Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Areas For Character Development - Part 2

Yesterday I started talking about some core areas of your character where you might be able to find a lot of room to either develop or express your character. The goal being to make a character, or characters, that is more like a real person than just a name and version of your personality over some stat blocks. Today, I wanted to continue that trend and talk about a few more points. Like yesterday, Im going to give the disclaimer that there are some mature topics in here.

A lot of people don't think about this, but consider for a moment just how much your - or your friends' - sexuality impacts how they act in various situations. This concept comes in a couple of flavors. First you have some of the basics such as what sex/gender they find attractive to them. A homosexual male is likely going to react differently to an attractive and provocative female than a heterosexual male or homosexual female is.  Beyond this there is the kind of person of that group that they find attractive. All the looks in the world aren't going to help entice someone to be friendly if the person cares more about a particular character trait that isn't there.

All of that only goes over the sexual attractiveness to a character someone might have, and sexuality can go much further. The kind of sex (does the character like to experiment, go with some of the kinkier stuff, or stick with more vanilla) can be a huge determination in some aspects of personality, as can how open the person is with their sexuality. Someone open and confident about what they want will be very different from someone who is more shy and timid about their sexuality.

Frankly there is enough in just this one topic that I could probably write a series of posts about it. Now this isn't a place some people like to go. My own groups are fairly mature about this and relationships do happen as do discussions about sex and characters having sex. It's always curtain called, but it is still there. If your group is comfortable with it, it may be worth giving it a shot.

I don't like listing this as a core character area because a lot of people take this the wrong way and make whether their character is a Man or a Woman and use it as a defining characteristic of the character. This often leads to a fairly flat character, and in the case of when people are gender bending, can also end up with very offensive characters as stereotypical traits get over played and someone else finds that to be bad.

For most of us our sex/gender has influenced who we are in a myriad of subtle ways. As a man I have lived a life free from a lot of the prejudices and views that women/girls are subjected to on a daily basis. I have not had those societal views put on me, or had those experiences shape how I look at things. At the same time, female players have never directly experienced the societal expectations and pressures that are put on men/boys on a daily basis either.

I will stand by the fact that if you use sex/gender to define the character you will weaken the character. However, that doesn't mean you can ignore it, and it also doesn't mean that it can't enrich aspects of the character.

Also, whenever you are taking sex/gender into account for a character do not forget to look at how the world, and every other core area I've talked about in these two posts, differentiate between those sexes. If the dwarves are true equalitarians while the elves have strict gender roles than being a male or female is going to mean vastly different things depending on which race the character is.

This is another one of those things that most people don't think about, but just like our sex/gender and our sexuality our age has a lot of impact on how we act  and the way we view things that we may not think about. Ever hear someone excuse the actions of another person because he/she is young? How about being told that you can't expect someone to understand a concept because their older? These are both cases where we expect, and accept, age to be modifying the personality.

In general with age comes wisdom (or so the saying goes.) Wisdom here comes from the experience of having lived a life. Along with it also comes patience and the ability to see to what the heart of the matter is, or at least wait to see where it is. With youth comes impulsiveness, passion, and a naivete (for lack of a better word) that can make for some wonderfully idealistic characters. Perhaps one of the core differences is that the young haven't been beaten down by the world as much as the old, not usually anyhow. This leaves room for streaks of idealism, passion, and a desire to do things that often the elder can't match.

These are all huge sweeping generalities, but they can exist and can shape a character's views. they are also tropes that get used constantly in stories. The old master that always ends up ahead of the impulsive young student bcause they know the value of patience. The energetic youth challenging traditions because they are in the way of her ideals.

Who You Are Is Defined By Where You Come From
Ultimately what these two posts are trying to say is that who you are is often determined by where you come from. A gay dwarven female from a poor family that makes her money breaking legs for the mob is defined and shaped - in some way - by every word used in that sentence. They will also be a different character from the elder female elven general from a noble family and the farm boy human turned knight from a working class area. These differences come from their experiences in life which shape everything about them, and almost everything about the character will have some impact on who they are.

This is, as far as I can tell, the trick to making characters that are people. You need to put yourself in the character's shoes, let your mind "live the life" the character did, and see what comes out. You might be amazed at what you find.

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