(Reed’s song of the day: No Sleep Til Brooklyn, by the Beastie Boys)
As before, if you’re associated with the Campaign of Death and Destruction, please don’t read this post. And for those of you who are getting caught up, here’s the link to part 1.
Okay, so I intend not to be as boring and/or bitchy in this post as in the previous one. I actually did have a point I wanted to get to, which I failed to do at first, so let me put it right here at the beginning.
I feel like, as an writer, I’ve come to place my characters on the same emotional level as real people in my life. Meaning, I agonize over their struggles, share their triumphs, and when they die or leave, I feel it like the loss of someone close to me.
I created Hokobe with the idea that he was just a good guy who’d taken some serious missteps, and who was trying to right those wrongs now. Yet somehow, by the somewhat magical process of character creation, he became entirely different than that. He was prideful, sometimes even arrogant, but also self-hating. He was naturally suspicious of everyone around him, but when he formed bonds with the other party members, he wouldn’t break them for anything. Even so, he experienced a deep sense of loneliness and isolation when he was with them, as though he never really fit in.
When I played Hokobe, I became Hokobe. I could feel his depression weighing on me, all the weight of his bad decisions. I felt his impatience with the group for not coming to conclusions quicker. I felt his moral rectitude and the way he considered every decision on every level, both rationally and ethically. I felt his horror at seeing bad rulership, selfish decisions, and wanton destruction.
It was like an addiction. I couldn’t stop being him, even when I wanted to. There were times when Reed was fully convinced that we should do everything, but Hokobe was not, and so I had to spend (in one case at least) literally hours arguing with another party member until I was satisfied.
I know these experiences were horrible for some of my other party members, and on multiple occasions they asked me why I couldn’t just tweak Hokobe’s character, even a little bit, to make him easier on the party. All I could respond with was the same dogged statement – that he was a person, not a character, and not really subject to my desires or changes.
Man, it drove some of my friends nuts to hear that.
But I’m being serious here, and not just stubborn. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to change; by the time I retired Hokobe, I was sick of playing him and being constantly controversial. I didn’t know how to. It was as if once I started playing him I couldn’t conceive of being any other way.
And that’s why things came to an end. I sensed Hokobe was on a long journey, a character arc that might take years or more to conclude. I knew, somehow, that at the end of that journey he would become a much easier person to deal with. But in the meantime, everyone, including myself, was exhausted with him.
So I let him go.
It was actually a really difficult thing to do. I contacted my DM and asked him if I could create a new character and phase Hokobe out. I really wanted it to matter as much to him as it did to me, but I think by that point he was just too tired to care. He told me to do whatever made me happiest. I kind of wish he’d reacted with a bit more surprise and gravity, but what can you do?
Honestly, it made me feel horrible to phase Hokobe out of the campaign. By this point, he was so tied to his companions that nothing would have made him leave them. And I had to find an excuse for him to do just that. So it involved (finally) making a whole bunch of decisions as Hokobe that I know he wouldn’t have made. By that point, I was so dissociated from him that I was able to do this, but it really felt like the final slap in the face to end his whole depressed, traumatized journey.
I felt like I was abandoning him. I felt like my friends were abandoning him too, not that they cared, or that they should care. It just felt like this person who had so much potential, such an ability to grow, was put out to pasture. Neglected in the worst of ways.
It seems so strange to be writing about this and have to remind myself he’s not real. In some ways, he feels even more real than me. There was a nuance to him that I don’t think I’ve captured in nearly any other character I’ve written, and I’m so sorry to see him go.
The weirdest part to me is just that I care so much. Like, I want to stop caring so badly about this. I want to be a normal person who doesn’t stress out and lose sleep (literally) over the fate of a person who doesn’t exist. I wonder if it’s being a writer, or loving D&D, or just my own eccentricity, that makes me so invested in him.
But it’s a good thing to think about as a writer. I know when I was writing Sanctuary last year, a book where most of the main characters have a form of mental illness, I felt like I was living their experiences. It was a very frightening time for me.
Maybe it will produce characters that are more realistic, like actors who get into method acting. But it’s kind of terrifying to disappear into someone else for extended periods of time, especially if that person is depressed or has a lot of personal issues to work out. Sometimes I wanted to scream at my friends, “You think I don’t want Hokobe to change too? You think I don’t want him to be less of a bitch?! I want it more badly than anything else in the world. But change doesn’t just happen overnight. I can’t just make him be a different person. It has to come from within.”
Again, strange as hell that I’m talking about someone who isn’t real.
I wish I could tell my friends I’m sorry that I made things so difficult on them. I really didn’t expect everything to go the way it did, and now there’s some pretty permanent damage done to my reputation in my campaign. But honestly, even talking about it more right now would be exhausting for them – which is one reason why I asked them not to read this post.
The good news is, I get to start again with a new character. And I’m working really hard to make sure she’s fun, not traumatized, and party-centric. I think being able to disappear into her for a while will actually be entertaining for me, and hopefully enjoyable for my friends as well.
I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
R.I.P. Hokobe Mana. Even though you’re not dead.
Yours, marvelling at his strange week,