Anger: Individual Variation

Yesterday, I talked about two major flavors of anger: impulsive, direct “hot” anger, and smoldering, calculating “cold” anger. Today, I’m going to look more at other variations on the theme. You can go a long way without having two people who are angry in the exact same way.

There’s already a lot of room for variation in how people handle anger depending on environmental factors—how angry they were to begin with, who’s around to see them, whether there’s anything they can do, what and who ticked them off…. the possibilities are limitless. One person might be really good at stifling anger at work, but prone to sudden outbursts at home; another might do cold anger from a distance, but hot anger up close and personal; one’s hot anger might be yelling only with some people, but downright violent with others.

One thing to consider with characters who are going to be on-screen a lot (PCs, major NPCs, primary and secondary characters, that sort of thing), is to come up with two basic degrees of anger and a point at which one changes over into the other. For instance, Michael commented on yesterday’s post with a pair of characters who work that way; one favors hot anger at the base, but after a certain point will go utterly cold, while another goes from substituting in other emotions to very intense cold (I think). The point may, as with those examples, be triggered by a berserk button, a sort of pet issue that always changes one over—or it might be based on something like how much they’ve been provoked, how long it’s been since the last time they switched over, you get the idea. A lot of antagonists, for instance, tend to stay cold and then flip to hot, since that makes for more spectacular villainous breakdowns; for a lot of protagonists, it flips from hot to cold, since cold has a greater potential for deliberate, self-aware cruelty and other things that do not generally imply good guy.

Then there’s the question of how direct they’re willing to be, once they’ve been touched off. Some anger is delayed reaction—whether hot or cold, it sparks, simmers, and then is released a little while later when it’s “safe”, while some of it happens now.

Can the anger be used up, for that matter? I’ve seen a few cases where someone just didn’t have the energy to maintain a fit, either in a short time or over a prolonged period. (This actually really messed with one of the things I’d been trying to pull in a pickup chat in my Exalted game, once—I’d wanted to get an Impressive Righteous Tirade from the group’s resident Zenith over the discovery that Ruby’s “lack of shiny”, as she puts it, was Lirit’s fault, but among other things he’d worn himself out with his earlier reaction to the fact that some of their gear technically was still people.)

How many varieties of upset do your characters have?

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