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Old 02-20-2003, 04:21 AM   #1
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So, you've got a player new to roleplaying, and they've got a pretty good grasp of the basics: They know the character isn't them, they have a good sense of what makes the character tick, what the character looks like, what the character does for a living.

But what are some tricks and tips a player can use to make their character more than a stereotype? Feel free to share examples from your own experience in how to give characters a more three dimensional existence with everything from hobbies to pets to relatives!
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Old 02-20-2003, 10:01 AM   #2
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Hmmm, tips for creating interesting characters...

Going against a racial stereotype can be fun. Play something that people wouldn't normally associate your race with (for instance, I once played a clean-shaven Dwarf).

If you have access to the Dungeon Masters Guide for 3rd Edition D&D, there's a table in there somewhere with 100 random personality traits. Roll on that table, or just examine it and find something interesting you'd like to try out.

Don't be afraid to try things which make the game harder for yourself. Ever tried playing a mute? It's difficult but can be tremendous fun.

Along the lines of the personality traits, give your character an interesting quirk. Maybe he/she always freaks out when they hear a certain word. Perhaps he/she is scared of rain. Could you play an agoraphobic character who is constantly testing their bravery by going outside?

Another thing people often try to discourage people doing but I think is a great learning experience is playing "standard" roles. The crusading knight, the treasure hunter, the evil backstabbing thief who'd murder his own mother for a profit. While many people play these types of character, it can be a good starting point for those new to role-playing.

Modify examples from books. The Aiel in Robert Jordans Wheel of Time books shun even touching swords (although they have a very in-depth reason for it). Play a character that resolutely refuses to even pick up an axe or a mace perhaps.

These are a few of the things I use to flesh out my own characters, although I do have my own list of "favourite" personality traits that I pick randomly from too. Hope it's helpful.

Looking back at Brody's post I notice he mentioned relatives. Play a character that always goes home to visit his/her parents. This can get REALLY interesting if the MUD you're playing has decent hometowns and allows the use of SMOTE. With smote you can "emote" anything to the room as long as it's got your name in it. Even if your MUDs says are coloured and you cant use colour codes, you can still use this to simulate a conversation with mobiles that aren't there. I used to use this a lot on a MUD I played called Avendar, and a couple of people who were around with me when I "went home to visit my parents" were really suprised with what happened.

Above all, be creative. Examine the options, commands, and skills your MUD has available to you for role-playing, and see how you can best use them to your purposes.
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Old 02-20-2003, 10:50 AM   #3
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There's 2 main things I can think of to help with this.

1) Create their history. It doesn't have to be very detailed, especially if you don't know much about the gameworld yet. There's a lot of possibilities here regardless of that though. They're an orphan, they were jilted at the altar, they had an older brother who turned to a life of crime and got caught and killed. Mainly just figure out how they got to where new players start the game, and let the rest come naturally as you play.

2) View EVERYTHING that happens to them in game as an idea pool to keep inventing more of their inner life. Someone wants to take them on a quest in a city of elves? Make up a little story on the spot about previous interactions they may have had with elves, or decide they don't like elves and figure out why.

I had one char who started out with no history and really no personality worth mentioning, and she ended up becoming a supermage with an ego from he-double hockey sticks and a dirty mind. Her ego got so bad that it eventually killed her (would YOU walk into the stronghold of your enemy and tell them you intended to kill their baron? ), and it just started out as me not knowing what I was doing and rejoicing when I got to a high skill level in something. She started out using really long and flowery sentences, but after a while of people wandering off while she was in the middle of a sentence I decided that wouldn't do. So she started hanging out with people who talked different and picked up some of their speech patterns, and along the way a bit of their outlook on life. And then she always claimed that they corrupted her.

I had another char who used to teach fighters, and during a long boring combat session she'd start telling stories about her childhood that I made up on the spot. (She really had no history in the beginning either.) No matter what happened, she'd had a relative or acquaintance who'd been in the same situation. Unfortunately it got to where I couldn't remember who did what, especially after my comp died and I couldn't play for 4 months. So she got kinda boring.

Another char of mine was descended from royalty that had been deposed 600 years ago and escaped with some servants to found a hidden town. (Note that none of this stuff was actually coded or included in legends of the gameworld.) She got sick of all thier rules and regulations and stole a magical item to escape with. (I had to come up with a way for her to be able to cross mountains when I knew she wasn't capable of it yet in game. ) She later learned a few thief skills along with her magic, as an outgrowth of this. And at one point she tried to make another char her footwasher, as an outgrowth of her obsession with being descended from royalty.

