Three weeks ago, we started a discussion on arguing in RP by talking about the factors that lead up to an argument. Last week, we talked about the ins and outs of arguing in game. This week, we hit the heart of the matter: What happens after the argument.
For some individuals an exchange of “I’m sorry” is enough to capstone an argument. Other individuals have a need to dissect the root cause of the argument in order to fix the factors that led to the blow out. Neither method of addressing the argument, which we will refer to as processing, is abnormal. In fact, the way two people process an argument will depend on a number of elements including: the people involved in the argument, the factors that led up to the argument and what occurred during the argument.
Processing is the most over looked aspect of an argument, especially in RP. The argument itself can be an intense, time consuming and emotionally powerful experience. Processing drudges up those feelings and examines them closely. In essence, this can easily devolve into replaying the Argument in Slow-Motion. That isn’t fun in real life or in RP. The concern of reopening emotional wounds is a prime reason why we do not follow through with the processing.
However, the risk of a rehashed argument does not come close to the RP rewards of processing. During an argument, when the reasons and factors for the fight come spilling out, we have an excellent opportunity for Character Development. Even reasons and factors, distorted by anger and said to provoke the other party can shed some insight into the character’s mind.
For instance, let’s say Character A and B are arguing over A’s continued disappearances. Where is A going at all hours of the night? Why does B care so much about A’s whereabouts? A is an adult and can do what they please…and B isn’t there mother. B is just worried because of A’s previous run in with the Law…and B isn’t anyone’s mother, and how dare A bring that up. Each and every sentence in that brief exchange can be expounded upon. B could have caught A going somewhere dangerous, or maybe B is being over protective. After the argument, when cooler heads prevail, these factors can lead to new insights into BOTH A and B. A and B can talk about where A is going, A’s mother issues or what A needs to do to make up for that uncalled for attack on B.
Another example: After an argument on Drinking, Bricu and Threnn “processed” the argument. The reasons for the argument, and Bricu’s addiction, came out. It led to a huge change in my character–one I never expected or thought I wanted–in that Bricu quit drinking. The power of an argument comes the end result of the argument: Did someone learn something about themselves or someone else? Are they going to try and change their behavior? Is this argument the final straw in the relationship? We cannot discover these factors until we PROCESS the argument. Skipping this particular phase makes an argument one of the “necessary evils” of a relationship. That’s not what they are supposed to be. Arguments can be positive, but only if they are properly processed.
In addition to processing the argument directly, another method of dealing with the fallout of an argument is to Process by Proxy. In short, this is where individual who was not involved in the argument is brought into to help figure out what just happened. This can be positive, such as talking to a friend or a counselor about the fight. Or this can be incredibly destructive: Gossiping, backstabbing and a serious attempt to derail the relationship between the people involved in the initial argument.
Returning once again to A and B. Let’s say A storms off and finds C. A and C begin to discuss the argument. What is C’s role here? Does see Process by Proxy? Does C help A do the right thing or does C take advantage of the situation and continue to split the relationship?
If the Argument is going to be Processed by Proxy, all three Players need to be involved in the OoC. If the Player of C has negative intentions, that player has to be pretty darn clear about them. Involving a third party in a two party argument is a risk and potentially relationship-changing move. It is not to be done lightly, and definitely not without a lot of communication between the players.
Process by Proxy does not mean individuals do not have to go back to the original argument. Positive Process by Proxy adds another level of understanding to the factors of the argument. Negative Process by Proxy make a complex situation even more complex. In both cases, however, the individuals involved in the first argument still need to process the initial argument.
Here’s the catch with processing: Sometimes, for whatever reason, the processing is delayed. Maybe neither character can admit fault. Maybe neither character wants to talk again. Maybe, for dramatic tension, both players decide to postpone the processing. Delaying the processing can also lead to new and interesting topics for RP. Delaying too long, however, is a set up for yet-another-argument. Every argument that gets swept under the Rug makes the next argument that much more problematic.
Arguments, while scary, do not need to be avoided in RP. Too many arguments, arguments that are not properly processed or a lack of communication, can lead to a bitter RP experience. We can prevent this factors from hampering RP. Then, players can sort out the factors that led to the argument, have it out in game, process all of what happened and learn something new about their character. Arguments provide direction, character development and can add a bit of spice to the character arc.
Questions, comments, vague misgivings? Drop us a comment!