Author Topic: How to make an interesting character  (Read 7117 times)

Marauder Moe

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How to make an interesting character
« on: August 26, 2010, 12:52:41 PM »
Let's make this a happy/civil/constructive thread, everyone.  The GDB seems to need it today.


Anyway, let's discuss how you could go about making an interesting and deep character.

1) Pick your base theme.  This is usually the outermost stereotype that people will perceive first, and defines the outline of your character. 
*The gruff fighter
*The attractive and polite aide
*The sly elven 'rinther

2) Create an outward twist.  Add something either visible (scars, tattoos, traits in mdesc) or readily apparent (common mannerisms, speech patterns) that is unusual and/or runs counter to your theme.
*The gruff fighter with a flower tattoo
*The attractive and polite aide with a scar
*The sly elven 'rinther with meticulously groomed hair

3) Create an inward twist.  Design something unexpected that people would learn once they get to know the character a bit, often their background story. 
*The gruff warrior with a flower tattoo who was born into a family of merchants
*The attractive and polite aide with a scar who used to be one of those street urchin NPCs
*the sly elven 'rinther with meticulously groomed hair and ambitions to live south-side

4) Create a secret twist.  Invent something that the character would never admit to anyone but the most trusted friend or two. 
*The gruff warrior with a flower tattoo who was born into a family of merchants and has a hatred for the local government for some past injustice
*The attractive and polite aide with a scar who used to be one of those street urchin NPCs and has a half-elven half-brother
*The sly elven 'rinther with meticulously groomed hair and ambitions to live south-side and has a taste for human women

5) Add more twists as you see fit, though there is probably an upper limit on twists beyond which the character becomes too inconsistent.

6) For each twist, come up with a story that explains and/or describes how the character came to be like that.


Anyway, that's one method.  Thoughts?  How do the rest of you do it?

Zoltan

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2010, 01:24:27 PM »
http://www.armageddon.org/original/showSubmission.php?submission=549

That's how I do it, though to a much lesser extent on "rebound" characters. It's actually pretty similar to your method, Moe, now that I think about it.

What I always love to interact with is a character with layers and/or a player who is fucking -adept- at portraying their character. Those two things usually go hand-in-hand, but they don't have to.
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Thunkkin

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2010, 01:36:57 PM »
I like to read Zoltan's guide for inspiration.  I think your original post might be a good comment in his guide, Moe.  Ultimately, I follow a method very similar to both of you - I either have some interesting interior twist or a single, interesting mental image of the character which I then flesh out.  The second part of Zoltan's comment above is where I have trouble.  I often build my character's secret, interior life too deeply into the character such that it is never or rarely revealed.  Meanwhile, the tasks of whatever role I'm in (soldier, merchant, schemer, etc.) take over and I become so focused on pursuing broader plots and "getting things done" that the interior twist fades and fades.  I really need to work on becoming 'adept' at keeping my character-building at the forefront rather than my "role-fulfilling."  The next time I play a long-term character, I'm determined to stick to my character's inner twists and weave them throughout all my playing, rather than just at very rare moments or not at all.
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Anaiah

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2010, 02:14:15 PM »
Great posts so far. Something else which is interesting, I think, is to choose, before getting in game for the first time, two things:

1. The character's Achilles heel (Their deepest weakness, the flaw that could easily be their undoing).
2. Something that your character would either die for, or let their life go to hell over because it means more to them than themselves.

Granted, they can both change in time, but it adds a really nice depth.

And from Zoltan's guide: HEMOTE HEMOTE HEMOTE!

Some of the most amazing, deep, interesting situations are touched on through use of this and the watch command.

About 50% of the kudos I've ever received as a player were for this. It takes the surface of what you're doing and adds subtext.

Okay, so you're nodding and listening as your Sarge is telling you about the gith-slaying expedition you're about to set off to... how would your body language express what you're feeling there, what's in your head? Are your shoulders minutely slumped? Are you rolling your eyes? Miming your fingers and thumb open and closed behind your back because you wished he'd shut up?

