Tuesday, March 17, 2009

1st Level Characters: Serious Pyschological Issues?

Nick and I were talking about beginning a campaign the other night when the subject came up of how characters (with seemingly disparate backgrounds, races, incomes and game class and alignments) could have a falling in with one another so that an adventuring group might actually come to exist, let alone be justified in having done so.

In briefly thinking about this in the course of our conversation, and as (tentative) DM, my mind began racing to rationalize this commonly found type of situation. The thought occurred that much as there are, were, and have always been the youth that have run away from their family, from tradition, or from culturally imposed expectations, so too would there be this same demographic in any Fantasy RPG type setting. That is to say, alienation from family, tradition, cultural expectations, or even other personal issues (sexual identity, loss of a loved one, sexual or other forms of abuse) might readily explain why a player character might decide to strike out on his or her own, seeking redemption, fame, closure of some kind, or just personal satisfaction in the adventuring life (actualization). Many an American youth has done just the same, perhaps stereotypically going to California (Hollywood!) to find themselves and to "be discovered". The pioneering/rebirth life is still and has always been a major part of the American dream. Who knows what sorts of conflicted feelings and emotional damage a half-orc or half-elven character might have to deal with, as well? Racism (presumably) is not limited to our own workaday world any more than to your characters' campaign setting. And how do you rationalize the existence of a 150+ year old 1st level elf? What exactly have you been doing with yourself, 'lo this past century, is the question we're tempted to ask! Are elves the classic underachievers? One might reasonably conclude so, given their upper level limits in class progression (versus the human race's unlimited abilities). In any event, it should come as no surprise that the social lubricant of alcohol, commonly found in the form of the Boar's Head Inn of the Welcome Wench's ale, can do wonders (at least initially) to make a dungeon adventuring enterprise with a group of complete strangers seem like a perfectly reasonable idea to those with these types of issues.

Assuming the likelihood of troubled pasts in our potential adventurers' pool, we can see that we're really left with an angst filled, troubled lot of characters indeed. It's no wonder that RPGs can particularly appeal to adolescents, struggling as they are to sort out the neuroses of the larger society from those which have been (potentially) already imprinted upon them from family and upbringing.

2 comments:

Nick said...

Some classic uprooting devices are poverty, blood feuds (down to the Godfather), pregnancy (and for women abortion etc.) and primogeniture and such arrangements (see poverty).
I do think it's hard to fathom this elven bond with nature thing if maturity takes over a century. Nature obviously doesn't allow that.

catpsi said...

Perhaps elves have just too much fun in their early (100+) years to seriously consider an adventuring, murderous life.

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