Dangerous Demeanors

Not every personality is cut out for intrigues, political games, and other contests of wit and manipulation. Some, for various reasons, are just better suited to the job than others. These are some of the personality types that often fit well with manipulation-games.

  • Unflappable: This one’s a good one because they’re very hard to score against. You could hit them with the most grievous insult imaginable, and they’d probably chuckle a bit and suggest you work on your subtlety. (As an added bonus, this makes an excellent personality for an antagonist because getting such a person to lose his temper is almost as satisfying as killing him.)
  • Quick-witted: These sorts of verbal duelists are hard to keep an advantage on, as they can respond almost immediately to just about anything. Granted, their responses may not be the best ripostes, but they usually buy enough time to come up with a truly scathing follow-up. They’re also hard to catch out when they provoke others, as they will quickly come up with an excuse for almost anything.
  • Observant: This one notices everything—particularly the little details. If you had to go and do something, and your hair’s just the slightest bit different when you come back, she’ll notice. Talk to someone with a different tone than you usually use? She’ll notice. And anything she notices will be used at some point. The best way to sidestep this kind is to throw out so many small details that there’s no room for the big picture (or that they come to an entirely different conclusion), but even that’s not completely reliable. On the plus side, some of them will jump to conclusions from what they do learn….
  • Erudite: Yes, scholars can engage in these games too. They’re slightly more predictable, as their main advantage is their greater spectrum of learning, but even when you see the scholar-talk coming it can still be wildly overwhelming. And it’s easy to underestimate them, because who has time to both learn in their field as extensively as they have and still learn to play social games?
  • Arrogant: They know the rules, they know the game, and they’re in charge. You could cut the condescension around them with a knife—though if you were to try it, they’d probably arch an eyebrow and ask just what it was you thought you were doing in a tone that says they already know and no reason’s going to be good enough. When paired up with an unflappable demeanor, this creates someone who irritates the living daylights out of the audience by existing; it’s excellent for antagonists, and even more so for red herring antagonists.
  • Melodramatic: Whether this kind actually loses the game most of the time or not is hard to say. But people certainly think he does. Every time someone tries something on him, he takes loud and impressive offense, drawing the attention of everyone around and painting himself as an innocent victim. Even the people who see through his game will try to avoid setting him off just to keep from dealing with the scene.
  • Mind elsewhere: This is usually camouflage. And what a camouflage it is! It’s easy to underestimate someone who seems to be hanging around in cloud-cuckoo land, who’s losing her mind due to age, or who can’t remember complex social systems to save her life. But every now and then you run into someone who’s only faking it, but doing so utterly convincingly. They’re easily underestimated, and it’s hard to tell what they understand and what they don’t; this makes them the most dangerous of all.
  • Sympathetic: Sure, being heartless helps in this sort of game. But who says you have to act heartless as well? The one person anyone can trust in this game is probably the one person anyone shouldn’t trust; he’ll listen, sure, but he’ll remember what he hears. Are you sure all your secrets will stop there?
  • Mind like a trap: This one never forgets a single thing anyone does or says. This stands her in good stead when either maintaining a deceit or poking holes in someone else’s, as she knows exactly what was said when and will cheerfully invoke it at the most inconvenient possible time. These people make amazing allies, but should be treated carefully, as their memories do include slights and offenses.

If you need random characters for a court scene, a party, a political plot or anything involving a lot of social maneuvering, one thing you can do is mix and match these traits. There are a lot of combinations, and they give you a good way to differentiate between characters and figure out their strengths and weaknesses.

And this is only a sampling. Do you have any personality types of your own?

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