1. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    What would you do if you were immortal?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by IHaveNoName, Apr 29, 2016.

    I think I got this one in the right place - it's a question about characters.

    This is a follow-up question to my other thread (also see there for more backstory info). Thanks to all the folks who responded there - you've been a huge help.

    Imagine, if you will, that you're a mage in a fantasy world. You've mastered elemental magic. A war erupts, and someone comes up with a way to make elemental constructs (dragons*) that can be linked to and controlled by a mage. You volunteer to be linked to one of these constructs (air, earth, fire, water - take your pick), but you're killed in battle and your consciousness ends up inhabiting the soulless construct. This is a completely unforeseen and unintended side effect.

    Congratulations - you're now immortal and nearly indestructible. You don't need to eat, drink, sleep, or even breathe (you can eat/drink - anything you ingest is broken down into energy - and you can go into hibernation for any length of time, but only in dragon form). You can still take your normal human form and pass as human, except that you don't feel pain/pleasure (retconned), can't bleed, and are immune to most things that would hurt/kill an ordinary human. (To be clear: you CAN be destroyed; it just takes a lot of effort. You can also commit suicide by immersing yourself in a large amount of your related element and dissolving your form, like a fire construct diving into lava.) You can still cast magic, but only the magic related to your form - you've lost access to the other three elements.

    After the war, a new guild of mages is created, and the Council (the folks in charge) destroy all records of the dragons' creation and use, and disavow all knowledge of you (a bunch of mage/dragons went insane during the war and started wreaking havoc; they were eventually put down, but not without a lot of collateral damage, so the Council is covering their asses). There are about 150 of you still around, and the Council knows you exist, but they're willing to leave you alone as long as you don't reveal your existence to the world at large. You and your compatriots have created an island far out in the ocean where you can be left alone, if you want to stay there.

    The war took place several thousand years ago. What have you been doing since then? Any ideas are welcome, as long as you can justify them. You cannot, for example, become Casca the Eternal Soldier.

    * Dragons don't actually exist in this world. The term "dragon" was invented to describe the constructs' forms, which resemble dragons in some manner, but are otherwise as varied as the creators' imaginations.

    ====

    I'm asking this because the bad guys in my WIP are members of this group; I know what the bad guys are up to, but I can't figure out what the rest of the dragons are doing. Out of the 150 or so in existence, about 50 are aligned with the villain; maybe a dozen are in hibernation; another 20-30 are active, but have retired to live quietly somewhere and won't get involved (in a monastery, on a high mountain top, deep in a swamp, on the island, whatever). This still leaves me with 70-80 people (beings?) to account for. I don't need to figure them all out - I just want a general idea, because having that many potentially plot-altering beings just hanging around in limbo would be a serious oversight. What are they doing? What do they want? Do their interests align with the villains', or oppose them?
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2016
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  2. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd kill myself.... But that's probably just me. :p Living forever is bad enough. But not being able to feel pleasure? Makes it even worse.

    I'd probably live on the island for a while, have a nice relaxing, quiet life. Then when I got bored, knowing my life is restricted, I'd probably commit suicide. lol Sorry if that's not what you wanted to hear. :p
     
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  3. Guttersnipe
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    Guttersnipe Member

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    Since they were mages, they are by nature probably studious, educated people. So they might go all ivory tower, getting into deeper and deeper philosophical and existential discussions. It could easily get to the point where their discussions are all they care about. There could be raging arguments that go on for weeks about whether or not Jesus owned his own clothes. (You think I'm making that up, but I'm not).

    It would be like an extreme form of withdrawal, and unless they were personally threatened, they wouldn't care what's happening out in the world.
     
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  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I too can see this happening. Especially since the OP also describes a kind of immortality that divorces the individual from any sort of worldly, pragmatic, day-to-day concerns. Most philosophy and philosophizing is pretty much just masturbation. The kinds of questions that are tackled and engaged are rarely applicable in any sort of tangible way and are the hallmark of extreme privilege at any point one wishes to place one's finger in the timeline of history. Immortals such as the ones described by the OP are the very acme of privilege, so, yeah. I see a lot of grey-matter fapping in their long, long futures. The real difficulty I see in such an existence is succumbing to ennui.
     
