Saturday, 29 March 2014

As Tears Go By

So, I cried in character at the table last Saturday night.

Yeah. That's never happened before. 

Anecdote: My wonderful wife has a great part time job where she acts as a "standardized patient" to train medical students, and she's able to reach down somewhere and cry in character at the drop of a hat. It freaks young doctors out pretty good to deal with that sort of real human emotion. They often have a hard time believing that it's an act, even though she can walk out of there smiling and comes home feeling refreshed. 

We're an uptight lot in Western society, uncomfortable with public displays of emotion -- or maybe with being confronted by the fact of a stranger's humanity, vulnerability, their struggles. It's a lot easier to deal with the world when you imagine it as an anonymous mass of ciphers than as a teeming hive of people each with their own particular problems and hopes and dreams. We get very good with dealing with the surface of the world, and not venturing too far below that. 

So it is in roleplaying games. For the vast majority of people in the hobby, their characters are statistics and bonuses wrapped around a nugget of personality, some wisecracks, and whatever backstory makes it to the table. "Playing in character" seldom means more than speaking in a slightly different voice. 

Even for those of us who are inclined toward roleplaying in a dramatic mode, it's usually a restrained affair. Although we're aiming for situations that are tense and dramatic, and we encourage each other to commit to scenes that go deeper than an ordinary RPG would, it's understood that performance may be felt more deeply than it is seen by the audience of other players -- so much so that I have written here about the occasional need for literally breaking into third person to say what a character is feeling. 

I think I'm a pretty good actor at the table, as far as these things go, although I'm not sure I've got a huge range. I can do things with my voice that show how I'm feeling better than some, even if the subtleties of expression around my mouth are obscured by a beard. But most of the time, although I'm able to be "in the moment" and in the head of my characters, I don't go that deeply into characterization that I'd be able to produce that strong an emotion at the table. 

What was different this time? I'm not sure. I think this was an important moment for my character, who was trying to hold it together and be strong for his family and friends -- who are, to be fair, fighting with the devil for their very souls. His sister, however, has been fighting a different fight, and last episode was finally losing her struggle with AIDS in an era that barely knew what to call the disease. Although they've scrapped more than their fair share throughout the series, he has a deep attachment to his sister, and feared losing her again. More than that, feared that she would die hating him (which he probably deserves) -- essentially rejecting him for all time. 

The tears came when he was pleading with his sister to let him be there for her when she died, and to tell him when the time had come -- not to run off again and perhaps disappear into the wilderness. "I don't want you to die alone in the woods, like an animal..."

Megan was pleased with this, and always encourages my actorly leanings, although most of the time I consider my theatre days long behind me. I think it was strong medicine for the other player in the scene, and I hope it wasn't an uncomfortable thing for others at the table. Like I said, people aren't used to this sort of thing in public. Even as a pretend thing.

I'm not sure how I feel about it. I don't know what brought me to that moment, exactly, and whether I'll have others like it or if it that was just a momentary crack in my emotional armour. I wasn't afraid of that reaction, or embarrassed (as an adult I have less invested than I once did in pretending aloofness), and it's pleasing to be moved by your character on a personal level.

1 comment:

  1. It was an incredibly powerful scene, love. Amazing to watch.