Tuesday, July 2, 2013

5 Questions That Will Help You Make a Better Character

1) Why are you an Adventurer?       

Of all of the ways to earn a living in the fantasy world, adventuring probably has the greatest potential for both risk and reward. Sure, that pile of gold coins is enough to set you up for the rest of your life. And your kid's life. And your kid's kid's life. Too bad there's a dragon in between you and it. Your character should have a reason for adventuring beyond simple greed. Maybe you have an altruistic streak. Or maybe adventuring is a last resort. Figure it out so the next time your character is paralyzed neck deep in ghouls you'll know exactly what brought you there.

2) Why are you working with your fellow party members?

This goes along with 1) but is important enough to be it's own Question. While it's not very important that all the characters in the party necessarily like each other, it is crucial that they get along well enough to work together. There are certain roleplaying tropes out there that seem immensely appealing to play but in reality can be difficult work into a cohesive party. You know the ones. The gruff dwarf who hates everyone, the sly thief who will steal just about anything, the Chaotic Evil servant of the Blood God who, well… wants to kill everything. There's a metagame reason why all of your characters are adventuring together. It's because you're all (nominally) friends at the table and have decided to tell a collaborative story. But if you're playing a character with an abrasive personality ultimately the onus is on you to figure out why the other party members don't just kick your annoying butt to the curb.

3) What are your long term goals?       

This is probably also tied in with 1). Your character probably doesn't intend to be an Adventurer for the rest of his or her life. They probably have aspirations beyond an inglorious death in the middle of a swamp infested with dire rats. Maybe they have grandiose dreams of taking down the Tarrasque. Or maybe they're simply content to settle down and retire after buying a roadside inn with all of their loot. In any case, knowing where your character is headed makes it easier to make roleplaying decisions on the fly.

4) What are you passionate about?   

Passionate people are interesting. They're usually the main characters in stories because we find them interesting. You can generally get a good sense about a person based on what elicits strong emotional responses from them. What are the things that they love? What are the things that they hate? And to what degree do they feel for these things? Answering these questions sets you down a path towards more questions like: Why is your character so strongly compelled to stab [that NPC]? Does he remind you of someone from an event in your past? Is the response tied to anger, jealousy, self-loathing, or some other strong emotion? It's a bit of work to navigate through these sorts of questions but I promise that the result is worth it. You'll have a deeper understanding of who your character is and what he or she would do in a given situation.

5) What are you afraid of?

More than just a strong emotional response, fear is a back door into someone's head. Fear goes beyond love or hate. It's a base instinct for self preservation. Figuring out what your character is afraid of and why can be hugely rewarding to you as a roleplayer. You might not want to imagine your character with weaknesses. That makes sense. If you're imagining a heroic adventurer in a fantasy world, why would you make that character afraid of anything? Because it's fun. Say the half-orc wizard was once a slave, for example. He hated it and will do anything to avoid captivity. So when the Gnoll slavers ambush the party he goes crazy. He starts exploding everything left and right, not caring who else gets caught in the crossfire so long as the Gnolls don't get him again. Having your character afraid of something, however minor, sets up the potential for hugely engaging roleplaying situations.

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