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§5.3. Characterization

Much of the personality of the player character in IF emerges from what he can and cannot (or will and will not) do; part of the pleasure of playing a character arises from this opportunity for role-playing and role-exploration. Some characters are consciousless daredevils, willing to jump off cliffs, crawl through narrow gaps, and rob widows if the player commands it; others are repressed neurotics who barely dare to speak to other characters or touch anything that doesn't belong to them.

Finishing School and Dearth and the Maiden both treat the case of a character constrained by good manners and a sense of polite society: the former forbids only one action, while the latter condemns a whole range of them.

Constraining the character is only the half of it: we might also want to think about what sorts of unusual actions that character might be especially likely to take, and account for these. Of course, major actions that affect the story world will require some thought and implementation work, and we should consider carefully before making the player a character like, say, the Noble of Glamour, a spirit in human form who can charm all comers, transform bespectacled secretaries into divas, and cause spontaneous cloudbursts of scarlet glitter.

But even simple humans have some characteristic traits and gestures. We will probably want to write some characteristic reaction to EXAMINE ME, as demonstrated in Bad Hair Day. We might provide a few pieces of clothing or props that aren't strictly critical in the story, like a policeman's helmet or a feather boa:

The player is wearing a policeman's helmet.

We can liven up the interactive aspect of characterization if we give the player a little scope for role-playing: this may mean responding to gestures, like

Understand "bite nails" as a mistake ("Your only nail remaining is the one on your left thumb, and you're saving it for the AP Calculus exam.").

(Of course, we would need to have hinted to the player that nail-biting is characteristic of his character.)

* See Clothing for more on dressing characters up

* See Saying Complicated Things for conversation, another area in which the player character's personality might come into play

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*ExampleFinishing School
The "another" adjective for rules such as "in the presence of another person".

*ExampleBad Hair Day
Change the player's appearance in response to EXAMINE ME.

*ExampleDearth and the Maiden
Our heroine, fallen among gentleman highwaymen, is restrained by her own modesty and seemliness.