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RPR Archive Discussion Topic: Non Sentient Characters

Discussion in 'Role Playing Resource Archive' started by blubeast1237, Nov 11, 2007.

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  1. blubeast1237 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 10, 2007
    star 5
    Recently, I got in alittle argument, or debate, they're pretty much the same thing:p, about whether a player should/could be able to play a nonsentient character.

    Its kind of touchy since none of us actually know what not being able for higher thinking and/or learning feels like, but that's where my argument came in. We're role playing, playing roles we don't normally or can't play at all in RL.

    Non Sentient would be a challenge and would be open for interpretation depending on the character choice and player. Non Sents are thought of creatures that only think about Eatfood, poop food, sleep, repeat cycle. I don't think its that simple and would probably be the first one trying to submit a character sheet for a Krayt Dragon!

    I want all views and opinions on this, even if you aren't an active role player at the moment. Please, everyone is open to state their thoughts.

    The Floor is Yours!


    -BeastoftheWonderland-
  2. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    The crucial thing about nonsentient creatures is that they lack the crucial insight that Descartes formulated: cogito, ergo sum -- "I think, therefore I am." In other words, they don't have an awareness of self; they are unable to distinguish themselves as a separate entity from the world around them. As such, one obviously will not find a nonsentient contemplating the mysteries of the universe or dressing up in emo clothing. Such things simply don't enter their minds.

    Having said that, the lack of self-awareness or consciousness doesn't mean there's a corresponding lack of intelligence. And it's certainly an interesting challenge for roleplay. Especially if you think about predators in the natural world: the bear, the cougar, the xenomorph from "Alien" ... none of these creatures have self-awareness, but all still function at a pretty high level of sophistication. Many predators use camoflague, for example, and some will wait for extended periods for their targets.

    The thing perhaps to remember about playing nonsentient predators is that most of one's daily existence is not achieved through reasoning in situations as simple response to those situations. It may assist to actually play the nonsentient in the third person, with a profound sense of detachment, to emphasise the fact that the nonsentient does not think in the conventional sense.
  3. DarthXan318 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 12, 2002
    star 6
    I think there isn't any reason why a player shouldn't be able to play a non-sentient character, but I think it's so limiting on its own there isn't much point to it. I mean, say you're roleplaying a dog or something. You're basically going to RP eating, sleeping, fetching sticks and whatever - and that's about it. Or you RP a predator; like Saintheart said there is quite a level of sophistication with camouflage and reasoning about what target to pick out of a herd of prey, but that's still there is to it. There's no long-term planning, no reasoning ... no independent thought.

    A non-sentient being RPed as a familiar to a sentient being, though - that could work. I'm thinking of things like Barbossa's monkey in PotC - on its own the monkey would be pointless, but as a familiar, it had a role to play, even if that "role" was just an extension of Barbossa's will, sort of.
  4. CountSephula Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 10, 2007
    star 1
    Hmmm.... I can't remember who the player was, but in Dubya's Exiles game, someone was playing one of the Knights of the Round Table (Launcelot if memory serves me, although argubly not the John Cleese version of him I'm most familiar with) and for extended periods would roleplay as Launcelot's horse, often to great comedic effect. You might want to take a look at that game, see if you can find the "IC: Horse" posts, and read them. Surprisingly a good read, all things considered.
  5. Sith-I-5 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 14, 2002
    star 5
    I cannot, right now, recall if I have ever played a non-sentient character, but I would certainly query whether one has to lack self-awareness.

    Pack animals, as in wolves, lions, and suchlike, would be non-sentient, but still be aware of their own place and that of others in the group hierarchy.

    I suspect that if I were to play one, it would not be true to the spirit of what non-sentient actually means, but like comic-author Terry Pratchett does his, where they are self-aware, but their environment is limited to "things to eat, things to run away from, and rocks."
  6. CountSephula Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 10, 2007
    star 1
    Rincewind is nonsentient? :p
  7. Sith-I-5 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 14, 2002
    star 5
    I think Rincewind was nearby.
  8. blubeast1237 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 10, 2007
    star 5
    I like Saintheart's opinion on how to play them, not having any self awareness. That would be extremely fun to play, I think. And as to intelligent reasoning and thought, I beg to differ. Even if it is low, there is a certain amount of reasoning done on the non sentient's part on what to eat, what to hunt, how to gather food. Its low, but its there is the point I'm trying to make.

    And quite often, I get tired of sitting down and having to write a whole bunch of emotions and thinking and what to do, how to do it, bla blah bla. It gets tiring after awhile, which is why I thought this might actually be a fun topic to discuss.

    Sith I-5 and Sephy can both relate to playing robots. Robots have no emotions, and while they can think about emotions, they can't have them or show them. The book that comes to mind when I think about how to role play a non sentient character are Call of the Wild and White Fang, by Jack London. I'll be damned if those books weren't entertaining!!*shakes fist*

    :p


    -BeastoftheWonderland-
  9. LightWarden Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 11, 2001
    star 4
    Well, non-sentient implies that the character is completely incapable of feeling or perceiving subjectively. Non-sapient implies that a character isn't self-aware or capable of making any sort of judgment. As far as I know, most animals are non-sapient, but still sentient (though admittedly that's a point of debate for animal rights).

    If you want to play a non-sentient character, play a rock. If you want to play a non-sapient character, most "decisions" would probably be based on instinct, desires, conditioning and some sort of rudimentary awareness of structure/learning (if that's not just instinctive altogether).
  10. Sith-I-5 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 14, 2002
    star 5
    Mm. Darth Vaders Cousin played a warehouse, once. I recall being very impressed with the characterisation.
  11. NickLitYouAFlame Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 27, 2007
    star 5
    That is a little bit off of non-sentient, though. It's more along the lines of inanimate and is, in fact, inanimate.

    I think that while playing a non-sentient would be quite difficult, it is an interesting prospect. I wonder how reaction between players would take place.

    Say, perhaps, that you are playing a bear. Deep in the mountains, you encounter a human, what actions would take place. How would you justify not-eating or attempting to eat that player? If we say that the non-sentient hasn?t the ability to think logically, how would you depict the instinct of the creature?
  12. Mitth_Fisto Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 6
    I have actually been contemplating playing a sentient non-sapient mouse/bat like creature in one game as an aside to my sentient and sapient character. (These further defining guidlines really can make ones head wobble. Luckily not gobble, just wobble) I was wondering though if a totally third person perspective would really be the way to go, or if I should bear down and try to write from its perspective?
  13. Sith-I-5 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 14, 2002
    star 5
    I think first person works best for something like that, unless you are going to have the creature as a moving piece of the environment in a one-off post.
  14. SephyCloneNo15 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 9, 2005
    star 5
    I think if you went First-Person, it would be tough to keep the character non-sapient. I think first-person lends itself very easily to an introspective, metacognitive character. The viewpoint would lead to playing a sapient example of a non-sapient species (which, on its own, could be an interesting prospect). If you can overcome the hurdles, go for it.

    Hah! Found it. In my first post I mentioned the Horse from Exiles. Here it is. God, that game was fun, playing Link and Navi. I think if I ever figure out the Zelda game I was considering, I'd have to reprise my role as Navi.

    Anyways, for set-up, the Exiles premise was to have a bunch of characters ripped from their respective universes and saving the universe(s) by righting wrongs in a variety of universes. This scene was taken from the universe of Alien, and Ptolemy7 was playing Sir Galahad of the Round Table, who had left his horse on the ship, the Sulaco while he went off to fight the xenomorphs with the rest of us.




    It went on like this for a while.
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