Impractical Applications: Not So Mutual

I talked earlier this week about characters with mutually dependent characterization. They show up a lot in my gaming, to the point where it’s almost disconcerting to me to have a PC whose characterization hasn’t been influenced by someone two months into any given game (PC, NPC, I’m not picky), and if I were to list off all the NPC/NPC mutually dependent characterization dyads running around my game, we’d be here a while.

The interesting thing, though, is that I’m not sure how often the dependent characterization traits are, in fact, requited—and not in the “warning of impending Author’s Darling” sense. My characters don’t tend to change their fellows but refuse to be impacted themselves; if anything, it’s the reverse. With the exception of Tuyet, whose schtick heavily included creating mutually dependent characterization connections with a goodly number of the plot-important characters, most of them have been far likelier to change due another character’s influence than to wreak any sort of visible change in the same character.

Well, there was Aisling, from the DFRPG game. With her and her fellow PCs (or, at least, definitely with the werepigeon, possibly with the semi-vampire, and the rest of the party vanished pretty quickly anyway) there was a certain amount of build and build—cross-backstorying is a game mechanic, after all. On the other hand, she got most of her character growth from the antagonists: Carmilla was the cause of one Aspect, a great deal of “I just lipped off to/outmaneuvered/unnerved/assisted something that scary?”, and what might have been her second Trouble; the immortal warlock-guy Stepan certainly demonstrated an ability to get her riled; and Procopia… well. They, on the other hand—I can’t be sure. Might Carmilla’s story have been similar with some other irritable wizard? Probably.

The Wulin game came close to having one of these with Liang and Princess Tai/Wu/whatever she’s going by today; I know during a gap between two sessions, looking for a way to explain Liang’s new round of motivation, “Crush-at-first-blood on the first opponent who’s inflicted anything on him in-continuity” was as reasonable as anything having to do with the backstory I already had. On the other hand, even after we’d gotten into the mess that plot led us through, there wasn’t much word from the princess, and the game got hung up soon after. I’m not sure where Liang was going with that.

And then there’s the D&D game. A couple weeks ago, I riffed on temptation plots and Lamora vs. the apparently random demon Twofeathers. They’ve met twice in total now; the second time, she responded to the possibility that he was going to pop up with an immediate (and unsuccessful) dispel attempt on the incoming summon. But along with the fact that just the possibility of him popping up provokes an immediate “Prevent it. Prevent it with magic” reaction from her, and that despite having the perfect setup she for some reason didn’t even try to speed-manipulate him in battle (she’s the type, I’m the type, the situation was perfect for “Hey, you can’t recruit me if these guys kill me,” it’s hard not to think that something must have happened there), the whole temptation scene has got me attempting to extrapolate a mess of motivations, and that leads to some interesting revelations on her sense of belonging and view of the afterlife and… let’s just say I’m probably never going to get to use these, but they’re interesting. And that’s just one session and a battle cameo—I can only imagine what happens if the two of them start interacting. The demon? …to be fair, I probably couldn’t tell with him anyway. No change that I can see, though.

Either way, it’s rather a pity; creating these sorts of dyads is one of the things I find to be a major draw.

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