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RPR Archive Tips/Advice Articles: Character Creation and Development

Discussion in 'Role Playing Resource Archive' started by NaboosPrincess, Mar 12, 2006.

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  1. SkyeLightrider

    SkyeLightrider Jedi Knight star 6

    Jan 12, 2003
    I agree with Darth Vader's cousin, too a point.

    For my character, he actually started as a story then became an RPG character. So to leave myself with plenty of time to develop - and the fact I killed off my character at the end of the story - I suddenly made him appear a couple of centuries after his death. Not only that, but my intro was him appearing in the SW galaxy (BTW he's extra-galactic, like the Vong) some three years after his resurrection, and he was being chased by his government. This game me a huge amount of time to play with the backstory, while making sure I HAD one. One of the biggest things I get ticked about is character inconsistency. A character written one way, then completely changed. My character has one major theme that I continuously dabble in: a very dark past. I have written it so that pieces appear at times, but I haven't explained everything (though I am gearing up to)

    Which brings me to a point many people have stated: there HAS to be a character flaw in your character! too many "perfect" characters appear and I get sick of it. Granted I'll admit, I wrote my character to be a bit overpowered, though he has lost many of his original abilities to "knock him down" to Star Wars Galaxy levels. The flaw however is his dark past. It's his ultimate weakness that makes him an interesting character to write for.

    Ultimately that's my greatest piece of advice. Write a character you want to write for. If you grow bored with Mr. Invincible, your audience will easily spot it, like a rancor in a crowd of Gungans.
  2. LightWarden

    LightWarden Jedi Master star 4

    Oct 11, 2001
    A word of advice:

    Your character is not his superpowers, her million-dollar bank account, his estranged love interest, her forsaken past, his ancient weapon, her exalted destiny, his magical companion, her bag of gadgets, his clothing and armor, her organization standing, his combat training, her blatant stereotyping, his occupation, her place in the succession, his snazzy vehicle, or her area of expertise. All of these things may have had some impact on who your character is, but your character is not merely the sum of these external factors. If you take away all of these features, and you lose interest in what's left, then you created a gimmick, not a character.

    If you create a true character, then create someone with something going on inside. Create something organic, with oddities and externalities, one who acts, reacts and adapts to his or her environment. In real life, people change... those who are constantly in a specific state of mind 24/7 are usually seriously disturbed individuals. Same for those who only alternate between two simple emotions (seriously folks, going from "I'm so ANGRY" to "I'm so ANGSTY" isn't much in the way of development).

    Also, one final thought: your character is not YOU. Thus opinions and interactions of one do not necessarily reflect the other.
  3. Saintheart

    Saintheart Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Dec 16, 2000
    "Your thoughts betray you, father. I feel the good in you ... the conflict."
    "There is ... no ... conflict!"

    But that, IMHHHO, lends great depth to a character. Conflict. Whether internal, against another person, against an empire, against his siblings ... according to cinematic and theatric tradition, drama comes fundamentally from conflict, and the resolution of that conflict. Consider ROTS and the aftermath of Anakin's slaughter on Mustafar. We have these horrific scenes, bodies lying everywhere, and then we move to Anakin, looking out over a sea of lava, his eyes full of rage, a triumphant master of evil ... and then that wonderful, wonderful slight movement of his head which reveals the glint of tears on his cheeks. Look at ROTJ -- Vader after he meets Luke again, outside the AT-AT. Think of Vader's slouched, helpless stance as he says that melancholic, almost wistful line "Obi-Wan once thought as you do ... ", then clenching his posture again, and that bitter, agonised line, "You don't know the power of the Dark Side ... I must obey my master!"

    This is not necessarily a call to make your characters angsty or constantly bewail their existence; it's simply an indication that with conflict there is usually a desire, or at least an impetus, to resolve that conflict. Luke, innocent farmboy, the epitome of The Good Guy, is in conflict pretty much throughout all three films, too: In ANH he's in conflict against the Empire. He's also in conflict with Han -- a conflict which is resolved in spectacular fashion by Han saving his and the Rebellion's collective butts! :) In ESB he's in conflict with his own loyalties: does he complete his training, or does he save his friends -- which brings him into conflict with Yoda, his own teacher. In ROTJ, he's obviously in conflict with himself -- can he kill his own father (which brings him, interestingly, into conflict with the ghostly Obi-Wan on that.)