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  5. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    I think the exact opposite would happen. In our very brief mortal lives we all still manage to reach impasses. Now imagine an impasse that has lasted two hundred and fifty million years with neither side willing to budge an inch. And why would they. In a real sense there is no answer to any existential question. Ponder all you may but at some point you are going to have devised a complete thesis of life and mind and universe. And no-one can prove you wrong. How long can these discussions about who's singular ultimate truth is right go on before someone breaks out the matches?

    As an immortal with a good chunk of power you can set out to prove yourself right, or to create what you believe should happen; to make puny mortals do the right thing instead of all this messy free will. You have the power and live on the time scale to do it. Why wouldn't you? Because of pathetic mortal ideas of morality? What need has a god for the morality of men? You don't even need to believe in your own literal divinity; you have power and no-one is going to stop you. Why have it if you can't use it?

    Point is; these aren't going to be nice people. They are going to have the view that mortal life is nasty, brutish and short and that such beings matter little to them. Some might strive towards some great work, others might research into mindbending things we can only imagine. They are all going to become middle aged men indulging their cosmic trainsets. But for mortals that isn't going to be nice. And you can bet your ass they are going to fight. They probably have a 'truce' over some stuff but they are gods with ultimate cosmic power. Even the nicest aren't going to be satisfied with philosophy and self denial.
     
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  6. Raven484
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    Raven484 Contributing Member

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    Is your world like our world today, were dragons are myths and there is no magic? Or are we still in the magical world?
    I imagine some would become like historians. Hiding in the shadow of history and recording certain events. Maybe even collectors of antiques or art? Some could become inventors or scientists that secretly help the rest of the world.
    I think it would be extremely unlikely that all would except exile to this island. Maybe at first, but some would miss the world they were from and secretly return.
    Man you could do a lot with this.
    Sworn protectors of families, assassin's, black market providers, traveling philosophers, anything you want them to be.
    Do the other mages know how to spot them? If not, you can hide them anywhere you want in society doing whatever they please to pass their days.
     
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  7. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Are you familiar with the Highlander series? The only way they could die is to have their head cutoff. And winning a duel meant gaining the losers exp., and they can become the most powerful immortal once the others are dead. Not to mention epic music by Queen. :p Though it details fairly well what it is like to out live everyone else, it also shows how much of a pain in the ass it is when you can't die.
     
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  8. Kate Sen
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    Kate Sen Member

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    If I were immortal I would keep changing myself my personality and lifestyle and choices all the time to spice things up. Also in order to not get weighed down by endless memories and regrets and just too much information, I would impose voluntary amnesia on myself and imagine myself reincarnated, and I would use dreams and daydreams and such to make this all believable to keep my own sanity. In fact, I believe we all are actually immortal and that is what we are doing all along, but we are so skilled at fooling ourselves that we do not realize that, and there is no proof for this but also there is no proof that this theory is wrong, right?
     
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  9. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    This is actually quite a clever idea. If written the right way then this can be something really interesting.

    In so many words; the immortals eventually decide that the burden of immortality is too much but their power is too great simply to die. As (presumably) the only immortals around it'd be a disservice to the universe as a whole to just vanish and take all their knowledge and power and abilities with them over the abyss.

    So they take a third option. They create for themselves the veil of mortality to spare themselves the pain of living forever and watching everything they care about die, decay, be lost and utterly forgotten. But they leave a little hint in there somewhere that offers them the potential to re-awaken their 'true' selves and reassert their power. It's a failsafe that responds to magic or world threatening peril. Perhaps even there is some secret room in each great civilization with instructions of how to re-awaken the immortals in suitably grave circumstances.

    There is a risk to that, of course. From time to time someone will find their power without gaining their memories (and wield that power for good or for ill based on their personal experiences); others might accidentally find their memories but not their magic (and presumably be filled with a great sense of ennui) and know the reality of the world but have nothing to prove it except their say so and end up as lunatics or prophets or philosophers. And when those mortal lives reach their conclusion the old magic takes over and they are reborn anew with no knowledge of who they were before. Curious mortals might find evidence of immortals and do whatever with that you can imagine (worship them as gods, try to become immortal too) but in general the immortals are safely hidden away behind the world.

    It's an excellent answer to why the immortals aren't around much but lets you bring them back as and when you need them. It explains why they aren't simply totally bored of life and mortals in general. It explains why there isn't some immortal Dr Doom running around enslaving people. It explains too why the immortals, should they return, might actually be reasonably well disposed towards mortals and willing to help them. After all, they live as people. They see value in that life perhaps even seeing that as the way life was supposed to exist.

