Tulpas or Roleplaying?


  • Coder

    Hi all,

    Just a quick background, I knew nothing of what a 'tulpa' or 'tulpamancy' was until an hour ago. If you don't either, this podcast by Gimlet Media has a very personal and informative story on a girl with severe anxiety and depression who went through the process of befriending and creating tulpas. Also, Google.

    https://gimletmedia.com/episode/74-making-friends/

    I'm interested in what separates tulpas from the hoard of characters we all roleplay over the years. Do you hear the voices of your characters commenting on your lives, like tulpas? Is the line between your characters being real and fictional occasionally blurry? Do your characters talk to each other inside your head? Do you ever front and pretend to be your character?

    Personally, I draw the line just short of being convinced my characters are real people, in that they still take up accommodation in my brainspace, but I label that space firmly as 'imagination'. Where do you draw the line?


  • Pitcrew

    @SkinnyThicket This is what happens when people are made to feel uncomfortable about using their imagination. They get this weird pressure for everything to be /real/ and then they wander into an internet echo chamber and there we go



  • I don't know if everyone who believes in this stuff is 'roleplaying'. I know people who believe in real magic. And this is a common discussion on 4chan's Paranormal board, and... the level of 'tinfoil hats' that get into hyper conversations makes me believe that it's something people will believe in. It's origin is in Buddhist mysticism though, so it's not just a made-up thing like Slenderman (well, okay, not just a recent meme thing like Slenderman).

    To me, there are characters that stay 'alive' insofar as I make plans in their headspace and such, but they aren't 'other personalities' and such things like that.


  • Pitcrew

    I will never doubt humanity's current ability to find new cultural niches to explore, many of them I can't feel are created on purpose and there's a lot of sudden awareness campaigns to rush rush rush to convince people it's all normal and cool.

    But just because someone says something is healthy for them doesn't mean it is. It's a little concerning just how much people are receding from each other to connect on a human level, IMO. This practice of creating niche societies that exclude others, surround yourself with people with the same world view, fighting back and forth against a society of people who don't understand the lifestyle decisions you've made because to them it's weird, or closely related to what they know of mental illness?

    When I write a character, I try to make sure the dialogue and action comes through the voice of the character I have in mind, but I don't actually will the character into quasi-existence. I never lose sight of the character being fictional and the moment I start t behave as if I'm giving a fictional character sway over my RL decisions is the moment you all need to tell me to walk away from this hobby.


  • Coder

    @SkinnyThicket

    My characters are alive in my head in the same way that some worlds are alive in my head. They have motivations, internal consistencies, desires, and other things like that.

    I don't believe they are real things outside the construct of my head, no.

    There is this thing I call the "IC/OOC Split", which is the gray area between thinking like your character or not. I can get upset if my character is hurt or abused. This is a sense of ownership that I have, of familiarity, not that this is a living thing that exists through me.

    There is a TED Talk that I wish I could find about the depression that sets in after you're successful. The speaker, who I believe may have been Anne Lamott of Bird By Bird fame, talks about how the Greeks used to have the Muse, and Household Gods, and other such things. These would allow them to externalize their successes and failures, to have a place to put such thoughts that weren't squarely on their own talents. She argues—I believe successfully—that having an external allows us to accept what happens because it's not strictly our fault, nor our responsibility to repeat the act.

    Spirits are nonsense, of course, but so is putting all that pressure on yourself, which was her point. The thought of a "tulpa" is not surprising, and if it helps then that's good. If it hinders then it's not.



  • No.
    My characters do not comment, nor talk to one another.
    However, i also tend to not comment on my own or other's lives internally or externally.



  • I will joke about how some characters become so easy to play that I'm just their typist.

    I don't think that makes them real, or that they have any existence of their own. It just means that whatever their combination of traits is, it's something that comes together well enough, and easily enough, that it's easy to portray without having to consciously think about it.

    I can see how this could lead to someone thinking the character must somehow exist on some level, since it's entirely possible for the character's natural action-reaction flow to surprise me initially -- but that in and of itself isn't something that should surprise us terribly much, collectively, since there are certainly things that get us (the real people) to react suddenly, unconsciously, and without extensive pre-processing in ways that surprise us in the moment, too, and only make sense with later examination and hindsight.


  • Pitcrew

    @Thenomain said in Tulpas or Roleplaying?:

    There is a TED Talk that I wish I could find about the depression that sets in after you're successful. The speaker, who I believe may have been Anne Lamott of Bird By Bird fame, talks about how the Greeks used to have the Muse, and Household Gods, and other such things. These would allow them to externalize their successes and failures, to have a place to put such thoughts that weren't squarely on their own talents. She argues—I believe successfully—that having an external allows us to accept what happens because it's not strictly our fault, nor our responsibility to repeat the act.

