Life is a Winding Road

The headline of that town’s newspaper the following day: “Murder hobo, commits hobo murder.”

Character arcs are awesome in fantasy fiction. The naive farmboy sets out on their travels with dreams of becoming a hero, and saves the world at the cost of their innocence. Desperate for revenge, a survivor seeks ways of improving their skill so they are able to face the villain that ruined their life.

However, the interactive and organic nature of the narratives make this difficult in roleplaying games. Character arcs requires some cooperation between the DM and the player, as well as some fortunate die rolls. To say nothing of a campaign that supports the character’s growth without making it seem like their personality is changing in a vacuum. They’re particularly hard when running a prepublished module, and doubly so for an adventure path that encompasses an entire campaign.

Often, character arcs are little more than “reading between the lines”, shifts in motivation known only to the player and a subtext to their interactions. At best, character arcs are viewed retrospectively, after the end of the campaign when comparing how the character started with how they ended. This does mean character arcs are a little more, well, real. People don’t tend to have convenient arcs like they do in fiction, and grow or change in response to outside stimuli in unexpected directions.