Experience : The Characters

Character creation philosophy.

The Characters

Populating the outpost

Our aim with the character design for Lotka-Volterra is to create a good, dynamic way of creating hundreds of characters that are parts of a greater whole, without the troubles of uneven writing, differences in style or misunderstood functions in the world. To accomplish this, we narrowed down the people of Outpost Thermopylae to a set of values and opinions, social contexts and obligations and designed the characters from their positions in this matrix.

Relationships and connections are created according to a different system, where most of the details will be filled in by the players. The relationships will be given meaning and depth by you, but we will provide the tools and the grid of connections that you can build upon.

On top of these two sets of data and connections, each character has a few keywords that are assigned according to their values and connections, that give them an archetype. This archetype is up for interpretation and you can build upon it as you desire.

The values of Thermopylae

Each character is defined by their stance on several different points of contention. They are also defined by their position on scales of ideology. Here we present the various categories that divide the masses of the Outpost.

  • Isolationist vs Interventionist
  • Militarist vs Democrat
  • Nostalgic vs Progressive
  • Libertine vs Collectivist

Isolationism is the term used in Haven for the philosophy of seeking safety in isolation from the Enemy, rather than seeking confrontation with the enemy. Isolationists often focus on new inventions, making life better where they are, new ways of growing food in the dark or ways of becoming more secure and more safe in the underworld. Strong isolationists would rather close off topside entirely and focus all of humanity’s resources on creating a sustainable life in the dark. The reasons for being isolationist can be anything from being afraid that humanity will provoke the Enemy, crushed after losing friends to surface ops, an attitude that you have to focus on what you have instead of what you don’t, or many other possible reasons. Many isolationists oppose the word “colony” and instead want to come up with an entirely new term for their new home.

Interventionistic is the stance that only through intervention against the Enemy or interaction with the surface can humanity’s fate be improved. Interventionists are split into two different methods, avoiders or engagers. Avoiders are of the opinion that the best way of ensuring survival, is staying clear of the Enemy and taking things without being noticed, and they argue that the colonists have to find better ways at using the resources on the surface, better at finding means of cleaning toxic waste and combating radiation and learning more about the Enemy so you could adapt to them. Engagers want to take the fight to the Enemy, learn how to destroy them and sabotage whatever it is that they are doing, while also taking back what is humanity’s birthright - the surface. They focus on military technology and solving immediate survival topside, as well as understanding the Enemy so they can win the ‘Great War’ in the long run.

Militarists consider a military rule of both Haven and the Outposts to be the right way of governing. Society needs to be militarized and constantly on guard against threats both from without but also from within, from those who would destabilize society and risk the loss of all human life. The militarists believe that democracy leads to inefficiency and squabbling and even if it is a pretty utopia, it is unrealistic in the current state of things. They often argue that as long as resources are scarce, a strong military rule is required to regulate the flow of goods and communication. Also, a military rule is needed in order to ensure vigilance against new threats from the Enemy.

Democrats either argue that the military rule had its place, but that enough time has passed and enough stability has been achieved that all governing power should be handled over to the people, or that military rule never had any legitimacy and that the people should be in control of the military. They consider the fact that the military refuses to completely yield control or even refuse to bring it up a great sin against the virtues of humanity, and that Haven should take this chance to build a more equal, better society - not one that repeats all the mistakes of the society that was left behind.

Nostalgics cling to the past, on an emotional and intellectual level. They listen to old music, they keep clothes from the time before the Nightfall and they try to live their lives as if things are going on like they remember them. It is what Earth used to be, what society used to be, that motivates them and drives them to keep on going. It might be a family lost, an ideal kept or the beauty of what once existed that keeps them in the past, but they do not want to let go. They think that life in the outpost and in Haven should emulate the past and try to rebuild some of the beautiful things that were lost.

Progressives see Haven as a new start, a new way of life. They want to create new culture, completely different from before and adapted to the new ways of life. Haven is a melting pot of different ethnicities and backgrounds and no culture would represent all the things that were lost - it is better, they say, to make this new world our own and make it unique. New styles of music are appearing and in Haven, where uniforms are less regulated, clothing styles are being invented. The creative Progressives are excited for the chance to truly make a mark in history, while more pessimistic-leaning ones see this path as one of necessity, where any attempts to cling to the past will only result in tragedy.

