Roleplaying: The Making of a Character

October 10, 2018

What is a character? A character is a person with personality, motive, drive and a life. The character sheet is the skeleton of your character, while you are the personality and soul. So for today’s topic, I would like to bring that out to the fore front and become the character you create.

To be clear, this is not a “How to Min/Max”, where your only goal is to make a character good at what they do. This is about how they talk and interact with one another. Most of this will come from your character’s background or backstory. Dungeons and Dragons has generic backgrounds that can help you figure out the starting details.

Then, take that generic background and go in deeper. In my opinion, there are about three types of in-depth backgrounds. Most people go for what I call the “Classic Superhero Origin”. Something tragic happened to them: parents die, loss of a loved one, loss of a family, etc. that caused them to become a wandering adventurer. This tends to be a more serious character. They generally do not trust easily due to how everything went down. This may not set them on the course to be a hero, but could give good vengeance motivation and a great story arc for the DM to use.

The next type I call, “The Middle Road”. This background might be more vague, but tends to not deal with anything particularly happy or sad. I woke up in a inn/with no memory, I left my old life in search of something better, I have always traveled with my family and decided I needed more. These sorts of ideas can open a doorway for most DM’s to use in any story planning, while making your character a bit more open personality wise. Nothing major has traumatised him, so they may trust easier.

The last background I named, “The Calling”. This is the character who feels that their life was wasted where they started. The journey to his greatness was stopped by mundane life. They were either hindered by their birthplace or their community saw something in them and knew this adventurer’s destiny, encouraging their growth and sent them on their way. Either way, the character could feel a burden placed on their shoulders or enjoy the role they were given. Both can make some great stories in the game for your DM to call upon.

Whichever you choose, you have a good foundation for your character. Next, you have to decide how much time has passed since their decision to adventure and how that affects their current actions and personality, how closely they hold to those lessons. This is where you get to decide how to play your character. Do they speak first or not at all? Start bar fights or end them? Do they insult people when their back is turned or to their face? A coward or too courageous for their own good? It is up to you to bring this sheet of paper to life. The biggest thing you have to remember is this – mistakes make just as good a story as success. Failing in a task can still be fun. (Well, as long as no character gets hurt.)

Now everything is done and you are ready to play, which means you are now interacting with other players who could be strangers you have just met for the first time. To make the DM’s life easier, and cause less in-fighting, this is a trick I like to do as a character. I view these strangers as tools.

For instance, the tough-looking half elf looks like she can take a hit—maybe we can divide our enemies between ourselves to avoid being ganged up on. The gnome over there looks weak, but is holding a bow. Perhaps I can count on him to cover me in open spaces and target foes I cannot get to. That loner over there in the shadows may be a coward, but could also be able to get into places I cannot. Maybe he can talk his way out of a bad situation. All of them can have knowledge that I wouldn’t, and all of these things I can use.

One more thing I want to mention. You’ll be traveling with this group for weeks on end and can make a friend in just a couple of hours. These adventurers watch your back at night and you have theirs when they sleep. I have been in campaigns where characters still treat each other as if they just met. Friendship, even if you’re evil, is still a thing. Most people will act differently around a friend, do things they may not normally do on their own. It is okay to bring this into the game as well. This can help a game progress smoothly and make a DM’s life much happier.

I hope you guys enjoyed my guide on how to bring a character to life and keep on those long roads ahead.

Theo C

One of the Mayfair Barristers, Theo runs the Wednesday night Dungeons & Dragons group.

Enjoy the article so far? Recommend it to your friends and peers.