Unveiling the Depths

How to craft characters with more emotional complexity (perhaps based on a lie!)



4/16/20243 min read

Character creation in RPGs goes beyond stats, skills and equipment. It's about breathing life into an individual who will navigate a world of challenges, triumphs, and heartbreak. A key ingredient in this recipe is understanding the character's emotional core. Here's where the concept of the emotional wheel and a character's "core deception" come into play.

The Emotional Compass: The Wheel as Your Guide

Imagine a wheel with eleven vibrant sections, each representing a fundamental emotion: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger, and disgust. This is Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions, a valuable tool for understanding your character's emotional landscape.

The Wheel

The core emotions serve as the building blocks. Perhaps your character is naturally optimistic and trusting (happy and trust). On the other hand, maybe they're prone to fear and anger (fear and anger). This placement on the wheel informs their baseline emotional state and how they react under pressure (opposite point on the wheel)

But emotions are not isolated. The wheel showcases how emotions blend and contrast. Joy and surprise can combine into delightful wonder, while fear and anger can create explosive rage. Understanding these relationships allows you to create nuanced emotional responses for your character.

A few more complex wheels (complex, comfortable only and unconfortable only)
The Lie We Tell Ourselves: Core Deception and Internal Conflict

Now, let's add a layer of complexity. Every good character has a secret, a fundamental lie they tell themselves. This "core deception" is often a blind spot, a hidden truth that shapes their actions and motivations. This doesn't make you a bad person, but you might have an altered view of reality or the world.

For example, a character who claims they fight for justice (joy, trust) might secretly crave the thrill of battle (anger, surprise). This dissonance between their stated purpose and true desires creates internal conflict. The character might act impulsively in combat, prioritizing the adrenaline rush over strategic thinking.

Growth Through Revelation: The Power of Unmasking the Lie

The beauty of a core deception lies in its potential for growth. As the game progresses, your character might have moments of self-discovery, uncovering the truth hidden beneath the lie. This can be a pivotal turning point, leading to a shift in their emotional landscape.

The character who craved the thrill of battle might realize the true meaning of justice, experiencing a surge of trust and joy in protecting others. This shift can be reflected on the emotional wheel, showcasing their emotional evolution.

Weaving the Tapestry: Using the Wheel and Deception in Your Game

By incorporating the emotional wheel and core deception into your character creation process, you can craft a character with depth and intrigue. Here are some ways to put this knowledge into practice:

  • Identify Your Character's Core Emotions: Where do they fall on the emotional wheel? Are they naturally optimistic or prone to fear?

  • Craft a Core Deception: What lie do they tell themselves? How does it connect to their core emotions? For example, a character who claims they're a lone wolf (fear of connection) might desperately yearn for belonging (sadness, anticipation).

  • Explore the Impact: How does the core deception influence their decisions and interactions with others? Do they push people away to avoid emotional vulnerability?

  • Plant the Seeds of Change: Think about potential events in the campaign that could challenge their core deception. How might these moments lead to emotional growth?

By embracing the emotional wheel and the concept of core deception, you can create compelling characters who resonate with your fellow players and leave a lasting impact on your RPG experience. So, delve into the depths of your character's psyche, unravel the hidden truths, and watch them blossom into a truly unforgettable hero (or villain)!