    That sounds quite a bit like Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk Your Elusive Creative Genius.

    People believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source, for distant and unknowable reasons. The Greeks famously called these divine attendant spirits of creativity "daemons." Socrates, famously, believed that he had a daemon who spoke wisdom to him from afar.

    The Romans had the same idea, but they called that sort of disembodied creative spirit a genius. Which is great, because the Romans did not actually think that a genius was a particularly clever individual. They believed that a genius was this, sort of magical divine entity, who was believed to literally live in the walls of an artist's studio, kind of like Dobby the house elf, and who would come out and sort of invisibly assist the artist with their work and would shape the outcome of that work.

    So brilliant -- there it is, right there, that distance that I'm talking about -- that psychological construct to protect you from the results of your work. And everyone knew that this is how it functioned, right? So the ancient artist was protected from certain things, like, for example, too much narcissism, right? If your work was brilliant, you couldn't take all the credit for it, everybody knew that you had this disembodied genius who had helped you. If your work bombed, not entirely your fault, you know? Everyone knew your genius was kind of lame.


  • Pitcrew

    I listened to this episode a while ago, and I think there are some similarities:

    a) both Tulpas and RP Chars are made up in human heads.
    b) People in both communities meet and expand their social circles because they are in those communities (some people could argue that our social circles become smaller, too, but debate for another day).

    That's honestly where I see the similarities end. The biggest reason for this is that in the online RP community IC and OOC separation has always been sacred. It's the one thing that we can all agree on. We may have different preferences for where to draw the line with some people preferring a more "immersive" environment while others want more OOC collaboration and cooperation. However, most everyone agrees that when the line between character and self are blurred bad things happen. People get too attached, too possessive. They might be too concerned with winning or pursuing an IC relationship and less concerned with story. Whatever form it takes, drama ends up happening, and so unlike the people in the tulpa community, every RPer I've ever met has actively discouraged this sort of blurring of the lines.


  • Pitcrew

    This seems like the kind of internet echo chamber needing-to-feel-special stuff that leads to Otherkin. Like, someone doesn't feel like they fit in, they find people on the internet with similar feels and a few get this idea that they have animal souls, and it becomes a self-perpetuating thing. It comes from a lot of the weirdness of western culture around imagination and the ways we are allowed to process the human experience, I think, and people who aren't well-adjusted to begin with will take some of this to heart in a very literal way.


  • Coder

    @Karmageddon said in Tulpas or Roleplaying?:

    That sounds quite a bit like Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk Your Elusive Creative Genius.

    People, this is worth listening to, especially for her description of what Karmageddon describes as well as the story about 'Ole!' at the end.

    Thank you for identifying it and thank you even more for quoting the relevant part here. I find this a very compelling argument that externalizing your creativity is not a bad thing.

    Having others to lean on, having real people to connect with, is I think the modern day equivalent of it. There's even a modern theory that says that great ideas practically never come from a single source. Yup, it's another TED Talk: Steven Johnson: Where Good Ideas Come From. Someone has turned this into a brief TV series, not unlike Connections.

    The point I'm making in this thread is that several thinking people seem to say that the less we put everything on ourselves, the more capable we are. The Greeks put this on imaginary entities and culturally accepted it. Johnson is putting this on collaboration. Tulpas? Sure, why not.


    @SkinnyThicket said in Tulpas or Roleplaying?:

    I'm interested in what separates tulpas from the hoard of characters we all roleplay over the years.

    How much stock we put into them. How much life we breathe into them. How much we are inspired at any given moment.

    Do you hear the voices of your characters commenting on your lives, like tulpas?

    No. Never. Sometimes I'll say something like, "Hah, Bob would never fall for this shit!" The character is not me.

    Is the line between your characters being real and fictional occasionally blurry?

    No. Never. But the line between the character not mattering to me and mattering to me, that line blurs all too often.

    I don't think it's healthy, mind. I will (not now, but have, and will probably again soon) quote the edicts of Apocalypse World as ways to help keep the character from getting personal. For instance:

    • Call the character by name.

    Not "me" or "my character", but "Bob". See what happens to Bob. Will Bob survive the firefight? It helps. Oh no, Bob was just ripped apart by werewolves! Laugh, silly Bob.

    Okay, now over here we have Tad....

    Do your characters talk to each other inside your head?

    My RPG PCs? No. Never. My world-building characters? All the time. How would this go down? Let's see if this situation feels real.

