A while back, we discussed Simple Characters and this week I want to look at the opposite: Genius Characters. And when I say genius, I mean genius — smart in every aspect of the mind. This naturally excludes the absent minded professor, or the wise fool, both of whom have brilliance in one aspect while lacking in others, and both of whom deserve their own articles.
Some examples from literature and popular culture of genius characters include Sherlock Holmes, Tyrion Lannister and Gandalf the Grey. Each of them shares a brilliant mind, backed up by real world experience and insight that lets them do some amazing things and get out of amazingly difficult situations.
But being a genius is more than just being able to solve problems. Having a long history of encountering problems and solving them by thinking, genius characters have a high appreciation of intelligence. This means they recognize and respect one another, even if they fight on different sides. And even if they may despise every action of their adversary, they at least respect their intellect, if only it were not wasted on the wrong purpose.
Realizing the power of the opposing mind also makes them prone to a bit more naivety then their intelligence would suggest. Not because they are so foolish as to think their rival isn’t out to get them, but rather because of the temptation of turning such a mind to their side. Imagine how much good Moriarty could do working together with Sherlock Holmes for the same purpose…
That respect for intelligence sometimes translates in an unjust dislike of those of lesser intelligence, as the actions by those who are not as smart seem counterproductive in the mind of the genius, even if they may actually be perfectly rational and reasonable. Smart characters do not generally show this dislike openly, knowing such to be even more counterproductive.
But the true genius goes beyond hiding any such feelings — they overcome them. Rather then shaking their head at others who cannot match their brilliance, they work to elevate them, support them and bring them to their greatest potential. This support is what turns them from exotic geniuses into leaders of men, whom others will follow, exponentially increasing the impact their brilliant minds can have on the world — even if it is not always used for good.
Of course being absolutely brilliant in every way does not mean the character will not have weaknesses. In fact, by the nature of game balance, these characters usually have to be weaker in other area’s, simply to not outshine their peers. Tyrion being vertically challenged, Sherlock Holmes’ addiction to cocaine and even Gandalf’s unwillingness to admit to himself that wizards too may be subject to corruption.
That weakness is something most of these characters are not blind to, as their genius allows them to — sooner or later — figure out their limits. But it is often a piece of reality that is difficult to accept for the genius, as it poses a problem that their brilliant minds cannot solve, and serves as a constant reminder of the limits of their otherwise limitless intelligence.
From an out of game perspective, that same weakness is also what makes relatable and interesting beyond merely being an intellectual power fantasy. Because through their weakness we can see that beyond all that brilliance, they are still human.
Have you ever played a brilliant character? How did that work out, what difficulties did you face and what aspects of them did you enjoy most? We’d love to hear from you on the community forum. While there, be sure to check out this week’s Changelog as well!