How to Create a Character

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Sun Feb 09, 2014 2:17 pm

So this is less a 'guide', as such, and more what I'm hoping will be a central repository of ideas and strategies on how to create great, real, living characters. Discussion on the OOC channel prompted the question of 'why don't we have this yet', so I thought I'd bite the bullet and start.

For me, the heart of a character is momentum. There must be something about your concept that drives the character forward: something that makes your character want something, desire something. In short, something generative of goals, preferably goals that can never truly be achieved.

My personal way of doing this is to ensure that every character of mine revolves around a central conflict - an internal tension that drives them forward. I'll give an example here: Ariel was initially conceived of as being driven by a deep-seated sense of inferiority and a desperate desire to achieve, to prove that he was capable and intelligent. With RP this changed, but it was replaced with a new conflict, a desire to atone for everything he'd done.

The death knell of a character, in my mind, is contentment. Your character can be happy, certainly, but there still has to be something they lack/seek/want or they simply don't have a reason to be active. A passive character, one who doesn't initiate action in any way, will quickly bore you.

That doesn't mean you have to go out and start things all the time; many people, like myself, aren't so great at that. But it does mean you should ensure your character has a reason to react to just about anything that happens in their vicinity, that you never throw away a hook tossed your way because your character already has everything they might ever want.

For me, the conflict - the desires - of the PC is the very first thing I generate. A single phrase sentence that sums up the character, that I can then flesh them out around.
Carmen was: "a warrior sick of destruction who instead wants to heal and help". A cliche concept, but enlivened with some other details and stereotype-breaking concepts to give it life.

Maybe I'll blather on more about that later. Or, hopefully, someone else will! I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on character creation.

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Sun Feb 09, 2014 4:20 pm

I certainly do agree on many points there, Dice - Internal conflict with a character is absolutely normal. If you read any book or novel worth its salt you'll notice that the main character always has some kind of conflict bubbling inside them - This gives -so- much room for character development which gives us a few points we're allowed to shape as the story proceeds.

- Goals. How does the conflict influence your character's goals? Would what you're planning to do agree with your character's morals or throw the philosophy out of balance and just go the opposite direction? I feel that this is a very important topic.

- Interactions. Once again, morals come into play. How does your conflict influence your interaction with other characters, and how do you clash or connect with them?

- Personality. What has the conflict done -to- your character? Where does it originate? Does it cause your character to be a cheery young lad/lass who loves the world or a pessimistic goth? (Not that I'd advise creating a goth-themed character, what with everyone jumping on their horses with heresy.) Appearance also plays a big role in determining how confident your character may be - Whether they are insecure, don't care, or are proud.

I'll add some more tips or random thoughts as they come to me!

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Sun Feb 09, 2014 6:49 pm

Never be afraid to play second-fiddle. Seriously. In the past I've survived pretty serious mage attacks (The Invasion, haha) with a non-combat character, simply by being quiet and making little emotes. More recently, I was able to get away with a rather game-changing (IMHO) action, simply because of silently emoting around a dozen or so other characters who wanted a chance at being 'larger then life.'

No one is ever gonna be number one all the time. No one is ever gonna be the center of attention all the time. And the more people try to force that, the worse the RP gets. And just remember, those people? Get -massive- targets over their heads. The guy who's second-in-command has just as much power, without having to deal with death threats.

Just my $0.02
Rothgar Astartes, Fyurii Rynnya, Nils 'Smith' Mattias, Edward Darson, Curos Arents.

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Mon Feb 10, 2014 2:20 am

Rothgar wrote:Just my $0.02
I agree, so make it $0.04.

Support characters are legitimate characters, too - they don't just have to be for "self defense" against dangerous scenes.

I'd like to throw in a good word for NPCs too. If you're in a room alone waiting for RP, you don't have to look like that's the case when someone finally walks in. Be in the middle of tossing a dirty joke at the bartender, or talking to a shopkeeper about a recent rumor. Even the virtual NPCs that populate the city can be interacted with, not just the coded ones.


Sat Mar 01, 2014 1:54 pm

Alright! Here's my take. I'm pretty damn new to TI, so it's mostly based on my experience with other games. But I'm going to bet it's all relevant anyway.

1. Add flaws. It's vital if you want your char to have an ounce of personality. A problem that a lot of RP games have is that people get attached to their characters and want to portray them as perfect—pretty, intelligent, understanding, patient, generous, kind, compassionate, honest, unbiased, with a drive toward peace, and so on, and so on. Guess what? On top of being unrealistic (especially in this setting), it's cheap, boring, and shallow. Furthermore, nothing interesting can ever come from perfect characters interacting with each other. They just don't add to the story. They are air, a lot of the time.

2. Make your characters capable of a full range of emotions. For example, if you want to make a badass, hold that thought for a moment. Everyone has fears. In fact, fear is one of the most powerful and common things that drive people to decisions. Can you easily say what your badass fears? If not, you probably need to give your concept a little more thought.

Every human being gets sad, happy, irritated, scared (no excuses), motivated, demotivated, angry, contemplative, etc. Include those moods and emotions. They don't always have to be obvious to onlookers. It's often enough that you are conscious of them, as that'll almost automatically make your char behave differently to accomodate those. And other players will likely feel it, and enjoy your RP. Magic.

