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Co-op Mothership - Part 2 - Negotiations
No, you don't have to do the voices
I recently made a statement about my own preferences about NPC and character dialog that turned out to be way more shocking than I thought it would be when I expressed my opinion on the Mothership Discord server.
I find people doing voices for PCs and NPCs in ttrpgs to be insufferable.
This is not the typical modern opinion, especially in the world of Critical Role and other games live-streamed by professional actors.
The responses were the same as one of my favorite family stories. I was at my mother-in-law’s Irish wake and my wife was talking about making biscuits and gravy in the morning. I mention that I don’t really like biscuits because I can taste the baking soda. Her cousin hears this and exclaims while literally standing on a soapbox:
YOU DON’T LIKE FUCKING BISCUITS!!!
It was foreign to him that I wouldn’t like biscuits and to some folx, roleplaying without play acting PCs and NPCs also felt foreign to them. I could tell that the thought is that my game must be all dice rolls and rules and gameplay, and that is not really the case.
My conception of roleplaying is embodying my character through gameplay choices, not characterization choices (voice, backstory, etc.): equipment, skills, actions during encounters, problem-solving outside of encounters, etc. Since we are co-constructing a co-op game, all of these decisions are our form of creativity. We decide on stats and effects for new equipment, cyber mods, and drugs together, making sure things seem reasonable for our PCs. It’s meta gaming in service of building out the PCs we want, not in service of dealing the most damage by min-maxing.
A good example of this focus on gameplay centric roleplaying can be seen in how we recently handled a negotiation within the module Desert Moon of Karth. We came back from a dungeon, and a mercenary who was supposed to be our minder died during the encounter. We came back and brought back a cut of the loot to his boss as we were instructed, but we were also supposed to bring back the mercenary alive. We started having a discussion about what the consequences for this should be. My partner thought that since we came back a reasonable consequence would be losing all of the loot, and the Marshall on the planet was greedy first and foremost. I thought we had not followed his instructions, thus disrespecting him, so I thought that there would be more consequences which could possibly include:
Impound our ship that was only on the surface because of strings pulled with The Governor of the colony, taking away our fast travel on the moon’s surface.
Throw us in jail, making us go through a trial with The Governor using modified tribunal rules from A Pound of Flesh
Taking the prospector who was our guide to the Silver Tower to have his organ’s harvested, making us find the prospector within the Silver Tower.
Our characters are chaotic, but we don’t kill anyone directly. We’re like Blackbeard on Our Flag Means Death.
My partner was able to convince me that we should go with the option of losing all the loot. We looked at each other and laughed. We realized that we just acted out the negotiation between our party and the PC without actually acting it out. I took on the role of the NPC, and my partner took on the role of the player. However, we never stepped into characters and never actually simulated the negotiation in real time like you would if you were doing voices and acting out the characters.
Brainstorming gameplay built our character interactions.
We’re building our own rich world and characters, and, no, we don’t have to do the voices.