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How Does Your Garden Grow?
[12/09/2002] [Yamamoto “Spearweasel” Kansuke]

In my previous article, I briefly outlined some of the differences between the RP Weenie the Stick Jock sides of Amtgard, by comparing them to “hothouse flowers” and “weeds” respectively. I came to the conclusion that two paths lay open, segregation or integration, and that integration required bringing the Stick Jocks slowly into RP.

This naturally leads to the question of how to accomplish this goal. How do we lure the RP Weenies and the Stick Jocks into the same imaginary place, voluntarily?

One of the biggest problems with Amtgard as an RP setting is that there is virtually no consistency or coherence. Players tend to have their own little back stories, and nearly all quests, even the longest running ones, are isolated in time and space. Monsters and items appear almost at random, while the NPCs that are crucial to the quest usually have nothing at all to do with anything beyond it. Fighting companies, the natural haven of the Stick Jock, rarely have any sort of RP rationale… indeed, RP-themed fighting companies, which attract RP Weenies to the fight, usually don’t last very long or perform very well. In most cases, I suspect that households are more suitable as instruments of RP for those who want such things as part of their affiliations.

OK, so we have established that the Amtgard default environment is not conducive to stable RP. So what do we do about that?

Good question. I believe that you can accomplish this by finding things that the Stick Jocks can relate to, and incorporating this into the RP framework. By “RP Framework”, I mean the combination of plot, setting (imagined and mundane), and characters that make up a story of any sort. All but the crustiest Stick Jocks can relate to most things RP given the right encouragement, but there are a few things that stand out as powerful lures:

Competition: Any Stick Jock worthy of the name lives and breathes for competition, whether against himself or another. A successful RP framework should incorporate some element where the Stick Jock will have a chance to excel, compete, or otherwise demonstrate prowess in a meaningful way. Essentially, there needs to be a place for the energies that power smack-talk. The specifics of this will of course vary, but it means more for a fighter to beat an opponent that has some significance… a rival from another province, for example, or a buddy in a different fighting company. Fighting three newbies dressed in monster clothes rarely has the visceral impact that a Stick Jock craves.

Territorialism: Any RP framework built on “us versus them” is a sure-fire winner. No matter how much we like to think we have advanced as a species, the old animal drives still beat strong in our breast, and tribalism still holds sway over every one of us to some extent. RP Weenie conspirators can use the natural human tendency to hate people who live on the other side of the hill to their benefit. Running quests, raids, or events that play up on natural (but still friendly) rivalries between provinces will have more impact. A fine example of this appears in wars between parks… for example, the monsters of one of the Celestial Kingdom’s northern parks (Midian) kidnapped the duchess of one of the central parks (Talonfield). Both parks are RP heavy, but the example is still useful… instead of another drab “rescue the maiden” scenario, they have a good solid “us versus them” battle, one more likely to appeal to the Stick Jocks. After all, those bastards over there can’t come to our park, make a mess, and expect to get away with it? Kill ‘em all!

Context: Less obvious than the first two is context. Most RP frameworks occur in a vacuum, so they are hard to relate to. Stick Jocks generally do not immerse themselves in micro-scenarios as readily or as willingly as the RP Weenies do, so special effort must be made to make it something palatable. Shy away from quests of the standard sort, with relics and monsters strewn randomly across the woods for no reason. While the Stick Jocks will do well at acquiring the relics by dint of fighting ability, this is not RP. Instead, utilize the existing framework of parks and leaders to create scenarios that have something to do with the larger picture.

-Do the nobles of your realm have any personality at all? Use their inevitable rivalries and land grabs to fuel wars. Borders are natural opportunities for conflict, and that calls for fighters. Most Stick Jocks and fighting companies are more than happy to act as mercenaries for scenarios that they otherwise don’t care about.

-Do you have a player in your kingdom that plays a recognizable Evil Menace, a la Father Thomas Von Drakken here in the Celestial Kingdom? Use him as your lead heavy instead of your generic dark helmet. Villains are always more compelling when they have a name and reputation… or at least a spiked leather codpiece.

-Monsters… instead of random stuff, figure out what makes sense for the setting. Here in the Celestial Kingdom, several parks are infested with players who play Dark Troll personae. Use that. That way, the Stick Jocks can say they are cleaning out their homelands of the Green Menace. Or perhaps they ARE the monsters… even better, albeit rough going for the RP Weenies.

Let the RP scenario have effects that are played out in later things, ripples in the otherwise stagnant pond. Slowly but surely, you will generate a sense of momentum and this in turn will create consistent rationales for raids, quests, themes for wars, and so forth. Did your park get its ass handed to it in a raid by a neighboring kingdom? Well, that sounds like a good reason for a war at the next interkingdom event!

At least that’s what I’d try.

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