Earlier this week, I sang the praises of polite primary characters. While it isn’t technically a requirement in my game, they’re pretty common on both sides of the screen, to the point where I find it harder to name five characters who don’t default to generally courteous than I do to name five who do. (More amusingly, one of the least polite PCs was also the one who was supposed to be a diplomat-type person. Nobody IC is still quite sure how that happened; OOC, it’s generally agreed to be A Player Thing.)
For one thing, you’ve got the players. We’re down to three now: the warrior/rebuilder of cities/tamer of chaos-twisted seed-producing hamster, the healer and shaman from Out In the Eastern Forests Somewhere, and the very model of a proper kung-fu bureaucrat. (This isn’t to say that only the politest survived, as one of the group’s shorter-present members included a soldier-type who managed to polite-conversation her way to some really interesting character dynamics with a couple of the NPCs and who was at least as assiduous about using full titles, even for her enemies, as the group’s long-running resident NPC diplomat.) The first of said three PCs is just generally tactful—usually. The second grew up in a one-down relationship with various local elementals, and still speaks to even the small nameless ones as if she weren’t pretty close to the top of the metaphysical ladder now. The third is slow to anger and quick to apologize. Put them together… and let’s just say that if there ends up being a fight, even if it was in their plan it probably doesn’t look like their fault.
That isn’t to say that it’s confined to the PCs, either, nor even to the good guys. A number of their satellite characters are the kind who will talk first and attack only after all alternatives have been removed—sometimes they’ll have friends who serve as foils in that regard (“You know, they’re generally inimical to everything we stand for, shouldn’t we be fighting them now?”).
And then there are the antagonists, particularly in the first arc. Rukan was probably the best example—highly compassionate, highly polite, if she’s ever actually hit someone even I don’t remember it, and the only times I recall her so much as raising her voice were when her principles were challenged and when the PCs left her temporary cottage without anyone so much as bothering to put back the door one of their allies had broken in. Jalil, on the other hand, managed to balance sarcasm, arrogance and the conviction that the proper state of the world was in fact under his leadership with a general adherence to social ritual and a preference for discussion rather than armed confrontation—he may not have been necessarily tactful, but he was cultured and, at least during situations that weren’t time-sensitive portions of his plan to remake the world for his banished master, generally willing to at least adopt the pretense of a reasonable conversation.