Basically I always try to give my chars a sort of flavor, so that they don't just fade into the background and disappear, even if they happen to be a thief. I want to make them interesting, I want them to make sense even if they're insane, I just want that special sparkle that means effort was spent on them and even if they're not the most well-crafted chars around, they mean something. I create just enough of them to let them lead me around where they want to go, and the really good ones are still capable of surprising me after years of play. THAT, I think, is the ultimate goal for creating any char.
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Old 02-21-2003, 04:57 AM   #4
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I start with a general idea what type of personality I want, then I twist it up a little, giving my char some internal conflict, or two traits that don't fit very well. Then I set about resolving this, sometimes with things from their background, sometimes just a complex way they see the world.
It doesn't matter to me how complex and unique a char is if it is all internal. The purpose of all that internal junk is to drive the actions. So to "flesh out" a char, I add in things that they do: nervous habits (or things to show if they are more relaxed), how and how often they speak, how they sit, stand, fight, smile, laugh...Anything I like and expect the char to do often gets aliased. I'm a slow typist.
The background I keep simple, and usually within the normal, like growing up on a farm, or the daughter of a craftsman. I put in those elements of the background that explain how my char got to be as she is. It doesn't have to be anything profound or melodramatic, because small things do shape us. For example, being an only child, or the oldest kid who had to take care of the younger ones, being picked on in school, an illness, a domineering father, etc. Then I add in something, or a story, to explain why she left that old life and started adventuring, or in one of those muds that make you choose a class at char creation, why she decided to become a mage, thief, whatever.
I like to develop my characters, so the good stories and traumatic events are all what happen within the game. You'll get a more captive audience if you tell how you hate mages because "this (pc) mage, who you may have the misfortune of meeting, once called me names and cast a fireball at me...", than because "My father was killed by this (npc) mage." So as my chars get older, they grow a lot more complex and interesting to play.
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Old 02-21-2003, 10:25 AM   #5
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Much of this will be a rehash of what's above...lots of good stuff already posted.

The biggest thing is to have the player know and actually write down the character's history. If the player is truly interested in making a character that is as "realistic" as possible, they need to learn as much as they can about the world/campaign setting and then incorporate that into a character background.

Writing it down is a very good thing to do, imo, as it allows a person to get the ideas out of their head and into a form they can acutally see, reread, and alter as needed. Many of the best ideas don't come initially, but after the first idea has led to the second, then the third and fourth, and finally to the one that works the best. When I work on characters, I usually start with some key ideas, put them down into an outline, and then go from there. Normally, when I'm done, I've got a short story about the character's life, full of personality traits, unique beliefs, reactions to certain situations, thought processes, etc. Turning it into a story allows the creative process to reach its peak, especially if the person enjoys writing. And the background doesn't have to be anything out of the ordinary either--you can still write a 20 page background on someone that grew up on a farm. Some of the best I've ever seen have been that way.

Another thing to think about is what the character does when the player is offline. Why does he/she do these things and how do they add to the character's life? Does the character have any special friends of note that aren't PC's? (gotta be careful there, as many MUD's don't want NPC interaction that isn't actually roleplayed out in the game itself) What hobbies does he/she pursue, and why? Family ties? Pets? Special possessions that are dear to the character? (some MUD's will even go so far as to do a restring if it's something integral to the character and is just an rp tool)

imo, though, there is only so far you can go without just getting the character out there and roleplaying with him/her. I think the best characters tend to take on a life of their own. Many times all you end up doing is laying the groundwork for the character and then you allow him/her to grow into an acutal person through roleplay. I have distinct memories of some of my roleplay sessions seeming more like a movie, where I just kinda sat back and watched the show, feeling like my character was acting on his own without much aid from me at all. Once your character reaches that point, you know you've created a being that is truly separate from yourself.
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Old 02-26-2003, 09:53 AM   #6
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These are good ideas, folks. I would recommend, in fleshing out your characters, that you avoid making their life "up to now" so exciting/eventful/overwrought-with-drama that anything they might experience in-game would seem dull .

Always keep in mind that some of fiction's best characters are perfectly ordinary folk caught up in extraordinary circumstances.
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Old 02-26-2003, 04:02 PM   #7
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For some reason I like the oridnary people in extraordinary circumstances... then again, I have an alt that I like quite a bit that has been through quite a bit to the point of character creation, but I like my primary character that started out to be normal and ended up on something of an odyssey that brought him to question everything he has ever done.

One thing I like for fleshing out a character is have a couple people you RP with regularly, but don't make it a clique. What I mean is that I have a character that doesn't really have a great deal of friends, but he's not terribly short on RP. This is because, while he is not always with a friend, he is in a position to attract attention when he is about and make RP.

The basic point of this, if I forget to get to it later, is to be sure to RP... it sounds dumb and obvious, but a character doesn't develop well when not RPing.

Having done some extensive thinking on some of my characters, I can trust myself playing them. Internal conflict is also good, though one character has done it to an extreme before. For those people who have read my other posts, I am not terribly afraid to give my characters religious and anti-religious connotations to them. One character is a priest and another an atheist.

