Gw Temp

Menu

Article - 'Character Roles & Plots' by Angroth

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

A simple analysis of character roles and plots.

Body

Main Character Roles
I think the following were first written down by a man named Vladimir Propp (Morphology of the Folk Tale).

Hero / Victim: Sometimes the hero is obviously a hero such as Spiderman or Batman whereas they can be the victim too. Some hero’s are merely victims who manage to cause great good like Frodo in Lord of the Rings.

Princess / Temptress: Whether causing good or bad she (maybe sometimes he) is the one who is sought after. Lady Marian in Robin Hood is an example of a nice one whereas on some occasions these foul creatures cause more harm than good like the woman in A.W.O.L who tries to tempt Van Damme.

Her Father / Guardian: This character is usually one of the main causes for troubles with the princess role. Kimahri Ronso in Final Fantasy X is a reasonable example of the guardian figure whereas Robert De Niro in Meet The Parents would be a fine example of the father figure. This villainous role can often transform from a burden to a helper in a storyline.

The Helper / Tricky Slave: Back to Robin Hood, this would be the black man. Gollum is probably one of the best examples however as he helps but you never know if you can put all of your faith into the character due to their poor ability or instable personality. The latter refers to Gollum but the poor ability reflects Black Adder’s servant who attempts to help but is untrustworthy because of his poor skill.

The False Hero:A false hero is someone who seems like a hero but really isn’t the hero at all because they either don’t do half as much as you expect them to, turn against the will of the good guys or simply get killed etc. An example of this could be Sam (once again in Lord of the Rings) because Frodo would be dead if it weren’t for Sam helping him reach Mount Doom and having such a devout will to protect him. A simpler example of this is Frodo being the false hero because Aragorn and his friends are not the ones destroying the ring and without destroying the ring they would eventually be killed off by Sauron’s forces anyway.

The Villain: This one is simple. The big bad guy. Every game should at least have one of these somewhere but some good games manage to blend them into the good guys (which is pleasantly confusing).

The Donor / Provider & The Dispatcher: Usually the same people but not always. Gandalf was both of these as he told Frodo where to go and gave him the ring. Usually if it weren’t for this character role most games and movies wouldn’t even start.

These of course are the main character roles. If you think carefully every game or movie should have all of these in them (possibly with some exceptions). Now, the lucky thing for us game makers is that we don’t even need to think about these character roles for our characters to fit into them, they just do (which is a bit eery!).

There’s More…
It wouldn’t necessarily seem like there is a character role missing but there definitely is. It isn’t always living but it is worth considering.

Macguffin: This is the term used to describe the significant object or desired thing within a storyline. Without this a story is going to be strange. Whether it be love, a talisman / ring or a person this is often what initiates a story.

How Stories Unfold
Plots follow a pattern. Here is how it goes by default (once again strange games or films deviate from this).
1 – The hero moves home to a new environment.
2 – Prohibition / rule is imposed upon the hero.
3 – Villain tries to deceive hero to gain possession to him / her or their goods.

The complication…
1 – Villain harms family member(s), or the member lacks something.
2 – Hero ventures on a quest.
3 – Hero shown to have some form of outstanding quality.
4 – Enters a social group to whom he / she is mostly unknown.

The transfer…
1 – Hero is tested, attacked or interrogated; receives a magical agent or helper.
2 – Transfers to location of quest.

The struggle or confrontation…
1 – Combat.
2 – Initial lack or misfortune set to rights.

The return (not always included and used)…
1 – The hero returns or is pursued (possibly not recognised).
2 – False hero makes false claims.
3 – Difficult task for hero.

The evil power is usually greater than the good power, leading to an unequal struggle. A revelation or event provides an equilibrium or greatly increased good force leading to victory.

Character Role List
If you were to lay out how character roles behaved into a formation, it would look something like this:
Good Power…………………………………….Evil Power
……………………..Dispatcher……………………..
………………..Intermediary Messenger……………..
Hero……………………Rival…………………..Villain
………Side Kick………………..Comic Butt…………
Helpers…………………………………………...Henchmen
………………..Heroine……Temptress……………….
………………………..Society…………………………

And There You Have It!
There is plots and character roles torn apart. It may seem pretty obvious but if you’re having troubles with a plot and making characters then follow this basic idea and fill it out as if it were a questionnaire and before you know it you’ll have the basis for a game. I hope you find it useful.