Guest Author - Margaret Dorraine Baines-Turberfield
This week’s article is designed to help players create memorable characters with well-laid foundations for role-playing personality. Establishing examples of the following concepts as they apply to your character will really add dimension and possibly even some pizzaz to your experience role-playing him/her. Some of your answers could even get you into (or out of) tight spots in your adventures, if role-played right!
So, let’s assume your character has motivations and goals that drove him or her out of his/her quiet previous life. Let’s add some more playable depth! When you’re in the thick of a role-playing scene, being approached by a shady-looking NPC who says he has a job for you, or faced with an individual who poses a threat to you or your party through no fault of her own, how are you going to deal with it? No, let me rephrase that: how is your character going to deal with that?
Like you, your character should be guided by a moral compass: a code of ethics, if you will. This could be demonstrated as simply as coining a motto that he or she holds dear. Much like your motivation, this statement will help you guide your character through situations the GM presents. Remember: if your character is forced into conflict with his or her beliefs/motivations/goals, it should make for an interesting/challenging session from which your character grows!
Just as ingrained into your character’s personality would be impulses or “gut” instincts. Those would be behaviours or reactions that are pre-determined for specific situations. Like an animal puffs up to make itself look bigger when threatened, so might your character. (“Gets cocky/swaggery when adventuring prowess is called into question; might mouth off, very likely to say something I’ll regret.”) This “impulse” is meant to be automatic, or at the very least very difficult for your character to resist. Remember to include your instincts in your role-play, especially when it could result in complications!
The real spice of a character’s personality, though, are quirks. These will help make him or her more memorable to everyone at the table. It may sound like extra work, but trust me it’s worth it. Make your character a little bit odd! Make your character unique! I once created a bard whose trademark when casting the attack “vicious mockery” was to hurl actual insults at the bad-guys, except that she was really bad at it. Being vicious wasn’t exactly in her nature, which made her insults, thought up on the fly, seem less-than-biting. Do yourself and your character a favor and grant him or her a quirk or two that you feel confident acting out at the table. Try to come up with specific qualities or adjectives that describe traits in your character’s personality. (In my example, my bard was a “nice nancy” who wasn’t really able to summon enough venomous ire to hurl serious insults, even when faced with attacking monsters!) Remember to make these descriptors specific, rather than sweeping generalizations: you need to be able to act them out!