Roleplaying really old creatures (beyond human lifespan)

Shipyard Locked

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How do you personally roleplay really old creatures, like elves and dragons and androids and such, things than can easily exceed the human lifespan several-fold?

Do you play up the boredom and ennui aspects? I don't personally, I sometimes feel that's a modern projection and I like to imagine things with long lifespans would adapt to that psychologically anyway.

Do you make them 'outdated', unable to keep up with the changes around them? Do smugness and overconfidence always creep in as traits?
 

Dumarest

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I'd play them all with different personalities and goals just like anybody else. It's an unknowable mode of existence so it doesn't really matter how you want to play it. I'd probably try to avoid the banal clichés we usually see unless I'm lampooning them.
 

AsenRG

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I tend to play them as time travellers. They've literally been born and educated in a different age.
Going from there, and depending on the setting and his or her other personality traits, we can go in all kinds of directions.
 

Teyrnon

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It depends on the type of creature and the particular entity's individual personality. Attitudes toward shorter lived creatures may vary greatly so to the way they interact with such things.
 

Bunch

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I just assume they are like my four year old. He's almost ignorant of time. He can focus for long periods or not. Maybe spend five minutes here and then five minutes there and practically ignore the fact he has to re set something up for each task switch.
If you had a thousand years that's not as impractical
 

carpocratian

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My take on it is that they would tend to be lot more patient (in general) than they would have been earlier in their lives. They would also tend to have an easier time with seeing things in the long view. Given those two things, they would tend to be more risk averse.
 

Lundgren

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For me, it differ for what kind of long lived creature we are talking about, and what kind of culture it has.

A "Fair Folk" in Exalted for example needs stimuli to no calcify, and don't really understand quite a few concepts that we take for granted. So they tend to be more or less alien in their way of thinking, but despite they might have been around for centuries or millenniums, they can be quite frantic.

A "fantasy 1a elf" usually have more human values, but no rush in dealing with things. Fifty or a hundred years is a completely acceptable time frame for creating a change they want. Why risk lives to overthrow a tyrant, when he most likely will die on a few decades anyway, and the aftermath of an uprising might just lead to another tyrant in a generation or two?

Then, do they remember everything, or do they forget, so after a while the age will no longer matter as they learn and forget equally. Maybe they were an explorer three thousand years ago, but they don't really have any memories of it; and any logs or diaries they wrote could as well have been written by someone else. If that is the case, then becoming an explorer will be a new fresh experience again.
 

Vincent Takeda

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Unless they're bored or under duress like treebeard and the ents, long lived creatures are nearly inevitably cautious. Nobody has seen how easy it is to flip off the switch like someone who's seen genocides like a revolving door. I can imagine a formerly free spirited creature with a long life, upon seeing how easy it is to track everything that happens in the modern world, that they could easily become agoraphobic or obsessed with stealth. Secret identities and stealing identities like the folks in the highlander movies... I also attribute them vast patience and even laziness. Good financial acumen. All the stuff wowbagger had such a hard time with. Long term low yield investments. My sense of versimilitude demands that any modern day immortal, simply in order to avoid becoming a lab rat or a prisoner would be pathologically pedantically cautious or they'd become wilderness hobos trying to avoid the eye of big brother as much as possible in the first place. They'd only be cavalier if they had finally decided they were ready to die or if they had a cause worth risking publicity for. Moving around a lot like the cullens, rotating around legacy estates every few decades as 'heirs to their ancestors property' until folks start taking notice of how young you always look while everyone ages around you. In the age of big brother, being an incognito immortal with up to date legal paperwork is a logistical nightmare.

I did like in highlander where he stuck with heather until she died of old age, and seemed to make a habit of doing the same with future relationships. Imagine being immortal but having children that weren't. Hanging out with your great great grandchildren who look twice your age... Be kinda freaky. The peaceful artisans of Ba'Ku from star trek insurrection seemed to handle it well until trouble comes a knockin, as it often does.

I've managed to subvert the stealthy immortal trope with my longest lived characters because they're shapeshifters and they've been using the 'Julius Beethoven da Vinci' trope of hiding in plain sight as nearly 30 of the most famous contemporary actors. If you've got such a high charisma score that you can't be ignored when you walk into the room, your best way to hide is to hide behind a face that nobody thinks twice about when they create a stir by walking into the room. In effect I'm hiding by pretending to be an incredibly famous person who's understandably trying hard to hide and not be recognized and failing. I love the layers of it. The cameras may always be watching and pointing my way, but they have no idea how many different me's they're workin with. Celebrity shapeshifter shell game. And effective if you want to be left alone in public simply by being the celebrity who's tired of being messed with and just wants to be left alone, which is an easy position to empathise with. And with a high charisma score its just as easy to make them believe 'oh I get that all the time...' or 'I'm just a professional impersonator'... and of course have a small platoon of forms that are simply the famous peoples supporting staff, coming and going all day long. I'm a bit of a shapeshifter addict.

