Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Three dimensions of character (Part 3) – Psychological

The Three dimensions of character (Part 3) – Psychological

So when you take the physical (Nature) and you combine it with the Environment (Nurture) you get the third aspect of characterization the psychological.

To be clear when I talk about the psychological aspects of your character I am not talking about listing your character derangements, or determine on a sliding scale from one to a hundred how many croutons short of a salad your character is. Not that these elements aren’t a part of character design, but the psychological aspect encompasses more than having to yodel Chopin, while hopping on one foot to avoid a two dice penalty to basket weaving.

Really what matters most to us in the psychology of a character comes down to motivation. What drives your character to act the way he does? How does he react to certain situations, and stimuli? What experiences from the character’s past lead to this reaction? How did these reactions lead him to become the person he is today? These are the core questions we are looking to answer when we ponder the psychological aspects of our character.
The most overused cliché in gaming can serve as an example of this methodology. Fenris Orckiller’s family was killed by a party of rampaging orcs when he was a child, and now he hates them so much!

So applying what we were talking about before to this example we can surmise the following:

What motivates fenris?
Fenris’s hatred of orcs fuels his epic sojourn across the globe to eradicate the vile creatures.

What drives him to act the way he does? The loss of his loved ones at an early age has left him distant, and unwilling to forge close ties with others for fear they will be lost in a similar way.

How does he react to certain stimuli? When he sees an orc he kills it. When others get to close to him emotionally he lashes out to push them away.

How did this lead him to be the person he is today? He’s a battle scarred warrior, with no friends, or allies, who has become an expert in the field of orc genocide.

Now let’s throw a wrench in there. Despite his best efforts to push her away Fenris has fallen in love with a beautiful princess, based upon his past what reaction do you think he would have to this stimuli?

Well, considering the lasting damage done to his psyche by the death of his parents, the death of his true love would be equally, or far more traumatic. So in order to defend himself from this trauma Fenris would stop at nothing to protect his true love, even if it puts him at the mercy of some cunning evil doer with plans of over throwing the Imperial Senat….KING, I mean over throwing the king.

This is what separated role players from roll players in my book, simply because you can’t play a role if there isn’t one, and character motivation stemming from the psychological is what defines the role of the character. Great stories derive from great characters. Great characters generate conflict, both internal and external. I’m not sure if I said it here before, but the best advice I ever received as a story teller was, “Keep the story simple, and let the players fuck it up.” This can happen in a lot of ways, but the best ways are when a character’s in-game motivation is the cause of the swerve. (note: this doesn’t mean your character’s motivation supersedes the fun of the other players, always weigh the good of the story vs. the good of the game)

Well, you are now primed and ready to create your own 3 dimensional characters. As always questions, comments, and suggestions are always welcomed.

Good Gamin’

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