    Do you ever front and pretend to be your character?

    No. Never. That sounds to me clinically problematic, and you should probably get help.


  • Pitcrew

    You're welcome, @Thenomain.


  • Pitcrew

    @SkinnyThicket said in Tulpas or Roleplaying?:

    Do your characters talk to each other inside your head? Do you ever front and pretend to be your character?

    I have to plead guilty to this one. But only in the occasion when you meet the drunk guy in the bar that immediately wants to be best friends.
    Other then that not really I mean when I am in the act of playing them I hear their voice in a purely figurative way but never in a they are real sort of way. I will also occasionally have dream where my PCs appear but then I also have dreams where various comic book superheroes appear.


  • Pitcrew

    Was just talking with @surreality about this and i said: The idea of someone OOCly berating me "How dare you treat <insert char name> like that! She has feelings, you know" makes my skin crawl.

    The sheer number of people who MU that treat their characters as an extension of their OOC selves, one-upped a step further to be assumed sentient friends with feelings and human emotions, then inserted into fictitious settings with monsters, character death, and romance?

    NopeNopeNOPEnopeN0pEnopeNOPENOOOOOOPE



  • I think MU* babies are a much better analogue for tulpas in our community, actually. The way that the people who invent them tend to obsess over them (making Wiki shrines, talking about them like real people on OOC channels, celebrating "birthdays") gives them a sort of "life" in a more literal way than people generally mean when they say their character's "muse" is talking.

    Ugh, funny note, even bringing MU* babies up makes me feel sick to my stomach, which is I think a little like what most people mean when they say they're hit by the Uncanny Valley. Something just pings my "Creepy Shit" radar hard about them. I got the same sensation when reading about the modern interpretation of tulpas and tulpamancers; I'd agree that this really feels like an unhealthy practice that verges on encouraging mental illness, but that's just my opinion.

    @Ghost said in Tulpas or Roleplaying?:

    Was just talking with @surreality about this and i said: The idea of someone OOCly berating me "How dare you treat <insert char name> like that! She has feelings, you know" makes my skin crawl.

    The sheer number of people who MU that treat their characters as an extension of their OOC selves, one-upped a step further to be assumed sentient friends with feelings and human emotions, then inserted into fictitious settings with monsters, character death, and romance?

    NopeNopeNOPEnopeN0pEnopeNOPENOOOOOOPE

    WELCOME TO THE UNCANNY VALLEEEYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY



  • alt text

    Welcome to the Valley, I am so sure!


  • Pitcrew

    What is a MU* baby?

    I mean, I talk about my characters in the third person as a way to distance myself from them, not as a way to give them agency. JFC.



  • @Misadventure Apropos of nothing, I always wanted to make an Uncanny Valley-themed Nosferatu, somewhere, down to the perfect symmetry problem.


  • Admin

    @Ghost said in Tulpas or Roleplaying?:

    The sheer number of people who MU that treat their characters as an extension of their OOC selves, one-upped a step further to be assumed sentient friends with feelings and human emotions, then inserted into fictitious settings with monsters, character death, and romance?

    I don't know about the number - it's possible we suffer from selective bias since we obviously notice only the weirdo cases.

    However you're quite correct in that it's the lack of awareness regarding the OOC/IC line combined with a complete disregard for the fact it's strife and challenges that make characters fun that's causing a chronic issue in games, lack of good ol' fashioned IC antagonism. I am not even talking about player-versus-player, and not even about the non-violent aspect of it, but any antagonism as expressed in the vague possibility bad things could happen to someone's PC, or that the PC might be taken out of their element, derailed from the path they were on or diverted from one course of action toward another.

    None of us would probably keep read a book or watch a movie about people whose lives are perfectly functional and who're quite happy with their lives but it seems some want to play Mary Sues of exactly that kind, and who'll respond very negatively to staff, STs or heavens forbid, other PCs from messing up their perfect existences. Which means the rest of the players get conditioned to tread very carefully indeed just in case we invoke someone's wrath since no one wants to have to deal with that; run a plot about a sub-faction trying to block the Consilium votes that's being roleplayed about or an NPC pack entreating on a fresh PC pack's territory and suddenly it's flame on.

    I don't get that. Dude, if your pack's stuff is never threatened it's literally worthless.



  • @tek said in Tulpas or Roleplaying?:

    What is a MU* baby?

    The fictional spawn of two PCs. I don't know how common taking it to that extreme actually is but I've run into it a few times on different games.


  • Pitcrew

    @Wizz I never realized people got that weird about it. But it's the Internet. I shouldn't be so naive.


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