View Full Version : Psychology of extraplanar beings?

2011-01-26, 05:06 PM
How do you roleplay elementals/outsiders/etc, so that they're not just humans in funny suits?

I sometimes have a difficult time getting into their basic mentality. Their...je ne sais quoi, if you will.

2011-01-26, 05:08 PM
The psyche of your average demon is summed up quite nicely in the Legions of the Nine (or something of that sort) splat book. "A demon is just white hot rage given fangs and claws." Your average devil is much like an evil lawyer, an evil lawyer who is perfectly willing to commit murder to advance his station in life. Your average Yugoloth...well...Yugoloths are just evil.

2011-01-26, 05:16 PM
We can only imagine what it is possible for humans to imagine. Fortunately, the only ones to call us on this is other humans, so there's no verifiably wrong approaches.

With major characters, I tend to start less from who they are, and more from what's important to them, what they want. Then, as you are able, layer in the parts of your own experience that you think that they'd share.

A devil may only want to complete a ritual that transforms them into the next pay grade of devil - which doesn't sound all that different than the way many people play computer games. So, completely focused on specific objects, eager to figure out the rules (laws) and follow them for their own benefit, and willing to mow down anything that gets in their way. Whereas a slaad may want the same thing, but does so with a complete disregard for process, and do so in a GTA, piss off everyone you can en route kind of way.

If you actually provide an opportunity with a fire elemental, it still becomes about objectives. A benevolent elemental may assume that everyone else also wants to stay warm, and so it graciously works to ignite everything and everyone around it, while another misses the sound of flames crackling back home, so tries to make everything sound like that again.

For me, the hardest part of most outsiders is factoring in the centuries/millenia long lifespan.

2011-01-26, 05:24 PM
It depends...

I kinda imagine angels as hippies. "Yeah, peace and love, man." Granted, they are superhuman deadly hippies, but that's just a technicality.

Archons...Try having them be sort of chivalrous and all that jazz.

Inevitables...Give them a goal. If something will not hinder or help the goal, then they ignore it.

If you are trying to roleplay eldritch abominations such as Cthulhu...Yog-Sothoth help you.

2011-01-26, 06:21 PM
I had the chance to communicate with a Earth Elemental Weird recently.

To live, extraplanar beings must simply live. There is nothing more to it than that.

To live, beings of the material plane must run around killing and consuming other life forms. Destruction is inherent in our nature.

By the standards of beings from the elemental planes, we're all bloodthirsty psychopaths with killing machines for bodies.

Wings of Peace
2011-01-26, 06:27 PM
Whenever my players encountered outsiders they often came off as apathetic to the player's problems. Mind you this isn't because the outsiders were apathetic but rather because being immortal entities for the most part I gave them personalities that focused much more on the bigger picture.

There were exceptions to this of course, such as Devil's or Angels who dealt with mortal races and thus had much more in the moment personas, but by and large till they hit the higher levels where the scale of their quests was nation or world altering my player's had a hard time for awhile getting outsider assistance unless they used magic to summon/compel them.

2011-01-26, 06:31 PM
I think it must be the other way around--we're the ones who break their minds.

We must be somewhat frightening or confusing to anything with an "Always" alignment--they always think in a certain way and hold certain values; and anything else is just inconceivable. Like, to an Inevitable, a free-spirited human bard would just be an enigma. The things he does seem completely nonsensical. Or, to a Devil, it would just be incomprehensible not to be carefully, methodically working to advance your own cause and dominate others--all but the smartest of them are quite likely to believe that even your Exalted character has his own secret, selfish goals.

But humans--and most Prime Material sentients--aren't like that. We're unpredictable. We can be benevolent or cruel or--even more brain-breaking--be both in turns. We can be orderly or spontanous; we can love others or hate them; we can work together or try to tear down the order that exists.

I propose that we are the Cosmic Horrors of the universe...

2011-01-26, 06:43 PM
I think most of "mortal" life is as interesting and comprehensible to extraplanar creatures as animals are to us. There are observable similarities and they can likely sympathize with us, but in the end the differences are just enough that neither can really get into the heads of the other.

Barring, of course, outsiders etc. who can assume a mortal shape at will.

Neither necessarily sparks feeling of terror or awe at the other. Once supernatural becomes a fact of life it's just extension of the natural, and vice versa. Angels routinely working with mortals would regard them as just another weird species of animal life, and the mortals would consider the angel... I dunno, another kind of a bird, or maybe just part of the environment.

(Besides, there are Extraplanar creatures that are explicitly immune to Fear, and have Wisdom and Intelligence scores so high they imply unshakeable mental balance. To think that mortals would count as "Eldritch Abominations" to such creatures is... odd, at least.)

2011-01-26, 06:44 PM
Lawful ones (archons, devils, and the lawful angels) tend to be focused on their task so much that when they're summoned, they often find it very annoying. If they're more of a permanent fixture in the campaign, they apply the same ironclad focus into getting their objectives done, which can be often frustrating even for PCs that are their allies.

Demons can probably be charismatic, but they will always act in a way that the PCs cannot expect. And be violent about it. I don't know exactly how to avoid caricaturing this, however. There's a reason why I never really enjoyed adding demons in my campaigns.

2011-01-26, 06:55 PM
I've always found demons pretty easy. Most life is, to an extent, interested in preservation of self and environment that sustains self. In the case of demons, you just turn that on its head. Low-level, "stupid" demons only care about wreaking havoc, with little to no care of themselves. Mid and high level demons might work around that instinct, but only so they can maximize the destruction. They might seem harmless, even sympathetic in the interim, but each demon is out to cause end of the world.