Men in Black does something similar by hiding aliens in plain view... All the eccentric famous people... They're not actually people.

Sorry that seemed to stray a little bit off topic... That's how I've actually been running my very long lived characters over the last 12 years. Shapeshifting alien celebrities. I've always thought of hollywood as a powerful global secret organization. The characters weren't like this in the beginning. The characters' previous chosen growth path was changed and influenced significantly by the webcomic 'crisis of infinite sues'. I originally just played them as whatever role the group needed filled at the time, so they'd done a lot of very different things up until 2010 or so. She started out a sailing merchant, circus performer, picked him up, turned martial artists, turned medics, turned mechanics, turned war pilots, turned scientists. The celebrity thing is where it all kind of gelled and I really started enjoying them. Before that they were just filling roles, but even that is touchingly poetic... What have my immortals been doing? Exploring the many facets of what it is to be human. We travel, we sell, we sing, we dance, we fix things, we fight wars for what we believe in, we fix people. We entertain each other. Thats what my immortals have been up to. Finding new exciting ways to fit in to the vastness of the human experience.
 
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Bunch

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I see that where long lived people are very rare. In a world where they represent a whole distinct civilization hiding seems less workable to me.

It's hard for me to not see them as repositories of knowledge even if it's what we might consider minutia. I'm also having a hard to figuring out how they deal with the daily grind of production of food. It doesn't fit well with scattered unfocused people. It has a certain sense of urgency.

A somewhat interesting idea is that they still compete with each other. Maybe most of their investments are conservative but they still might want to juice their returns with riskier speculation. Fund a party of adventurers for a cut of the take. The cut could seem reasonable to human.

Suddenly the Fellowship of the Bling series of Adventures over on RPG.net seems more possible.
 
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soltakss

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"Been there, done that".
"Have I told you about when I met Michelangelo? He could draw a bit but I tutored him".
"Oh, you want the Chalice of Alice? I buried that in The Palace of Malice years ago, didn't I tell you about that?"

I often play them as being bored and looking for something new, or as desperate to stay alive, or as reckless adventurers fearing nothing.
Sure, they have been loads of places and done loads of stuff, but that is just handled by a simple skill that you roll to see if you've done something relevant.
 

Bunch

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I liked how they portrayed the immortal in the movie, The Man from Earth (2007). He was human and was limited by the human's brain ability to process all those memories so could only remember snippets.
You'd think he'd write it down, photograph it, dictate it or whatever.
 

Picaroon Jack

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You'd think he'd write it down, photograph it, dictate it or whatever.
In the movie he is just sort of going with it, living life in 10 year increments, and then moving on. He's not really building on the past.
 

Rob Necronomicon

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Hmm... I've only played a really old Vampire. It didn't understand modern technology (it could even grasp some of the concepts despite its intelligence). Humans were a petty annoyance and it cared little of their politics. Until they tried to encroach on it's domain.

I did try to make it's morals and thoughts ambiguous beyond human understanding. But I'm not sure I pulled it off as I'm limited to my own humanity. It's hard trying to play (or run) something that is so utterly non-human.
 

Picaroon Jack

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Hmm... I've only played a really old Vampire. It didn't understand modern technology (it could even grasp some of the concepts despite its intelligence). Humans were a petty annoyance and it cared little of their politics. Until they tried to encroach on it's domain.

I did try to make it's morals and thoughts ambiguous beyond human understanding. But I'm not sure I pulled it off as I'm limited to my own humanity. It's hard trying to play (or run) something that is so utterly non-human.
Exactly!! This came up in another thread about playing Artificial Intelligences and alien races. I feel like I can just try to emulate it the best I can.
 

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First, let me say that I liked Anne Rice's comment and one of the Vampire Chronicles which was something along the lines of we simply become more of ourselves. Of course, this works well for vampires in which they had a mortal life and are now frozen in time, no longer aging. However, that doesn't work for all immortals. An elf who has lived hundreds of years, might see things very differently, especially if the race nature focused. Humans might be seen more as a parasitic infection, as they destroy the natural world instead of finding balance, to be managed. Interaction being a means to avoid having to wipe them out.

In our Three Rivers Actual Play, one of the recurring NPCs was long lived, but not immortal. The game was set in 2010, and he was born in the 1920s. While technically in his 80s, he was physically in his late 30s. The character served in the military in the late 40s and 50s, later he became an antiwar icon. In the modern setting, he had retired to run an animal sanctuary, but found himself the head of a school for Metahuman children.

