View Full Version : Playing new characters

2008-02-01, 08:23 PM
I'm curious, since i seem to be something of a minority in the way I approach new characters in games, and i thought it might be interesting to talk about.

How do you prepare to play a new character? How much do you need to know about them: is a character sheet enough? Do you need to know their personality? their backstory? their entire life story? Do you like to jump right into a game, or take a little time beforehand to play the character in a different setting?

It's probably because I'm a writer, but I always get nervous playing characters when I don't know what their personalities are. I won't need an entire life story, but I like a background at least, and a sense of how they'll react in at least a few situations. I get a little stressed out jumping right into a game, and I like making someone play a one-on-one scene with me beforehand to get a feel for the character's behavior.

How about you?

2008-02-01, 08:32 PM
Me i prepare a personality, a background. After that i make my character sheet. I prerared it once a week before the game. I evaluate all the possibility to make it better. First i roll my scores. Like i'm preparing now a wizard level 7. I roll a 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 9. I will play a powerful wizard with low charisma... but he is a leader with is Intelligence...

2008-02-01, 08:35 PM
I personally prefer to have a semi-solid backstory backed up by a rather vague personality worked out beforehand. Otherwise, there is no room to let the character evolve on their own, something that I have learned is very good when I write. ^^

The Great Skenardo
2008-02-01, 08:35 PM
I like to have a vague idea of a build in my head (i.e. human Hexblade, ex-bandit, specializing in demoralization and terrorism)
And then build the sheet. from there, I ask myself, "What kind of person would have acquired these skills? and how?"

Then it becomes a synergistic thing; changing one to reflect the other, back and forth. If I have time, I'll try at get the voice down, and maybe practice a few lines, think about his reaction to particular things, etc.

Lord Tataraus
2008-02-01, 08:48 PM
I come up with a concept such as a crazy wizard who loves fire or a fallen elf with fiendish blood who dabbles in shadow magic. Then I figure out motives and from that, personality. Then I create the build to reflect that.

Actually, those are two characters I have yet to run since I can't get anyone else DM :smallfrown:

2008-02-01, 09:25 PM
I come up with a vague character Idea eg(elf rogue) and I figure away to be introduced into the campaign prisoner, family member, or hired. Then I roll stats and try to optimize my character a little eg if I needed MAD ability scores for (eg paladin and only got 1 high stat I would switch to a fighter) then come up with a bigger background after I have the sheet mostly done and basic fluff

2008-02-01, 09:32 PM
Personally, I'd like to know a little bit about the world before I start. Barring that, I'd develop a few stock characters to fall back on when I'm stuck.

2008-02-01, 09:40 PM
Barring that, I'd develop a few stock characters to fall back on when I'm stuck.

I do that in my free time, some days.
Course, got to keep the backround really open ended, if you really want it compatible with any campaign, but the premise still works.

2008-02-01, 10:38 PM
For non-stat-dependent RPGs I usually start with a concept, then I write a backstory. The name is almost always the last thing to be added to the character. I generally find that as long as there aren't any fiddly numbers to worry about, everything but the name comes easily.

For stat-dependent RPGs like D&D, I start with a general idea of what I want the build to do (for example, as a tribute to Haley, I wanted my first character to be an archer rogue), then I fill out a tentative character sheet, then I try to figure out what sort of backstory will justify that statistical representation, then I try to figure out how to reconcile that backstory with the campaign setting. The name still comes last.

Note that significant character drift/evolution may occur during this process. I started out with nothing in mind but "tribute to Hayley" and ended up with a good hearted child-thief turned prisoner turned army conscript turned military scout turned deserter turned adventurer turned Clueless accidental plane traveler turned Sigil resident turned womanizer with Freudian mother issues turned representative of Chaos in a planewalking adventuring party. He has a grudge against clerics and is slightly Doomguard-inclined (This is complicated by the fact we're playing post-Faction War and he's never actually met an actual active Doomguard member.). He's a pretty strange fellow. Mechanically he's a rogue 3/scout 3... and decidedly suboptimal. Oh well...

2008-02-02, 02:04 AM
For me it depends.

On campaigns where i know we will be playing for a while. I will come up a Name and character concept first. After that i will generally write up a background, then i will do stats.

For games where it will be short or one shot. I just build a character and i generallly decide on a name when the DM goes "And you are...?"