    I think that it hints at something good. It hints at immortals who, whatever their inclination (and I'm sure many would be a-moral jerks) they have a certain affection for humanity and perhaps are even jealous of those beings who never have to stare eternity in the face. I quite like the idea that perhaps every immortal 'life' is destined for greatness and they tend towards being leaders and visionaries and all kinds of 'big' things that shape history, but they've seen the long cycles of history and understand that you can't just have an eternal Hitler, he needs to rise and fall and someone else rise again for things to work out.

    I like it.
     
  10. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    No, that's okay. A couple dozen have done just that over the years. Honestly, I'm not sure I wouldn't either.

    Yeah, I've seen the movies and the TV series. I should go watch them again - I'm remembering all those flashbacks, and I realize that I've completely missed that. The dragons have lived history - all those things everyone else has read about in books, they've seen firsthand - wars, the rise and fall of empires, the construction of great cities; they've talked to famous philosphers and critiqued artists' works. Thanks for that.


    They're not like "classical mages" who sit in tower all day and pore over books - these are more like Avatar mages who actively wield power. They are educated, so I'm sure a few would eventually go hole up in a cave and ponder the mysteries of the universe.


    A few of them are posing as gods. In fact (and I didn't mention this before), there's an underground cult that worships the dragons as (semi-)divine beings (the dragons make it a point to always appear to them as dragons, not humans). The Council routinely tries to root them out, but they're never entirely successful. The Cult has an important part in the story, since they'll be supporting the bad guys.


    Still in the magical world. The war and the ensuing cataclysm wiped out most of the population, so it's taken a long time to recover.

    One of them does work for the Council as an archivist. A shadow historian, though... that's interesting. Reminds me of the Forgotten Realms novels I used to read - one of the gods's sole purpose was to record history as it happened.

    You're right, there. I have placed several in the world.

    I thought of an assassin - definitely want to do that. One of them rules a pirate city (from the shadows). A family's sworn protector - I like that. The travelling philospher, too...

    No, the only way to tell is someone is a dragon is to try to hurt them - they don't bleed or feel pain, so it's a dead giveaway. And yes, many of them do hide in society - after a few millennia, they've gotten very good at it.


    Interesting. A character like that would make for a good story - I do intend to do more stories in this world, so thanks. :)


    That would be a cool story hook. Wouldn't work for this setting, but it's a really good idea.
     
  11. Seraph751
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    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole...

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    I would find my anchor so I would not lose myself to insanity. :)
     
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  12. Mikmaxs
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    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    I would probably go all Superman on the world and try to fight crime, help the hopeless, etc. If I'm so hard to kill that the average person poses zero threat to me, I'd be in a perfect position to become the protector of a city or nation or whatever.
     
  13. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    I think I'm going to lose the "can't feel pleasure" thing. It's always bugged me, but I couldn't really find a reason to include it - they're non-living beings. BUT, I can always say "it's a side effect of the process" or somesuch thing. I've been watching Lucifer (the TV show). The devil takes a vacation from Hell to live in LA; he's in human form, but he's immortal, so he can't be hurt (and he gets shot several times to prove it). Someone asks him "What does it feel like?" and he flicks her in the head with his finger. He can, however, feel pleasure just fine - he has sex with boatloads of women - so there you go.

    Yeah, not a bad idea. You'd just have to be careful not to draw the Council's attention in doing so.

    ====

    I was thinking earlier tonight: I felt like there should be a group that opposes the bad guys (see the other thread for a full explanation of their motives), but I couldn't figure out the how or why. Then it hit me: They're not a group, they're a bunch of individuals with their own motivations who've allied with each other because of a common cause - they're opposed to the bad guys' plans, for whatever reason: Some want to help mortals, some don't want to lose their vast hordes of wealth, some are in it just for the hell of it. Thus, they get together, pool their resources, and quietly oppose the bad guys - a vast war fought in the shadows, with mortals being used as pawns. How's that for god-like beings? :D
     
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  14. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    I think they'd slowly lose all connection to humanity, honestly. Think about your relationship with your best friends from various stages in your life, and how those tend to fade and die. Now imagine those people, however significant, are going to literally die off, and each new relationship you form you know will last for at most seventy or eighty years. Eventually it just might not be worth it to care about humanity, and you might even end up seeing it as an inconvenience. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson, addresses a slightly similar situation when some of the uber-rich effectively (it is believed at the time) immortals speculate on the possibility of releasing a plague to wipe out everyone who has not had the immortality treatment. That world is locked in a vicious Malthusian competition for resources, which your immortals have less need for, but I still thing that pretty much all of your "dragons" would end up looking pretty evil from the average Joe's point of view.
     
