Capntastic speaks: On making characters with personality

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pd Rydia
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Capntastic speaks: On making characters with personality

Unread postby pd Rydia » Tue Apr 12, 2005 4:01 am

On the request of Capntastic, I am reposting/consolidating the contents of his Personality and Character threads. Because of the whole Angelfire/Bootcamp thing. Also, conciseness. Kinda.

ANYHOW! This thread is a bit of advice from the spifftastic Capntastic about making characters. There's some good advice from him, Priam, Choark, and NebulaQueen in here. I've edited some of the wording for length.

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On making characters with personality
by Capntastic

A lot of new roleplayers seem to think that a character is but a vessel for skills, attacks, "badassedry" and the like. After this, they consider their character complete, and very good, much to the dismay and perhaps provocation of more knowledgeable roleplayers. Valuing what over who is a sure way to make a character uninteresting.

Much RPGWW RPing involves non-GMed character interactions, which more or less equates to characters meeting, discussing things, or taking on small tasks and other such things. A character who dresses darkly, has a grim view of people and life, and only knows how to blow things up with mysterious powers will get boring quick, eh? But how does one make the character have things to talk about or things to do? How does one create personality?

It may seem difficult, but it isn't!

Let's start with the basics. What is the character? A swordsman? A sailor? A mage? An adventurer? It doesn't matter at all, trust me. What they do with themselves has much more leverage.

You should have a basic idea of who the character is, where they came from, what they want, and how they're gonna get it.

Here are some simple questions you should have down to consider:

Place of Birth -
Places they've been -
Favorite memories -
Important Events -
Important People -
Favorite Things -
Standpoint on violence/killing/the law -
Standpoint on helping others that need it -
Current Occupation/Home -
Life Goal -
Plans for reaching their life goal -

Now you'll have a general idea of what sort of life they've lived, and with this comes some basic feel of how they'll react to things. A bounty-hunter from the city may not feel comfortable milking a cow; and a farm hand may not think it's right to kick down someone's door waving a sword. How characters feel about things is very important; it sets them apart from people.

Some may ask: "But what of skills?" The answer is: "Whatever makes sense."

Let's take a simple cowboy, for instance. They would know how to ride a horse, lasso stuff, drive cattle, traverse wilderness, and cook. They know a thing or two about guns, and how to take care of 'em. They know how to pass the time with card games or music. On top of all this, most can hold their liquor better than any city-folk. But this doesn't make all cowboys the same--again we are back at personality traits. A green horn may be nervous about his first big cattle run, whilst a veteran would know his way around blindfolded. One may be not very good with cattle, but enjoys the country life and playing his guitar. Once they get back to town, they may have a wife and kids, or a group of friends to get drunk with. They could be well-known by everyone, or relatively unknown and looked upon as an outsider, even if they're nice. They might have to pay rent on the farm, or pay off gambling debts or else someone's gonna be looking for them. People gotta eat, sleep, and entertain themselves. And this sort of thing applies to everyone--bakers, bankers, guardsman, bandits, mages, mercenaries, hobos, pirates, dancers, teachers, and artists all have lives outside of what they do. Well-roundedness is the key.

Appearances, too, should be quasi-realistic. Who wants to spend all day in a big hooded black cloak? Who walks around in platemail on the weekends? Also, don't fall into stereotypes like 'fiery red eyes!' or anything. It's been done, and it was never good.

NOTE: This list isn't meant to be like a stat sheet, with 100% solid answers for you to refer to. Characters have lives before their RP debut, and this should help give them some things to talk about, or effect their choices in certain situations. However, you can always flesh out your character in increasing detail as you RP them, or even have them change according to in-character events. Characters, like people, are not static.

The goal here is to make characters that don't show up "just 'cuz" and don't have all sorts of rad powers "just 'cuz"--to have a character that can can actually have interesting conversations, what with a semi-beleivable personality that is more than "Yo, I like (One thing) and I can (Lots of things) because (Dum reason) and I had no childhood, or interesting experiences in all of my life!"

Because those sorts of conversations are un-spiffy. :D

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response by Priam
Two points.

Point the first.

Point the second: Unknown Armies has a system of Stimuli for each character, which is quite useful for character building purposes in general.

The three stimuli:
• Rage. This is what makes your character abandon all logical thought in favor of sheer, carnal, utter animosity.
• Fear. This stimulus will cause your character to try to find a way to escape, except in extreme cases, where the character will curl up into a ball and quiver.
• Noble. This is often the hardest one to pin down. When a character's Noble stimulus is triggered, the character will behave in a completely altruistic sense, going the extra distance for others' benefit with relation to the stimulus itself. Librarians might have a soft spot for illiterate folk who want to learn; brawler characters might act nobly if they see a woman being harassed or victimized; planetary destroyers might take students under their wings, to hopefully take over when they are dead.

Be creative with all of these, they can drive what the rest of your character is.

Maybe later I'll make mention of the Stresses...

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response by Choark

If ya new to RPing, or just not confident in it, don't Bog yourself down too much with worrying about preplanning all your characters personality traits, it can be a lot of hassel for something thats meant to be fun. Yes you need to have a basic personaility set in there but you don't have to try and do anything overly complex right away. Instead grow the character out as you Roleplay them with others - sometimes you can bring in certain traits just because certain circumstances call for it - or whatever.

Personally that's how a lot of my characters personalities develop - I certainly don't preplan everything - nor would I ever want to. Give yourself room to breathe and have fun with the character - that's my advice.

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response by NebulaQueen

Anyways, in my lit class, we're working on the Canterbury tales. As a project, we have to complete templates for all the people appearing in the prologue. The template is shown below.

Life Experiences:

After looking at that, I realised that it's also a pretty good template for RP characters, too (and it's pretty much the same as most people use, anyhow.) Fleshing these out helps to flesh out the character.

And that's it. Yay for rehashing old information. :D <p><EZCODE>
<EZCODE><EZCODE><div>"Pants are bad!!! We should wear pants only on our head you conformist bastard!!! Pants are the devils work!! Run freee!! And pantless!!!" -- Vulture</div><EZCODE>

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