I posed a couple of thematically-connected gaming questions yesterday about campaigns with contemporary settings: namely whether you would use the world outside your window as a setting, and whether you'd play yourself as the game's protagonist or adopt the more traditional approach of an entirely fictional player-character.
Thank you to all those who took the time to answer either of these inquiries.
When it came to setting, there was a general consensus for the idea of "reality plus", that is a setting based on your home town or the general environs, but with an added "x-factor".
John McMullen summed it up when he said: "Even when you use the 'real' world it accumulates campaign unreality, but for some campaigns it can be easier to remember where everything is. It also adds a bit of depth to the world, because you can say, 'Oh, that exists and it's over here.'
"Usually our fictional cities are 'real' ones with a veneer. In that case, we often say, 'This is like Detroit, but with X' (where sometimes X is 'I don't want to have to look things up')."
Tony Demetriou added: "We also like a little wiggle room so we can improvise stuff. We like to be able to say things like 'You find a shop that sells hunting gear' without being bogged down with 'No, there's no hunting gear shop there, but there is a camping supply shop' etc."
However, when it came to the idea of playing a character that was essentially yourself, opinion was more starkly divided.
Tony was adamantly opposed to the idea of portraying himself:
"I don't care about the threat to my fictional version of myself, or to their fictional loved ones. It's just a game.
"But I'd find it limiting. If I'm reacting 'as myself' then it means the success or failure of that character is the success or failure of myself (or of my personality) - I'm either 'trying to win' (in which case I'm not REALLY playing myself) or I'm 'trying to play myself' (in which case any failures caused by me not doing the 'right' thing is also a failure of my moral code or personality or general outlook and behaviour)
And I really enjoy playing other characters and exploring the story. I really enjoy when I make an in-character decision, and it's the wrong decision. I enjoy winning, but I also enjoy losing. I enjoy my character having conflicts with the other characters about their beliefs, morality, methods, etc.
If I'm playing as myself, and especially if the other players are playing as themselves, then that is no longer fun. It's no longer fun to have an in-character conflict about conflicting beliefs. As adults, we can do that better by just talking to each other directly about our beliefs. Why make a game of it, if you're then going to explicitly tie that game into the real world?"
But on the other side of the coin, Erik Ménard - who comes from a Villains & Vigilantes background like myself - said:
"I personally always like the 'play-as-yourself' aspect of Villains & Vigilantes. I've had three versions of my self in various campaigns... But sure I'd play me now with a wife and two kids and mortgage. and all, it would make things more interesting.
"Fact is I'm one of those rare people that if I ever received [a] superpower [I] would actually become a superhero, and wouldn't use my power to fatten my bank account."