Story vs RPG Part 8: Character emotions
Story vs RPG Part 9: Lies - Our characters darkest secrets
Story vs RPG Part 10: Setting - cultures
Story vs RPG Part 11: Pair Dynamics
Story and Game Structure: Storylines
Story vs RPG Part 12: Larger groups - conformity & deviance
In the last post issues discussed are setting, worldbuilding; society, culture, individual; types of authority, boundaries, time; roles, expectations, acceptable behavior, choices, status; evaluation, assumptions, cause of behavior, change in behavior; and consensus control. This post may refer to that last post to build and discus further story issues related to culture.
In this post I wanted to convert sociological jargon for the smallest of the groups and culture - the two person group. For example, a two person relationship in sociology calls a dyad. I'll just call it a pair.
In this post for an example I'll used two character examples. Although put in a modern setting, I do so since this is a fantasy community and so this common series of relationships wont directly transfer to someone else's story. It's a fairly common relationship which has been done before. Everything will also transfer over to any specific fantasy setting with a little changes here and there.
They are George and Martha. You pick which is which in the photo above. It doesn't matter. I'll put their text in italics. So you can skip that text if you don't want to read it.
When two characters come together interesting things can happen. In RPGs, normally the more vocal players rather than the characters they are portraying can sway the team towards group actions and ideas. Someone who is naturally quiet might not shine, unless they are vital characters to the team.
If you bring two characters together both games and stories, at first they might struggle to find out who is dominant and who will follow. They may not be considered a 'pair' until they settle on their relationship dynamic. Two characters may clash, but heads, or fragment apart if the group does not find their gelling pair dynamic.
George is being assigned to work with Martha for the first time. What happens has a lot to do with their struggle to find a working relationship. Until they settle into a comfortable working relationship, no working chemistry or bond will be made.
Using Personality Type systems to find clues
This is very easy if one personality type is an extrovert and one is an introvert, which are shown in the Keirsey and Myers Briggs systems in the personality types post. Other personality type systems may require a moment to think about type comparison. Or you can use the conversion chart at the bottom of the personality type post which I recently added for several popular systems. When you have an extrovert and introvert, the decision is quite easy. Even if the introverted character has more status and rank, the lower status extrovert naturally will tend to try steering the higher status introvert their way using methods discussed later.
George is a INTP personality type person: an architect, theorist, designer, and attentive. He's a thinker. George likes to think things out, coming up with all sorts of ideas. He's most comfortably an introvert.
Martha is a ESTJ personality type person: an expressive, supervisor, implementer. She's a protector & reformer. Martha likes lead, motivate, and spurn her work team to success. She's most comfortably an extrovert.
Getting to know Another Character
1. Physical Description
How a character looks can influence the character's initial meeting. How they initially speaks can also be included in this initial judgement. Characters may prejudge the other character just based off of how the other looks and sounds entirely at first. Their assumptions may be based on past experiences or even something they have heard from someone else. Reputations may proceed their meeting. This may begin to form the perceptions of each of the characters towards each other.
George wears conservative clothing. His style is average and functional. He is well groomed. When he speaks, it is in a low in volume and sometimes a little coarse. He sometimes speaks rambling on about ideas which he learned or thought about recently in grad-school.
Martha wears high end clothing. She wears trendy clothing. Her well put together clothing is brilliant and stands out in a good way among peers. Her reputation that George overhears from HR is that she is tough, hard to please, and a stickler for results. She speaks energetic and full of life. She gets straight to the point.
Martha sees George and immediately is at ease. She senses from his appearance that he will probably go along with the team.
George is on his toes. He wants to impress Martha with his great ideas, which he is full of.
Martha hears the ideas and begins to try figuring out if any of it will be useful. She wants him to fit in and doesn't confront him quite yet about the impractical ideas presented.
2. Personality Types
Next, the more social, aggressive, controlling, and action type characters may try getting to know, assigning tasks to each other, or getting them to do something. They are exploring their role and expectation between each other. Fears and secrets my spurn their interaction. The characters are trying to find out what benefit they might get from the interaction.
If they both will gain from their relationship, then the relationship will grow. If they feel that they are losing too much, they will begin to fragment. The actual sought benefit or avoided loss depends on the characters's personality type. Some personality types are willing to sacrifice their own good for the benefit of others. And some would never give into other's wishes.
In fact, one of the pair members may feel they are gaining something while the other may feel they are losing something. These are one-way relationships.
Martha is interested in functional ideas. After a few days, once George is settling in, she begins to compliment him on the good ideas. At the same time for the impractical ideas she suggests maybe they should consider whether on not those ideas would really work.
George thinks his ideas are great. They would improve productivity by leaps. He begins to have trouble seeing why she can't see just how great those ideas are.
Martha is becoming impatient with George. He persistently nags trying to push his unworkable ideas. She kindly tries to redirect his ambition to no avail. George is beginning to drag her team down. She will not tolerate such results.
3. Character Interests
Then character begin to influence each other. What do they like that is similar? What issues separate by the pair members holding so different or distant interests? Can they relate to each other with even a few mutual interests?
Martha was approaching George's area to discipline him about his lack of performance when she hears a loud conversation coming from his office cubicle. He is talking about his uncle, one of the vice presidents of the company. She didn't know this! Martha stays back, pretending to do something else. George is connected to one of the superiors she is trying to impress. He mentions that his uncle is looking for new, challenging, and fresh ideas, which he has been trying to suggest to Martha. Suddenly the dynamic changes. She chooses not to discipline him. Rather she will try to use him to her advantage. She finally finds a common interest helping to form a bond or pair.