Roleplaying Tip #2: Gratitude and Ingratitude

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, let’s talk about in-character gratitude. This is a sequel to the previous Roleplaying Tip: Anger.

Both in real life and in the game, we all basically forget to express gratitude beyond a simple “thanks,” if that. To be fair, since most of us act this way in real life, it may be a fair way for our characters to act, but certain more complete characters could differentiate themselves by showing (or not showing) one or both of two kinds of gratitude: gratitude for an act and gratitude toward a person.

Gratitude for an Act

This is the kind of gratitude that might be displayed for individual acts: receiving a hand up, receiving directions from a stranger, receiving charity, accepting an ale from another person, being complimented, receiving a warning in battle, and so on. Creative ways to express instant gratitude include:

  • Vigorously shaking the hand of the giver while thanking
  • Bowing deeply
  • Bowing curtly
  • Bestowing a token
  • Issuing payment
  • Offering a favor in return (Casual “I am in your debt”)
  • Thanking a deity
  • Promising the blessings of a deity on the giver and/or praying to a deity on his behalf

Character’s can be equally unique in the way they are ungracious about these kinds of acts:

  • Sneering derisively
  • Snorting
  • Nodding dismissively
  • Grunting in recognition
  • Rejecting the gift
  • Insulting the speed, quality, or other aspect of the gift
  • Asking for more (“Is that it?”)
  • Insulting or cursing the giver
  • Expressing lack of interest in the gift

This type of gratitude or ingratitude is shown by all, but usually by either saying “Thanks” or not. Having a character be especially grateful, whether for just some things or all things, can make her stand out. Similarly, being especially ungracious can set him apart.

Gratitude toward a Person

This type of gratitude comes from a relationship. Whether that relationship grows out of a single, life-changing event or from a long string of favors (mutual or otherwise), there is a connection where the benefiting parties in the relationship can either be grateful to the benefactor or ungrateful. These types of relationships and how your character treats them can be very telling, whether with gratitude:

  • Practicing deference for the benefactor (giving the best cut of meat, easiest watch, etc)
  • Holding the benefactor in high regard with compliments and expressions of respect
  • Deferring to the benefactor in making decisions
  • Performing acts of service to the benefactor
  • Recognizing successes of the benefactor
  • Devoting himself as a servant to the benefactor until a certain debt is repaid
  • Defending the benefactor in conversations with others

or ingratitude:

  • Expecting the benefactor to continue providing favors as in the past
  • Becoming jealous of others who receive favors from the benefactor
  • Considering the benefactor subservient and treating her badly
  • Becoming indignant when the benefactor refuses to supply additional favors
  • Considering himself entitled to the benefactor’s time and efforts
  • Arguing that the benefactor owed it to him
  • Considering the aide of the benefactor oppressive (“I can do it myself”)

Expressing this type of gratitude or ingratitude in relationships is something we all do. Your PCs and NPCs will have more interesting relationships if they express it in more apparent and original ways.

Was this helpful? Let us know in the comments below.  Can you think of other ways to show gratitude or ingratitude?  Other situations where this applies?  Please share them below!

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