So you're lying to the militiaman interrogating you about that flash powder. Does your character have a tell? Maybe your nostil flares, or your heart skips a nervous beat, or sweat beads out across your brow.

While there are, of course, some scenes that such things will enrich more than others, hemote is one of the most overlooked commands in game, and it's sad, on a level, because you're missing out on so many layers and so much depth you, and others, could be bringing to the scene.
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Marauder Moe

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2010, 06:16:37 PM »
Other random thoughts:

Zalanthas is a harsh world, and your character's background should be harsh too.  Murder their friends and relatives.  Torture, frighten, and damage them.  This will leave you with a natural set of things they hate and things they fear.

For every way your character is unusual, they should be solidly average/Zalanthan in ten other way.  Not only does that help emphasize your twists, but it keeps the climate of the setting intact.  (Conversely, please realize that just because a character goes contrary to the setting/documentation in one aspect, it doesn't mean that the character as a whole is defying the docs/setting.)

Create your own Armageddon "hard mode".  Manufacture restrictions on your concept and on your play that are likely to hinder your character in accomplishing whatever goals you have for them.  Phobias, vices, mental handicaps, physical handicaps, emotional handicaps, whatever.

KankWhisperer

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2010, 06:34:19 PM »
Live longer than a week.

Personally I like to make them fairly average background wise and let the world shape them how it will rather than come in  with everything preset.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2010, 06:38:38 PM by KankWhisperer »

Barzalene

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2010, 06:41:09 PM »
In your off hours, when you can only play the game in your head, don't only dream of your pc's victories, but imagine their defeats and embrace those too.
Varak:You tell the mangy, pointy-eared gortok, in sirihish: "What, girl? You say the sorceror-king has fallen down the well?"
Ghardoan:A pitiful voice rises from the well below, "I've fallen and I can't get up..."

Spoon

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2010, 06:54:12 PM »
Insert flaws. My favorite are the double-edged character traits which serve as both strength and weakness.

Also, vary characters from past ones. Stop and think 'How is this PC's personality different from my last?". I think some people get bored with characters because they spend most of the character creation process on guild and appearance. Start with the personality, then work the appearance and guild around that.

Synthesis

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2010, 06:58:47 PM »
Too much personality is what gets characters killed early.
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Spoon

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2010, 07:29:34 PM »
Getting killed is what this game's about.

a strange shadow

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2010, 07:36:11 PM »
Too much personality is what gets characters killed early.

Unless I deliberately make a more subdued character, mine tend to have an overabundance of personality, which puts them in the line of fire pretty frequently. Those same characters also tend to be ridiculously long-lived. I haven't had a character die in years... I just retire them when I feel their story is done. (FWIW I'm not trying to be smug, here, I actually wish I could just go out in a blaze of glory at times, instead of just fading away.)

So I think your argument is flawed, or maybe I'm an exception to the rule.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2010, 07:43:52 PM by a strange shadow »

Wolfsong

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2010, 07:45:32 PM »
Personally I like to make them fairly average background wise and let the world shape them how it will rather than come in  with everything preset.

I find I do this a lot - I'll make  fairly generic background and basically design a PC - but only basically. I'll let their IG experiences and the people they meet shape them, and then go back and expand on their background when I have a more thorough feel for how, why, what they do. Putting too much effort into a PC, days of planning, only to have them die a few hours after commencing is one of my biggest burn outs, so I try to avoid that.

As for playing the game offline - I tend to do this, too - mostly again to get a feel for how a character might react to any situation IG, no matter how far-fetched or ill-conceived. I'll think about how they might say something, in what context they might say it, how the meaning of a single word might change in relation to who they're saying it to, facial ticks or common gestures, why they do it, etc. I mean, to be fair, I have a 45 minute to hour and a half drive to class one-way, so I have nothing really better to do, either.
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Synthesis

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2010, 07:50:33 PM »
Too much personality is what gets characters killed early.

