Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Playing Settlers with Protagonists

In this post, I am officially breaking every rule of writing to a general audience, including, but not limited to, avoiding insider language, being too specific and technical, and using an illustration that may not be familiar to all of my readers. I acknowledge this and accept any horrible penalties that may be inflicted upon me by the muse and/or some mysterious board of editors who police things like this.

That said, even if you’re not familiar with the board game Settlers of Catan (which you really should be), this quiz can still be helpful. Just ignore the terminology.

We’re going to do an analogy here, so track with me. In Settlers, the goal is to win the game. In your story, the protagonist’s goal is…well, whatever his goal is. As the writer, it helps to know how your protagonist will try to reach that goal, and how he will react to people who stand in the way. These kind of tendencies are the same that can be seen in others while playing strategy games. Thus the analogy.

Take the quiz for your protagonist and deal him a hand (or her, but I use the masculine here because I think he/she gets annoying).

Here’s how: pick a character. Rate how strongly you agree with the following statements with that character in mind (1: strongly disagree, 2: disagree, 3: neutral, 4: agree, and 5: strongly agree). When you’re done, deal your character a hand by giving him a card of that type for each 4 or 5 in a category.

Ore/Rock: Strategy
            Able to put aside distractions?
            Enjoy challenges?
            Think of the obvious answer first?
Wheat: Persuasion
            Interested in how other people think?
            Enjoy debating politics or religion?
            Good at public speaking?
            Learn from others mistakes instead of your own?

Wood: Fun
            Enjoy making others laugh or telling stories?
            Get bored easily?
Sheep/Wool: Niceness
            Enjoy helping others?
            Make people your first priority?
            Value mercy over justice?
            Don’t mind losing?
Brick: Competition
            Frustrated when others do something stupid?
            Been accused of taking things too seriously?
            Don’t make the same mistakes twice?
            Care a lot about how others see you?
Great. Your character now has a hand of cards. Now see which of the following best describes the mix of cards.

Mostly Ore: Your character is strongly logical, and will rely on probability and reasoning to solve his problems. Chances are, this will affect the way he talks (or narrates). Consider cutting out anything that he would consider irrelevant.

Mostly Wheat: You have yourself a skilled diplomat. Your character can talk himself out of nearly anything, and can easily read others’ emotions. Use this ability.

Mostly Wood: This character will be pretty hilarious to read about, especially if he is the narrator of the story. You may have a troublemaker, class clown, or center of attention on your hands, and as long as this character doesn’t become annoying or over-the-top, go with it.

Mostly Sheep: Everyone will like your protagonist (readers and other characters)…as long as you don’t make him so sickeningly perfect that we want to punch him.

Mostly Brick: Failure is not an option for this character, which is a good trait. Just make sure he doesn’t become so goal-focused that we don’t get to know or care about him as a person.

Road (Mostly Brick and Wood): This person tends to be a bit less of an overachiever than the Brick, which means he won’t demand as much from himself or others, and he’ll let himself have more fun. The bad news is, sometimes he’ll lose focus or get discouraged.

Settlement (Variety, but not many Ore): It’s not that your character isn’t logical, but he’s probably better at working with other people and thinking outside of the box than using straightforward reasoning to confront a problem.

City (Mostly Ore and Wheat): Unlike an Ore, your character recognizes that people and the way they think are important and can be used to his advantage. He is probably the best persuasive speaker of the groups, combining logic and charisma.

Development Card (Mostly Ore, Wheat, and Sheep): A lot like a City, except, while still fairly logical in his decision-making, this protagonist will occasionally takes risks and do something that doesn’t make sense if he’s convinced it will work.

These are the main kinds of people I encounter when I play Settlers and in real life. Sometimes, I think about someone as a City or a Brick. Not even joking.

For the record, I’m a Development Card (with a concentration in Wheat), and the main character in a story I’m editing right now is an Ore. How about you (or your character)?


  1. Our family played Settlers last night - really! - and I started well but was too "development card"-ish. The city folk won. :)

  2. According to myself, I got 3 for Ore/Rock and Wheat, 2 for Wood and Sheep/Wool, and 5 for Brick, which I guess makes me a brick, but I fit with the city description too and I think I'm fun and nice.

    I think this quiz was more accurate for my character, who finished with neither Ore/Rock nor Sheep/Wool and only one Wood, but had three wheat and four brick. She especially lines up with the Brick description -- and I've been working to keep her a personal character. First person helps.