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Made in us
Battlefield Tourist


Greetings all,

I wanted to spend some time talking about some tips and tricks for creating a "character" and not just a stat sheet in your various RPG games. The below is a technique that I use that has helped me make a lot of consistent, memorable characters for various RPG games that does not involve a silly voice (although those help, I just can not do them myself).

To start with, I build a personality by drawing a triangle in the notes section of my character sheet. I then right three different personality words on each side of the triangle. Anything a character says should somehow reflect one of these three words, or a combination of these words. To be extra fun, make two words align and the third be an opposite.

Once I have the Personality Triangle, I then write down a small section of the characters Quirks, Eccentricities, and/or Habits. These include any mannerisms, verbal ticks, or other unique things that help a character stand out. Typically, try not to do more than 1-3 of these as you do not want your character to be constant caricature or pratfall. Typically, these are bullet points only.

Next, I jot down the character's rooting interest. This is why other players or viewers would actually cheer or care about this character. What makes them relatable and grounded to the other players (not necessarily the other characters).

You may notice that none of this has anything to do with a backstory per se. Instead, it aligns more around how your character acts and interacts with others. This may flow from their backstory, but is not related to it.

Finally, if I will be playing this character for a long time, I will try to develop a Character Arc. This is what the character needs to learn or Dwarf fighter with the Defensive fighting style, good strength, low int, and low cha. Basically your standard archetype dwarf tank.

Dwarf Tank Guy-
Triangle= Loyal, Bitter, and Practical
Quirks and habits= Enjoys poetry and songs, but does not sing/rhyme themselves. Abstains from drink and smoke. Likes to smell good and be practically groomed/dressed.
Rooting Interest= Does not leave a friend in the lurch
Character Arc= Be able to share his feelings beyond the bitter/practical exterior.

There you have it. A very short sketch of a character, that allows Role-play and interactions with my fellow players and lets me get beyond caricature even when using a common archetype. With this technique, i can walk up to any character sheet and within minutes have an actual character in action.

Now, of course these can be added to or adjusted during play, but this is the bones to get you going and into the shared RP experience to build off of.

Are there little tips, tricks, or technique you use to build a character and not just a Stat Sheet in your RPG games?

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/04/14 16:15:56

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Made in de
Pyromaniac Hellhound Pilot

Something I always found helpful was to take the time to really think through the questions:
Why am I adventuring/participating in this mission?
What do I want to achieve in life?
What am I willing to do for that/where is the moral line I'm not (yet) willing to cross?

Especially the latter two overlap a bit with your point about character arc and it tends to get very interesting when these goals and lines shift.

A gaming buddy has a list with some hundred adjectives/characteristics like "talkative, open minded, shy, authoritarian, conservative" etc., positive ones as well as negative. Starting a characters he goes through and remove every entry he doesn't imagine in his character. What remains "is" the character. It's interesting because it kind of forces you to think about characters traits you might not immediatly have thought about. I tried it one timeand was pretty satisfied, for example identifying that my character was kind of conflict-shy in a sense of looking away if comrades acted against his moral compass to preserve groups harmony which helped giving him more character in game.

Another thing that helps me flesh things out is to think about how life has treated my characters so far and how that would have shaped this character.
Here an example was a young knight I created for a Fantasy setting were doing that let me realize that he had been at war practically from being 12 years onwards (the age young squires are first "allowed" to fight in battles) and had witnessed bis beloved country going from peaceful to beleagured warlord country. He has seen some really nasty stuff going on on both (or lets say all) sites. For him that lead to a struggle to keep to his knightly vows (in a sense of the typical white Knight from fairy tales) because deep down he was afraid that when he started to compromise it would be the start to also go to this really dark place. It was a really enjoyable character because he had his inner deamons and dark spots in his past but clung on to an ideal that was kind of outdated and impossible to fully achieve.

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2021/04/14 16:43:32

~5750 build and painted 
Made in pl
Regular Dakkanaut

Have objectives you want to achieve actively. Ask yourself "what would my character do if there was no scenario?" Would they just sit doing nothing/enjoy status quo? Wrong!

An active character is much more interesting than a passive one. Note that being active means agency and initiative.

Imagine that the next scenario starts like that: "You sit and nothing is happening. What do you do?" How would you, the player, push the story forward from such a beginning?

For example if your character's aim is to find the Crown of Command, pursuing rumours of the Crown of Command that GM prepared isn't really active, there's no interesting choice there, it's kind of obvious you will do that! How would your character act, what he/she would start doing to find the Crown with ZERO incentive from your GM? Would they abandon the quest for the Crown if GM gave them no hooks whatsoever? That's bad! Have your character do things because they want, not because the scenario gives them an opportunity to do them.

Think of interesting characters in books, who find things to strive for and overcome problems on the way through their own initiative and agency, not because the tides of fate throw them first one way, than another.

For example characters from Ken Follet's Kingsbridge books. First they ON THEIR OWN come up with what they want to achieve, then come up with ways (successful and not so much) of achieving that. A GM in their case would only be necessary for throwing some spanners in the works of the story they are writing for themselves.

This message was edited 3 times. Last update was at 2021/04/14 17:43:19

Made in us
Shadowy Grot Kommittee Memba

Also, please for the love of god, take a quick moment and write out "why would the remaining members of my party want to keep my character around if there wasn't an out-of-universe reason why I'm here?"

Chaotic Stupid characters, Obviously Evil Edgy The Jokers, Squintuple Crossing Backstabbers and Lawful Stupid Stick 50 Miles Up Their Butt Puritans would all basically get left by the wayside the first major time they make life miserable for the rest of their party.

I've read lots of character summaries from people who probably think theyre being super clever and original like 'oh and also they think everyone should love them, and they KILL anyone who doesn't say that they love them!'

If you find yourself wanting to go for a character with the energy of some famous cinematic anti-hero - a Harley Quinn or Jack Sparrow or Han Solo or something - make sure that you also come up with good, compelling aspects of that character that make them fun for the other people at the table to interact with, and not just fun for you to play. If you're constantly forcing both your GM and your fellow players into the role of straight man for your character's hashtag zany antics, people aren't going to have a great time.

"I can't believe all these tryhard WAACs out there just care about winning all the time when it's supposed to be a game for fun!!!!!!! Also here's my 27 page essay on why marines are OP and Orkz should get a bunch of OP rules so I can win more games


Made in us
Battlefield Tourist


Good contributions folks! Thanks.

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Made in gb
Last Remaining Whole C'Tan

I’ve always gone with character concept, then select skills from there.

I find it makes for a more interesting game, as I’m playing through the story, not playing the system.

Likewise I’m gearing up to run my own Vampire game. As part of that, I’ve asked my would-be troupe to come up with their characters, and I’ll build the chronicle around them.

After all, if I start planing an intrigue heavy game, and they’ve gone for bruisers, it’ll feel disjointed. If I’ve got a decent mix of clever and fighty, I’ll need to plan around that, so nobody feels overly sidelined.

Fed up of Scalpers? But still want your Exclusives? Why not join us?

Pfizer vaccine administered 13:40pm 18 Feb 21. Still no second head. Second jab 13:35pm 6 May 2021. At the Masonic Hall. 
Made in pl
Regular Dakkanaut

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrkY3WrJ_v8 - a good video for creating characters for novels. A nice simple rule they give is ARCS

Atractive Quality
Room for Growth
Clear Goals
Something to Lose

They also mentione what I said earlier - being an active character. Let the character be the driver of the story, not a passenger.
Made in fi
Longtime Dakkanaut

Cyel wrote:
Have objectives you want to achieve actively. Ask yourself "what would my character do if there was no scenario?" Would they just sit doing nothing/enjoy status quo? Wrong!

An active character is much more interesting than a passive one. Note that being active means agency and initiative.

Imagine that the next scenario starts like that: "You sit and nothing is happening. What do you do?" How would you, the player, push the story forward from such a beginning?

This is pretty good advice. If my character doesn't get an intense subplot, I often try to build little something going for him. Trying to find something, running a small business, helping or searching for family etc. I have found most gm's respond well to that as they tend to like that people get involved in the world they have built instead of passively following arrows and cutscenes.

Overall, I always create a character concept around which I start building the mechanical side of character (abilities, stats, equipment etc). Most people seem to do other way around. However I do not use a 'formula' for the character building. I have tried, but it didn't really work for me. I felt the characters became too 'lego-like' if that makes sense. I do not mind if some aspects of the character remain 'blank' immediately after creation, if the basic concept is sound, they will fill themselves pretty quickly.

I always start with a nucleus of a concept, origin of which varies. Often I'm inspired by piece of artwork, literature or even music. I do not try to make copies of existing literary characters though. Sometimes the inspiration comes from a rules concept or character building option. If nothing else, I might just roll the stats (if the system has random stats) and see what I could do with them. For example once I rolled up a character with high Strength and Charisma, but other stats were crap. I could have swapped the stats to find some 'optimal build' but I decided to keep them as they were. So my character was defined by his physical strength and charisma, which had made things easy for him. He could always smash or suave himself out of situations. Basically he was like a schoolyard bully, and he went headlong into situations fully expecting himself to came out top, because he always had before. This made him pretty fun to play and annoyance to other characters who kept waiting for him to get his comeuppance, but he never did.

Other time I decided I want to make a Witch as I had never tried it before. I thought about, what is a Witch? Well, deep down, Witches can't do magic on their own so they make pacts with dangerous entities to gain powers. After this the character wrote herself. She was a half-elf adopted by magically proficient Elven family, but without innate magical gift herself. Jealous of her siblings, she was lured by a powerful Fey Queen who granted her powers, all she had to do were little services here & there...her family was of course aghast.

Sometimes I have a contradiction built into my characters: they appear like they should be something obvious, but they're not. Perhaps my favourite RPG character ever was my L5R Shugenja, Iuchi Kimiko. Inspiration came from the book 'The Miko'. I wanted to do a Shugenja who was slightly into dark stuff, and was master manipulator. Now, obvious thing would have been a Scorpion Shugenja. But that was too straightforward. Also the campaign took place right after the Coup, making Scorpion somewhat laborous to play. Instead, I took 'Different Schools' advantage and wrote that she was an exchange student to Scorpion shugenja school, and was graduated right before the Coup. This naturally gave her Bad Reputation disadvantage. I rounded it up by giving her Epilepsy and Maid Servant (to protect her reputation in male company, and help her during epileptic fits).

Now, here we have Kimiko - petite, attractive, excellent knowledge of etiquette and court intrigue. But from NPC's perspective, she has tons of red flags: magic-users are distrusted, her epilepsy is surely a sign of some curse or something, and she was trained by Scorpions! So why would anyone associate with her? Well, they have to - the Unicorn don't have many other people good in the art of Rokugani diplomacy. Also, it's one thing to whisper around things in private, but it would be wholly another to start throwing accusations without any actual proof, especially as Kimiko is so well versed in etiquette, always supremely polite and eloquent, her behaviour faultless. So nobody wants to marry her, her plans are constantly undermined by generic distrust towards her, but officially, as long as she isn't caught red-handed (cough) everyone has to treat her by face value; a respected, high-ranking member of the Clan.
As our GM was good at building intrigues and throwing NPC's at us, she was tremendously fun to play. In retrospect, I maybe even made her too complicated, as sometimes she would hog up nearly all screentime, with the Bushi characters reduced to her henchmen. But if you had said that aloud, she would have argued that it was logical and inevitable that she was in charge.

Mr Vetock, give back my Multi-tracker! 
Made in us
Member of the Ethereal Council


This is part of why I like L5R's 20 questions game version of character creation. It's lengthy, you can't make a character fast, but if you want to make a deep character you probably shouldn't be making it fast anyway.

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