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Hot Button: The Player or the Sheet?
Posted By John Arcadian On August 23, 2010 @ 12:15 am In Hot Buttons | 18 Comments
Imagine this fairly common scenario: The character sheet talks about a backwoods, uneducated fighter with a low intelligence score. The player knows that the word puzzle on the wall can be solved by removing every third letter and putting the min order. The fighter might not know this, but the player does. Should the player be able to bring in their knowledge and find some way for the fighter to have brought it up, or should the Game Master enforce the character backstory or let the player flex their own knowledge in the game?
Unless you are playing yourself, there is always going to be a divide between what the player knows and is capable of and what the character knows and is capable of, but how should that divide be played out? If the sheet says the character’s charisma couldn’t convince a cat to sleep but the player gives an incredibly eloquent speech that would net her an Oscar, what wins? I think that this is always going to be a hard question to answer, due to the unique merging of player and character that occurs in all sorts of gaming. Mechanical skills are used to represent things the players aren’t capable of, but without the player controlling the character nothing would happen. So which element is more important to the game and to the player’s, and the group’s, fun?
I’m pretty sure there is no definite answer, but there are a few overarching ways that I can think of to approach this Player or Sheet conundrum when it comes up:
There are an endless number of situations where a player or sheet conundrum might come up, and each one probably has many suitable answers that depend on play group, style, game, and countless other factors. The Player or The Sheet is an incredibly big question with no real right answer. In one situation Extreme Realism might be the appropriate response, while in another situation in the exact same game the Fun Grey Area might be a much better fit. So how about it? Ever had a deep issue between the player or the sheet? Does your group have a particular way of playing it when it does come up?
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