Severity of drawbacks?

Talk about Green Ronin's A Song of Ice and Fire RPG, based on George R.R. Martin's best-selling fantasy series. Winter is here!
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mrubiquitous
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Severity of drawbacks?

Post by mrubiquitous » Mon Apr 21, 2014 6:47 am

I just started A Song of Ice and Fire RPG game, and a player sent me her character sheet. There were quite a few drawbacks- two of them in particular caught my eye- Cruel Insanity and Furious.

Now, I do have the campaign guide, and it shows that characters who have Cruel Insanity include Joffrery Baratheon, Gregor Clegane, and Viserys Targaryen. These are evil, murderous people, who would kill anybody who pisses them off a little. So that's how I'm expecing Cruel Insanity to be played out- being utterly devoid of empathy, and a desire to murder everybody and anybody who did something you didn't like.

Then there's Furious. I don't think Furious would destroy the group dynamic really, but coupled with Cruel Insanity, it's a real problem. I'm picturing a chracter who would be walking around, when all of a sudden, some one looks at her in a way she didn't like! She immediately grab her dagger and jams it into the guys throat, because she's unable to control her hatred and her temper.

One of my other players, who played the game before kind of brushed it off, but I don't think these drawbacks are to be downplayed.

What do you all think? Am I setting too high a bar for how severe I want these drawbacks being roleplayed out, or no?

shonuff
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Re: Severity of drawbacks?

Post by shonuff » Mon Apr 21, 2014 10:35 am

I think you're right to be concerned. Is this a novice RPer? I would talk to the player and iron out any issues before starting play, especially if the character won't jive well with the other characters.

omegonthesane
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Re: Severity of drawbacks?

Post by omegonthesane » Mon Apr 21, 2014 12:41 pm

I don't think Gregor Clegane is actually statted with Cruel Insanity in the current Campaign Guide.

Viserys is a hateful, unstable little shit, but he is almost infinitely better than Joffrey at impulse control, and has more things wrong with him than his lack of empathy. It took him getting roaring drunk after months of perceiving that Khal Drogo was reneging on the deal before he finally made his fatal mistake, and he was a Targaryen, so the expected mental stability is already low.

Joffrey, meanwhile, has been taught all his life that he's the King and what he says goes and that he's fantastic, because Cersei and Robert are the worst parents ever.

The big thing is, both of these examples have severe entitlement issues in addition to a total lack of empathy. Gregor Clegane doesn't have these excuses, but Gregor Clegane also has more than enough restraint to hold back when it's important to do so - he doesn't randomly murder people within King's Landing for example.

For examples from my own play experience, I played two different characters with Cruel Insanity. Both were utterly ruthless and amoral, without managing to disrupt the party dynamic a great deal. The first, a recognised bastard, had been raised carefully to be a soldier, but his loyalty to his house wasn't the same thing as empathy, so he didn't see why accidentally killing most of Rhaegar's family meant we had to break our vows as Dragonstone bannermen and side with Robert - and later, he didn't see why it was wrong to unilaterally attempt to murder his lord father so that his more competent brother could take charge. The second was just plain unstable, but had grown up an unrecognised bastard in Pyke and learned restraint by dint of never quite being the strongest in an environment where too little restraint gets you killed. She still set fire to multiple bedrooms in the Eyrie while searching it to find where Lord Baelish had hidden (long story).

Also, if the Cruel Insane character is meant to be in any way interacting with the Intrigue rules, Cruel Insanity shuts down most of the ways of getting an idea of what your opponents are really up to, so it'll be a mechanical disadvantage pretty much whatever happens. If they avoid Intrigue like the plague, of course, then it'll need to be roleplayed, and you will want to impress on the player how they are still aware they are not R'hllor, they will lash out only when they can get away with it rather than being ALWAYS EVIL ALL THE TIME.

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Re: Severity of drawbacks?

