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How to make your best RPG characters
How to make your best RPG characters
There are some role players that know exactly what they want. They want to play a gnome barbarian in every game ever. For the rest of us, what follows are tips to creating great characters: the ones you remember and can tell stories about.
Finding a concept: all of my favorite characters have had a strong concept, an idea that made them fun even from the very beginning. I don’t always have a great concept when I make a character. But with persistence I sometimes hit something that clicks. The first rule of finding that concept has been:
Try Again Again. You’re not going to find character gems without trying something new. Starting a new game, whether it be as a new faction, new world, new gaming universe, or even a new gaming group, gives you the best time to sit down and work on making a character. Sometimes campaigns go on forever and the lethality is abysmally low. The game master might be unwilling to kill party members that are beloved by players. In such cases, retire characters or conspire with your game master to kill your current character. Anything that brings you back to the drawing board.
My favorite characters are one of a kind, and here are the concepts that brought them to fruition. (Note, as I've played a lot of games, you might not be familiar with the gaming systems I've played. Check my out http://hubpages.com/hub/Role-Playing-Systems for more information.)
Give characters some unique ability/unusual character flaw. One of my best characters (from Mage the Ascension) was Melanie Crow Dog. In Mage humans have avatars. When those avatars awake a person realizes reality can be melded and becomes a mage. The concept for Melanie was that she awoke so early that she had no memory of mundane (non magic) existence. This of course gave her all sorts of quirks and got her in a lot of trouble.
Take a stereotype and either mangle it or do it over the top. When players have characters that smoke, they tend to overuse prop cigarettes. So I got the idea for Mouse Trap as a chain smoker. Not the kind that constantly relied on a toy cigarette, but the kind that packed prop cigarette boxes. This behavior developed because she was a natural tweaker who only spent a few hours in bed and smoking was the only thing that calmed her down. Hence she became stubborn and brilliant.
Take a different outlook. Usually when a character’s concerns are getting drunk, killing people, and having sex, the player is usually immature. One of my favorite characters, Julius Serpentis, was an exception, a druid that looked at life and death were just part of a natural cycle. He had no problems with murder and actively sought sex (though he didn’t drink because alcohol is a poison). It was surprisingly pleasant to play someone who was a little sleazy and who often cared more about sex than the mission.
Try a radically different game. One of my favorite characters, Pond-R-EER, came from a role playing universe like any other, Paranoia. Paranoia does things almost the exact opposite of typical games. It encourages back stabbing, ignominious deaths, summary executions, etc. and it gives you multiple lives (clones) because the environment is so unfair and lethal (characters often die before even receiving mission instructions). In such an environment, I wanted to see what it would be like to play a completely incompetent character (the lost thing I’d do in any other game). It was fun to see just how dumb I could make Pond.
Try a new gaming group. This is the most dangerous of strategies but can yield fantastic results. People do not necessarily play role playing games for the same reasons you do. As a role player, I liking pretending I’m someone else who has problems of his own. Some people love the opportunity to enter a world where there are no consequences to their actions (getting drunk and laid usually). Others like combat and the anticipation that comes with a die roll. If you enter a group playing for an entirely different reason than your own, it can be agonizing, like the time I played in a “get drunk and kill people” party. On the other hand, things can be refreshingly different. One group I had great fun with had huge intraparty conflicts and character deaths were common. In other groups my party has all worked together on something. That’s certainly a change. The one thing I would suggest is that you not burn the bridges behind you. It helps to have your old group if different groups are unsuccessful.
In summary. Finding an interesting concept for a character is not always easy, especially if you like every character to be different. Persist, however. Think of some unusual personality characteristic, play with stereotypes, rethink your gaming style, try new games and if all that doesn’t do it for you, think about changing groups. A favorite character is well worth the effort.