Here are a few questions you can think about to flesh out a character a bit more that I have used.

Where do they live? If they live on an island paradise they are not likely to want to disrupt much, as long as they can keep their lives good.

What is their job? Another condition question, a busboy probably has much less to lose in his position than the CEO that is charged with keeping a company in operation.

What is their housing like? This is something else interesting... if you live in a shack and everyone else is living in mansions in your area ICly, and you're not a bum, then I'd feel a bit concerned about how my place looks as well...

Family? Pets? Think about this one when you go about doing stuff... someone with a family is probably not as likely to risk themselves doing stupid stuff as much as a younger person that is without a family.

I'm sure there are more, and that's by no means an end all, be all list... just the start of it I have right now.

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Old 02-28-2003, 11:18 AM   #8
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Couple short, I like the "ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances" thing. A mistake some people make (like Mr. Blade-copyist in another thread) is to think they have to make their character so completely off-the-wall that it's not even remotely similar to anyone else's.

Another thing- I believe in giving characters quirks. I also believe (as I think someone discussed in detail) that an excellent path for character development is to focus not necessarily on filling the character's life full of bizarre events, but focusing more on how they interact with people and what their attitudes are toward things. Telling the character's life story is a step in character development, but you can't tell the story and think that the events in his life say all there is to know about the character.

A final caution- I disagree with the 'defying the status quo' method of development mentioned in the first reply. This idea is so done-to-death that it is now common (even excessively so) for person to attempt to instantly make their character unique by giving them some 'anti-status quo' trait or history rather than taking the time to carefully develop their personality. Some of these "unique" traits are now so common due to this technique that they are laughable. A clean shaven dwarf is a little off the beaten path so this technique *might* be okay if you are careful to go with a stereotype that really isn't used much for this purpose, but I still generally advise against it.
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Old 02-28-2003, 11:38 AM   #9
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Here's another one of my pet peeves.

Say you're playing a dumb ogre. Say your mud has a common tongue, or perhaps doesn't bother with languages. Your ogre has more than likely grown up around people who speak this tongue fluently, so WHY in god's name would you make him talk like Tarzan? (Unless he actually WAS raised by apes or somesuch. ) I don't see anything wrong with an ogre talking like a hick, using bad grammar, etc. but the "Me Orth, me smash you!" crap just doesn't cut it.

I've seen so many people roll up an ogre (or orc, or troll) and just make them talk dumb without considering that they might ACT dumb more than they talk dumb.

For example, say your ogre has developed a close friendship with another person, and considers this person to be his idol. Now, some big badass fighter gets in an argument with his idol. YOU know that your low-skilled ogre is never gonna be able to do anything to said big badass fighter, but wouldn't it make sense for your ogre to get ****ed off and try to attack him if he became too obnoxious?

Or say your ogre is a low-level member of some organization, and someone tells him to get "a lot of deer hide". So Mr. Ogre wanders around for a week killing deer, and comes back to town with 5000 feet of deer hide, making his superiors cringe at the thought of how to fit it in their storeroom.

There's a LOT of possibilities for dumb chars out there. They don't all have to just talk dumb.
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Old 02-28-2003, 12:45 PM   #10
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To be honest, there have been several occasions where I was lazy and didn't feel like creating a background. I did a lot of improv and spur of the moment RP which eventually developed my characters background for me. Some of my best characters came out that way.

But when I do decide to develop a character, I usually try to figure out the 'type' of character I feel like playing first, and then go from there. I pick a hometown to base their childhood/adolescence from, and depending on that hometown culture, I then figure out the personality they would have. If they grew up in a snotty neighborhood, then perhaps they'd be a snoot, or if they grew up in a thief ridden village, maybe a dishonest lowlife. It really depends.

Some of the bigger fleshing out bits I try to focus on, are whether or not my character is really passionate about something. A religion perhaps? What I want them to eventually develop into....a serious mage?

Everyone tries to be unique, but eventually that unique-ness becomes overplayed.
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Old 03-15-2003, 09:14 PM   #11
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This is my basic character creation procedure (only tested on OtherSpace so far... _):

1) Write a character bio.

2) Get bio accepted.

3) Totally trash any part of accepted bio related to character personality.

4) Develop character personality in RP.

If it's not obvious, I'm not one of those people that likes to do a lot of preplanning.

When I'm starting off with a new character, I usually have a very basic idea of what their personality is going to be like. However, because of the way I am, after a RPing session or two, I've either discovered or molded a completely different personality that's way better than I imagined. The only characters that I have truely and absolutely gotten into (I think three or four since I started with Eternal City in '98) have started out their lives as getting a complete personality wipe and re-write in the first night or two of interaction.

