(written for my Pop Lit Class as part of character death & attachment module a few years ago.)
Warning, personal cathartic rant begins right now, look away, it gets ugly:
I keep a side of my personality hidden away from my coworkers. In a closet in my house there are books, maps and dice, I game. I admit it, I am a gamer, role playing table top, or better known as D&...D, shadowrun, gurps, and a dozen more well and much less known games. Many or the best
nights of my life, was around a table, books, pop, chips, dice - most times around friends that were also my enemies.
Not only did I play these games, I usually ran the game. I was the story-teller, (Dungeon-
master, Game Master or referee depending upon the game system.) I created the back-end of
the story so the players could adventure. Dice determined success of their choice, but mostly
it was the players, they did and sometimes they did not. I swear best nights of my life.
Together we created a shared storyline. It had everything, pacing, setting, acting, chaos (i.e. dice)
& characters. In fact, in most ways, the characters were the key ingredient, for as story-teller
I created the background but the individual players created their characters. And believe me, they owned the characters. Often setting them up to mirror their favorite TV or movie characters or something else entirely. Yes, it was the gamut of tolkien fantasy (warriors, thieves, wizards, elves, dwarves...) but it was also personality and history and flaws and chosen quirks. sometimes, players could take many hours to sculpt the character on paper. Characters most often kept the characters until the dice failed them, and in the line of duty they died, and then they created a new one unless by circumstance or level they were raised to life to continue their epic journeys. Did I mention you before that these were the BEST nights of my life?
Believe me after months of a journey, in a continuing story arc, finding clues, defeating minions, until they come to the BOG BAD BOSS (C) it all comes down to 1-2 hour game session event, where no holds were barred. I used every dirty sneaky but fair trick. The players worked together, planned, sweated, took chances and it came down to rolls, where players were standing around the table, and their fates (sorry their characters fate, along with the princess, or magical artifact or city or even their world) came down to a roll of the dice. ahh...best nights...of my old life. COME ON TWENTY!!!!!
Often, using the game design quirks players could master a particular skill, say tripping an opponent...then they would do this skill non-stop until I started to throw crazy stuff in to let the player know, stop it, this isn`t fun to do...not for me and not for the other players. Understand success was awesome, but, it was more about the fun we had around the table. And if they kept doing the same thing repeatedly to challenge them, I had to do stupid stuff that limited my imagination, once others players realized it, it lost its appeal....because something of the story was compromised. Some pretty good nights there.
And sometimes after weeks of game story, of doing their leveling and journeys and when they faced the big baddie something wonderful happened. players sacrificed their characters. They jumped into the dragons breath, bear-hugged a demon and jumped into a dimensional portal, cracked their magical sword releasing hell-fire...to stop a BAD THING (C) from happening. Why? Because story matters. They were involved and wanted to stop that pretend BAD THING from happening, and they were sacrificing a character that they may have used for years.
From this I had an amazing revelation - character is secondary to the story. PERIOD. Stop, read it again.
Character is secondary to the story.
This is important. Actually this is my only point here. You only like a character in the first place because the story captured you. Without the story, the character is meaningless.
If players who had created the characters were willing to sacrifice their pretend characters to a pretend danger, then so should authors and screenwriters. They don't because they care too much for their pretend characters and that is horrible. That is putting something else (fans, characters, sequels, money) ahead of the story. Some DM should throw a blue lightning bolt from the sky at them for cheating (I'm sure the Lightning Lady could do it.)
Thats why I love character death, or injury or throwing crazy stuff into the mix. When the creator is respecting the story and doing the bad stuff they are also respecting you as an audience. They are not pandering to you; they are being true to their vision. and if, if you actually liked the story...respect the author, respect the story regardless of what happens.
Game players respect the story enough to sacrifice their character. Believe me, characters who are sacrificed are way better then those who retire or go on. But for us players, the real people rolling the dice and having fun, creating new characters to have more new fun, we remember those good times regardless of the numbers.
And though none of you know him, I still have to say this - this was for Rob, miss ya bud.
/end cathartic rant now.