Unless I deliberately make a more subdued character, mine tend to have an overabundance of personality, which puts them in the line of fire pretty frequently. Those same characters also tend to be ridiculously long-lived. I haven't had a character die in years... I just retire them when I feel their story is done. (FWIW I'm not trying to be smug, here, I actually wish I could just go out in a blaze of glory at times, instead of just fading away.)

So I think your argument is flawed, or maybe I'm an exception to the rule.

I think you probably play females, and you're probably very adept at navigating the social dos and don'ts of Armageddon politics, so you know just how far you can push that personality before it starts becoming a liability.  When a newb makes a character with "personality," they tend to dramatically overstep the bounds of what other players will put up with.

And you have to -really- be a complete ASS, a rogue mage/psi, totally clueless, or exceptionally unlucky to get blatantly PK'ed as a female.
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Beethoven

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2010, 07:59:16 PM »
I hope it's not pushing the limits to say that my character is both subdued and has quite a bit of personality. I don't think those things need be mutually exclusive.

a strange shadow

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #14 on: August 26, 2010, 08:06:15 PM »
Too much personality is what gets characters killed early.

Unless I deliberately make a more subdued character, mine tend to have an overabundance of personality, which puts them in the line of fire pretty frequently. Those same characters also tend to be ridiculously long-lived. I haven't had a character die in years... I just retire them when I feel their story is done. (FWIW I'm not trying to be smug, here, I actually wish I could just go out in a blaze of glory at times, instead of just fading away.)

So I think your argument is flawed, or maybe I'm an exception to the rule.

I think you probably play females, and you're probably very adept at navigating the social dos and don'ts of Armageddon politics, so you know just how far you can push that personality before it starts becoming a liability.  When a newb makes a character with "personality," they tend to dramatically overstep the bounds of what other players will put up with.

And you have to -really- be a complete ASS, a rogue mage/psi, totally clueless, or exceptionally unlucky to get blatantly PK'ed as a female.

You know, I've wondered about that myself. My next character will be male.

Drayab

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #15 on: August 26, 2010, 08:34:24 PM »
Let's not confuse antisocial behavior (eg - blatant disregard for social norms) with actual personality. You might think these things are related, but I would say only superficially. These kinds of characters certainly stand out, and by that definition, they are interesting.  Yes, having a maverick around does tend to make fun for those involved, but at the same time it messes with my suspension of disbelief. Self preservation is a strong instinct! IMHO, people ought to keep that in mind when trying to play a believable character.

jhunter

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #16 on: August 26, 2010, 09:00:27 PM »
Insert flaws. My favorite are the double-edged character traits which serve as both strength and weakness.

Also, vary characters from past ones. Stop and think 'How is this PC's personality different from my last?". I think some people get bored with characters because they spend most of the character creation process on guild and appearance. Start with the personality, then work the appearance and guild around that.

I prefer to have a loose outline of personality first and then flush it out more deeply as I start playing the character. I think that can work just as well as having it completely planned out beforehand. Sometimes, I think it works out better.

Ampere

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #17 on: August 26, 2010, 10:06:19 PM »
All you have to do is sit back and wait for the game to erode/shape their personality.  Depth is difficult to fabricate, but easy enough acquire by staying alive. Of course, the player has to actively pursue their toon's development throughout.

Continuing with my derail.  To play an interesting character, just be entertaining. People do enough absurd crap in this game that it's easy to milk a laugh by reacting realistically.  Don't be a douche or anything, unless that's your thing.

Personally, I maintain subplots to continually hone my toon's personality.  I doubt that your life's dream is to get a modest promotion at some dickshit firm. That's the role. What's the dream?
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Is Friday

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #18 on: August 26, 2010, 10:21:50 PM »
Too much personality is what gets characters killed early.

Unless I deliberately make a more subdued character, mine tend to have an overabundance of personality, which puts them in the line of fire pretty frequently. Those same characters also tend to be ridiculously long-lived. I haven't had a character die in years... I just retire them when I feel their story is done. (FWIW I'm not trying to be smug, here, I actually wish I could just go out in a blaze of glory at times, instead of just fading away.)

