In Something for the Weekend this week, I have another Guest Post for you. This post is from Kenny “the Cabbage” Norris. Kenny blogs regularly at The Lone Cabbage, where he focuses on solo roleplaying.
Kenny’s previous Guest Post was Flat Social Roleplaying & How to Avoid It.
This week, Kenny returns to talk about pursuing goals. Over to you, Kenny.
The World Cup is over, thankfully so, but I still want to talk about goals. These aren’t the goals that you see scored either by penalty, free kick, or during normal play. These goals are the goals that got the players (sorry can’t name any: David Seaman retired years ago) to where they are.
These same goals will also take your characters to new levels and depths.
John was driving to work, George was starting a new game tonight. They had discussed things as a group and this time they decided that they were going to go for a more story driven game. Adam and Becca, after the success of the last campaign, had decided to give it a go.
3 Types of Goals
There is much written about goals. Not what’s found in the sports pages, but that which is found in the self-help, or management, sections of the bookstore, and to be found on the ‘net. I’ve read a few books dealing with goals but nothing has stuck for me. I’m still terrible at setting and maintaining goals. For proof all you have to do is look at my decreasing-increasing waistline (decreasing now thankfully).
There are three broad stages in goal creation:
- knowing where you are
- knowing where you want to be
- going in the right direction
George laid out the idea of the campaign the group agreed on. It was inspired by Babylon 5. Humankind got drawn into a war by two alien groups. Humans, being the most advanced race, were the shepherds and protectors of the younger races since the last advanced race went Beyond the Rim. Alone the humans were being manipulated in two directions at once.
Something has to give . . .
Around the outside of the broad stages of goal direction are a few tips that I picked up. It is best if a goal is concrete and written in a positive and time-limited manner.
Goal: Type 3
Of course that is great for us in real life (and I hope it’ll be helpful to you) but it’s our fictional characters, our avatars, we’re creating goals for. In that respect we don’t need to worry about the now as much. It’s the direction we’re taking the avatar that’s important.
For our characters we need the following:
- a concrete destination
- a positive write up
- a nebulous time limit
- a narrow focus
Even if you don’t do the rest: knowing where you want your character to go, and why, will give your character depth making them seem more real.
Very few people out in the public spotlight get there because they happen to be in the right place and time. They get there because they worked long and hard to achieve their goals. It is the result of their aims, and direction, in life that gets them in the public view. Which gets them their mega-bucks. Few do not want the money, money is a side effect, they want something else.
Knowing what they want is important but why they want it, also how far they will go, give colour to your character. A man who wants to save his daughter from a life threatening illness can be played many ways:
- an evil scientist who attempts any and all methods including killing other girls
- a man who wants the best care for his daughter and goes out to get rich to spend his money on her treatment
- a man who retrains to become a scientist so he can work on a cure for his daughter
- a mystic who makes a deal with the Devil to save his daughter in return for his soul
There are many more ways how this character can be played. Adding concrete language into the goal can give it an entirely different meaning than some ‘cookie-cutter’ goal.
I have one more bit of advice: make the goal primal.
Make the basic goal in such a way that a caveman can understand it. Make it big. Make it all encompassing. Make it the character’s final option. There can be no other goals. If this fails then the life of the character is over. Life doesn’t just mean physical life. It can be:
- psychological, or
- work related.
In the grand scheme of things this does not matter. If you make any, and all, goals positive then they should be second nature when you come to make your own future life goals.
So no ‘I want’ or ‘I aim’. It’s all ‘I will’ or ‘My goal is’.
Nebulous Time Limit
This is the only time that I tell you not to do something concrete in relation to the goals of the character.
When creating goals there needs to be time limit. In life we need a solid date: a good deadline. In roleplaying socially there are other characters involved and things going on. So have a deadline, yes, but make sure it can be adapted to the needs of the group, the game, and the campaign.
Phil has learnt this lesson. So have I. We focused upon what’s important to us.
So does your character.
When building your character you need them to have a focus in their life. That is what the goal provides. You need to look at your character’s goal to make sure that the whole group is aligned in a similar direction. This is not to say that all of the character’s in a group need the same goal. What they need are goals that are aligned and intersect well with each other.
George had asked Adam, Becca, and John to prepare a list of goals they thought they would like their character to do in-game. John had expected, and was not surprised, when Adam and Becca came out with about 6 goals between them. John introduced his list of goals: a mix between what he wanted and thought that Adam and Becca could get alongside with.
After a discussion the 3 players, with George’s help, came up with a goal for each character that all aligned with each other.
Adam: Become the Sector Commander.
Becca: Become the Head of the Sector’s Secret Service.
John: Jantil’s goal is to discover the truth behind his wife’s mysterious disappearance and to discover the meanings of the strange messages and payments he is receiving.
Creating goals is never an end. It’s always the start.
The start of a new path.
It, too, is an end. A true goal is the end of other related, and non-related, goals.
Once you start upon the path stick to it: a path through meadows is nice. But nice is not what stories are made from.
Story is made from conflict.
Conflict is made from difficulties in the path towards the goal.
Coming in a fortnight: Conflict vs. Goals
Kenny wrote a companion piece to this article, focused on solo role-playing, which has been uploaded to The Lone Cabbage.
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Something for the Weekend next week: July RPG Blog Carnival