Monday, May 7, 2012
Great Characters, Part 5 of 6. Society and Attachment.
Like it or not, Humans are social mammals. How a person relates to their society and vice versa, contributes a great deal to their development and lifestyle as an adult.
Any given society has built in institutions for developing its people into what they consider to be “normal”. An RPG character is almost always atypical of the mainstream of their society. If they were "normal”, they wouldn’t make very good heroes. They would stay home and go to work and try to stay out of trouble. Of course, many heroes have no choice. Bilbo Baggins and Luke Skywalker were both quite normal before adventure was thrust upon them. In any case, we need to know how your character views their society, the societies of others, and how those societies view them.
How does your character feel about their people? Are they sheep, in need of guidance and protection? Are they victims waiting to be plundered? Are they each a beautiful divine being with hopes and dreams, worthy of all the best things in life?
How do your character’s people view them? Are they glorified heroes? Are they mistrusted, jobless vagabonds? Are the people thankful for being saved, or do they blame the character for their woes?
How does your character view other societies? Are they an open minded cosmopolitan that finds other cultures exciting and fun? Are they inflexible and bigoted, demanding that all others learn their language or leave?
How do other societies see your character? Most other societies will see your character as a member of their native culture, so this question is also a question of how other societies see your character’s society, even if they are not accepted in their own society.
Race issues are still significant in America today, and everyone has their own opinions about the cultures of others. Simply ask how your character feels about these things, and then extend those feelings toward more exotic cultures, like Elves and sentient robots.
As always, whenever answering these questions, always ask “Why?”
Monks spend lifetimes trying to detach themselves from worldly things. Only the most gifted and devoted reach a significant level of success, because it is really hard to not be attached to anything or anyone.
What is your character most attached to? What do they want most in life? What do they want to acquire or achieve? What do they have already that they value more than anything else?
This does not have to be material things, like “My Porsche”, or “My kids”. Attachment comes from emotion. A person attached to their Porsche may in truth be attached to their perception of the image of success, as they define it. A person attached to their children might really be attached to the sense of control they feel when they “manage” their children.
For example: A character values their heirloom dragon-slaying sword more than anything.
Similar to how we broke down Motivations, we should look a little deeper into our character’s attachments. We will find that they are often closely related. Why does the character value that sword so much?
Is it because it is effective at killing dragons? If so, why is that so important? What is the character’s problem with dragons? How did it become so important to them that they should be more effective at killing them?
Is it because the sword is an heirloom? What does that mean to the character? Is it because they never knew their father, the great dragon slayer, and the sword is the only thing they have to remember him by? Perhaps they knew their father quite well, and were trained in dragon slaying techniques by him, and they are now carrying their family’s honor as they wield that sword against their hated enemy? Perhaps their father was an abusive, despicable cad, and the character wants to redeem his tainted legacy by putting the sword to good use? Perhaps the character never wanted the damned thing in the first place, and refuses to use it?
All these questions serve to add robust, complex flavor to an otherwise shallow, insipid pile of numbers. Together, they can transform a character into a person. By now you should have a solid concept of your character's personality.
We have one last thing to consider: