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    submitted 12 November 2005 @ 14:24
    edited 14 November 2005 @ 03:29

Character Development

Article written by GGD
Rating: Very Good (4) (4 rating, 5 ratings)

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One of the things that I have found most enjoyable in my role-playing experiences is making a new character. Many people look at a character sheet as a collection of stats, abilities and gear. I look at it as a chance to develop a story that will grow with me, and I think that many people could find their role-playing enriched by spending some initial time on character development.

A large part of a character's persona is going to be shaped by your choices of race, gender, and class. Certain personality and physical traits are more common depending on these choices, though it is often fun to play a character who goes against the stereotypes. This can create it's own host of good RP opportunities as your character tries to overcome various biases about what they "should" be.

As to the rest, all it takes is some willingness to invest time and creativity in the process. To begin with, think about the physical traits that make your character unique. Most character sheets, for most role-playing systems, have spaces for age, height, weight, hair, and eye colors, but that isn't really a detailed description. Ideally, you should be able to describe your character physically in as much detail as you could describe anyone significant in your life.

Next, think about your character's back story. This is the part of the process that provides the material for nearly all of the rest of it. Your character's personality is almost certain to have been strongly influenced by past experiences and choices. What kind of family and environment did your character grow up in? Is your character close with his/her family, or distant, or even hostile? Does your character have a husband/wife/lover/son/daughter?

If you happen to know the calender system for the campaign you are playing in, give your character a specific birthdate. Ask your DM to fill you in on any major historical events that were going on during the period of your character's childhood, since these will almost certainly have had a big impact on your character's upbringing and outlook. Just as in our world, war and peace, prosperity and poverty, health and plague all shape the way we live, and leave particularly strong marks on impressionable youths.

Next flesh out your character's associates in your mind. What kind of people does he/she call friend? What are the traits/values your character respects the most? What traits/values does your character most despise? Who are your allies and enemies? Why does your character feel as they do toward them? Are your character's feelings based in idealogy, or is it more personal?

The next stage is to consider motivation and ambitions. What drives your character? What virtues/vices most clearly define their morality? Perhaps your character is greedy, or selfish. Or maybe your character is an altruist, ever thoughtful of the needs of others. Most characters, of course, are neither pure black nor pure white; figure out where on the spectrum your character stands, and why.

The last part is optional, but can be a lot of fun: idiosyncracies. What unique personality traits does your character have that others find amusing/charming/irritating/worthy of killing you over? Perhaps your character is a flatterer, a bigot, or maybe shy, or very exuberant and social. One of my personal favorites is the "mildly crazy" type... You know, harmless, but nuttier than a jar of Jiffy. Always fun to RP, and often of great value as comic relief when being stared down by a seemingly unbeatable foe...

Of course, most characters evolve over time, and what your character is like five or ten game sessions from now may be nothing like who you started out with. This is a good thing; it lends verisimilitude to the campaign, and allows players to feel that their characters can grow. Don't be afraid to take things in a new direction if circumstances seem to warrant it. Often, the result will be a fantastic opportunity to expand your horizons as a player.

I hope that this article has served to spark your creativity, and to make you think of new paths to take your characters down. As someone who loves role-playing, I believe that it is made even better by having a character that you know as well as you know yourself. Not just for you, but for the other players and the DM as well. It just helps to enrich the entire experience. Happy gaming!

-GGD strikes again!-



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