    So my exhortation is: look for conflicts! What's your character's relationship with his parents? His brothers? His organisation? His friends? How do your character's goals fit in or cross paths with other characters? And most importantly, look for conflicts not just for the sake of having them, but as wheels upon which to drive your characters forward. Remember, the purpose of drama is the resolution of conflict, not the conflict itself.

    EDIT: Wretched spellchecker, how I hate thee. :D
  4. LightWarden

    LightWarden Jedi Master star 4

    Oct 11, 2001
    Here's a section from the Galactic Campaign Guide which shows that even a monkey can build a memorable character. Which means those of you who don't... kind of suck.

    Generating Personalities
    What sets two gamblers, thugs, or other more-or-less identical character types apart and makes them individuals are their personalities. Even little details about appearance and mannerisms can help your players not only to visualize two otherwise identical characters but also distinguish between them- even though two characters may have exactly the same statistics.

    The three basic tools for individualizing personalities are appearance, mannerisms, and motivations. if you even assign one distinct quality from each of these categories, and then play these characteristics up in your portrayal of the character, you can bring a character alive in the players' minds. Fortunately, it doesn't take any preparation- improvisational comedians have been doing this sort of thing for years. In fact, the only tough part is remember how you portrayed a character previously, but with a few quick notes, you'll have enough of a memory jog that you can quickly recall the character and play him again at almost a moment's notice.

    For every supporting character you create, leave a little room in the character description for tracking the character's personality. This serves as a reminder to you on how to play the character consistently. It can be as simple as a few quick notes ("basso voice, acts superior, cracks knuckles when angry") or some short headings ("Appearance: basso voice; Personality Traits: acts superior; Mannerisms: cracks knuckles when angry") or even full sentences. However, make sure that you keep track of every character's personality in the same way and in the same place on the character's description. This makes it much easier to quickly locate that crucial information.

    Even if the heroes never interact with your carefully crafted supporting character, they remember appearances. Appearances tell the players more than just what the character looks like; appearances create a mental association for the player. This is why when you describe "a clean-shaven Human male wearing a freshly pressed robe and sporting a jeweled ring," the players conclude that the character has money. Or when you describe "a scruffy, unshaven Human male wearing dirty robes and a defeated expression," the players conclude that the character is broke. In neither case have you told the players how many credits either man is carrying, but they've reached their own conclusions and filled in the details for themselves. You've given the players the information they need to give the encounter more depth.

    The table below lists one hundred different elements of appearance, covering hair color, skin color, style of dress, hygiene, facial features, body type, scars and blemishes, and so on. When presenting a supporting character, choose one or two from the list, or roll randomly. Note that making no particular choice about a given characteristic means that the character is average in that regard, which is why choices like "healthy skin," "clean clothes," and "average build" don't appear; they don't make the character memorable. Some choices, obviously, apply better to younger or older characters, or to one gender rather than the other (unless you want the character to be extremely memorable).

    If you expect the character to survive the encounter, consider jotting down the choices so that you'll be able to recall quickly what the character looked like when the heroes encounter him or her again. However, don't be afraid to change some detail in between! Very few real people are completely static in their appearance, and a rail-thin character might have put on some weight since the heroes last saw her.

    Roll Appearance
    1 Pale skin
    2 Swarthy skin
    3 Tanned skin
    4 Bearded
    5 Mustached
    6 Pocked face
    7 Scarred face
    8 Age-spotted face
    9 Bulging eyes
    10 Deep-set eyes
    11 Piercing eyes
    12 Cold eyes
  5. Saintheart

    Saintheart Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Dec 16, 2000
  6. Saintheart

    Saintheart Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Dec 16, 2000
    *Rise, my thread.* :D
  7. Imperial_Hammer

    Imperial_Hammer Manager Emeritus: RPFs star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 25, 2004
    Time for the annual-ish bump!

    For the knowledge, interest, and opportunity for contribution of this new group of players.