Libertines treasure freedom, a difficult concept in a world so dictated by the need to survive. However, some within Haven and Thermopylae treasures the rights to own property, the freedom of expression, the right to be yourself and to decide what to do with your life, the right to love or form a family with whomever you choose and many others. Not everyone agree on all of them, but the principle is the same - it is not up to the state or any governing body to tell them that they cannot own what they find, have a child if they wished, or that they are not allowed to contribute to the larger society in their own way. The radicals even go as far as to say that without freedoms, human society is worth nothing, for it would just be a lifeless machine, just like the Enemy. Less radical Libertines are simply treasuring their differences, the way they stand out from the masses, and they argue for a weakening of the rigid survivalist principles that were put in place right after Nightfall. These rules were kept out of habit, not because they are needed anymore, the Libertines argue.

Collectivists are those who argue that Haven and society at large is still in an ongoing crisis and only the most necessary, the most essential of resources should be spent. Everything else should be saved and tightly regulated. The rights of any individual is far below the rights of the collective, and survival of the many is always more important than any single life. Ownership should be kept to a minimum and no one should get too attached to what they have, since the Colony should always redistribute it if it would do more good somewhere else. Adhering to strict rules and having every hour of your day decided by someone else is not a problem to the collectivists or they accept it as a necessary burden.

Personality traits

Each character is built up around four basic personality traits. These are, naturally, not all traits that describe a person, but they are some of the traits we think are important for the setting. Each character will be located somewhere between the two extremes of a trait. The traits are:

Logical vs Intuitive

Logical people pride themselves on rational thinking and not letting emotions interfere in critical thinking or decision making. Being able to logically or empirically proving things is very important to you. At their most extreme Logical people tend to be perceived as cold, distant or heartless.

For the Intuitive emotions and intentions are at least as important as facts and scientific theory. Logic and science cannot explain the deeper meaning of life and what it is to be human. You put gut feeling, experience, intuition, ethics and human fallacies into account in all major decisions, rather than relying on cold logic and statistics. You can also put human needs or ethics above what is “right” or “optimal”.

Direct vs Avoidant

Direct people handle problems by confronting them straight on, rather than procrastinating or tiptoeing around them. If something is causing problems, you should handle it right away. People's feelings are of lesser concern if you need to do what’s right. You can come off as confrontative or hotheaded.

The Avoidant are careful and diplomatic, unconfrontational trying to solve problems without upsetting anyone, often seeking compromise or waiting to see how the situation unfolds. Sometimes waiting out a situation is the best course of action, as it sometimes solves itself with time. Can often be perceived as cowards or “weak”.

Physical vs Non-physical

The Physical are comfortable with theirs and/or others bodies. They are typically loud and open, taking up space and acting confident. They have little need for personal space, and physical touch or closeness is not uncomfortable. Friends they hug and lean on, lovers they touch and hold, enemies they push away or confront to their faces. The Physical also tend to work with their hands in manual labour.

The NPs avoid physical touch. It might manifest through a disgust for human contact, a preference for computers or machinery, unfamiliarity or discomfort, habit or just shyness. Either way, they prefer to stay distanced and you're uncomfortable around those who are highly physical, often requiring more personal space. They typically work in fields that require less handiwork and more thinking.

Malcontent vs Content

The Malcontent are critical and cynical in their outlook on life. They look at what's wrong and all the things that aren't as good as they should be or could be. Even when some things improve, they constantly see the things that didn't. People tend to think of them as negative, whining or even cynical, while they see themselves as a realists or constantly seeking to improve instead of staying ignorant.

The Content see things in a positive light and consider their situation to be good, under the circumstances. It could be much worse. They handle problems through a lense of "Is there something we can do better?" rather than "This is wrong". People tend to see them as positive, but they might also be a little too content or naive.


When: 5th to 8th of April 2018

Where: Lurbo, Uppsala, Sweden

Contact: lotka@beratta.org