Looking over my history of posts I make and post specific builds for characters. What I haven’t done is help someone, new or old, really make a character for themselves. Even for the humor focused games, the player needs to see themselves in the position of their character. Using the builds here doesn’t help in this aspect as it’s like reading a Resume. You get the general idea of the person who wrote it but that doesn’t mean you really understand where they come from. So for my next series of posts I will be going over how to make your own characters in specific systems. Though to start it off, I wanted to cover a few key points that go across any game you might play.
How serious do you want to be? The goal of any hobby is Fun and for each person that can be widely different. Even then, you have to take into consideration your group as a whole as this isn’t a one man party. Choose your character details so that they will keep you entertained the entire campaign while not annoying your friends (too much). Just be aware that picking a silly name or background can become stale as it wears thin over a few sessions. At the same time, it can become a defining factor of your entire personal plot in the game.
Concept is the most important factor to deciding details and backgrounds. How or when it is decided can happen at any point in the creation process though the earlier the better. At this point you just want to pick a Theme that can be as short as one word and up to a full sentence. Even if you have no clue yet on how the mechanics work, all you need to start is a basic idea of the basic World of a system. Fitting a Cop into a Fantasy game doesn’t really work, though a City Guard would. Already with just that you likely know you are a fighter type character (knight/fighter/barbarian/etc). You can expand on that concept with descriptions like “Alcoholic” or “Shady” to expand on what kind of Guard you are. Taking that up to a full sentence can bring out all the more. “George was a City Gaurdsman who was kicked out for Shady habits and forced to take up Mercenary work.” This might lead to a more stealthy combat character, possibly a split Rogue/Fighter, that is working for personal greed or just plain laziness.
The Truths that binds the Lies. Writing and playing a character takes some imagination to place yourself into that person’s shoes. The primary factor that can assist or break immersion is your own experience. Small details brought from your personal background gives life to the characters you play. It is difficult but not impossible to play a role you have little knowledge about. Having a young player (pre-driver’s license) choose a Professional Stunt Driver makes for a dissonant game as realism has to be put on hold for any Car Chase that might come up. This isn’t a perfect example as younger groups would tend to the silly side of things and suspension of realism isn’t a big deal. But the more you add to a character you can’t see yourself doing, the more difficult it will become to play.
From here it gets down to each game’s mechanics. “The Devil is in the Details” as they say but hopefully this will get you started. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do.