Most writers are familiar with the forms of perspective. First person, second person, third person objective, limited and omniscient, first/second mixed. But while I was looking into my initial concepts for yesterday’s post on when to use different names for what is by some definitions the same character, I realized that there was a third, unique to roleplayers and mostly a result of the peculiar constraints of the system. For lack of a better term, I call it “Third Person PC.”
What is it? The short version is that it’s the kind of perspective tabletoppers in general seem to use when describing her character’s actions. (Yes, more character-driven games, particularly in play by post format, will often go deeper into their characters’ heads and hit the same depth as third person limited, but there are still vital differences.) It’s a third person at heart—there is no “I” or “you” involved unless someone’s slipping, but with an odd blend of information, including bits of the character’s motivation, things it would be reasonable for the rest of the group to act on, what the character knows and perceives, and an inherent indicator that this is always the same person in the form of the player who ties it all together.
Needless to say, it’s not first or second person; it’s still pretty obvious when people are playing or being run for in those perspectives. (Though one could probably make a case for the existence of a “First Person PC” in some groups.)
Some might mistake it for third person objective, but I’m inclined to disagree. Yes, Third Person PC is mostly limited to things that could be seen by a video camera, just as third person objective is, but it isn’t always; as often as not, it explicitly references things that aren’t immediately visible, including character knowledge of other characters, other characters’ knowledge, and sometimes even game mechanics.
It’s easy to mistake for third person limited, and in many cases the two are pretty close. But it’s not quite that, either. After all, unless the player wants to show the other players the inside of a character’s head, they’re certainly not going to be seeing the internal monologues often delivered by the viewpoint character of a novel in third person limited. The character’s own mental process may be hinted at, but it’s not usually completely transparent to the audience (and often, the audience doesn’t want to be told that easily anyway). On the other hand, it often flashes for a moment into half-views of another character’s perspective, as the player explains that so-and-so might notice x, y and z (due to their character’s background, lucky rolls, whatever—but this is still a place third person limited stays out of).
It’s certainly not third person omniscient, able to operate in every single character’s perspective at the same time and still verify the true nature of whatever it describes. And well it isn’t; if someone’s describing another character’s thoughts and actions in relation to something that her character just did, and this was not carefully arranged with the player of said other character in advance, that would be godmoding, and most people would want no part of the player responsible for it.