I made a discovery a couple of weeks ago; one that endangered my work productivity for a couple of hours (don’t worry employer, I made it up and made my deadlines). There was a thread on the Amia forums about playing evil (the one that prompted my post on playing evil in fact) and someone linked to this article as a tip. This set me to exploring the TV Tropes wiki. What an absolute goldmine!
It also gave me an idea about incorporating feedback from other players into our playstyle.
Take any character from any world and consider just how many clichés belong to that character. Sure, that character may be anti-hero number ten thousandth and one on the server and no, I’ve seen the crazy gnome wizard cliché before. I’ve played the crazy gnome wizard. And the mentally unstable Viking. And the goody two shoes paladin. And the paladin dressed in black (ohhh the edgy combination of paladin and black. We’re almost in Batman territory now). And the wolf-in-sheep’s clothing. I’ve lost count of the number of Longstocking clones I’ve played. Etc. Etc. It is very likely that another player sees your character and thinks “here we go again”. But there is an important element of the equation here; the player may be exploring the dark anti-hero trope (or any other) for the first time. Never fear. Just about every story in existence can be broken down into a list of clichés (tropes), and its not as if the roleplayer is doing something that every novelist and screenplay writer is also doing; even if by accident.
This got me to thinking about how we choose our characters tropes, how we play them and how we get feedback from other players. One thing that I’ve notices is that there is something of an unwritten rule that at any given point, the main characters of the playerbase will cover a broad spectrum. They won’t all cluster in anti-hero, villain, hero, rogue, mage, etc. tropes at the same time because too many characters of the same type limits the individuality of any particular character. Character X may be the nth paladin in the history of the server, but one of only a handful of currently active ones. Chances are, the player does not want to be “mysterious, yet unmistakably powerful, good, drow #167”. They may not even be aware that their character is perceived differently than they intend.
Enter the trope cloud. The trope cloud is a tag cloud, but the tags are all tropes. When playing, other players could semi-anonymously trope tag a character. When reviewing the character sheet, the player would see the trope cloud as they would a tag cloud (such as the one in the right side margin of this blog). The trope tag would be semi-anonymous because the player would not be able to see who tagged there character with which tropes, this information would be available to the GM team as a safeguard against abuse. Clicking on a trope tag would bring up a list of other characters tagged with that trope. The global trope tag cloud could also be viewed by a player considering making a new character, or planning where to go with a character. Hopefully, it could help them avoid oversubscribed tropes.
Plus, it might be fun to hang lampshades on our characters on occasion. As long as it does not get out of hand and break the immersion of the world.