Reverb Gamers: Weirdest Character

Question #19: What's the weirdest character you've ever played? How did you end up with him/her/it?

I've played many strange characters from behind the screen. At this stage, I don't really think about how weird or not they are, just about how they think.

One of my campaign world's central notions is that it has a very deep history. It's had sentient life for about three and a half billion years. There's also the possibility of immortality. So over that span of time, quite a few creatures have become immortal. Immortals are weird anyway, but some of them are downright alien.

Davonian life is varied. Hundreds of different body-plans have been tried by evolution over time, aided by magic, psionics, and other, wilder effects. Not all of these forms reach intelligence, but many do. So there are immortals out there who aren't just alien by way of culture - they're tri-symmetrical, or arachnoid, or insectile, or aquatic, or shaped like starfish, or use chlorophyll.

Davonian life is fecund. Species, as Linnean taxonomy usually uses the term, don't quite work. It's not the case that anything can crossbreed with anything, quite. Dragons can, though, and once a few of them have, normal processes will carry some of that capability down through successive generations. So anything that had an ancestor intelligent enough to appeal to a dragon has a chance of having some draconic blood, however small a fraction. And fiends and celestials, of course, have the same capability. So many of the immortals are of mixed blood.

The upshot of this is that there's a creature out there who has lived for two billion years, will never die, and is half-dragon, one quarter coral-starfish, and one quarter intelligent tree. He's lived long enough that remnants of his birth culture's artworks are turning up in igneous rocks. Every intelligent thing on the planet younger than him is probably a descendant. How do you play something like that?

I've done a lot of thinking about this, and arrived at the idea that any immortal who is out and about, rather than dormant, hiding, or in stasis of some kind, has self-selected for the ability to deal with and understand the world as it is. So while they're alien, they're at least used to getting on with humans, or their immediate ancestor species. That makes it one step easier.

Fiends, celestials, and the like are easier to play in many ways. They have aims that are more or less comprehensible to humans, and they're busily getting on with them.

Second, I don't completely have to understand them to depict them, any more than an actor playing, say, Winston Churchill, needs to understand everything of Churchill's life and thinking. And in a lot of cases, one or two strange habits of mind can account for a lot of alien-ness.

For instance, there was one relatively recent race who left very little trace in the world, called the Siroose. They left little trace because they did very little; their major cultures valued indolence, cowardice, and efficiency above all else. That alone makes for a very alien creature from our point of view; a paranoid couch-potato who occasionally acts very swiftly and decisively in order to ensure it can go on being paranoid and stationary. Playing a Siroose is therefore weird.

A lot of my thinking on the immortals - and indeed, deep history as a concept - comes from Vernor Vinge's books, A Fire Upon The Deep and A Deepness In The Sky. The interactions between different species there, and the communications between them on what looks very like usenet have been a massive influence.

And I take a certain comfort in thinking that even in the selection of weird creatures I've played, I still have things as peculiar as the Tines and the Skrode-riders to reach for.

Posted by Drew Shiel at February 2, 2012 11:17 AM

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