Handling Ego In An RPG

Very few games that I have come across want to handle the effects of ego in a game.  When I say ego I am talking about the idea of how good you think you are as opposed to the ego or ID of psychiatry, just so we are on the same page.Most GM’s allow players to handle what their characters will and wont do in the game based on their whim at the time but should a character’s ego be considered in this regard?

I am running Super Squadron this year on a pretty regular basis which is a 1980’s game of super hero shenanigans in which ego has a large role to play!  In fact the ego of the super hero/villain is a base statistic in the game and also quite a changeable statistic.  It governs a whole range of things like how likely you are to hit something (a bit of self belief can be wonderful, too much devastating) and how likely you are to run away in any given circumstance.

The game looks at two different circumstances in leaving a conflict.  The first is a bit like a morale check of sorts that the hero makes when they slip under half hit points they need to make a check to see if they fly/run/burrow off to survive another day.  In my time of running this game I can’t ever remember if I enforced this rule but I am not necessarily against it.  The other check, which I have enforced before, is if the hero wants to willingly retreat they need to make a roll or else their own sense of self worth and honor.

Should the puppet controller be forced to consider when the puppet would actually run?

The system is very fluid also.  Suffer some major defeats and your spiraling Ego can reach rock bottom and you would need to role-play a hero in crisis.  This combined with another statistic that measures how the public see you can have major effects.  Now I can hear some of you saying to yourselves that this type of statistic is something that suits a supers campaign and that is why I like it so much.  Well, what about other styles of games?

I can see this working really well in a fantasy game, a horror setting, a modern game and to some degree a science fiction setting.  The amount that a character values themselves is just as defining a statistic as how intelligent, wise, beautiful, healthy, strong or agile they are.  Or is this idea just a little old school for the current games that we play in.  Say a FATE game where I describe my character as an “Egotistical sniper with eyes on the goal” it becomes a little inflexible for me in game.  What happens if I miss every shot that I was trying to make?  Sure, I might get some great compels from the GM but for that session I am locked in with an aspect that does not suit the circumstance.

What sort of systems have you seen in games that represent similar compulsions?  I am quite interested in these ideas and think they should be suited to the game type.  For example, Eclipse Phase, that is a science-fiction setting where death is a setback rather than a hard force would treat this style of system much differently to that which a horror game like Call of the Cthulhu where the characters would likely be ready to run at any point due to the horrors they could experience.

Or am I just an old and out of touch GM that is messing with players ability to control their characters in the way they want to.  I can see how this style of system may lock a character into a battle to the death where the player could have pulled out, but is that not a bit about playing the role from the perspective of the player.  Let me know what your thoughts are and keep rolling!

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