Content of the article: "A counterpoint to characters not having their own free wills and not being “real” people"
There was a recent post that discussed the idea that characters are not real people and don’t have wills of their own. Now, factually, that is true. However the post was more pointed towards the idea that thinking of your characters in that way shouldn’t really be done. The post referred to incidents from r/rpghorrorstories which, I’ll agree, are pretty terrible. For the record, I feel the post is coming from a good place, however, I feel the post identified the wrong thing as the problem, so I’d like to come to the defense of viewing characters as their own entities and attempt to explain what I think is the real problem.
First off, I view my characters as their own people with their own thoughts. They don’t do what I want, they do what they want. Now, I obviously understand that they are still just characters in my head, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t created personalities for them that are different from my own. One of the things I most enjoy in D&D is the immersion of truly being a different person. A perfect example is a character of mine named Aurora. Out of all of my characters, Aurora easily had the most messed up backstory. She went through a lot of pain in her life and was quite traumatized. The result was a character who was paranoid, angry, and very untrusting. She was quite different to myself, as was her personality and worldview. When I played Aurora, I had to enter a different mindset in game, and I made decisions that I sometimes personally didn’t want to make, but I knew aurora would make them. Sometimes aurora would do things that weren’t necessarily good for her or even the party, and sometimes I knew this. When we talked out of game and spoke about hypothetical scenarios, I would sit there and ponder for 5 minutes about how she would react to said scenario, and after I answered I would end up pondering for another 2 hours. Point is, Aurora was her own person in my mind and I simply explained what her will would be. I understand that factually she was still just my imagination, but I don’t think viewing her as more is bad.
Here is what needs to be clarified: the problem is not getting into character, it’s getting into bad characters. When you make a character, you have to factor in the other people at the table. If you have a character who’s personality or behavior will consistently irritate, disturb, frustrate, or downright piss off other players, then you have a bad character. D&D is a team game, both in-game and out. The players work together towards in-game goals, but they also work together to ensure that everyone is having fun. Aurora is not a character I would have made at a table that was new to me. She could very easily be frustrating to a good number of people. The people I play with didn’t have issue with how she behaved, despite her being detrimental to herself and/or the party sometimes, because I specifically made sure she wouldn’t be frustrating when I made her. I made sure she had a personality and view of things that wouldn’t cause her to go overboard, she wouldn’t ever end up doing something that would just blatantly frustrate the players at my table. Of course if for some reason something g happened and I felt I was going a little to far, I would pull Aurora back a bit, but I never had to because she just wasnt designed like that. This is what is always missing from horror stories. The characters in those stories are bad characters. “It’s what my character would do” has kind of become an iconic sinful phrase, but honestly it’s not a bad thing on its own. It only becomes a problem when you have a bad character.
I’m not saying everyone should view their characters the way I do, I’m just saying it isn’t a problem. The problem isnt how you play your character, it’s how you make them. If what your character would do constantly frustrates other players at your table, well then you better make a new character and think a little harder about the other people at the table.
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