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  15. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    Of course, it just occurred to me that there could be a group called DETH: Dragons for the Ethical Treatment of Humans, who would argue that just because the idiot mortals are going to be dead in a mere seventy years is no reason to ignore their rights and treat them as disposable.

    Probably not the direction your story is running though. :)
     
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  16. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I don't know what I'd do but it would definitely be interesting emotionally. It would be sad, and I would definitely have more trouble feeling connected and positive. I might spiral into despair and lose care for humanity, coming out bitter cynical, pessimistic and possibly quite selfish. I don't know. It's interesting to think about.:superthink::superthink:
     
  17. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    Hence, why they have no compunctions about using the mortals as pawns in their game.


    That seems to be a theme here, and I'm inclined to agree. Just being an immortal, indestructible being (person/creature) would be enough to change your mindset - after three or four lifetimes, you wouldn't really think of yourself as "human" anymore unless you actively tried. Some of them do - they've basically renounced their "dragon side" and have remained in human form for centuries or millennia, so they can retain a vestige of "humanity", and some have given up on life but aren't strong enough to commit suicide and thus remain in hibernation. On the other end, some have become fully draconic, but they've be confined to the island by their brethren. In the middle, we have the majority - by and large, they don't care a whit for mortals beyond what said mortals can do for them (see above). The ones who want to end their existence don't care if the world gets ruined and half the populace is wiped out; as far as they're concerned, mortals have done nothing for them, so they owe mortals nothing in return.
     
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  18. Gareth MH
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    Gareth MH Member

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    I like the idea of dragons secluded from the rest of the world conducting existential discussions. But I think there would probably be enough of them that some of them would be more practical. I think some may interfere with the lives of humans for experimental purposes. Like through the course of their ever on going philosophical discussions some would come up with hypothesis about the reality of human nature and then go off and test out the hypothesis. An example may be that one dragon thinks that populations do better when they have a visible god to worship so he/she goes and assumes the roll of that god with and isolated population for a couple of hundred years or so to test the results.

    Others may have hypothesis about the nature of reality and go about conducting long form experiments to test them.

    But they would clearly, over time, form their own culture as though they're a nation unto themselves. Which could be interesting and challenging to write because essentially you have a group of intelligent people that then have thousands of years to develop their knowledge and wisdom.
     
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  19. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I would love to live forever as long as I maintained decent brain function. The future is an adventure I would love to go on.
     
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  20. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    It would have advantages, but what about all the people dying around you? You don't think that would affect you? Don't you have like a husband if I remember? What about him? And all your friends and family. And their children. And then all their children's children. And so on. One would think it would be a real struggle.
     
  21. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I would miss my son terribly when he died. But if he lived a long satisfying life and only I was immortal, I could deal with it. I wouldn't miss anyone else. My parents are dead. My brothers and I aren't close. Friends come and go.
     
  22. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Okay, that sounds great and totally-not-cold :superagree:... I'm just gonna... go over here. :brb::brb:
     
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  23. newjerseyrunner
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    I'd find it rough at first, watching those I cared about die over and over again, but like anything, I'd get jaded to it. I'd like to think that I'd use my powers for good, but true immortality would probably leave me bored after a while and I'd start playing god in every more increasing ways to entertain myself. I'd probably devote my time to exploring, once I'd seen all that there is to see on Earth, I'd venture outwards. If I have no need for food, water..., is there anything keeping me stuck on this planet?
     
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  24. Seraph751
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    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole...

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    I also think you come to crave excitement, the unknown, things that surprise you. Your addiction to those things would grow as the years go on. Anything that would give you that little thrill to help break the monotony of life.
     
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  25. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    Interesting. Cold-blooded, but interesting.

    I hadn't really thought about that, though I think it's been niggling at the edges of my mind. A lot of them do spend their time on the island, and I was thinking about what the place would look like - the climax of the story will take place there, so I need to set the scene. Would they have buildings? Plants and animals? What would appeal to a "race" of immortal beings that have no need of creature comforts, or even sustenance?

    Besides the inability to get off said planet? Good question, though. If there were other planes, they'd definitely be exploring those.

    Yup.
     
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