How to Avoid Purple Person Syndrome

I haven’t picked up a copy of World of Warcraft in years, and to be honest I’m not a huge fan of the game. I however can respect the amount of work some put into their characters for the game when it comes to roleplaying. Several of my friends are WoW players and former Roleplayers from the game. The one thing they told me that seem to plague the game was this instance called, “Purple People Syndrom.”. As explain, PPS is basically someone who creates a Night Elf character because they are “Pretty” or because they are “Cool” and then roleplays them as a human.

As we prepare to move into Guild Wars 2, there is something to consider, how can we prevent a plethora of rolling Sylvari to just then Roleplay them as humans? Or the same for the Charr or in particular the Norn? Well, the answer is that often when people make a character they attach their favorite attributes to it in some manner that might go beyond the character’s racial culture. And often they do not take the time to think out how this affects who their character is.

So the first rule of thumb when doing this and the biggest in the Roleplay world:

If I am not making the average Joe, why does Joe have this trait? Think about it and carefully explain why.

So once the aspect has been explain another question has to be considered.

How would others in the characters community react?


A Character Example

For example, Charr do not usually have magic users and they are known because of years of oppression by the religiously fanantical Flame Legion to distrust those that worship Gods. So if one wanted to make a Charr that perhaps professed an interested in learning about the Six Human Gods a few things need to be confisered.

This character will become a pariah, and in fact might be killed by his own Legion if he gets too faithful in deities.

  • As a magic user he is already distrusted by those of his own species.
  • Charr have professed a disbelief in Gods for 250 years since Kalla Scorchrazor and her rebellion overtook the Flame Legion.
  • How could a Charr realistically approach this situation.

He could see the Gods not as deities, but as teachers of history perhaps. Humans because they are so tied to gods a Charr could come to understand human Culture by studying them. What he could do in effect is the old Sun Tzu “Know they enemy”. This makes the character knowledgable, but doesn’t break a core tenet of Charr culture. In fact because he might use this information to undo the humans at some point he is using another Charr tenet to his advantage that being “Win at all costs!”
Humans are Humans, Do not Make your Non-Human act like one

All of the races in Guild Wars 2 have a unique and depth filled culture and racial attitude to discover. They all think differently and see the world differently. Asura are known for being highly intelligent and they also seemed to be a bit impatient in some circumstances. Sylvari are inquisitive, and yet because of their birth are fearful of childhood and seem to lack understanding in some areas such as tact and social interaction outside their race.

When playing a member of one of the Five races it is a good idea to research their racial lore and their cultural lore. Both form the basis of what your character will know and how they might act when encountering new ideas. If a Charr were to lose his mother he would not seek revenge, he would feel perhaps some remorse, but would note that his mother died in the line of duty. This is because Charr grow up in a society where Warband is family and Legion are their parents. And because of the duty even their parents pay to the Legion Charr do not grow up with their parents but rather the other cubs of the Fahrar.

The same could be said for Norn. The Norn are a species that though looking like Humans are very different. They do not worship gods, they revere Spirits. Instead of calling for support from their faith their reverence is done in the manner of student for their teacher. Norn do not judge others on their family or their lineage, they judge them on action. Norn seek to create a legend and believe to die without a legend is to die without purpose. Because of this Norn are a race not that to be caught up in courtly politics, they will follow heroes, but they look down upon people leading with some sort of story behind their purpose.


What if I want to be unique?

There is nothing wrong with wanting to make a unique character. But making a character that isn’t a human and then playing them as a human isn’t unique, its horribly cliche. What is truly unique is trying to look at how that race / species might interpret human behavior and how they themselves might react to it. This drives your character’s story and gives them a reason to investigate human society. The same can be said for any race. What about a Sylvari interested in legends? Go to Hoelbrak and roleplay a young Sylvari looking to experience the adventurous life among the Norn they could have.

Culture is often seen in the Roleplay world as some sort of mechanical restriction, that isn’t true. Culture is mixture of systems, it is learned behavior, it is how you as a person of your culture learn to interpret meaning, and it is also how you then understand the world. All Five Races see the world differently, none see it exactly the same. So when creating a character take time to think of how your character sees the world, and you are sure to avoid roleplaying another purple person.