3. Set your char up to make some enemies, not just friends. Conflict is the essence of a story. And try to be creative—conflict has many faces. Sure, the Orderite who pissed you off might be scary, and confronting him directly is probably a terrible idea—but you can always make some veiled, venomous comments some other person's way, mocking the offender without being direct about it. It's fun!

No conflict = no story. No flaws = no personality. No believable emotions and thoughts = no depth. You won't convince me any other way!

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Sat Mar 15, 2014 5:24 am

Was just talking on the OOC channel about this, and in lack of finding a really good guide by a guy from one of my old haunts, I'll just add up there the one tip that I abuse religiously.

STEAL. There are all these people out there with more wit than you or I, and it would be a shame not to flatter them via imitation. So steal to your heart's content. Start out as Jack Sparrow, switch to Samwise, throw in a smattering of Katniss. I'll bet you a million bucks you'll not only have loads of fun but throughout your scenes you'll be making a character patched together with your own quirks and forged through the crucible of the MUD's own theme.

Another tip? Don't get caught up on the little things. It's good to make your character this well-thought out psychological mess - some people write pages and pages on their characters and never show it to anyone, using it solely for their own reference. I never could. Don't get caught up on the little things like allergies, intricate backstory, etc. Sometimes it's more fun to make it up as you go and just write it down so you don't cross wires later. Or hell, cross wires. Find out your character is slowly becoming a pathological liar.
Player of: Alexander ab Courtland


Sat Mar 15, 2014 6:52 am

Leech's post made me think of one more tip!

Set your toon up for character development and don't be afraid of it. Apart from the fact that it makes stuff more meaningful, there's another benefit.

You might find at some point that your RP starts becoming stale and boring, and maybe realize that the way your char currently is simply falls into Urth's clockwork too neatly. All is good, you have a nice life, you are content, there are no clashes or confrontations with other players, blablabla. And the worst part is that you can't change it, because you have to stick with your character concept to be consistent. Right?

Nah. People change. A thief with seemingly no moral backbone might find some good in life and start becoming a decent human being—which would likely put them at odds with the Brotherhood. No matter how just and dead-set against crime your Reeve is, it's more than likely that they will eventually get disillusioned, seeing all the filth that they daily see. What can start with that? Corruption, alcoholism, cynicism, bitterness, apathy, pure sadism, and all sorts of fun things.

Change is not only perfectly reasonable, it's good and adds depth and realism. If you can't find on-grid things to steer your character the right (or wrong) way, make that stuff up.

Maintaining status quo is... zzzzz.

I know this has in some ways been implied by the previous posts, but I feel it deserves spelling out and getting its own piece of rant.

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Thu Sep 03, 2015 3:24 pm

I'll chip into this a tool I like and regularly use in fleshing out a character:

This guide has been really helpful to me in terms of inspiration for character concepts, and in helping give them some realism and depth right out of the gate without having to write ten pages of backstory. I make a little two-column spreadsheet with relevant categories on the left and the character's traits on the right, and I quickly have a pretty good general idea of where I am to start.

I also find it useful to do with already-established characters of mine, to see if they still match up or not, or if they ever did despite my intention! As folks have mentioned above, people change, and this can be a useful way to gauge whether your character turned out like you thought, or has evolved from your initial concept.

Interestingly, I've now noticed it doesn't really address fear or internal conflict much. Or morality. I have some new things to add to my character sheet!

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Sat Sep 05, 2015 9:37 pm

Starsignal,I really like that and I expect that I'll be using it in the future!

Thanks for sharing.

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Sun Jun 26, 2016 4:22 am

It's already been suggested in the thread, but I'd like to further emphasize the fact that support characters can, in fact, be extremely fun to play. And even more especially as a new player, playing a guy who's pretty stupid, thoughtless, and constantly the butt of some joke has been a very educational experience as to how politics and interactions on the grid work. Jamus is practically an NPC, he doesn't drive events, but I've been doing my best to allow him to give additional flavor to those events. Getting drunk at a bar and howling about his life in polite company, fishing at random points throughout the city just to make it feel more like a "world", fighting rats and dumping them in stupid places, all that sort of thing.

If you're new to RP in general, I'd recommend it even more highly. When you're starting out, you can often feel like you have to be important, that you have to be deep and complex and interesting in order to be fun to play with, and that just isn't true. If you feel intimidated by how much is being asked of you in making a character, why not just make a one note character? A bitter drunk, a womanizing buffoon, a clueless youth, tons of well-worn characters like this can be tossed into any RP like a big stone, shaking things up with their arrival. In fact, this is how most of my characters began in the first place, as temporary little placeholders eventually made real characters just by RP itself. It can be very fun and rewarding.

Other than that, something I've been having fun with purely related to TI is making Pvents have way more affect on my character than they "normally" would. For example, once I rolled one that was just "Jamus' past is catching up with him", and I managed to work that into him having to run away from home to avoid an arranged marriage. That's how I managed to reconcile my semi-mistake of setting his home city as Hamstone with the fact that I wanted him to be living in Lithmore for good. It also gave him something to complain about later in the bar, and people to decide how they felt about the fact that he completely ignored a familial obligation, etc etc.

I'm droning on, as per usual, but I've just gotten out of some RP and still feel extremely wordy. Hope this helped someone, at least!
Characters: Jamus Grunsky, Takaro Sanche, Renton Feland

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