Three’s a crowd

May 27, 2013

These dimensional character design exercises are turning out enlightening. I’ve long enjoyed creative writing, and implementing the advice at that link seemed like a fine way to generate blog posts. I’ve explored the fun of not just creating monsters, but creating allies to hang out with you (and provide sarcastic commentary), and also cutscenes to let the characters bounce off each other.

(Digression: the idea of “bouncing off each other” may be typical parlance, but it’s one I first heard from Bill Watterson describing how Calvin and Susie interacted, and the sentiment stuck with me.)

So, how about today I create a small group of protagonists and set them up for interaction? The point of the story is “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead” (thank you, Benjamin Franklin). I’ll base it in my own Space Trader game, a science fiction setting where you work with various other crew members on a spaceship. It sounds like there may be someone on the ship fleeing from nasty pursuers (left vague), likely a three-dimensional character associating with a couple two-dimensional ones. The three-dimensional character will learn about secrets the hard way.

I built a random character and profession generator in that game, so I’ll use RANDOM.ORG to decide these personal facts. This system leads to some heavily cross-cultural names, but I subscribe to an extreme form of the Firefly school of science fiction: in Firefly, Chinese language suffused everything, even among “Westerners”; in my game world, I say any culture could mix anywhere in the universe. Again, if you are interested in anything I post and want to use it somewhere (such as in a tabletop gaming session), just ask me. I like to know where my children are. And the random numbers give:

Two-dimensional character. Nephthys Lian, Doctor.

Two-dimensional character. William Yaroslava, Mercenary.

Three-dimensional character. Anuradha Diedrick, Gunner. * No, this crew is getting too militaristic, so change her to a Pilot.

I warned you about names. Though I think Anuradha’s rolls off the tongue very nicely, for something that came out of mixing Hindu religious/astrological terminology with German. Now, it’s hard to be sure whether the “captain” is the Pilot character or the player character, so the following will get a little weird about who’s in command, but that doesn’t matter: almost all creation demands revision, and it’s trivial to change a theme here and there if the proper place for the story were found. To the characters:

2-D character: Nephthys Lian.
Traits: Scientific, paranoid.
Description: A tidy woman with doctor’s garb and sun-dried skin. A long time spent in space has softened her appearance a little, but not her personality.
Dialogue: Intro – “Welcome aboard. Don’t go through that door: that’s my medical office, and I don’t want you in there unless I’m treating you.”
Written – “I have stated the need for more supplies given the length of our recent excursions. Anuradha refused. I don’t think she has any reason behind her decisions these days.”
Written – “Correction: of course, she’s driven the same as always. I can’t blame her for fearing pursuit, but her disregard for safety is ill-advised. What’s most frustrating is that pressing her doesn’t work: it’s not so much like tearing down a barrier and finding rational discourse on the other side, as tearing down a person and finding no one left with whom to discuss.”
Written – “At this rate, we will leave civilized space. Fearing the loss of critical supplies and access to safe harbours, I have communicated my concerns to certain former colleagues. I cannot trust them, but with caution I can maintain control of this situation. Someone has to.”

2-D character: William Yaroslava.
Traits: Competitive, brooding.
Description: A mercenary man dressed in one layer of plain clothes and another of visible weapons. He always seems to have a furrowed brow when not talking to others.
Dialogue: Intro – “You look tough: you’ll probably last on this crew. We get in plenty of scrapes, you know, and I’m usually the one to get us out. Try not to do more harm than good, and try not to step in my way.
Written – “That last vessel was good pickings, but was far too great a risk. Anuradha didn’t want confrontation, of course, so what did she do? Let them right on board. Fortunately I always go armed.”
Written – “I still don’t understand Anuradha. I told Nephthys I think that blow to the head rattled her brain, but the doctor clucked her tongue and told me twenty ways I was wrong. Well, I told her twenty ways to knock someone cold, so we’re even.”
Written – “This is it: bye bye home planets. She’s seriously taking us out of here. How exactly are we going to make money living out a ‘running away’ fantasy? That’s what I want to know. I’m going to think for awhile, then maybe move some assets around before we’re out of range of the electronic systems. Make a safety net.”

3-D character: Anuradha Diedrick.
Traits: Welcoming, uncomfortable, escapist.
Description: A pilot, predominately seen wearing a flight suit. She has scars under her left ear that usually are covered by her hair.
Dialogue: Intro – “Good, good, glad you could be here. I’m Anuradha, and this is Nephthys and William. They can probably introduce you to the ship better than I can. Oh, I mean I’m the pilot and all, but they know the real guts of how we work. Right?”
Written – “I don’t want to become like Nephthys, but I keep checking for signs of pursuit. I hardly want to talk about how I felt when that last vessel came up. Thanks to fate for having William around.”
Written – “I’m always so conflicted talking to them, stuck in this vessel with a sparse crew and sparser topics of conversation. But then, I love peering out the windows at the other stars and worlds waiting to be explored. Is this truly the direction for me?”
Written – “The ship feels livelier than ever. It’s good to hear more voices than just those two arguing all days. I wonder if it’s worth it dragging another person into the hunt, but I keep telling myself it’s for the benefit of the whole ship. Best case: everyone’s actually forgotten me and will leave us alone. Worst case: at least we boosted our chances before heading out in the dark.”

. . . There we go, a nice and ambiguous “they’re after me” story about to fall apart at the seams. Sounds like fun!

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