To play the character, I tried to give him personality traits from the times he was most engaged with other people. This led to a fair amount of cognitive dissonance, with an attempt to teach kids peaceful ways to resolve conflict, but at the same time virtually ignoring student complaints about a psychologically abusive teacher (it was a tough ethics class.) Having years to read, the character would quote authors from Sun Tzu, to Jack Kerouac, and everything in between.
 

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So many possibilities!
  • Bored and struggling not to give in to ennui,
    • or given in to ennui but unable to end their life.
  • A hedonistic lifestyle in the moment, avoiding facing the length of their lifespan through intoxicants and ephemeral distractions.
  • Reclusive to an extreme, and all but unable to deal with anything more recent than centuries ago.
  • Sequentially living different apparently mortal lives, and relocating when their failure to age becomes apparent:
    • recreating almost the same persona over and over, or
    • switching to a radically new persona each time to keep up with the modern world and avoid the reclusive bent.
  • Periodically "hibernating" in some way and living a relatively normal, brief lifespan in between (informed by vast experience and resources, in varying measure), perhaps even to the point of spawning multiple personalities unaware of their collective immortality.
  • Patiently acting toward goals on a scale that makes the short timers almost entirely irrelevant.
  • Dedicated completely to some nearly endless task (visiting justice on knights who fall short of their vows, rooting out heresy, hunting equally long-lived monsters, recording all of history, cataloging every possible chess game, etc);
    • specifically, creating and managing their own separate world/race/society.
Considerations for the player characters meeting such an NPC (and what the GM needs to consider):
  • Figure out the odd and unexpected point of view they have (so avoid having it always the same).
  • Motivate them to care about the PCs in whatever way (what might the PCs need or want from them? Not attacking, information, other accumulated resources, direct assistance).
 

Jetstream

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Y’know, I never got the ennui thing for long lived characters. I mean, sure, if they’re weirdos from a group that doesn’t usually live that long, sure. But if it’s natural for them like Elves and Dragons? Why would the passage of time bother them?

Humans don’t inevitably get bored after eighty years. Why would a dragon after eight hundred?
 

AsenRG

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How do you personally roleplay really old creatures, like elves and dragons and androids and such, things than can easily exceed the human lifespan several-fold?

Do you play up the boredom and ennui aspects? I don't personally, I sometimes feel that's a modern projection and I like to imagine things with long lifespans would adapt to that psychologically anyway.

Do you make them 'outdated', unable to keep up with the changes around them? Do smugness and overconfidence always creep in as traits?
For a different answer, yes:thumbsup:.

Or, sometimes, I just make them extremely competent at what they are doing, and loving said activity. Then, of course, I usually make it an activity that would cross the PCs' paths in a negative way:shade:.
 

Voros

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Humans don’t inevitably get bored after eighty years. Why would a dragon after eight hundred?
Inevitably, no. But a lot of older people have no interest in new things or dislike the direction of the modern world.
 

AsenRG

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Inevitably, no. But a lot of older people have no interest in new things or dislike the direction of the modern world.
And probably a lot of dragons.
But not all of them. Especially if they've found their George:grin:!
 

Coffee Zombie

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For something like an elf, I'll draw upon bit of Tolkien for inspiration. They might find being around young beings refreshing, or amusing, but they don't treat them like children. Long lived beings have seen empires rise and fall, the mighty grow from mewling infants into masterful leaders, then grey and fall into ruin. They have a healthy respect for life, and a very acute understanding of the potential for change. I try to keep that in mind when they speak. I tend to have them speak more carefully, and blend the gentle patience of a senior with the strong personality of a sage. I don't play up ennui unless the being has lost everything.

One piece I actually lifted from John Rhyss Davies; in the Lord of the Rings cast commentary, he mentioned that for all long films he takes up a hobby while shooting the film, to keep himself occupied and out of trouble. For LotR, he took up boating or something. That struck me as an adaptation an immortal or long lived creature might do. They have the time, after all. One elf my players encountered was slowly cataloguing all of the flowers in a region to determine if an old legend about the healing properties of a certain plant were true.

For vampires, Anne Rice's vampires are great inspiration.

For humans who've outlived their century but aren't monsters, I look right at the first Highlander film for cues. I try to mix in a bit of sadness. But they have stories, and like to make new connections and friends to stave off loneliness.
 

Black Leaf

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Inevitably, no. But a lot of older people have no interest in new things or dislike the direction of the modern world.
And even if you do, it's much more of a conscious effort. I find that with music. I am reasonably up to date with what's going on, but it's a lot more deliberate than it was when I was eighteen.

The other major difference is how long time feels. There was a time when "recent" meant "in the last year". Now it means "in the past decade". So I can easily see an 800 year old seeing recent as being anything in the last century.
 
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