Post by vonpenguin » Mon Apr 21, 2014 1:05 pm

There are many ways to play a given flaw and I'll agree with Omegonthesane in that if well roleplayed it can make perfect sense, but combined with Furious it can certainly lead to issues since you are combining cruelty and a notable lack of anger management. I would sit down with the player and have a good in depth talk about how he plans on roleplaying them, how he sees them interacting, so on and so forth. Some players can turn concepts you don't think will work into amazing members of the group (I once had a character in a modern fantasy game play a house cat, a sentient one, but not one that could actually talk to the group in any way beyond "meow" and rubbing against their legs. None of us thought it would work but he pulled it off.) But you need to know what their plans are so you can judge for yourself. At the very least tell him "you can play this but if it's not working out we're going to write him out and bring in a new character, ok?".

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Re: Severity of drawbacks?

Post by Canarr » Tue Apr 22, 2014 1:28 am

A few good points have been made so far, especially the part about sitting down with the player in question to define her view of the character, and make sure that it fits both with your view of the world and with the other characters and their players. This combination of flaws can certainly be a cool addition to the story (it'll provide story hooks aplenty), but only if the player isn't the type to pick such flaws (or the Chaotic Evil alignment...) just to have carte blanche to do whatever he feels like without having to suffer the consequences ("Hey, I was just playing my character!"). Those exist, and they're annoying.

Also, make sure you and the player work together to define the nature (the "parameters") of the insanity. In my game, I've placed a NC (the PC Heir's younger brother) with the Cruel Insanity flaw. His personality runs a little in the direction of omegonthesane's first example: he has absolutely no moral compass of this own, no understanding for other people's suffering, no feeling of right or wrong. He just knows what he's been taught - and he was raised and trained as a knight, so he follows a knight's code, because that's what knights do. However, he has also learned that people who do wrong must be punished, so he doesn't feel it conflicts with his vows to kill people he believe have wronged him (or disrespected his authority...). He killed a PC, as well, and managed to get away with that (mostly because the Heir has the Naive flaw, admittedly).

Okay, I rambled a bit there. The point I was trying to make: work out exactly how you and the player expect this flaw - or both flaws - to come into play, so you can be sure that you're both on the same page. Then there shouldn't be any problems.

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Re: Severity of drawbacks?

Post by Paedrig » Tue Apr 22, 2014 4:39 am

In my eyes such a drawback combination could become a killer for the group climate very soon if they are played out consequently.
Some players (as far as i have seen a majority) have a relatively high moral level - based on 'traditional' rpgs/fantasy settings. And acting out cruel insanity/furious could lead to anger and internal conflicts rather easily. This is of course always the problem if group standarts differ a lot.
But it is especially tricky because the drawbacks you mention could also lead to violent conflict between pc intime - either because other pc react to serious misbehavings of the cruel/furious pc - or because the cruel/furious pc want to 'play out' his role also towards the other pc.
In this case things can get nasty. In most groups i know f. e. killing/maiming annother pc tends to become also a outplay problem.
Better to avoid this...

However if the player 'downplays' the drawbacks (only bring them into play if there is no risk of in-group conflict) the drawback appears a little bit...a cheap won destiny points.

So i would argue to use not more than ONE of the drawbacks - and handle with care. Group intern conflicts could be nice but could also become nasty.

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Re: Severity of drawbacks?

Post by omegonthesane » Tue Apr 22, 2014 5:53 am

Paedrig wrote:In my eyes such a drawback combination could become a killer for the group climate very soon if they are played out consequently.
Some players (as far as i have seen a majority) have a relatively high moral level - based on 'traditional' rpgs/fantasy settings. And acting out cruel insanity/furious could lead to anger and internal conflicts rather easily. This is of course always the problem if group standarts differ a lot.
But it is especially tricky because the drawbacks you mention could also lead to violent conflict between pc intime - either because other pc react to serious misbehavings of the cruel/furious pc - or because the cruel/furious pc want to 'play out' his role also towards the other pc.
In this case things can get nasty. In most groups i know f. e. killing/maiming annother pc tends to become also a outplay problem.
Better to avoid this...

However if the player 'downplays' the drawbacks (only bring them into play if there is no risk of in-group conflict) the drawback appears a little bit...a cheap won destiny points.

So i would argue to use not more than ONE of the drawbacks - and handle with care. Group intern conflicts could be nice but could also become nasty.
Alternately - make sure an intrigue comes up. "Must spin my first Intrigue move as Intimidate" plus "Cannot Read Target reliably" should remind the player that the drawbacks are indeed drawbacks.

