Group Dynamics: Five Cool Sources of Character Links

Yesterday, I talked about group dynamics, and how they’re based around several types of connection within a group of characters. Today, I’m going to look more closely on the first and simplest kind of connection, the one that directly connects two characters.

So what sorts of things might connect two characters, either before or after they joined a group? I’m not going to talk so much about types of relationships (particularly since I’ve already discussed mentors, parents, close adults, love interests…) as about things that might bring forth a relationship, or at the very least a connection beyond “We’re in the same group”.

  1. Shared skills. With great minds thinking alike, the potential for sharing ideas, and the fact that some things can only be appreciated by a fellow hobbyist, some people might think that this would only be a source of positive connections. On the other hand, a character trying to be the best in her field, or whose position in the group depends on being a specialist in a given area, might be really territorial and competitive about that particular skill. And then there’s what happens when you have a clear difference in skills, leading to things like admiration, envy, and/or potential for a mentor-student dynamic.
  2. Shared interests. This runs rather like shared skills, but is somewhat less likely to lead to enmity. The key word being somewhat. Shared opinions are even likelier to work well together—one of my coworkers and I once bonded over our opinions of what should be done about the educational system hereabouts—but are still ripe for complications, particularly with regards to differences in methods, details and levels of dedication.
  3. Shared background. This could be any of a number of things, from being part of one large (and probably reunion-prone) extended family to being former students of the same school to having been present at the same history-making event. What matters is that it creates a sort of in-group culture—take my own personal example, with the near-instant camaraderie between the Census listers. They’ve got references in common, slightly different old stories—in short, a lot to talk or argue about. In some cases, this might even extend to having connected at that particular event, and formed an impression of each other there, for better or for worse.
  4. Intersecting symbols. This doesn’t have to be literal, but it can be—what it boils down to is that there are things that the characters identify with that in and of themselves have a connection that might affect the connection between the characters. For instance, in my game, one of the new players is a shapeshifter who favors a raven form; not long ago, he ran into the group’s long-running NPC friend who associates mostly with being a crow, and decided she was Interesting. More often, though, these are likely to have to do with organizations, political factions, knightly orders—you get the idea.
  5. Effects on the world around them. People don’t live in a vacuum; it’s possible that one has, either directly or indirectly, done something that had an influence on the other, and possibly vice versa as well. In extreme versions, this might involve someone’s tragic backstory or golden opportunity; in lighter ones, it might just be one having caused the other to miss a bus, or one’s overheard idle comment leading to the other solving a crossword puzzle clue that she’d been stuck on. For more extreme versions, you can overlap this with shared background to have two people who were at one point directly responsible for each other’s welfare, most likely getting themselves out of a nasty situation; it doesn’t always create a positive connection, but it takes a pretty detached person not to at least remember the person they got out of the mess with.

Think about how factors like these might affect the connections between people, and keep planning! There’s still more to come.

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