogs to have it any other way. Akismet only catches so much these days :(

  7. Bob says:

    I know one of the other ST’s in our group has been itching to play a zombie game similar to the one mentioned but I’ve no idea what system he would be using.

    As for LARPing. I know a few folk that have played a mishmash of Mind’s Eye Theatre and Vampire 2nd Edition rules here in Glasgow but I’ve never actually managed to join them. The closest we managed to an ill fated attempt to get to one of the big games in England about 14 years ago. And by ill fated I mean we had paid for travel etc and I think our minibus broke down three times before we left Scotland. We ended up turning back as by then the game had already been running for 12 hours and by the time we would have got there barring any other incidents the first day of the weekender would have been over.

  8. Actually, yea…one of our games back home is a d20 modern game set 5 years from now as ourselves…horrible things have happened in the world based on extrapolation of various crises that are occuring now and last session aliens invaded…

    FUN!…

    We’re all making our way through college at the moment so it was interesting to see where we were 5 years from now…

    I imagine myself dropping out at the end of this semester and moving to the Netherlands to live with distant family there, where I work as a writer who sells his crappy scripts to Holly/Baliwood and whilst refining my best material to be made under my personal supervision…

    I nat 20′d a profession check a few sessions ago…watch out for Spiderman 7…it’s going to be fucking historic…

    Reverend Mikes last blog post..My Little Abomination: His Name Is James…

  9. amatriain says:

    I did play myself once, in a “realistic-superheroes” campaign. It wasn’t specially interesting and I discarded the idea. Anyway I think the GM didn’t like the idea (nor me personally, truth be told :D) and that certainly didn’t help.

  10. Hammer says:

    I could start RPing myself, but I’d end up RPing either a complete parody of myself or being a bit boring.

    Suppose it’s the escapist in me talking when I say I really like inventing a character and he attitudes. It’s good fun to think about how someone else would deal with situations and so on.
    Good practise for debating/essaying/situations where you have to look at issues from various angles as well.


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