Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Why Perspective Matters For Your Character

RPGs are funny little things. You show up week in, week out, and play someone that is so different from yourself in so many little ways. I'd be willing to bet that no one here has stood a castle wall, sword in hand, and held back an army of orcs, goblins, and dragons. And yet, in a RPG that is a fairly common thing to see happen. We give allowances for it. And yet, when it comes to certain lifestyles for characters, we have trouble adjusting and seeing it. Sometimes it bothers us. We're fine playing an alien that can bounce bullets of his chest, but not being an authentic portrayal of a corporate zillionaire? That is taboo. Today, I have some advice to help with that.

Perspective Is Everything
That is it. That is the advice. The post is over.

What? You want me to go on? Ok, well here it goes. Everyone sees things from their own perspective. Over time those perspectives can change. We take things for granted that other people don't, and that is based on our life experiences. The key then, like with everything, is to take something that is alien to you and look at it in terms that make sense to you.

One of the easiest things to do this with is money. Why? Because money is all about numbers, and numbers we can scale very easily. A post made on Reddit showed the different types of lifestyles people lived depending on how many millions of dollars - not including the value of their homes - they were worth liquid. Now, the lifestyle part is valuable on its own, but was is more valuable is looking at it in perspective.

The wealthiest person that redditor knows makes 400 million dollars a year. How do you even fathom that? Well, he shows you. He boils it down to what if you make 40 thousand dollars a year? That is a number a lot of us are comfortable with because it is close to what we make in all likelihood. Scaling the cost of things down, that puts a new lamborghini at $23.50. A stay in a super fancy 5 star hotel at $1 per night. A first class inter-continental flight for less than the cost of a video game.

Let that sink in for a moment. How much less would you be concerned about your car if it only cost you $25 to replace it if and when you broke it? How many cars would you have in your garage at that point? Would you even bother paying rent on an apartment if you could stay in a five star hotel for $14 over two weeks?

On the other side of things, what about the poor? That would involve scaling things the other way around. If you make $40k a year and want to play from the perspective of someone who is barely getting by, say $20k a year, well then now you double all your expenses. A trip to McDonalds might be $8 for a meal, now that is $16. That $200 chromebook you bought to browse the internet if away for a weekend or when downstairs is now $400.

It isn't perfect but it works.

Recognize Your Assumptions. Challenge them. Change them for the character.
Here are some very basic things that I assume will happen everyday:

I will eat two meals, and if I go hungry it will be by choice or accident and not due to the inability to feed myself. I will not be attacked on my way to or from work. In fact, barring crossing a busy street my life will not be in jeapordy today at all. At no point will I be expected to be able to take up arms and defend my family and friends.

Some of those are corny, sure, but I added them in to bridge the gap. These are things I just assume will be part of my day, but what if they weren't? How would I act if  my set of assumptions was different?

Let's say instead of being sure I would eat, my assumption would be I would have to choose between eating and a roof over my head. Now my brain is working it like a problem. Which do I need more right now? It brings into question other assumptions. If I am in danger for my life, then shelter is a higher priority. If I haven't eaten in several days, maybe food is. I am more likely to horde food or save it just in case I need it later. Maybe I'll see if I can work for some food (or for some shelter) and so cover both needs. Either way, my actions change.

The assumptions we make are what guide our daily actions. Sure, we can know some of the big things for our characters. Bryan's swordsman is going to practice in the morning to keep his skills up. Sarah's knight does regular gear maintenance. The wizard will seek out arcane lores. But what about the more personal assumptions? How do those change things?

Find what your character assumes to be true and constant in their life, then figure out how they manage those assumptions. It will help bring your character to life. It will help to give authenticity.

1 comment:

  1. That is quite a clever and useful trick for looking at prices. Thanks for sharing it.