Creating a Character:
What you get out of a role playing game usually depends
a great deal on what you put into it. Of course you'll want
to talk to the GM first, because some of the things that he or she has
decided will be vital for you to know when trying to come up with a character
concept. Obviously the type of campaign the GM plans to run will
have a great deal of influence in your character, but there's more than
that. Another important factor is to find out what style of
campaign the GM is going to run as well. If the GM plans to run a
long-term, serious campaign, then you'll probably want to put quite a bit
of thought into your character's background. If, on the other hand,
the GM plans to run a hack-n-slash campaign where characters are dropping
like flies and around every corner instant death awaits you (don't laugh,
these types of campaign are more common than you would think), then you're
not going to want to spend a lot of time thinking up the character's background...
all you need for that kind of campaign is a pencil, character sheet, and
a bunch of dice. For the purposes of this web page, we'll assume
that your GM plans to run a more serious campaign and that your characters
will last quite a while.
A Hero is Born: Character Conception
One of the first things that you need in order to create
a good, believable character is a character concept. In order to
do this, you will need to find out (if you don't already know) what sort
of campaign the GM is running. After all, it wouldn't do to come
up with a brilliant space-marine character, complete with history, quirks,
personality, etc., only to find out that the GM wants to run a fantasy
Once you have the setting for the campaign, you
can go ahead and start thinking about the world, and decide what sort of
character you would like to play in that world. Your character concept
might be something that sounds like it would be fun to play, it might be
from a 'character template' out of the particular gaming system your GM
has chosen, or it might be based on a character from a movie or novel.
There are numerous sources that a good character concept can come from.
At this stage, all you need is a general idea of what type of character
you want to play.
There are some gaming systems that require certain
character statistics before you can be a specific type of character.
The next thing to do is find out from your GM if he's using a system that
has specific requirements for your particular character concept.
If so, you will need to generate your character's statistics before going
much further. Go ahead and do that now, and when you're done
and are certain that you have the appropriate stats to fulfill your character
concept, continue on.
Figuring out the Basics:
Now that you have a character concept, (and possibly
your stats), it's time to make a few decisions about your character.
You don't have to write a paragraph for each of these. Right now,
you just want to get a basic framework.
These questions will give you a good basis for building
your character. You can detail out each of these questions later
if you wish. Remember this while going through this list of things
to consider: The more you give your GM to work with, the easier it's
going to be for him or her to build adventures that pertain to your character,
and the more the action is focused around the things you came up with,
the more you will enjoy the adventures and playing the character.
These details that the GM can use to help generate adventures are often
called "character hooks." The more hooks you have for your character,
What is your character's name?
What race is your character?
What does your character look like? Does he or she have any distinguishing
marks or features?
What is your character's general outlook on life?
What is your character's attitude toward other people? What about
other races (if applicable)?
Does your character have any strange personality quirks?
What does your character fear most?
What does your character like most?
Does your character have a favorite weapon or piece of equipment?
Does your character have any enemies? If so, who?
What are your character's personal goals? Think both short-term and
Statistics: What your character is made of...
If you haven't already generated your statistics, now
is a good time to do that. Based on the questions you answered above,
you should have a good idea of what you want or need for statistics.
In general, there are two basic systems for generating character statistics,
depending on the game system used. Most systems either generate character
stats by dice rolls or you are given a number of points with which to 'buy'
your statistics. With randomly rolled stats, there are varying degrees
of control you, the player, have over your character's stats, ranging from
no control (What you roll is what you're stuck with), to moderate control
(Usually you roll a set of numbers and assign the numbers to stats as you
If you are using a point-based system, then you
have nearly complete control over your character's stats and skills, and
you can decide what trade-offs to make in order to make your character's
stats fit the concept you came up with. The big thing to remember
in point-based systems is not to try to be good at everything. As
a general rule, a starting character doesn't have enough points to be good
at more than one or two different things. Pick one or two things
that you want your character to be able to do well, and concentrate on
those areas. This is not to say that you can't have a well-rounded
character. Just don't expect to be able to be the best at everything
when you're first starting out.
