Creating a Character with Character

This is an Article from Dragon Magazine No. 208, Issued in August of ’94, its was written by Dale O’Donovan and I think it brings up some interesting ideas………….

The way I see it, two things should happen when a player rolls up a new character for a role-playing game. The first is .character creation, where you generate the numbers that define the abilities, skills, advantages, and weaknesses of the character. This process is governed by the rules system you’re using.

The second process is the one I’m going to discuss here the process of constructing a character, i.e., a person, around those numbers. Let’s assume you’ve just generated a character’s statistics. It makes no difference for my purpose what those numbers are or what game you’re playing. Whenever I want to uncover information on a new or unknown topic (such as a newly created RPG character), I fall back on what I learned in my journalism classes.

Journalists ask six basic questions: Who, what, when, where, why, and how. You can construct a strong, solid PC by asking these same questions about your character.

 

Who?

Asking who or whom questions about your character helps define her personality the kind of person she is by identifying the people (other characters in this case) around her. Defining who the character is includes determining such aspects as:

  • Who are the character’s most common foes?
  • Who started the character on the road to being an adventurer?
  • Who were the character’s parents?
  • Who were her childhood friends?
  • Who are her current enemies?
  • Whom (if anyone) does the character work for?
  • Whom does the character love?
  • Whom does she hate?
  • Whom does she trust?
  • Whom does she talk to when she is upset?

This type of question can define not only the PC, but also some of the NPCs that inhabit the campaign setting

 

What?

Questions in this category determine more about the character’s life. They determine his history and current status. The game system determines what the character’s skills and so forth are, but a character is more than just a list of statistics. Remember that within the context of the game, the character likely has lived most of his life as a normal person for that game’s setting.

  • What did he do for a living before he became an adventurer?
  • What prompted the character to become an adventurer?

Other questions can be much simpler.

  • What colour is the character’s hair? What Style is it?
  • What colour are his eyes?
  • What colour is his skin?
  • What is the character’s age?
  • What does he do in his free time that is, when he’s not out saving the world as a heroic adventurer?
  • What skills does the character possess that aren’t quantified in the game?  
  • What are the characters favourite foods, music, and books?
  • What are his personality quirks?
  • What are the character’s ethnic, educational, and social backgrounds?
  • What does the PC do when he’s alone?

 

When?

These questions provide a time frame for the PC and for many of the questions in the other sections. When was the character born?

  • When did the PC decide to take up the adventuring life?
  • When did the PC arrive in the campaign city (starship, military base, planet, detective agency, plane of existence, etc.)?
  • When does the character get up in the morning?
  • When does she go to bed?
  • When does she practice her skills?
  • When does she visit her family and friends?
  • When did the character meet the other PCs?

 

Where?

Answers to the questions in this category gives the character locations for the events of his life. They provide a home and an anchor for a character.

  • Where was the character born?
  • Where was he raised?
  • Where does the character live when he’s not on the road adventuring?
  • Where does he practice his special talents?
  • Where did he learn his adventuring talents?
  • Where did the character go on his last vacation?
  • Where is his favourite restaurant?

 

Why?

This probably is the most important category for your PC. These questions define the PC’s motivation, and the character’s commitment to doing the right thing.

  • Why did the character first decide to become a hero?
  • Why is she laying her life on the line to help people she doesn’t even know?
  • Why bother? Why not use her abilities to become a wealthy criminal or a famous celebrity instead?
  • Why is the character in the campaign’s locale now?
  • Why does the character work with other PCs?
  • Why does the PC use the weapons she does?
  • Why did the PC choose to use (and improve) the skills she does?

 

How?

These questions round out many of the topics and issues brought up in earlier categories.

  • How did the character gain his weapons, fighting skills, or that scar on his right cheek?
  • How does the character use his abilities (silly stunts, combat tactics, etc.)?
  • How does the character pass the time between adventures?
  • How does he dress when he’s not in his adventuring gear?
  • How does the character get around every day (horse, aircar, superpowers, etc.)?
  • How does the character maintain a normal life and still find time to be an adventurer?

The questions listed here are just samples; they only scratch the surface of constructing a character. You can go into as much depth as you like. Some of these questions may seem minor, but they are intended to get players and GMs thinking about aspects of their characters lives not normally considered.

You needn’t ask these questions in the order presented. Find an interesting topic and use all the categories to pursue that topic to its conclusion. If you’re having problems thinking of questions, explain this system to your gaming group. Then, have the GM go around the gaming table firing questions at the players after the characters. Statistics have been created, but before the campaign actually begins.

Players can ask each other questions as well. If the GM allows it, players can help out one another with suitable answers if one player draws a blank on a particular question about his PC. The GM should keep control of this type of this brainstorming session so that the characters do not evolve in a direction inconsistent with the campaign the GM has devised. (A note to GMs: Don’t pass up a good idea that’ll add fun and flavour to the campaign simply because you didn’t think of it. After all, it’s the players campaign as well.) With both the character creation and construction processes complete, the players and GM now are ready to begin the real fun: the game!

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