Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Families as a Positive

I've been digging through old Pendragon books and I would glance at the family section, they always have a family section. Then I was listening to RPG Circus and they spoke about how gamers like to play loners in a group. Rarely is family considered. In fact family is seen as a weakness. Something to be used against a player. I got to thinking in all my years of playing I can only think of a handful of times where I had some sort of relationship with a family member. And in all those times they were used against me as plot devices.

But hold on. It doesn't have to be that way. Or at least not all one sided. What if a player benefited from having a family? A father who dispensed advice even though some of it was completely off track. Maybe dear old dad is an ex-adventurer who knows the location of a dungeon or two or knows some tricks of the trade. Mother could be a kick ass spellcaster or a can pick a lock with a smile and a simple pin. Brothers and sisters who can also be rivals, but also have the attitude 'no one is allowed to beat up my brother, but me'. A family as a valuable resource instead of a constant victim would be a nice change.


  1. Families as plot devices.

    I blame a lot of recent TV, especially TV from 2000 on. Families became not a source of strength but a means to screw over the hero of the tale.

    In my games I try to do things differently, even with games based on TV shows from the time.

    So thanks for the tip on Pendragon, I own the game, but have never played it.

  2. I once looked at my group of players who's characters were all orphans, and said "How many people do you know that are orphans?" They all knew the same orphan. I said "One character can be an orphan."

  3. I too am going out my way to not use family as a thumbscrew in my ongoing Pendragon campaign.

    I think another reason both PCs and GMs tend to prefer "loner" characters boils down to path of least resistance (aka laziness). Having an extended family makes for lots of extra NPCs - more work for the GM, takes the focus off the "unique snowflake" PC, etc. Again, from my recent Pendragon experience, it takes effort to remember to integrate cousins, uncles, parents, and siblings into a campaign backdrop.

  4. Having families is more fun both for threats to the family that can lead to adventures and the support that families can give (which can also lead to adventure). But it is a balance, they should never be all one of the other.

    The last loner sort of character I ran, classic his village was wiped out background, was actively searching for a new family and a place to live. When he found them, he retired from adventuring.

  5. One reason family doesn't suck all the time in Pendragon is one can get hep occasionally in battle from family members as most of a knights adult male relatives are knights and one gets replacement characters from children.

    In a D&D game a PC can channel exp and GP to train family members to build up replacement characters to whatever level such investment would allow. No family members, loyal henchmen, apprentices or boy Robin's hanging out around the castle? Then you get yourself a 1st level PC to replace a dead one.

  6. I've actually had players turn those tables on me, and use their family and friends as powerful resources in games. I let them get away with it because it's fun and ties both the characters and the players more fully into the setting. Everyone wins.

    But yeah, I've seen the knee-jerk orphan thing as well, and it mostly just amuses me these days.