Yesterday, inspiration struck me. I was reading a post over at Stargazer's and I understood right away that he's right. Sure, I had a few posts that were directed to my players (or to other GM's readers...), but it can't hurt to have another tips' post directed to them, can it?
Anyway, I wanted to talk about something that I've heard a lot, from myself and from many others: "My character wouldn't do something like that!" This dreadful answer is something that we hear or make in order to save ourselves from doing something that we don't like. "The mayor wants you to leave those cops alone. -My character hates cops, Holilo Lombrete won't do a thing like that!"
Before we go for what I want to say today, I want first to examine why it's so problematic. There are many reasons and many problems that a statement like that carries with it. The first that I want to discuss is that a statement like that means that the player doesn't trust the GM. In other words, we have here a trust issue. If the player says something like that, he's like saying "I know what you want me to do, but I don't like this idea, so fuck off!" This is a sure way to make the next idea by the GM even worse or late or even make the GM have trust issues with himself/herself and no new and/or interesting ideas will come. Sure, I'm a little bit going for an over the top thing, but this is the way to get there (well, one of the ways...).
Secondly, it prevents the player(s) from getting to new and interesting places. Genesis had a song called "I know what I like (and I like what I know)", and this is the point of the song: I know what I like and don't like, and I like what I know, resulting in an anti to try new things.
Thirdly, it makes the characters stereotypes. I'm sure that almost any person that we'll see, even if s/he will say "I won't do that", if they'll have no other choice, they'll do that. More than that, even in less dreadful situations, people do things that they don't want to do.
So, what did I want to say after all of this long long exposition? That any character can do any action that she wants or doesn't want to do. That's the whole point, that's what I wanted to say, and that's probably one of the most shocking (at least to myself) revelations I've reached for this year.
Think about it for a moment. I can justify according to my background almost everything that I can do. I can justify a helping and caring hand, and I can justify in the same way the opposite of it. A pacifist might justify carrying a sword in order to intimidate as a way to prevent wars, and a womaniser might stop chasing a woman by saying that she probably has a good reason for not wanting him (Skins, anyone?). Justification is not that hard to achieve, and if it's not strong enough, a few "yes, and"s and the problem is solved.
One more thing to consider is that this choice, whether to chase the goal while doing something that is against all of the character's morals or to leave the goal, is the highest point of drama. The sudden understanding that my morals stand in the way of my goal, or vice verse, is the whole point of drama. After all, if there's no real conflict there, there's no real interest...
So, this concludes this post. What do you think? Do you also agree that everything can be justified according to the character's background? Why, or why not?