Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Paradox Experiment, Issue Five

Once again we take a look at the slowest developing character in all of City of Heroes, Ren Paradox! With so many projects flying around, I'm afraid Ren has not been getting the time he probably deserves. I've had opportunities to play him. I just have not had the chance to write about those opportunities! I love playing Ren. Every time I log in with him it's a challenge and requires an entirely different mindset of not only openness but of creativity. And, the best part, I never know what is going to happen.

When we last left Ren, he was on the tram station at King's Row. From there I had him run around several blocks of King's Row looking for trouble. It was not hard to find and within a few minutes he was busting up a purse snatching and what looked to be a car theft. But, as usual with Ren, I wasn't looking for bad guys. I was looking for RP.

Eventually, I had him run by the truck. You know which truck I mean, right? THE truck. The interdimensional truck that leads to the Pocket D. For those of you scratching your heads, there is an interdimensional superhero bar in the game. The entrances to said bar are disguised and the one in King's Row happens to be the back of a truck.

As a player I knew it was there but Ren would have no idea. It just so happened that as Ren ran up the road towards Blue Steel, I saw someone bounce out of the truck. Imagining that Ren would think this a bit weird if not suspicious, I had him pause and watch for a moment. Sure enough, a few more heroes jumped out of the back of the truck. The fourth one happened to run past him and, casting out my RP lure, I had Ren say, "Oh, hey, excuse me..."

First cast, first hit.

The character ,I believe, was named Splendor. We ended up having a great RP scene with the main central focus being the odd truck across the way. She gave Ren the low-down on the bar to be found by climbing into the truck. It was called Pocket D and it existed in another dimension. I figured that, with everything, this was just all a bit too much for Ren. After a very enjoyable RP scene, she went on her way and I had Ren walk around the truck, watching it carefully. Unfortunately, no one jumped out or into the truck.

Eventually, I had him wander off in search of more Skulls to stop. But, I figured, curiosity had to get the better of him sometime and, of course, it did. The next time playing Ren, I had him take up a position near the truck, watch someone jump into the back cargo compartment, and then, after fidgeting a bit, he did so himself. And with that, Ren was off on his first adventure to Pocket D!

Ren landed, a bit disoriented, in the entrance point for Pocket D. After navigating the strangely familiar hallways, he came to the elevator entrance which would take him, according to the helpful advice of the business suit clad attendants, Pocket D. Needless to say, Ren was nervous and I emoted as much as he waited outside the very busy elevator door. "What did I get myself into?" he thought to himself. "Where the @#$@ am I?" he also thought to himself.

However, the stars must have been aligned properly for out of the elevator stepped a colorful robotic character who reacted almost instantly to my emotes. His name was Toy Blaster.

With Toy Blaster's urgings and continual reminders that it would be fine, Ren found himself stepping into the rabbit hole that is Pocket D. Otherwise known as "The D" by some folks, the bar is one of the middle points for interaction between heroes and villains within the game. No fighting is allowed within the bar, of course, and it is one of the major points for finding roleplaying. In character, Ren saw far more then he needed to that night!

Toy Blaster seemed to know a lot of people and was quick to introduce Ren to some of his friends like Wivern and High Jinks. High Jinks was currently under a curse that caused him to cycle between being normal, a pumpkin, a mime, and a clown by someone uttering the simple word "Poof." Yes, you read that right. I could spend an entry alone describing how the player made this work through a clever combination of costume slots, hot keys, and emote trickery. Ren interacted with a large robot called Combat Toy, met a handful of new folks, and even managed to flirt with a succubus.

Over the course of the next hour or more, Ren participated in fun and interactive RP. The best so far I had encountered while playing him!

Throughout the encounter, characters asked him questions as to who he was and as his origin was revealed (or the lack therein) it was interesting to note the various reactions. For me, one large questions kept rising to the forefront. Who was Ren Paradox? As mentioned before, I had purposefully created a mysterious arrival for him with no real back story. I had hoped to get player's offerings for ideas and letting that form his back plot. I was still testing the waters to see if anything would happen spontaneously. No such thing transpired, which was hardly surprising, since how was anyone to KNOW I was looking for such a thing?

Though the RP was excellent there was little forward motion to it, nothing that left me craving a bit more, and looking forward to the next time I could play Ren. Nothing permanent came of it. Nothing really changed. I am still unsure what to chalk it up to. It was, most definitely, not the players I was working with for they seemed more then adequate to being able to hold their own. Was it my own intentions not being vocalized, even out of character, of what I was shooting for?

It left me asking myself, "What is the recipe for a meaty RP session?" Can it be found happenstance or must it be planned out in advance? This was followed quickly by the next question of "Is there even a recipe or is it a mysterious composition that, like good improv, simply appears like a genie when the conditions are right?"

I'm afraid I don't have any solid answers to the questions, just personal leanings. After doing this sort of thing for far too many years, I think I have some good ideas. However, I'm curious what other people think. What do you think qualifies as good roleplay? Is it just a matter of "any good RP is good RP?" or is there something more which quantifies it? Is it about the collaboration? Something that changes the character?

More questions then answers but it solidified, without a doubt, that there is some wicked RP to be had on the Virtue server when you hit those areas where it is happening.

And in regards to Ren, I let him have his fun and then got him out of the D and back to King's Row safely. Unscathed by his encounters with killer robots and a seductive succubus, he is still just Ren. Lost in Paragon with only a small one bedroom flat courtesy of ELITE to call his home, he is still running alone and trying to figure out his past. Why is he here? Where are his memories? Where do these strange mind altering powers come from?

And, again, I ask my readers. What do YOU think? Consider it and be ready because the next post on Ren Paradox will include reader participation!

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