March 26th, 2004


Role-Playing and Canonical Characters

A discussion in a freeform (PBIM, PBeM, and LARP) club I lately joined has recently grown into a full-scale argument thread in its mailing list. This is due primarily to a motion to put a moratorium on "canonical" characters (from the authorized books and films of the genre) and to put the existing ones into phased retirement.

Right from the start, people formed or professed some strong opinions for or against this motion, and it came to light that the pure LARP aspect of the club, centered in a half-day event at an annual SF convention, was a point of contention.1 To some it was just a game, one among many, and (while fun) less significant than the interactive dynamism of the group. To others it was the prize ox that had been gored by the movement to thin some of the ties to canon and strike off in more original directions. This debate fell into some disarray when a member of the latter persuasion became particularly incensed and pugnacious, but rather than talk about that, I thought I'd focus on a few of the points raised by ldymlissa (here) and masteralida (here) in their LJs.

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1 Initially there was some consternation over whether the motion should be tabled until the convention. I voted in favor of earliy discussion and an early vote. gwyneth_syeira said it well, that clearing the air can be done effectively online (netwise; "offline" with respect to the convention). Having at least one discussion session, perhaps more as technology and discussions call for it, is conducive enough to expression of basic opinions and rationales that I personally see it as better than tabling discussion. Rather than a rush to a decision, it allows for a more leisurely period of consideration in the comfort of members' own homes. In this case, it also admits more thorough reflection on rationales and tradeoffs regarding the proposed moratorium.</i>

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