But yes, make sure the party are OOC comfortable with playing a group who IC would be able to long tolerate a Cruel Insane / Furious / Both character, and have a chat beforehand about how acceptable PvP actions are. I did have one campaign in a different system where the GM gave us all the same "win condition" objective at each point, but deliberately played us against eachother when it came to non-mission-critical objectives, which I think is about as much PvP as it's possible to have in a group that isn't meant to be at risk of disintegrating IC.

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Re: Severity of drawbacks?

Post by vonpenguin » Tue Apr 22, 2014 6:08 am

omegonthesane wrote:
Paedrig wrote:In my eyes such a drawback combination could become a killer for the group climate very soon if they are played out consequently.
Some players (as far as i have seen a majority) have a relatively high moral level - based on 'traditional' rpgs/fantasy settings. And acting out cruel insanity/furious could lead to anger and internal conflicts rather easily. This is of course always the problem if group standarts differ a lot.
But it is especially tricky because the drawbacks you mention could also lead to violent conflict between pc intime - either because other pc react to serious misbehavings of the cruel/furious pc - or because the cruel/furious pc want to 'play out' his role also towards the other pc.
In this case things can get nasty. In most groups i know f. e. killing/maiming annother pc tends to become also a outplay problem.
Better to avoid this...

However if the player 'downplays' the drawbacks (only bring them into play if there is no risk of in-group conflict) the drawback appears a little bit...a cheap won destiny points.

So i would argue to use not more than ONE of the drawbacks - and handle with care. Group intern conflicts could be nice but could also become nasty.
Alternately - make sure an intrigue comes up. "Must spin my first Intrigue move as Intimidate" plus "Cannot Read Target reliably" should remind the player that the drawbacks are indeed drawbacks.

But yes, make sure the party are OOC comfortable with playing a group who IC would be able to long tolerate a Cruel Insane / Furious / Both character, and have a chat beforehand about how acceptable PvP actions are. I did have one campaign in a different system where the GM gave us all the same "win condition" objective at each point, but deliberately played us against eachother when it came to non-mission-critical objectives, which I think is about as much PvP as it's possible to have in a group that isn't meant to be at risk of disintegrating IC.
Technically if you are using the errata they don't have to intimidate the first round, they're just at a penalty if they don't.

Main issue would be making sure the way the drawbacks are played allows the group to work together. Giving the insane character a close tie with a character that is either in charge or well liked is the easiest option. The "problem" character would want to help the one they like who can shield them from reprisals from the rest, I've been in groups where this has happened. If the players are mature and on the same page there's minimal fuss. At least OOC.

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Re: Severity of drawbacks?

Post by shonuff » Tue Apr 22, 2014 6:30 am

If the players are mature...
Does that ever happen? :)

I don't know though, even if characters say they are cool with it OOC, I find that changes if the the crazy PC wastes enough sessions by being crazy. Or if the evil character acts against a PC after the other player has invested hours/days/more into creating and defining their character.

Don't get me wrong, it can work. Just more often than not, I don't see truly evil characters doing well in campaigns.

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Re: Severity of drawbacks?

Post by vonpenguin » Tue Apr 22, 2014 6:52 am

shonuff wrote:
If the players are mature...
Does that ever happen? :)

I don't know though, even if characters say they are cool with it OOC, I find that changes if the the crazy PC wastes enough sessions by being crazy. Or if the evil character acts against a PC after the other player has invested hours/days/more into creating and defining their character.

Don't get me wrong, it can work. Just more often than not, I don't see truly evil characters doing well in campaigns.
Like I said, it really depends on the players. I am a player in one game in a homebrew setting where one of the players is a notorious pirate, another is a homicidal drug lord. My honorable barbarian chief owes them for saving his wife from slavery and so puts up with them. The other goodish character all have similar reasons for feeling loyalty or at least considering them the lesser evil. The thing is "even evil has loved ones", I wouldn't advise letting an evil character in if the player handed in the sheet before the first session but if everyone works with it it should be workable with effort. Personally I like to borrow from the Dresden Files RPG here, characters are made after the house and everyone pitches concepts with everyone present. Helps keep conflicts like "Noble good knight of goodness" and "Evil mcMurderpants" out of the same group, or at least makes Evil be subtle about it.

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