  8. DarkLordoftheFins

    DarkLordoftheFins Jedi Master star 4

    Apr 2, 2007
    Making memorable characters, the SECRET FORMULA:

    Cooperate. Leave the character-vacuum.

    Characters can never really fascinate in monologues (or at least you need to be very creative and skilled to achieve that). Stories are not about slicing down NPCs. Most things a character could say about himself sound idle and have been used before. Most battle scenes are hollow without a compelling protagonist. Only through other characters you can make memorable moments. And moments define characters.

    Think Luke and Yoda. Frodo and Samwise. Neo and Morpheus. Marlin and Dori searching for Nemo. Han and Leia. Bond and M. Dexter and his Sister. Adama and Col. Tigh. Jack and Sawyer. Deckard and Rachel. Sterling and Hannibal Lecter. Mua`Dib and his mother. Indiana Jones and Henry Jones Sr. Mephisto and Faust. Hamlet and Claudius. Thrawn and Pealleon. Brody and Hooper. Donald Duck and Dagobert Duck. Scrooge and the Three Ghosts. Cade Skywalker and Syn. Harry Potter, Hermione and Ron. Louis and Lestat. Tyler Durden and himself. Leo and Kate in Titanic. Batman and Joker. Bruce Wayne and Alfred. Spiderman and Mary Jane.

    I think I could go on like this all night. None of the characters, many of them eternal favourites of millions and immortal, exists isolated. All of them have developed in scenes were they have contrasted, cooperated or simply bonded. How you do things defines your character. How you do things with other characters.

    Now, how do you do this? If it doesn´t come to you naturally you need to help yourself a bit. If you don´t know anybody, it is time to change that. How do you get together with your fellow players and develop interesting relationships or rivalries?

    My advice is PM them and work something out.

    Not what you are going to say or how you will deal with each other. Find a bond and agree to develop it in game. Ask a player who plays a Jedi Master to be your teacher or a Sith to become your nemesis. Somebody is falling? Ask if your Jedi could redeem him or try to. Somebody is dying? Ask if you shall intervene and they could become friends. Or simply ask what another player with a fitting background would think about if your character would know him from the good old days. When you agree to a relationship, let you GM know and no GM in the world will tell you, that he doesn´t allow it. They will help you.

    GMs die for that sort of initiative.

    Some rules should be kept in mind when building such a cooperation.

    1. Meeting on the same height - Even if your characters are not, you players are all equal. Even if one is a Co-GM or anything. If you write someone an idea and he says NO accept it. People probably have ideas and plans incompatible with yours.

    2. Fairness - Equals, as I said. Always make sure both characters get something out of it. Don´t try to make someone your next victim. Don´t trick anybody. Be honest.
    A Jedi has sacrifice written all over his character? Ask the player if he could imagine YOU being his undoing. And then listen to his ideas instead. Make it a joint-venture. All should profit in the end.
    A detective shall befriend your character, a criminal? Don´t use him, when you haven´t told him before. But explore how two men on different sides of the law can become friends.
    Your characters shall fall in love? Then donßt make your char suddenly an evil seducer with no emotions at all.
    Your character was meant to manipulate the other so they become enemies, after having been lovers? Manipulate, accept that at some point your cover will be blown and then embrace the hostility. Don´t try to get the upper hand.

    3. No Godmoding - Don´t take control of the other character, only because you have agreed on anything. People wanna life through the experience the way they wish to. Don´t take it away.

    4. Effort - When the characters finally meet make it worth the effort for the other. And take your time. If you have agreed to duel, why not build up? Show the development. The sacrifices. The anger. And after a fe
  9. DarthXan318

    DarthXan318 Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 12, 2002
    Yes, yes and yes. =D= I agree completely. The most fun I've ever had in RPing comes from those moments where my character hits it off with others, and the players behind them have become some of my best friends on the boards.

    It doesn't even have to be planned - just strike up an IC conversation. Are you both Jedi on the same mission? Make small talk. Have your character trip and grab the other's shoulder for balance (or just trip and hope he grabs you). Be antagonistic and difficult, even, if it fits your character. Improvise. You can do loads to fill the time and it'll be great fun. :D
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