Planned Character Development

Planned Character Development

When Character Development is under players' control and can be planned.

Planned Character Development occurs in games where the game system provides ways for players to influence how characters develop and set up goals for that development.

Example: The computer games Black & White and Creatures allow players to influence creatures' behavior through positive and negative feedback to what the creatures do in the environment. By choosing their responses, and by affecting what objects and other creatures the creatures meet in the environment, players can plan the creatures' development.

Example: Most tabletop roleplaying games allow players to make an initial choice of how their characters should develop by choosing classes and professions. If the game system allows special abilities to become available after certain prerequisites have been met, players can plan which of these to select and set personal goals for the character.

Using the pattern

Planned Character Development is made possible by giving players a set of possible options for how their characters can develop and letting them know what goals are required for these options to be instantiated. The goals required need to be Predefined Goals so that players can be aware of them, but may have Dynamic Goal Characteristics that change as the Narrative Structure unfolds. Naturally, the goals required cannot be Unknown Goals but they are often Incompatible Goals in order to force players into making Tradeoffs. The options are often combinations of Privileged Abilities, New Abilities, Improved Abilities, and Skills that define a number of different Competence Areas.


Planned Character Development makes Character Development into Player Defined Goals, often based upon Gain Competence goals, and promotes player Anticipation. It gives players Creative Control and Freedom of Choice but requires them to maintain Continuous Goals, which not only require the survival of the characters but may also limit what actions the players may perform.

Deciding what future Character options to strive for encourages Stimulated Planning, often as Extra-Game Actions, and is part of the Investment players make undergoing Planned Character Development. This Investment makes it likely that players' have Emotional Immersion in or Identification with what happens to their Characters and that the Rewards that give the Character Development are worth more for the players. In games with Team Play, Planned Character Development always gives Team Development and allows for Team Development when the rest of the group is taken into consideration, e. g., when planning so that players have individual Competence Areas.

Letting players affect Character Development in games without Game Masters can make the development difficult to include in a Narrative Structure except on a general level and as threshold measures. The use of Game Masters can make the Planned Character Development an integral part of the Narrative Structure and either strengthen players Illusion of Influence or allow Player Constructed Worlds.


Instantiates: Gain Competence, Continuous Goals, Competence Areas, Stimulated Planning, Anticipation, Illusion of Influence, Team Development, Player Constructed Worlds, Identification, Freedom of Choice, Creative Control, Player Defined Goals

Modulates: Character Development, Characters, Narrative Structures, Team Play, Privileged Abilities

Instantiated by: New Abilities, Improved Abilities, Skills, Rewards

Modulated by: Unknown Goals, Incompatible Goals, Game Masters, Predefined Goals, Dynamic Goal Characteristics, Extra-Game Actions, Privileged Abilities

Potentially conflicting with: Narrative Structures