Posted by: Jess Riley | September 8, 2008

…But I Won’t Do That

People are as defined, in real life, by what they won’t do as much as by what they will do. What this means to me is that in actual play, roleplay characters should be defined both by what they will do easily, what they will do hesitantly, and what they won’t do at all.

This is really a matter of personal preference, as well as the type of character. It could be that the character you’re playing doesn’t have any qualms about questing or arms, for example, and the things that they won’t do are pure roleplay, no game mechanics at all. These are some things to think about and consider for your characters – even if the decision you reach is that they won’t fail to do anything, it’s still worth thinking over this.

Some examples of things that a character might not want to do are:

  • Magic. One of the more common variants on this is the holy priest who won’t learn or use any shadow magic. Admittedly, by ‘more common’ I mean ‘I’ve seen two, ever’, but this is the only magic variant that I’ve actually seen in play – and it’s a good one, in my opinion. Certainly, not all priests are going to feel this way, but there are plenty of canon justifications for this. Further, there are other ways that this could be done – in theory, there could very well be hunters who prefer to fight with their weapons and their companions and not with their mana, etc. The possibilities are endless, and the question is simple: is your character willing to use all kinds of magic they can?
  • Killing and combat. I’ve seen many, many variants on this one – from the blood elf who won’t kill the Wretched because they worry that one day they’ll be Wretched themselves, the nobleman who won’t raise a hand or a weapon against the so-called ‘weaker sex’, or the just warrior who won’t harm an innocent (however ‘the innocent’ to them is defined). Whether we think of it this way or not, killing another living thing won’t be easy for all our characters. Where do they draw the line – are they perfectly happy to slaughter wild animals, but not humanoids? Scarlet Crusaders, but not refugees? ‘Heathen’ trolls, but not ‘misguided’ dwarfs? Once again, a wealth of opportunities that can come from the simple question: who won’t your character hurt?
  • Fantastic Racism. Would your blood elf never deign to accept a quest from an orc? Is your dwarf disinclined to accept a quest from a human? Would they never accept a quest from someone identified as the opposite faction, however friendly they seemed? I don’t think I’ve ever seen this one in play, but it’s something to think about. If your aristocratic blood elf, for instance, can barely bring themselves to give the time of day to an orc character, why would they take a quest from an orcish NPC? There can be reasons of course, where respect can be earned despite race, but it’s again something to think about. Who won’t your character be ordered around by?
  • The end that doesn’t justify the means. Certainly, collecting five herbs from down by the lake isn’t at all morally questionable, but if your character knows that the apothecarist is going to use those herbs to make a plague to kill the local farmer’s dog, are they still going to be party to that? This often goes hand in hand with a moral objection to actually killing or hurting certain people – if their actions indirectly harm someone they wouldn’t harm personally, is that removed enough to be acceptable, or is that still just as immoral? This is something else that you can think about – would your character willingly help someone else do something they wouldn’t do themselves?

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