What's an Avatar Game?
|No, you don't get this till level 20.|
How to Play
Avatar games are not like any other games. Players aren't creating a concept; they're re-creating themselves. We all like to think that we're stronger, smarter, more dexterous or more charming than we actually are, though, which can lead to problems if you let people choose their own stats.
|I should totally have an 18 strength guys. Guys? What's so funny?|
It's important to mention that an avatar game should be accurate, but it should also be fun. If a player is really disappointed by what the measuring stick says he or she should play, then work together to find alternatives. Maybe the consensus is that an individual should be a rogue, but that person feels in a world of magic that he would throw himself into the study of the arcane to become a wizard. Listen to your players, but at the same time don't just give them everything they want. If the player with the graduate degree and an aversion to the gym really wants to be a master swordsman though, provide him the opportunity to pursue that kind of training as the story goes along.
The Hook and the Deus Ex Machina
Once characters are made, the DM needs to come up with some way to make these very normal players enter a very unusual situation. For some games this is exceedingly easy; for others, not so much.
|"And, lo, four shall come on the full moon and speak these words," Huh... weird.|
High fantasy avatar games, like those running on Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons, take a bit more work. Maybe players decide to visit some local ruins to check out a spook story, and end up accidentally stepping between worlds. Maybe they're victims of an anomaly that tears open different planes of existence caused by a reactor explosion, or a large Hadron collider experiment. Or, my personal favorite, a wizard mis-spoke a spell, and instead of pulling in a demon lord or a celestial host, what he ends up with is a party of 4 or 5 very confused geeks who were all in the middle of one activity or another who now have to figure out where they are and what the hell just happened.
Let The Games Begin!
The biggest challenge a storyteller has is, once the party has been assembled and the hook jerked, how realistic is the world around the players? For instance, if they're now in Golarion, does anyone speak English? Do the players take up a trade or some kind of apprenticeship to incorporate themselves into the fabric of a community before becoming adventurers? If players discover a group of cultists in the local goth scene, are they the kind of people who will call the police and the media, or are the players in fact the sort who would go in fists swinging?
|You do what, now?|
Tips and Tricks
Avatar games can be a lot of fun; they're also very easy to mess up. As such there are a few things that the person running this whole mess needs to keep in mind.
Rule One: Show, Don't Tell
|You expect me to believe what now?|
Rule Two: Level One Characters Aren't Heroes
|This is not the hero you're looking for.|
Rule Three: Beware the Monkey Wrench
|Where the hell did I put that thing...?|
For instance, say that your party has been transported to Golarion. The entire goal of the campaign is for players to try and get back home because of friends, loved ones, spouses, children, etc. However, let's say your resident monkey wrench decides that he really likes living in a world of magic and mayhem. Perhaps he decides he'd rather carve out a kingdom and live like a duke than go back to a 9-5 gig working retail. Or flip the circumstances around, and say that everyone else is gung-ho to become the next lords and ladies of the realm, but one character's entire focus is to get home to her children. It's your job to dope this out and to incorporate it into the game so that everyone can move forward.
This is another reason why really powerful rails are a bad idea. Establish some general things you want to happen, and work out with your players the arcs they'd prefer to go through before the first session. Don't tell players what to do; lay out the options they have, and see which way they go. You will have far fewer headaches by simply setting up the world and the events in question than trying to force anyone to do anything.
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