It is my tendency to (at least want to) tell people new to roleplaying or an RPing environment new to them is to start off by playing something they know to get into the swing of things. Then again, if you're like me, all of your characters share a lot with your real-life self, with each one representing one of the voices in my head.

And watch with wonder as I whiz past the thread topic.

Oh well.
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Old 03-15-2003, 10:45 PM   #12
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I don't like plopping down a complete character history either when I first start. I usually pull things out of my head at random, as long as I'm in the game and can ask other players, not at a prompt where I have to come up with something without prior knowledge of the MUD's history. I'm good with surrealism, and thus with characters that have some sort of insanity or delusion, so this usually works for me. There are, however, some things that I use to give my character a kick start.

1: Usually, you don't have to adhere strictly to what you can officially create or what there actually is or has been created in the world. You could say that you're part of an obscure cult of people who test their faith by attaching their noses to a wooden pole buried in the ground, in the middle of the wilderness, with no food or drink. Thus, instead of being a standard priest, you're now something different and possibly slightly insane. There's many different kinds of warriors as well, such as guardsmen, soldiers, noblemen who like to fight with puny whip swords... Excuse me, foils. If you want to play a warrior "class", try choosing one of these "classes" and playing them as guidelines, I.E, their stereotype instead of the help-file's stereotype.

2: Think about how your character would react as RP situations occur. If you don't know, think about why. This can help you pinpoint what you need to flesh out, what is missing. And if you think this is basic, perhaps it is, but many people seem to forget it.

3: Don't think about how your character would react. A contradiction to the above idea, I know, but it works sometimes. You'd be suprised what random and interesting things the human mind can come up with on occasion.

4: Take a break, read a book, talk to new people. Sometimes fresh kids can come from the darndest things... Bleh, new ideas can come from the darndest things.

That's about all I can think of now.
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Old 03-16-2003, 12:42 AM   #13
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How I come up with my char's depends on the mood I'm in, but nearly every single time I create the stereotype char for the world I'm in, such as I'll play a farmer, or a servant or a mercenary or a merchant or an artist. They won't be fantastic in their jobs, they'll just be ordinary in their jobs and mostly be concerened with surviving.

Most of the time I get an idea for how I want my character to be, so I ask myself how did he get to that stage. Some of the time I make them have amazing backgrounds (such as they were forced to be a pleasure slave to a guy and managed to escape and now hate any guy touching them) but on the outside they'll seem like normal people. Sometimes I create really boring backgrounds, such as they grew up on a farm.

Playing the amazing swordmaster who wants to find the sword of ultimate power for me is a very boring character. Mainly because I like social roles. But then again I'm not experienced enough in playing Nobles or other people who have a lot of power, so I play the normal every day people.

Some of my funnest roles have been in stereotypical ordinary people.
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Old 03-16-2003, 11:56 AM   #14
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I like making very unique (I cant spell that...) characters. My favorite is a cocky quickling thief, who is a mailman. But because noone ever has any mail he just gets ****ed off and robs everyone.
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Old 03-17-2003, 05:26 AM   #15
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When I make a character, I firstly make a list of things about them including:
- How they act to certain races/gender/classes
- How they became to live in the game
- Why they became what they have
- What they look like
- Hobbies/things they enjoy doing
and finally
- Any mannerisms they will do constantly/habits/sayings

Personally, I don't play the hero. I play the scaredy cat female that needs saving every other minute.
I also try to stick to the stereotypical race traits rather than making an orc that enjoys the company of humans... As if!
It's fine making your character unique, but I've seen this sort of thing far too much; UU (Unbelievable Uniqueness).
For an example, I know of a half-orc that claims his human mother was raped by an orc raiding party and yet continues to try and live in harmony with both races. Then you get the intelligent trolls.. How on earth would that occur? Think back to your childhood when you were read "The Billy Goats Gruff" before bed. That's how a troll should act, and if I saw one, I'd grab an ancient to give them a load of RPP as an award for being "realistic"!
I've actually found that less and less people are playing the stereotypical characters and their "unique" and "different from others" characters aren't so different anymore. If you want to be different, play the races how they're imagined to be! Far less people do that, which I've seen. The stereotypical ogres, orcs and trolls have become practically extinct. This is a shame. What's a fantasy world without the dumb, half-wit creatures?

Straying from the norm for a race might be interesting for you, but what are the other players going to think about the way your character acts?
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Old 03-17-2003, 11:35 AM   #16
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Heh if you want dumb trolls, orcs, and ogres, play DM. Almost every ogre I've seen talks like Tarzan, a lot of orcs are almost as bad, and every now and then you see a troll that talks like that too. I've even seen a mohnkee (a somewhat dumbish race) who talks like a stereotypical black slave, although if a slave had ever acted like he does they wouldn't have lived very long heh.

See my previous post on this thread for what I think about players who think talking like Tarzan is how to play an ogre.
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