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The main character, while playing an MMO, was teleported to another world in her avatar along with all of the NPC's in her guild. As her reaction, she sent scouts around the area in order to discover a settlement or something similar. As a result, her scouts found a slave camp. So far she has been really worried about accidentally having her guild declare war on a kingdom. However she is currently considering attacking the slave camp in order to free the slaves. I am afraid that rather than writing a rational character I am reflecting my belief as a writer on to the character.

My question is: Would a character who displays the opposite of one of their characteristics due to the moral code they are used to cause the immersion to break?

As a side note the main character doesn't know whether slavery is something that is used in this world or not.

  • Details ... It might not be a break of her character if one of the slaves is her real-world friend who was likewise transported. In that case it would be a moral dilemma and she'd need to choose one path or the other. – DPT Apr 30 '18 at 20:23
  • If I understand the question correctly, you are asking: "Can character's actions based on moral code (which the audience may not know about) be considered out-of-character?" – Alexander Apr 30 '18 at 21:03
  • You may find this question and its answers helpful: writing.stackexchange.com/questions/35664/… – user29032 May 1 '18 at 6:48
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Even a generally rational character might have issues that cause them to snap and act irrationally. For example, in Star Trek TOS, in the episode with the Horta, Spock (the epitome of rationality) is all rational and "Captain, we must preserve life, we must attempt to figure out what the creature's motivations are", right until he thinks Kirk might be in danger. Then, suddenly, it's "Jim, shoot it before it attacks you!"

However, you would have to have a good answer for why slavery is the issue that causes your character to snap.

The irrational act would also have to be an emotional act, done in the spur of the moment, and something the character would chastise themselves for later, once they've had time to calm down and return to their regular way of thinking. @Amadeus gives a very good answer regarding what the rational thought process should have been.

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It may cause the immersion to break.

The rational response is, how do I know they are slaves?

How do I know if I "free" them I am not sentencing them to certain death? Perhaps in this place, it will be assumed the slaves revolted and the penalty for that is always horrific death no matter what the cost to the slavers, to prevent any other slaves from considering revolting.

How can I be certain the slaves would rather be left alone: As non-slaves they will have no food, no protection, no community, and will be ostracized by both owners and other slaves.

The rational response is to admit I don't know the culture and may be doing more harm than good, so I better NOT declare war on a kingdom before I know enough to be reasonably certain I am doing somebody good, not doing them harm.

The rational response is then, if I don't have the time to find out IF these slaves wish to be free, then I should mind my own business and not assume I know what is best for them.

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Well, it depends. She (the main character, I assume) is transported into this world. Does she believe it's real? Does she think it's some kind of delusion? Is this a dream she's having in a coma; according to her, not according to the story or author.

If she believes this world is real, as opposed to a game, she would use the totality of her moral compass, as opposed to, "Oh yeah, slavery is horrid. But they're just NPCs in a game I play."

She could perhaps have an interesting conversation with one of the guild NPCs you mentioned, leading her to believe they are too 'lifelike' to be just mindless nobodies, and that could lead to her considering whatever she knows (whether this is factual or not is irrelevant) about slavery as a whole, and perhaps even 'in-game' knowledge about slave camps in this world.

It all depends on how you bring it over, and how the character (not the author) rationalizes these things. I mean. Let's be honest. Human beings aren't always the most consistent in morality, or even in reasoning. So you could have her be totally against killing, but killing the slavers that are (in her eyes) abusing the slaves she means to free? She could pull a Khalesi in heartbeat.

My suggestion, if you want to get really into the psychology behind it, and put your character under the loop? Put yourself in her headspace (in her mind, so to speak) and keep weighing things against each other.

Killing slavers (horrible people) VERSUS saving slaves (victims of their fate).

Letting the enemies' troops starve VERSUS letting my own troops starve by feeding them.

It's in these harsh environs that we truly learn who we are, and using a tale to expose the reader to these kinds of dilemmas are the best way to jolt their minds with a heavy dose of empathy (or impotent rage, so be careful with that).

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