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All Rules in Adulthood

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Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 14
As you grow up, you struggle against various opposing forces and people in your environment—siblings, parents, peers, bullies, laws, and so on. You learn to insulate yourself against physical and emotional harm while making decisions that will protect you, your loved ones, or your interests. These conflicts can leave emotional scars, or vulnerabilities.

A vulnerability is a chink in your armor, something you love or fear that affects you on the deepest level. Hard choices—the ones that truly dictate alignment— are grounded in emotional vulnerability. When someone is pushing your buttons, that person is exploiting an emotional vulnerability, playing on your cares, personal insecurities, fears, or foibles. Since the most interesting characters to watch, read, and play are those with an emotional vulnerability, giving yourself one goes a long way toward making you a complex and fully realized individual as well as providing strong story hooks for your GM.

Character vulnerabilities come from strong emotions— such as love and fear—rooted in experiences from your developmental years. In childhood, you gain your first impressions of the world, love, loyalty, and friendship. In adolescence, you struggle for acceptance among superiors and peers, dealing with complex new emotions, philosophies, and ways of perceiving the world. Think of a lesson you learned in childhood. Did it cause you to view the world in a more positive or negative light? How does this lesson still affect you today? Name an occasion from adolescence that caused you pain. Looking back on that experience, how do you feel about it today? Has your viewpoint changed? Did you deserve the pain? Do you still bear a grudge against those who wronged you? These events might correspond to choices you made earlier as you developed your background.

In your adult life, name one person or thing you cherish or love and one person or thing you hate or fear. Are your feelings about these people or things known? If so, who knows? Now think of one person or thing that brings you happiness, pleasure, or contentment, and one person or thing that annoys, saddens, or disgusts you. What makes you feel this way? What part of yourself do you hide from the world, and why? If this person, object, memory, belief, or value was attacked or exposed, how far would you go to defend it?

Some characters work to make themselves impervious to emotion and attachment. Such characters include solemn monks, mercenary warlords, ruthless assassins, and dangerous sociopaths, to name just a few. Yet even they protect some emotional core hidden behind their internal walls. If you are playing an “emotionless” character, how deep is this core buried, and under what circumstances might it be penetrated or revealed? What could someone else possibly say or do to make you reveal a hidden side of yourself? What is the one thing that matters most to you, and what would you do if you lost it?