It is time! You have found a group, got a schedule that works for you, got your dice, and bought the snacks for the big day. But you are forgetting one thing – what character should you play? Maybe you’ll try out that half-orc sorcerer, or even try homebrewing a Beholder-born Rune Seeker. As players, we want to make something that reflects how we want to play the game. DM’s enjoy stereotyping players into categories; we’ve mentioned before how Matthew Colville expands on these categories very well. But players like you and I do not think about psychology and how our backstory will affect the entire game as a whole – that is the DM’s job, right? Well, you have more (and less) power than you think as a contributor to your game world, and here some things to think about when making a meaningful character for your party.
What does your character represent?
Regardless of play-style, your character does have a mindset on how they approach the world. Be it Daniel Day-Lewis or a murder hobo, your character brings emotion out one way or another. Many a character do not intentionally think about how people feel when talking to them, but all characters make people feel something. If mastered, the player can perfectly exhibit the emotion they want others to feel when speaking to them in every scenario. But for us mortals, thinking about one emotion is a good start.
Take a Conquest Paladin for example. The entire code of the class is to exhibit dominance over foes through fear and submission. But if you are playing a good-hearted, charitable, and merciful character that is this class, the themes clash. It is certainly possible to be both, but the effect may be diminished for one or both of the traits. Using the one-word emotion strategy, let’s say fear, try to make your character the embodiment of it. Think of ways you can truly terrify your enemies and even your fellow players at some points. Eventually, look for story points that would grow that embodiment or change it to another emotion. That character will be much more memorable than a double-minded one.
How can your character grow?
This was touched on the last point but is expanded on here. A static character gets boring for both the player and the party and could lead to a suicidal character switch. Dynamic characters are key. But how is a character dynamic? It helps to seed thoughts into the initial build of your backstory. I personally enjoy challenging myself with thoughts I don’t understand in my real life.
Let’s go back to our Fear Paladin. The emotion is fear, and how can that grow? Why does the paladin use fear over other methods? What makes fear powerful? What is the definition of fear? Rhetorical questions, but questions that spark growth in a story. Simply questioning thoughts provokes greater thought. Now ask even more situational questions. Is one life valued over many? When is lying to a loved one for their own good okay? Is man naturally good or evil? It is more impactful if you don’t have answers to the questions you present. These are real questions, and your character (and real self) will truly grow when confronted with these situations.
Quick Tips for Character Creation
These each could get a paragraph, but word count is getting long. So I will just list these in points:
- The less you know about your backstory, the more surprised you are for your encounter. Devil is in the details but the DM is the devil, not you.
- Nobody likes Special Snowflakes, so treat the party like a Special Snowball. Everyone has a unique backstory, help them display it by sincerely listening.
- The DM eight times out of ten has a story planned. Talk to your DM and try to match your emotion to the theme of the campaign story.
- Embrace your weakness. Low stats and bad flaws are the definitions of your humanity, act in accordance to showcase your failures and grow from them.
- Showcase your party’s strengths. You have your expertise, but make sure you broadcast everyone else’s and encourage them to take the show.
Let us know what you think of the list, and ask any questions that we can address!