In many game systems, you are allowed to gain extra
points or other bonuses by taking "disadvantages" for your character.
Disadvantages can be anything from physical or mental problems to enemies
that are out to get your Character. Each game system handles disadvantages
and advantages differently (and some don't have them at all). The
questions you answered in the section above will help you determine some
of your disadvantages ahead of time.
Now it's time to put some thought into where your character
has been and what experiences he or she has gained. This is where
you can really insert a lot of character hooks for the GM to use, so take
some time and put some serious thought into detailing your character's
background. Here are some questions to think about that will help
you detail your character.
Anything else you wish to add about your character's
background is fine too. You don't have to answer every single question
above, but you should at least give some thought to them all. You
might even want to write up your character's background as a sort of story.
At any rate, it's a good idea to write at least a paragraph about your
character's background, and try to address at least some of the questions
Where was your character born? Where did he or she grow up?
Who are your character's parents? Siblings? What do they do?
Why is your character in the position he or she is in right now?
Are there specific events that helped determine your character's course
What caused your character to choose his or her particular profession?
What sets your character apart from the average person?
If your character has special abilities, when and how did your character
If your character has distinguishing marks on his or her body, how did
If your character has any strange personality quirks, was there a specific
event that caused them?
If your character has an enemy, what happened to put that enemy at odds
with your character?
Does your character have any rivalries? If so, with who? What
is the nature of the rivalry?
Does your character have a religion? If so, describe the character's
Does your character know any of the other players' characters before play
begins? If so, how did they meet?
Some Final Advice:
You should be almost done at this point. We know
who your character is, what he or she looks like, what he or she is capable
of. We know where your character comes from and where he or she is
going. We know who your character's friends and enemies are, who
to trust, and who not to trust. You are nearly ready to set out into
the world to try to realize your goals. But before you go, here are
a few bits of advice:
If you talk to experienced gamers, I'm sure that they'll
have plenty of other advice for you. There are also some things that
you'll just have to learn for yourself, but that's a good part of the fun
of role playing. Hopefully the above information has helped you generate
a character that is more than a bunch of numbers on a piece of paper.
Your character should almost have a life of its own, and the adventures
your character has should provide memories and stories as vivid as anything
you read in a novel or see in a movie. You may even find yourself
growing attached to your character. Keep in mind it's all just a
game, though, especially if something bad happens to the character you've
invested a lot of time and effort into creating. The main thing is
to have fun... that's what role playing is all about. Good luck,
and good adventuring.
Equipment: If you set out into the world with nothing but the clothes
on your back, you're probably not going to get far. Make sure you
properly equip your character. Rope is always handy (as is duct tape,
if it's been invented, or its futuristic counterpart). Always carry
some sort of light source, preferably one that can be shut off quickly
(lanterns as opposed to torches in a fantasy setting). Also, always
have a means of lighting a fire. If you carry weapons on a daily
basis, don't underestimate the value of a hold-out weapon... your trusty
sword or laser rifle may not always be available or could get lost... keep
an extra, easily concealable weapon around whenever possible.
Plan ahead: Always have a plan before you go charging into a situation.
One of the most common problems players have is they build up elaborate
plans for getting into a situation and achieving whatever goal they're
after, but they never give any thought to how they're going to get back
once they achieve the goal. (It happens to the best... even Han and
Luke in Star Wars when they were rescuing Princess Leia). If you
don't figure out a way to get out ahead of time, you'll more than likely
find yourself in plenty of sticky situations, and if you have a vindictive
GM, you may well end up rolling up a new character.
Stick together: Some of the most commonly heard "famous last words"
at a gaming table are "Let's split up!" If you can, keep the party
together, especially when you're just starting out. Beginning characters
have many weaknesses, but when the party is together, each character's
strengths help negate everyone else's weaknesses. When you split
up, you become vulnerable. Sometimes splitting up is unavoidable,
and in those situations, you should try to accomplish your goals and get
back to the safety of the group as quickly as possible.
Back to main page