Developing a Character

edited November 2010 in General Discussion
This is for a research paper on the development of a character. I don't mean the stats or specs that just math. What I am looking for is what people are looking for when coming up with a characters history, background, and personality.

How do you all go about developing your characters? What is the process?


  • Kevlyn
    Posts: 2
    Well, the character depends on what you are looking for. When designing a character I take many different approaches, depending on what my needs are. The two basic methods are: Top down, and bottom up.

    The top down approach for me is that I know I want to play a certain type of character, a noble rogue, for instance. If I know what I want in the end, then I simply start asking myself questions about how the character got to that point. Starting with, as a rogue, what is the general roguish methods that the character uses. In a recent game, I decided that the character loved living the finer life. So he travelled from kingdom to kingdom, presenting himself as an ambassador. He lived on the hospitality of the ruling body, then when he realized that his identity might be compromised, he would pack up and move on. Then I followed that trail backwards, trying to sort out how he got there to start with, until I got to the point where he was a rather spoiled brat that always had the finer things. But rather than enlist in the armed forces, as was required of nobility, he simply ran away from home and began a roguish career that led him around the kingdom and had earned him all sorts of reputations.

    The bottom up approach is the one I try to employ when I don't know what kind of character I want to play, so I start looking at the setting to see where first of all I might want the character to have grown up. Once that's settled on, then often the locale will help shape the profession that the character is likely to be a part of. Things to look for in this direction are any wars or major battles, attacks on villages, overthrows of government, etc that may cause the character's original course to deviate. Most often, however, by the time the character has hit the teen period, their interests are formed and their destiny is most likely being solidified. Barring any major life changing events, the character will then fall into that role that their childhood shaped. The bottom up works well for me when I don't have a character preference.

    Some of the other methods involve modifying the above, maybe knowing that a major event happens, I might take the bottom up and give the character a radically different beginning, because the event will move them into a course that helps to fit the game they'll be used in.

    Hope that helps!
  • Everdark
    Posts: 122 edited November 2010
    I couldn't agree with Kevlyn more. That's basically my same approach to character development. There is one more method I'd like to add, though. It's an overly-simple one, but some of the best characters have come from it.

    On occasion, I (when playing) or my players (when DMing) will just throw together a character. Pick out the race and class, put together a very basic, even cliche, back story, and just go. Let the game and the situations the character faces develop their personality and flesh out their backround. It works surprisingly well if you, or your players get really into the character you're/they're playing.
    Post edited by Everdark on
  • Poutine_Paladin
    Posts: 285
    There's also the "what doesn't the group have already?" way of creation, where you alter (or form) your character to add a dimension to the group that it doesn't have already. Every group of do-gooders needs a shady-type (even if it's just a hint of greed or buffoonery) for spice, for example. Also the same thing is fun to explore within the character itself. Random quirks that seem out of place but can be explained through backstory are always fun. Playing a Paladin in a group without a Ranger or Druid? Maybe the Paladin happens to be a nature nut for some reason, and likes to strip down and swim in every stream they come across, or climb random trees. I often let my characters' personalities come out based on some aspect of the game that isn't being used already by other characters.
  • erwin
    Posts: 58 edited November 2010
    Very nice posts above. I've got to agree with nearly everything, especially the whole "what doesn't the group have" thing. Actually, I'll be joining a new(some old) group of players, and we were discussing who was going to be what. It's the exact process of how I chose what my character was going to be, but I digress..

    I'd like to throw in that the nature of the game affects my choice as well.. in, is the game going to host a fresh group of level 1's that will (hopefully) make it to the end of a campaign, or will we just be doing a high-level one-shot adventure?

    Given that option, I could start off as a young barbarian who's future exploits will shape how he becomes or he could be Conan the Destroyer wearing the jeweled crown of Aquilonia.

    I honestly prefer the former though. A level 11 hero with a well thought out history and background is cool, but a level 11 hero who's history and background was 11 levels of adventures is more my preference.

    edit: not one-short, one-shot*
    Post edited by erwin on
  • Curufea
    Posts: 161
    I usually look for personality quirks - why they are different from those around them - and then work back to what could have caused them to be that way.

    Everyone is the sum of their circumstances and opportunities - their personalities are shaped by their experiences. So it's really a matter of working out how they got to C, what was A and B?
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