So I think your argument is flawed, or maybe I'm an exception to the rule.
I think you're an exception to the rule. I mean, if you're playing that character that sits at the bar and flirts with people and doesn't do much else--which it doesn't sound like you are... then yeah.

I've had over 2 dozen female characters (I play females mostly,) professionally assassinated, murdered in public places, murdered in non-public places, left-for-dead, tortured to death, and so on and so forth. Usually the people doing this would be GMH leaders, Templars, militia, gang members, and desert elves.

If you aren't taking risks within the reasonable bounds of your character and the environment--you just aren't playing to have fun. You can play female PCs who get murdered or maybe just attacked (if you can get away/be a badass.)

All you really have to do is get over the "I don't wanna make this person mad" mentality. If they don't "belong" to anyone, i.e. House, gang, important person--then fuck em*. Do whatever you want to them. They don't deserve your respect, because you either a.) work for someone more powerful or b.) are on the same social standing as them. All you gotta do now is bribe somebody to beat his ass. Hire a gang, hire the militia, bribe a templar--make someone else that's powerful a friend. Make that fucker pay for whatever insult he slung at you at the bar.

I have many,  many times bribed militia, gang members, assassins, and people of that seedy variety to just beat people to a pulp. Believe it or not, the other person gets it after that. If you get someone to bring them within an inch of their life and they value that character, they will roleplay like they value their life--accordingly.

Murder, corruption, betrayal.

* By fuck em I mean fuck them over. Not mudsex them.

sidenote: If you're playing one of those characters who "defends" people at the bars when they're being picked on--you should instead take a step back and take into account just who is involved. If some Tor officer is embarrassing some half-elf, you shouldn't get involved unless you're supporting the officer. If some human is picking on the elf, and you're human... you shouldn't be getting involved unless you're supporting the human.

And most importantly, if you're a man and some woman is being singled out and harassed--you shouldn't be her white knight, because no pussy is worth getting killed because you disrespected some gang/officer/powerful guard with friends.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2010, 10:27:14 PM by Is Friday »
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a strange shadow

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #19 on: August 26, 2010, 10:31:44 PM »
I think the moral here is "do what your character would do, and damn the IC consequences."

Often, doing what your character would do edges on the side of 'survival', though there will be cases where they're willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good (or the insane ideal). Sometimes they actually survive that, and sometimes they don't.

Reiloth

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #20 on: August 26, 2010, 10:52:37 PM »
I think the moral here is "do what your character would do, and damn the IC consequences."

Often, doing what your character would do edges on the side of 'survival', though there will be cases where they're willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good (or the insane ideal). Sometimes they actually survive that, and sometimes they don't.

Agreed.
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Thunkkin

  • Posts: 1967
Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #21 on: August 26, 2010, 11:01:34 PM »
So, for a thread about designing interesting characters, I think we've collected enough "I just wing it" responses.  I think everybody does that to a certain extent - everyone's characters (hopefully) grow and change based on their experiences.

I'd be curious to see more responses about, well, character design.  I'll throw out an idea that just popped into my head.

What about the Meyers-Briggs personality test?  I've suddenly got half a mind somehow to pick a result at random and then figure out how/why a Zalanthan would have that personality and those traits.  This would immediately flesh out a history while also providing a nuanced guideline for how the character interacts and thinks once in the game.  I think this would push me to play concepts and personality types that it might otherwise never cross my mind to attempt.

Anyone else have other methods or ideas?
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Barzalene

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #22 on: August 26, 2010, 11:11:40 PM »
I often start from a place of what if?
What if everyone I ever loved or cared about turned their back on me?
What if I was beautiful and resented that people assumed I was getting by on my looks. What if I tried really hard to act as if I weren't? What if on some level though, I counted on being able to get by on my looks and was afraid to admit that to myself?
What if I was a slave and a bondmate to a mul, and and I'd done that for thirty years, and I was a valued and trusted slave? What if I woke up one day and realized I wished I could do something just for me? Like learn to sew or fight or ride a kank?
What if I had abusive parents and a funny voice and I was angry at the world because I felt like my life was harder than everyone else's?
Varak:You tell the mangy, pointy-eared gortok, in sirihish: "What, girl? You say the sorceror-king has fallen down the well?"
Ghardoan:A pitiful voice rises from the well below, "I've fallen and I can't get up..."

