Whether its your first roleplaying game or your millionth, you’re still going to need to come up with a character concept and sometimes that can be hard. Creating believable, interesting characters who can play nicely with the other party members is a challenge, but one that can be very rewarding if tackled. That’s where I come in, I’m going to break everything down into a nice, simple step by step process to creating your character. To demonstrate I’m going to follow along, making a new character.
Alignment isn’t normally the first thing people think about when making a character, but in a lot of cases it should be. Alignment is basically the believe system of the character boiled down into a few words. Generally speaking, roleplaying games use the old 3×3 alignment grid from Dungeons and Dragons, sort of like pictured above. The reason that people should think about alignment earlier in the character creation process than they tend to is because it effects party dynamic. It also can matter if the GM has disallowed certain alignments. If you decide you’re going to create a chaotic evil character in the same party as a lawful good character, it may not end well. I’m not saying that all the characters should be the same exact alignment, but try to be nearby or at least capable of getting along. In a lot of systems, a lawful good character such as a paladin can’t knowingly be in the same party as an evil aligned character.
DEMO: Well, lets say that my hypothetical GM isn’t disallowing any alignments, but told me that one of the other players usually players paladins. I tend to like a bit of chaos in my actions so I’ll go with chaotic good.
Concept is basically what you want your character to be. This can include race and class, or could just be an archetypal idea. Archetypes are things like undead destroying paladin or snooty elven noble, or things like thief who grew up on the streets and just suddenly developed magic. Despite the fact that this is more or less a one-line description, this is the step you should spend the most time on. In most cases, the concept is the character and if it isn’t something you’ll enjoy then you should just keep trying this step until you make something you do like.
Now, look at your concept. Does it work well with a team? If it can be described like the picture below, the answer is probably no. Your character should be good at some things, bad at others and have character flaws. And most importantly, take a good long look at your character concept and make sure you actually want to play this. There are some character concepts that sound really great on paper but turn out to not be so awesome after all. As tempting as it can be, I highly suggest having freewill and all of your limbs.
DEMO: So, I’m chaotic good. I think a good concept would be a wood elf who has never met anyone but other wood elves before coming to this city where they meet the party. This leads for great roleplaying potential, and it also means that I can play them as curious and somewhat naive.
Motivation is just as important as concept, but in a different way. Motivation is what your character does what they do. And here comes the thing I have watched singlehandedly destroy roleplaying games. Why does your character adventure? A lot of people don’t think about this little detail and it results in characters who seem to be dragged through adventures, really making no progress. If a character has no reason to be adventuring, or maybe wants to get home, when they get a chance to return to their normal life, it makes no sense not to take it. So make sure your character wants to be exploring the world or has some other goal that can’t be reached by sitting at home.
DEMO: A chaotic good wood elf who has never left the forest is what I’ve built so far. Lets add in some motivation. First I need to decide why they left the forest. The easiest motivation to go with is that the little elf was bored and curious and wants to see new things. To add to it, elves are a long lived race with very little adventure, so maybe this elf heard stories about human adventures and wanted to go have some of their own.
4. Flesh Out the Details
So now you have your base concept. the next step is to fill in anything you missed. Remember, this isn’t about creating a character sheet, that comes later and might involve numbers. This is just the matter of creating a character. Where were they born? Are they from this world? Who are their parents? Do they know their parents? Are you already friends with people in the party? This is also the part where you come up with their name, and maybe appearance if you want. This is the where all the fun fiddly bits come in where you really get to decide that maybe your character really likes cheese or doesn’t like spiders come in.
I hope this helped you in your efforts to create fun and interesting characters that your party (and you) will enjoy. Have any advice you’d like to share or stories you’d like to tell? Feel free to leave a comment!