#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 12: "FRIENDSHIP"

Good friends don't judge you or ask a lot of questions. They help you move the body and never speak of it again.

In real life, I believe friends are essential. They provide support, understanding, perspective, help and many other benefits, the most important of which may connection. So how about in RPG's?

People think of RPG parties as a group of friends who seek adventure together, probably because in Lord of the Rings, everybody was so loyal and friendly. But in fact, I've very rarely seen that. In fact, in most games I've run or played in, party members are acquaintances of convenience, and often some party members don't like each other.

But as play goes on, people often do form bonds, either to other people in the party or to people outside it. Such relationships provide depth to the characters and the story, they provide hooks and assets (or liabilities) for the story, and they provide a more genuine and memorable experience.

Here are some of my favorite friendships that have occurred either in-game, at the table, or as part of world-building, and how they have changed the game:

In-Party Friendship
I find that groups of friends tend to form in games--even in con games. And while "proper RPG group design" says that warrior types go with squishy caster types, and rogues go with people who can keep an eye on them without slowing them down and so on. But when people pair up in games, what I've found that people break off into groups by friendships. So unless there is a specific reason not to, the mage and bard might go together because they have a similar sense of humor, and both fighters might work together because they both enjoy checking out blacksmith shops--not because they are an "optimal" pairing.

One specific case was a character who decided it was his mission to keep a specific party member safe. And so he would sometimes ignore the group's plan to ensure that the group of enemies getting too close to his friend didn't become a problem. A few times and the people organizing the plans had to start taking this behavior into practice.

Friendly NPC
One friendship that leaps to mind is actually between a character and his unseen servant (who in Trinity tend to have personalities). The character is a wild mage who worships Lotar the Fool; his unseen servant is Kiran, and it doesn't matter whether the mage has cast the spell, is out of spells or in a non-magic area...Kiran is always there, always commenting. I'll send in-character IM's to the mage, who responds out loud--things like "NO, we're not putting butter on them this time!" What makes it fun is that it's left arbitrary as to whether Kiran is a spell, a hallucination, is real, or if Kiran is real and the mage is actually the phantasm. It's made more complex by the fact that the mage got a Wish at some point, and used it to make Kiran visible.

This friendship makes the stories potentially more interesting because the other players and NPCs who interact with the mage have varied reactions to this entity who should just be a spell effect. Some greet Kiran, some ignore him, some (unwisely) comment on servants, or suggest that he's not real or not there. And when Kiran got temporarily dispelled, the mage went absolutely nuclear, casting his biggest spells with no regard to the effects.

Cult of Personality
A character that I personally had was the "face" of the party. Tal had high charisma and was talented at all forms of social interaction. Wherever Tal went, people tend to treat him as someone to be respected, and if he worked it, would be a trusted friend. One of my favorite incidents was when we went into a town where we needed to inconspicuously camp out for some weeks or months, to try to figure out if there were secret bad things going on. I rented a nice storefront with plenty of room for us, then started talking to people. They quickly "remembered me" as little Tal, who they all remembered from before I left to seek my fortune--and shared their memories of our time together. All of which was a total fabrication on THEIR part because I had never been there, but they wanted to connect with Tal, and so they remembered him.

Old Friends
One of the unique elements of Trinity is that all the gods used to be mortals. While it's not true that the mortal is the god...there is a layer of abstraction, the people who used to be gods were often friends or rivals in former lives. The ones who are friends often had no connections aside from that personal connection. This means that as gods, there are strange connections between gods that would not exist in a perfectly ordered mythology. For example, the gods of life and death were sisters. Valadhir, the god of balance had numerous friends...and so the god of vengeance and the god of fire have a connection between their worshipers because the gods themselves were friends through Valadhir.

In-Game System
I have to give a callout to the Invisible Sun game for really making connections to start the game off. Note that most games have this mechanic, including every game by Monte Cook Games. However, I think that they really nailed in in IS. Because everything that game is player-driven, there needs to be a connection between the characters to keep them from disbanding or wandering off alone. So there's a round-robin connection so that everybody has one connection they've established, with possibly more than one, because of other people's connections. And when it comes up in the game, it changes the actions and behaviors.

Ultimately, just like freindships make our lives more fulfilling, the friendships and relationships that occur in RPG's are just important for taking stories that are exciting and complex and bringing a layer of additional depth and humanity to them.

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