Twilight

  • Posts: 1714
Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #23 on: August 26, 2010, 11:13:02 PM »
I try to avoid making "literary" type characters.  Cliche.

Whether normal or extraordinary, I only occasionally do literary characters because putting a twist on a character to make them interesting just seems fake and forced to me.  Rather, I concentrate on their background and what brought them to this point in their life, even if it was rather bland and ordinary.
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Aaron Goulet

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #24 on: August 26, 2010, 11:34:21 PM »
I used to use a questionnaire I designed a while back to help flesh out characters during the creation phase (some of you may still recall this, as I posted it online), but after killing sixty or so characters, I developed a new approach that works better for me.  It goes something like this:

  • Step 1: Formulate a concept that sounds fun to you.
    Whether you want to explore the world, backstab rats in the alleys, or mingle with your chosen society's elite, it's always a good idea to come up with a general idea of what you would like to do with your new character.  This will give you the foundation for both your background and your guild choices.  Be wary of making it too specific; Armageddon MUD is full of twists and turns, and you may find that the plans you had for your character are suddenly no longer possible, or even desirable.  If you keep things simple, you will have an easier time adapting to new situations, and even save yourself some unnecessary frustration further on down the road.

  • Step 2: Interview your character.
    For the purposes of demonstration, let's assume that you have chosen to play a human assassin/bard in Allanak, with the goal of becoming an aide and using your influence (and occasionally your daggers) to strike against anyone that would defy you.  The first question on your mind should be, "Why?"

    Your character could answer with a casual shrug, "Because I want to be popular and well-known," or they could exclaim, "I've taken shit from everyone my entire life, and I'm not going to put up with it anymore...  I'll make them pay!"  They are very different answers to the same question, and both warrant further questioning.

    Let's assume that the answer is the latter.  Who was giving your character a hard time, and why?  Why didn't your character's parents step in?  Were they the perpetrators, or are they simply dead?  How far is your character willing to go to defend his or her ego?  What would it take to convince him or her to break the law?  What would it take to convince him or her to take a person's life?

    The point of this exercise is to learn more about your character's motivations (the "why") his or her feelings (the "what"), and even his or her methods and behaviors (the "how").  Whether or not you decide to write it out or do it in your head, you should eventually find yourself with the necessary pieces to put together a full background.

  • Step 3: Write a description.
    A lot of people tend to write descriptions before they have worked out their character's background, but I have found that it is easier for me to tailor my character's physical characteristics to the life they have lived rather than the other way around.  If you know that a bully pulled a knife and cut your character when he or she was little, that scar that barely misses his or her eye suddenly has more meaning.

  • Step 4: Decide on your character's speech and mannerisms.
    You know just about everything you need to know about what is going on inside your character's head, as well as what he or she looks like, but what about their outward behavior?  Based on your character's personality and his or her physical characteristics, decide on how your character speaks, and what kind of vocabulary he or she uses.  Also, try to come up with a few compulsive behaviors for when he or she is bored/angry/sad/embarrassed/stressed; consistency will go a long way in creating a believable character.

  • Step 5: Fine-tune your application.
    When I finished my current character's background, it was almost 2,300 characters long; too long for the background editor.  In this step, weed out the trivial details in your character's background, and fill in any gaps you find.  Proof-read everything.

While it seems like a lengthy process in writing, in practice it only takes about thirty minutes to an hour to write up and submit a new character, depending on the complexity of the application.  I'm not saying that this is the "right" way to do it, either; in fact, I don't think there is a right way.  I took the time to write this post in hopes that it might help others too.
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