Nov 10 2020

Playing Shady Instead of Writing Her

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Shady, lookin' to gank some mooks.

It’s been a long time since I had a character just take over my brain the way Shade-Of-the-Candle has. Even Tiffany Tiger, who had a tendency to be doodled on any pizza box or napkin left lying within reach of me, didn’t just live in my head rent free 24/7 the way my piratey murdercat does. Certainly Tiffany never drove me to stay up until 4 a.m. trying to mod the hell out of Skyrim to create some semblance of her, just for starters.

But while I have written stories about Shady, and intend to do so again (with some big-name collaborators, if I can finally get to a stable place in my life again in order to take on a large project), that’s not really the experience I want. What I want, is to PLAY Shady. I want to vicariously experience her life in real time, reacting to her challenges the way she would, processing her triumphs and her heartbreaks as she does.

Shady’s lived a rich and full life in (modded) Skyrim, with a whole found family (she calls Inigo “Mr. Khajiit” and Ma’kara “Mrs. Khajiit,” even if legally she’s only married to one of them) and an impressive career as a renowned treasure hunter and a leader in the Empire’s war against the Thalmor.

Shady drove me to play the heck out of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, all the while doing my best to pretend that the stubbly blonde human male on the screen was actually my scrawny alley cat—because the story and gameplay of AC4 fit very well with both Shady’s motivations and her M.O.

Best of all, of course, is playing Shady in InkBlitz’s D&D campaign, and in many ways that’s what I think of as the “real” Shady. But Blitzy can’t spend his whole life running D&D just for me (and I wouldn’t want him to), which leads me to spend a lot of time staring at Shady’s character sheet and wanting to mess with it just to feel like I’m playing, somehow.

Gentle reader, I have spent SO much time staring at that character sheet. You can’t even know. -.- I’ve come up with different projected character builds, adjusted various stats up and down, even subjected poor Blitzy to multiple drafts of proposed house rules that would make her mechanically closer to my vision of how she operates.

This past weekend, as I was poking away at this build for the umpty-billionth time, I found myself wondering why I was spending my time doing that, instead of actually creating something. Why AREN’T I writing stories about Shady? Why aren’t I drawing her, instead of obsessing AGAIN over whether she should have INT 10 or 8 so that she can afford CHA 14 or 16?

The answer I finally came up with, is discovery. I want to “discover” Shady’s life, not create it. If I write the story, I know how it’s going to go by definition, because I’m the one who made it up. When I play Shady in a game, I don’t know what’s coming any more than Shady does, so when a dragon comes and blasts her boat to oblivion, I’m just as “oh shit oh shit” about it as she is. When Shady finds a wounded khajiit by the side of the road and ends up falling in love, I’m just as verklempt as Shady is.

But it’s not getting me anywhere. All that time I’ve spent noodling around with stat blocks could have been spent finishing a dozen WIPs, or writing new stories of my own that don’t require me to get “close enough” to what I want. So I’m going to try to do that. How I find the discovery element, I’m not sure. Use some kind of random generator as a story prompt? Grab the synopsis of some book I’ve never read and toss it at Shady? Dunno. But I do need to do SOMETHING more productive, I think.

One response to “Playing Shady Instead of Writing Her”

  1. […] response to my Playing Shady Instead of Writing Her post, ReblSquirrel gifted me with a copy of the Mythic Game Master Emulator and a few other similar […]

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