I have written before, at least once, about my experience playing a character in an ongoing Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) campaign. I spent two games playing one particular character, thinking I was bumbling about with him, and only realizing after that others had appreciated his story immensely. That story reached an ending, although the character did not die; rather, the “interesting” part of his narrative is over, and he is off doing other things that may be important in the setting but are far less so in terms of making for interesting stories to tell. The campaign continues, however, being just about to start up again, and I have a new character for the new game.
As before, there is little of me in the character, at least as I envision him at the moment. (They change as they are played, as many players can tell you, and while it is always good to have a background in mind, it is also good to be flexible; characters’ voices surprise us at times.) I am, as I have noted elsewhere, a staid and stolid person, even if I am less flabby now than then, and my character is and has been an adventurer in, not quite the D&D sense of the term, but not far off from it. He is a more commanding, imposing figure than I, by far, and far less intellectually inclined. (Whether he’s more capable or not, I am not sure; I didn’t exactly cover myself with glory in that line, after all.)
Too, he has underlying goals and overt goals, and while I have a few of the latter, I do not have the former in quite so much supply, anymore. I used to, of course; when I was pursuing the doctorate, it was a goal, and it was a goal in service to the goal of securing a continuing-line academic position. Anymore, though, I do not have the sense of direction that my character does–with more and less figuration; he does have the (perhaps informed) attribute of always knowing which way is north. I am not looking to use the character to suss out goals of my own; I have other venues in which to do so. But having the character have some such reminds me that I am not as firm in my own as I feel I probably ought to be (and whether that feeling is a good one or not can be argued, of course, perhaps even usefully).
I suppose that’s another of the useful things in the collaborative, extemporaneous, rules-assisted storytelling Mackay describes RPGs as being; not only are they escapist, with the values therein, but they are also revelatory, since what emerges in the character has to come from somewhere, something that the person animating the character has taken in along the way. And that allows more agency over ourselves for those of us who play such games and pay attention.