I am not ashamed to say that Dhatura Sunblood was born in a Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG). He was an experiment in role playing (RP), an attempt at something different. Most characters are created in the vicinity of adulthood. Their skills, abilities, and their overall concept all infer a pre-existing history. Some players gloss over this ‘past’ with a few words such as, ‘he grew up on the streets’ or ‘she is fresh out of the academy’ and so on. Others, like as Narcisse and myself, create involved and detailed histories that establish the character’s personality before the first gaming session. I wanted to play a character from birth. Dhatura was the first character I deliberately created without a detailed adult history!
Some background elements were necessary to establish early on. For example, he needed a last name, Sunblood! Easy enough right? Of course, once I knew he hailed from House Sunblood, I compelled to know who and what they were! Okay, so there was a ‘detailed past’, a family history not a personal one.
Imperfect characters are far more interesting than perfect ones. Overcoming obstacles and struggles gives a character’s personality depth. So I made Dhatura the son of a minor noble house. It may not sound like much of hindrance, except that House Sunblood was in decline, its former glorious power fading, tarnished by his family’s nefarious schemes and treacherous politics. Adding to Dhatura’s troubled beginnings he was born into a very dysfunctional family. His father was a drunkard and a cuckold, while his mother was a vicious harpy, more concerned about social appearances over her own son’s welfare.
Finally, I decided an early childhood theme was needed to give his budding personality roots. I am a storyteller, and so I imagined that he was reared by a nanny who told him near mythical tales of his family’s ancient glories and storied past. Later, the realization of his family’s shame would become a thorn in Dhatura’s side. The seed for Dhatura’s path to adventure was thus established – a desire to bring honor to House Sunblood.
A cool surprise happened when I first logged in with my newly minted character. A few minutes before Dhatura’s virtual birth, a guild friend created a new character. Our newbie characters accidentally bumped into each other within fifteen minutes of their creation. To our surprise, we had selected almost identical features. Side by side our toons were near twins! A heartbeat later, it was agreed, Dhatura had an older brother!
As time went on, a curious thing happened; Dhatura took on a life of his own. I found myself role-playing even when I was ‘soloing’ in the game. There were moments when in some isolated region I would spontaneously role-play Dhatura indulging in a game of fetch with his animal companion as a break between missions. These were trivial, impromptu moments, mostly for my own entertainment, but eventually these events became natural for the character. He felt alive.
Over time Dhatura evolved. At first he was the loyal son, staying close to home. But, as the corruption of his family became evident, he spent ever increasing time in the wilderness. Home visits grew ever more rare and strained. Dhatura was a loner with few friends, and only his beloved brother for family contact.
When the player who created his brother quit the game, I decided to interpret the situation as if Dhatura’s brother had died. At first it seemed an obvious and lame choice, but it swiftly became a major development in Dhatura’s psyche. I wound up completely changing my play style to accommodate the drastic change.
With the death of his brother, Dhatura became the eldest of his generation and gained the title Prime Scion, the First Son. With the title came traditional responsibilities that put Dhatura at odds with his desire for Sunblood honor against his family’s ingrained wickedness. As Prime Scion, Dhatura was in line to become the Elder of a family who loathed him for his independence and whom he in turn loathed for their greedy, sordid schemes.
The stress of his internal conflict became depression and anger. On the verge of madness, he first turned to drink and then to war. He became a very grim character, venting his frustration and rage on anonymous battlefields. In those dark and dire days, Dhatura’s saving grace was that he only championed causes with which he could sympathize.
I spent hours on the virtual battlefields in Player-vs-Player (PvP) combat. In the frantic landscape of PvP, there are not many opportunities for RP. To overcome this, Dhatura’s combat style was “in-character”. Not necessarily the ‘smartest’ way to play these scenarios, yet ironically, in addition to having more fun I was actually better in PvP! Thus, these non-traditional RP situations forged new elements into Dhatura’s personality. A fearless and ferocious fighter, tenacious nearly to a fault, Dhatura became a hard charger who led from the front.
It was a grim existence. For a long time life was dire for Dhatura. The ugly reality was that, lost in grief and bloodlust, he was trying to get himself killed. Not that he was suicidal mind you, that would have been too easy. Dhatura was looking to get taken down fighting so he could ascend to meet his brother with honor, except Dhatura simply would not die! I confess it was sometimes arduous to play him. I took breaks playing other, lighter-toned characters, but I couldn’t leave him for very long – I had to know what happened next!
In spite of my love of the character, was growing increasingly bored with the overall game. My discontent was worsened by conflicts with real life priorities. I quit the game. The decision made, I had fully intended on never returning, deleted my other characters, except Dhatura. Somehow deleting Dhatura after so many fulfilling hours of play felt wrong. In fact, I made a point to log out leaving him in a poetic, beautiful spot. I was done with the game, but I never forgot Dhatura. He felt unfinished, a story without a finale.
About a year later, I met Narcisse. It turned out that she also played. In fact, I had gamed with her online BEFORE I ever met her in person! Weird, huh? Anyway, she enticed me to reactivate my account and transfer to her server. It was Narcisse’s alluring promises of RP heaven that did me in! I missed Dhatura and couldn’t resist the opportunity to play him on an active RP server. So I reignited my account and moved Dhatura over. When I logged in, my very first RP encounter was with Narcisse. She was playing Khajj.
I cannot tell you why or where it came from, but the very first thing Dhatura said to Khajj was, “Hello cousin!” From that point on, we role-played them as cousins, blending elements of our stories until they merged into one incredible saga. It still boggles my mind how naturally and easily our characters’ back stories meshed. Both of these vivid, richly detailed characters developed so naturally, that it was as if we had planned it all along.
As time passed it became evident that Narcisse and I Developing Character: The Ranger shared dissatisfaction with the game. The designers changed the lore to fit whatever marketing they desired. The world was a clash of serious, tongue-in-cheek and outright silliness that detracted from immersion. Narcisse and I were creating stories that went beyond anything available in the framework of the game. Essentially we were creating the fantasy world of OUR wildly imaginative dreams.
Slowly, we began role playing through email exchanges, exploring elements unavailable in the context of ‘official’ G-rated sandbox. Finally, we agreed, the game was becoming a hindrance, what we really wanted to do was write. That is when Narcisse and I left the game, taking Dhatura and Khajj with us.
Freed of that addictive, virtual habitrail, Narcisse and I suddenly had an abundance of free time. We quickly filled that time by reconnecting with the real world, improving our lives, spending more time with our loved ones while happily writing the adventures of our two favorite cousins. It was a liberating and stimulating moment when we began crafting the story that would become the Books of Liryos.
Dhatura now lives where he belongs, with his cousin, in a vast and complex world of exotic fantasy. The world Narcisse and I have created is unique. Our imaginations unleashed, we created a worthy home for our beloved characters. In order to be truly our own, almost everything had to be rewritten. Reborn, Dhatura’s psyche is the same; only the details of his experiences been reconstructed. In essence, the Ranger you will meet in the Books of Liryos, is Dhatura Sunblood as he was meant to exist!
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