RPGaDay: Good characterisation

It is day 25 of RPGaDay, hosted by BrigadeCon and the question is: What makes for a good character?

RPGaDay 2016

In media like novels, film, tv shows, and other prepared performances, you get the ability to form a character which you control how it will be presented throughout the story. While working on the character, you will make changes to that character through the editing process. Once the product is complete, your character is set and thus it easier to make a good character. You don’t have such for a role-playing game.

In a rpg, you are performing and developing your character as you play. You can establish a basic framework of the character at the start which will change as you play. This is a good thing. Most RPGs are all about change. You have a set parameters of your character and you modify it as you play and/or you change the game environment by your decisions. With that in mind, a good character is one which helps to bring about this change.

Now, you don’t want all sorts of game. If you bring entropic change then you will have a chaotic mess in the end. While destructive action can be fun in one shots, you will find it difficult to sustain it in the long term play. The game Fiasco engages in fun destructive play as your characters makes poor life choices and events spiral out of control. The game is designed to being one-shots. Posthuman Pathways is another fun one-shot where you de-construct a character from have four distinct traits and you lose one. In my experience from Posthuman Pathways, you start with decent characters and end up with despicable alien characters. I have played a game where my character was a jerk at the start and ended up being a strangely decent character.

In long term play, you wish a character which builds to the story. A good character will wish to form relationships with other characters. You will want to form goals to accomplish over the immediate goal of survival. You character might wish to change the environment by building something or altering the status quo. A good character will have character development  which can be gaining power as most rpgs do it or personality development.

You can have an editing process in your rpgs. I do it in my game. If someone tries a character and a mechanical choice doesn’t work how they felt it should, we will change the character. For ex: Erica was playing Medrash, a dragonborn runepriest of Bahamut. The runepriest fits best for support characters and as Erica was playing Medrash, she wasn’t enjoying the mechanical role. She was trying to do stuff with Medrash which the game was fighter her. Erica is very enthusiastic player who enjoys actions and damaging stuff. She needed a character which encourages that. We talked about the core stuff which Erica liked to keep of Medrash. She wanted to stay a dragonborn and divinely attached to Bahamut. She wanted to stay in plate armour. This left her with paladin and blackguard. Due to her aggressive site, she chose blackguard. We remade her character with those rules and we describe Medrash as a paladin with rage issues.

Thus, a good character develops over time. You will starts with a rough concept and as you play, you will shape them. In the end, you will have a great character with stories to share with your group.

What do you do to help develop a good character?

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