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I had the busiest weekend I've had in a loooong time, visiting the Easter Show with a couple of friends on Friday then spending Saturday-Monday at a roleplaying con. Oh, and working in the morning for half those days. As a result I'm very behind on emails and suchlike.

Easter Show was about what I expected. Part of both its charm and it's bore comes from the fact that it doesn't change from year to year. So we went and gawked at all the livestock, bought a showbag each and then caught the train home, where we took turns reading aloud all the dating/sex stuff from the girly magazine one of us got from a showbag.

Eye-Con was bloody awesome. I went with Matt and discovered once we got there that Thomas, the guy in my Linguistics classes who also roleplays had coincidentally signed himself and his friend up to most of the same sessions as us. The games were as follows:

Exterminatus: Warhammer 40k roleplay system. The GM for this was unfantastic thanks to his highlighting of all the stuff he wrote in and de-highlighting of everything else. It resulted in being made to felt quite railroaded. The system is kind of fun though. There's tables for EVERYTHING but the descriptions in said tables are fun. At one point an enemy's head exploded like an overripe melon and we had to make saves to avoid being blinded by flying gore.

Black Mountain: Iron Kingdoms D&D. Just your regular D&D adventure really. The GM was decent but not nothing too amazing. High point was our sniper critting the big bad mage guy with a headshot, killing him before he could do all manner of nasty stuff to us.

Soap Opera: Freeform. Oh man, this was so chaotic. The basic premise was that you have 20-30 or so characters who are stereotypes from those terrible melodramatic soap operas, all with a bunch of objectives, and new plots get handed out of a bucket. So we all deliberately acted really silly and over-the-top. After the first hour and a half I learnt the folly of trying to put on a silly high-pitched voice for my character, as I started losing my voice. I won't go into the high points because really it was all too silly for words, but I will say that the end of the game saw the pope sacrificing a baby called Elvis to Cthulhu, the Four Horsemen were involved somehow, and my character hadn't had any idea that supernatural stuff was happening until this point, being too wrapped up in her motorcycle-granny-who-manages-rock-bands-on-the-side thing.

Primogen Council: Vampire the Requiem background but more of a freeform system. This game easily made the entire con worth it. The premise was that we were the members of the Prince's council of advisors, brought in to come up with possible solutions to the Prince's problems and then vote on them. We all had a bunch of private objectives and secrets, and it was possible to find out other players' secrets by abstaining from voting. There was debate. There was note-passing. There was whispering in dark corners, wherein we blackmailed each other and brokered secrets. There were vote shenanigans. There was an overarching plot, which depended strongly on the final vote, where Matt (who tends to dominate anything that involves persuasion) was convinced we had to vote against it and I was equally convinced we needed to vote for it but lacked the clear proof I would have needed to persuade others, so we ended up getting the bad ending. We ended up spending the entire ride home discussing and dissecting the awesomeness that was this game. And it turned out that we weren't the only ones who did so.

The next day we were scheduled to play in another freeform, but it was cancelled, so instead we ended up sitting around and playing card games (the kind with custom cards and rules, not the poker bridge kind). After the awards were handed out (our entire session of 4 got the award for Exterminatus, I'm still not sure why), we headed over to the afterparty at the local pub. We spent the entire evening chatting with Thomas and the GM from Primogen council, who is a very cool lady.

Lessons learnt from this con: Get a good nights sleep. On both Monday and Tuesday I ended up fairly sleep deprived and got to experience the wonders of being tired and cranky and trying desperately to act friendly and getting stressed out easily. Related to this lesson was the one where getting stressed can be alleviated by taking myself outside and just being alone for a while. Much better than staying inside and getting more and more stressed and cranky, at any rate. I'm also learning that most con games are not amazing. They range from slightly boring to a fun way to spend a few hours, with really great games like Primogen Council being few and far between.
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The other day I had my friend over, who also happens to be the GM for our roleplaying group. While he was over we discussed various people and their behaviours, and why it was they behaved that way. Noting that most of the people in our social groups are quite intelligent and rational (more T than F, in Type-speak), there isn't much space for justifying irrational behaviour. In almost all cases of irrational behaviour it seems like the cause is a lack of self-awareness, because if the person is rational then it's difficult for them to deliberately be acting irrationally, so their own motives must be unclear to them.

From there it seems like a short step to doublethink. I know that I have self-esteem issues, but a lot of the time I act as if I don't. I'm not precisely pretending that I don't have any issues (which would be denial), I'm just ignoring them enough that I can behave more normally. And I realised that I'm deliberately exercising a form of doublethink when I do this. And that I also make use of it for keeping other people's secrets (it's hard to explain how, I don't actually forget it but I can sort of partition it off), playing more than one player in a card game (same sort of thing, partition the knowledge off and only access it when necessary; it has the drawback that I tend to be a worse player when I'm doing this beause I'm working so hard at not knowing the other player that I don't allow myself to make intelligent predictions a lot of the time) and in roleplaying, where I'm trying to take on a different personality altogether and ignore any out-of-game knowledge I may know but only for a few hours at a time. I also know that I'm not the world's best roleplayer. I can have a complete understanding of my character and what he would know, but I tend to direct my character from a distance rather than actually become the character. So at the moment my doublethink extends to keeping two sets of knowledge side by side but not to the point of being able to replace one with the other temporarily.

I now have a theory that to be very good at roleplaying you have to be very good at doublethink, in order to completely change your personality for a period of time and then revert back to your real personality at the end. I also have a less-reliable theory that to be really accomplished at doublethink you have to be quite self-aware, or else you end up either failing entirely at acting as though the new set of beliefs are true, or you end up believing your own inventions with no realisation of what you've done to yourself. Also, I find it quite interesting that if my theory holds up then it means that the better your self-awareness is, the more interesting tricks you can do with/against your own mind.
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For the last two or three months I've been part of a regular roleplaying group, my first real one, with the GamesMaster one of my friends and the other players some of his friends who I've now gotten to know (Unrelated note: I've been part of roleplaying groups in the past but each time they haven't lasted past one or two sessions. Turns out it's fairly difficult to get a successful group off the ground)

First of all, roleplaying is completely awesome. It's a semi-structured but very social activity, so I get plenty of social interaction without most of the drawbacks of unstructured socialising. And roleplaying is also quite an intellectual activity, at least the way our group does it. Some of the things we've done so far include trying to work out how a powerful evil wizard managed to get his tower blown up with him in it and trying to come up with a workable plan for a single one of our characters to sneak into an entire city of orcs and get some hostages back out with her. It really does exercise your analytical thinking.
And finally there's the character development, both for your own character and for the others. And in the course of my own character's development I'm finding a few of my own blind spots that I wasn't aware of. For example, my near-complete inability to go for direct confrontation as a first option. Every time it's been a valid option for my character I've missed it purely because that course of action doesn't occur to me naturally. The aforementioned sneaking into an orcish city could have been circumvented if I'd just marched up to the front gate and *demanded* the hostages back, our GM informed us afterwards

I kind of hope that as I continue with this I'll learn to force myself to think in strange and unexpected ways for the sake of my character, and in turn be able to reverse-engineer it to real life.


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