What IS this thing, exactly?
At its base, a Persona is the crystallized set of urges, drives and impulses that your character possesses – he or she is a direct reflection of the most powerful facet of your character, what truly represents your character for who he or she really is. Beyond that, however, a Persona is also an “archetype” – that is, a collection of symbolic ideas pertaining to a particular set of beliefs dedicated by the collective human consciousness. World literature and lore is populated by figures that represent something – Personae are similar to them, in that fashion.
If this analogy doesn’t quite make sense, let’s bring psychology back into the equation. Freud speaks of the Ego, the Id, and the Superego. Your character is the Ego. Your Persona is your Id and Superego, combined.
Of course, the “human” aspect of your Persona is your character herself, since your Persona was born from your character. It does not, however, possess any of the contradictions of thought and feeling that your character possesses, and, as stated in previous sections, “lives” to act according to the rules and stipulations of what it represents. That, in turn, is governed by its Arcana.
At the end of the day, a Card and her Persona are like two souls dwelling in the same psychic space, made up of exactly the same stuff – one merely represents a different side of the other at its “highest” and “finest” point without the limitations of the physical mind and body, including the burden of contradictory urges and feelings.
Holy shit, it’s talking!
That’s right: a Card’s Persona is just as sentient as she is, and she/he/it has her/his/its own personality, one that is similar at base with the character handling him/her/it, but otherwise has the potential to be perfectly complimentary at best, or completely contradictory at worst.
Cards can communicate with their Persona anytime, anywhere – they can speak out loud, or through telepathy, or however they fancy. Of course, picking the method that their Persona prefers helps a lot more… there are some Cards, for example, who literally exchange notes, e-mails, or SMS messages with their “other selves”.
Keeping an open line of communication between a Card and his or her Persona is paramount, as the dedicated section on Synergy and Apathy will illustrate.
HOW COME THAT DUDE HAS A PERSONA JUST LIKE MINE?!
Remember: inasmuch as a Persona is your character’s “other self”, it is still something MORE than that, something partially wrought by the infinity of knowledge and experience on the plane of the collective human consciousness. As such, it is archetypal. As a result of that, it is only natural that Persona initially take on the forms of characters and figures from world literature, folklore, and mythology. Gods and goddesses, angels and demons, sacred beasts and sinister monsters, heroes and villains and innocent bystanders… they take upon the names and forms of things imbued with real power, power brought about by centuries of human thought.
It is in the build and the individual makeup of their human halves that one “similar” Persona can differ from another. Just because you’ve got two Cards calling upon Demeter, for example, doesn’t mean that both Goddesses of Fertility can do exactly the same thing. Their personalities may be different as well.
But I wanna make up my own persona!
Not happening. A Card’s initial psychic burst following his or her Return takes upon whatever form best suits the immediacy of the moment – hence, an archetypal figure that fits the bill…
…But if we set the Storytelling explanation aside, let’s be practical: your ST is the one who assigns your character’s Arcana according to the background you’ve given her, your character’s first death, and your character’s actions during his or her Pilgrimage. It’s impossible to generate an individual Persona on the fly, and it’s probably best not to since your character will inevitably grow.
It is also for that reason – character growth – that it isn’t initially possible. The option to tailor one’s Persona and recreate it into something else – something uniquely the players – presents itself later, after the player’s character has grown into his or her role better, and synchronized more fully with his or her Persona, thus initiating an exchange of knowledge between the two halves in question. The Card comes to understand his Persona better, and the Persona, in turn, imbibes more and more of his summoner’s traits: this exchange often ends in the birth of a new creature altogether, something both perfectly unique but distinctly archetypal.
So these guys evolve? Like Pokemon?
Yes and no. The growth of a Persona depends on a number of factors: how well its Card has come to understand its purpose (and the Arcana it embodies), how “synchronized” a user is with his Persona, and if conditions are met in-game. The “conditions”, of course, could also be a number of things: significant in-game events, points of resolution within the character’s life, overcoming personal trials, surviving otherwise traumatic circumstances… the list goes on.
Of course, such a thing doesn’t happen automatically, and it does require your ST’s discretion. Coordinate with her on what you want. Prepare to be surprised. Your character’s Persona may grow on its own, without your character realizing it until something actually happens.
Your Persona may also end up becoming another creature entirely, if your Triumph changes.
Storytelling Systems pertaining to Persona can be found here.