2008-02-02, 02:32 AM
For me it's basically, Cool idea, let's make this work!
I come up with the character (normally this includes both his/her personality and his/her stats, sometimes one comes first and I have to fiddle with the other) then I try to see how s/he fits into the given circumstances, as well as figure out why s/he is like the way s/he is.
The hardest part is the name; it takes me forever to give my characters names.
Once thatís done I dive in, and s/he grows and fills out his/her back-story from there!

2008-02-02, 03:48 AM
I start with a concept, sorcerer blaster with searing spell, half-dragon dungoen crasher, pixie warlock, whatever. Then, before I even get to backstory I look at how I plan on playing. Sorcerer blaster's going to be throwing out as much fire based damage as I can, so I aklready know he's not going to be the kind of guy who holds back. I build up a tentative background and personality, sometimes even forgoing both if nessisary, and then craft them as I get a better feel for the character.

For instance, the dungoen crasher? My DM is being a pain about locked doors, so I figured I'd buy an adamantine great hammer and destroy every portal I find. So I've got a start on the backstory. Hmm half dragon, hates doors, probably abandoned young on the doorstep of some stranger, and then no doubt just passed around to a different door, as really, who wants some random mixed breed child? Proabably raised by some kind outcast.

Sometimes the background and personality and the crunch meld together, build off eachother, and craft a new creation.

Sometimes I just play a pixie who wants to help end a great threat, and backstory never really comes into play. Al told I'm more of a live fire sort of character builder, but then that's how I DM, so it's what I'm used to.

2008-02-02, 03:48 AM
I'd say you need most of a character sheet, certainly the basics down to the level of detail of ability scores and everything simpler. Then, it is good to know some measure of personality, and throw in a little background. Anything after that is useful extra.

2008-02-02, 10:18 AM
There's nothing in RPGs I hate more than starting a game with a character who isn't well defined. You have to make a first impression but have nothing to work with.

I like to define my character with a nice long backstory. My GMs usually like reading the backstories, or else I'd consider cutting them short. Anyway I don't just do the usual biography. That stuff is important and all, but rarely comes up in game. Knowing who your brothers are doesn't really help with a first impression on the other players. Anyway, I give childhood and familial info in the first paragraph and follow that up with how my character left home.

The part of the backstory I find most interesting is the story leading up to the moment where game starts. I like to put a lot of dialog in here. Practicing the character's speech without players around really gives me a good chance to feel out the character and get used to him. I've tried doing this verbally, but it just doesn't work well for me. Your mileage may vary though. I also like having the written record of the character's speech in case we ever take a break from the game I can use it to get back into character when it resumes.

2008-02-02, 10:33 AM
I mainly draw from other sources for inspiration.

I had a sorcerer who believed himself to be a god and called himself "Una-Guave-Ba-Se-Chi-Se-Una-Guave", he also talked in third person. I stole this idea from MadTV.

I had a fighter dwarf who I called "AUCH! Indignation." Which I stole from a lampooning of LotR.

Right now I'm currently drawing up A Pimp Named Slickback which is just a perfect face for a game. I stole him from the Boondocks.

None of my characters are ever serious, they are intended to bring some fun into the campaign, so it's not always Smash-n-Bash.

So what I do is just watch for memorable characters and if I like one enough, then I add him or her into a campaign.

I even made a Ms. Swan character from MadTV into a Call of Cthulhu campaign.

2008-02-02, 12:12 PM
A little of A, a little of B. Sometimes I decide what I want a character to do and tack on a backstory (usually badly, though not from lack of effort). Sometimes a character idea just kinda pops into my head and I try to translate that to the game.

2008-02-02, 12:44 PM
I do this in a 3 step process:

1. Pick a class. In this case, I wanted to try out casters, but I suck at bookkeeping, so I went for sorcerer.

2. Pick a race. I chose human, but with a homebrewed template the DM was offering for +1 LA.

3. Pick a quirk. This is the big one. I never have fun with characters unless they're fun to roleplay, so I tend to make my characters have very unique personalities. This one, for example, is a hippie and a conspiracy theorist. He's completely convinced that everything and everyone is conspiring secretly in some way, so much so that I made a d100 sheet of possible conspiracies, ranging from the DM to the BBEG to 4th Edition. Thus far, I'm having a blast rolling it.