Welcome fellow adventurers! Let’s take the process of on creating characters a bit further.

In the last article we discussed length, breadth, depth, convergence, and divergence and how those qualities affect character. Now we will discuss some of those qualities in a bit more detail.

Details, details, details…

To create deeper characters, first you need to ask yourself what is it I really want to create? Sure, you can start with the broad categories like race and class but ultimately it comes down to making the character more like a person. Background, personality, appearance, objectives, and connections are the principal areas in detailing a character. I am not saying that everything needs to be filled out, as some things might not be important to your character, but these broad sections at least give you some food for thought.

Background

Background is possibly the most important part of the creation process as it defines the bedrock upon which the character is built. Some questions to ponder:.

  • Celtic tree of life, illustration of YggdrasilCulture – What was the culture you were born into and, especially if you grew up in a different environment than your parents did, how did that affect you? What customs did you grow up with naturally and which ones did you adopt? What was happening in the region surrounding you during your earlier life? Are you a blending of cultures? Did your family move a lot?
  • Family – What were your parents/guardians and siblings like? What is your birth order? Do or did you have children? What about other relatives? How do you get along with your family? What is the current status of your family? Do you intend on settling down? Are there any family secrets? Were you or any member of your family legitimate, bastards, or adopted? Where you an orphan? What tragedies occurred?
  • Home – Where are the places that you grew up,? What was your family status (wealth, social, and standing)? Do you have a home of your own currently? Were your parents of the same status and how did that affect your upbringing?
  • Adolescence – What were you like? Did you have any great friends or enemies? What memorable events happened? Did you learn any skills as a child? Did you have security and stability as a youth?
  • Professional History – What were your previous paths (careers)? How did you get into your current path (for fantasy the main castes are Warrior, Clergy, Sorceror [sic], Brigand, Ascetic)? How did you get training? Was any of the above difficult or easy, and have you done anything that is notable career-wise yet? Was your training done by a parent or by a mentor? Does your background clash with the paths you have taken in your life?

Personality

Personality defines how you are role-played and will be based upon your background and how you have developed to this point. More questions to ponder:

  • Attitudes – What do you like, love, dislike, or hate? What are your views on sex, religion, magic, crime, politics, and conflict? Do you have any misconceptions? What are your outlooks? Are there any institutions that you would like to belong to or have enmity with? Are you charismatic, logical, sympathetic, emotional, controlling, analytical, investigative, rash, or something else?
  • Perceptions – How do you see yourself and how do others see you? Could you be described in a short sentence? What does your character like about themselves?
  • Idiosyncrasies – What is your sense of humour? What are your hobbies? What are your vices? What are your quirks and flaws? What is your favourite colour? Do you have a motto or catchphrase? What are your favourite foods and drinks? What are your favourite animals and pets? What things to others do that annoy you?
  • Traits – Are you optimistic, helpful, considerate, honest, curious, rough, pessimist, careless, cowardly, etc.? (I will be going into these more soon enough though in an article very soon.)

Appearance

human-body-male2-smallYour physical appearance is the thing people first notice and paint preconceived notions about you from. Some people will think you are one thing based upon what you look like – regardless of what you actually are. But for you as the player this also helps you set up what you want people to perceive. This is as much about your mental image of your character and how you want them to be perceived.

Some things to ponder:

  • Physicality – What is it you look like? How tall are you? What kind of build do you have? What do you weigh? What is your style? What about your hair? What is the colour of your eyes? Do you have any distinguishing marks? What is your typical expression and what does it convey? What do you sound like? How do you move and carry yourself?
  • Apparel – How do you dress when relaxing, out socializing, working, travelling, or adventuring?
  • Trinkets – What belongings do you have that are heirlooms, mementos, and gifts?

Next article –

What makes up a character with lots of dimension – Part II?
Keith R. Byers, A.Sc.T., Esq.

4 Comments

  1. Excellent article, I especially like the four components of personality, asking yourself those questions and answering is what helps create a characters with real complexity and authenticity. The authors then gains the ability to think and feel like his character, and accurately depict what he says and what he does.

    • Keith Byers

      Thank you for your comments and reading of my articles. I will continue this in two weeks with the rest of this subject.

  2. I like the article a lot as a thing for people to think about and I just went back and read the dimensions artcile, but I think you’re missing a piece about starting small. Pick one or two of those questions from the different categories as a place to start with. Something as the core parts of the character. Enough of them to give the character depth but not so many as to clutter up the mind when trying to actually play the game. I would go for 3 to 5 of those and then as the game is played more parts of the character are revealed and their depth is seen.

    It’s nice to have some ideas but I feel if you answer even ten of the questions in the article you start to hem yourself into a corner and don’t allow any room for spontaneous creativity during the game. Those questions are great though. I think what I would do for my players is pick two of the background categories that seem most interesting to the character and pick one question to answer from each of them and then pick two from the personality and either answer a question from each of them or choose a trait if they go that way. Then have them answer one question from the apperance section. Five answers to start with a a core space for the character to grow from.

    This should all be done with the other players and GM/DM so then the DM/GM and other players can ask follow up questions to get clarifications and understand the character as well as the player does. This really helps pull together the group cohesion and understanding so everyone is on the same page.

    Good article Keith. Looking forward to the next one.

    • Keith Byers

      I agree that starting small is a good thing and to get into this ideology that is definitely the way to start. My experience is that if people at least look at this article it will give them ideas that help them create something interesting for them. I don’t ask them to fill out everything…but I do give them the opportunity to do so. I also encourage them to fill out more as they develop their characters throughout the stories.

      Thanks for the response and keep reading.

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