Greetings everyone! As a game master for a few years, and player for more, I would like to share my experiences with you on creating deeper characters for RPG games. I think there are some things to pay attention to, especially when making a new character. Okay, yes, everyone makes decisions depending on their race and class in any fantastic world. This world can be anywhere you want.
You can apply the topics I'm going to talk about today in any game, but I'll be writing mainly for dungeons and dragons, but you can still use these suggestions in your games like Pathfinder: Kingmaker or Call of Cthulhu of many others...
Like many game masters and dungeon masters, we want to tell a good story, and in order to do that, I think the characters that players come to the table with need to have their own personality, so that as the story comes to life and is explored, it feels like it's really happening with the players and not just another NPC character.
That's why I'm going to share a few things I've noticed in my games.
1. Lack of Character Concept from New Players or Bored Old Players
Players, especially new ones, come with a few character concepts in mind. Playing a young wizard like Harry Potter can be an example of this. As far as I've seen, people who come with this concept get bored after a few games when they don't get the performance they expect. The reason for this is that they actually want is; they want to experience the continuation of the story of the character in that movie or that game they like.
That's why your job as a player; is not to be Geralt of Rivia and not to be Harry Potter. If you want to play a witcher, you have to accept that you will be a completely different character and you have to create your character that way. Yes, you can play a witcher, but the story you play will be your own. It won't be a sequel to another game or a new chapter in another character's story, so when you choose a concept, be careful not to be the same character.
Yes, you can be inspired. And you should. Dungeons and dragons or whatever game you're playing, a lot of things are inspired by other things. That's why you can apply a similar concept to the character you are inspired by. Think of it like this, Indiana Jones is a Tomb Raider. Lara Croft is a Tomb Raider. They both go to forgotten or unexplored places and find ruins and treasures from ancient civilizations. The Uncharted game is another example. But as you can see, they all have different characteristics. For example, when we think of Indiana Jones, we think of his hat. When we think of Tomb Raider, we think of her weapons or if you've played the games, her bow and arrow.
When you put all this together, when you choose your character concept, your character theme, you have to be careful not to copy what you are inspired by. With a few small changes you can create a completely different character. You can decide these yourself before contacting your Game Master and they will be happy after you send them your best creation!
2. My Suggestions to My Players When Choosing a Concept
If you're going to play a wizard, the first thing to think about is how do you cast your spell, do you cast it with a wand, how big is the wand? Or do you cast it with an orb? What color are your spells in general? For example, a purple lightning spell feels very different from a blue lightning spell. The concept your character brings to the table can change with the way you cast spells.
If you're using materials and manipulating magic, that you gather from nature instead of using things like wands or staff, you're making a completely different character. Another example is casting spells with an item from your chosen wizard's past. For example, in one of my games, the Warlock character of one of my players was casting spells with a pipe that his wife gave him as a gift. The pipe became so important for this player's character after a while. The fact that his spells were smoky and steamy also distinguished him from other warlocks or spellcasters. So he had his own concept. He was unique. Although this is very simple, as you can see, it was enough to stick in my mind.
Another problem is that characters who fight with melee or sword and shield are or can be very similar to each other. For this, when choosing a concept for your character, you can think about how the sword looks. You can think about how your training was. For example, there's a huge difference between a guy who grew up in a barbarian tribe and uses big hammers and a character who grew up on the street and grew up in the city but still uses big hammers for fun, like Harley Quinn. On the other hand, there's a thematic difference between a samurai with a short sword and a crusader with a short sword. They have different fighting styles and different looking swords but same damage dice.
Another example of this is the armor your character wears. If this armor is inherited from the family, it must have some significance. If it is an armor that is given to everyone after training, then it will not have much importance. Don't get me wrong, this armor doesn't have to be important for every character. But when you attach a rose badge to the collar of the armor given to an ordinary soldier or when your character wears a shawl gifted to him by his daughter, you suddenly give your character a new dimension. This is exactly what I mean by depth in theme, depth in character concept.
I Can't Think of Anything, How Can I Get Inspired?
Of course you can be inspired by the movies and TV series you watch, but you can also be inspired by the game you play. Of course the books as well.
Let's take the example of two different detectives. One is a detective living in the world of dungeons and dragons. The other is a detective living in the world of Call of Cthulhu. The detective who lives in the world of dungeons and dragons can easily access spells and do his investigations that way. He can buy himself magical items and solve cases quickly. The things he investigates will be different. When I think of a detective in CoC, I think of the classic detective in the movies with the long coat and hat. The one with the cigarette in his hand. Do you remember that? Well, since these detectives are the first characters that come to mind, where can we draw inspiration from to make them deeper?
For example, let's look at our detective in the world of Dungeons and Dragons. Let's assume that this character is a Gnome. I immediately thought of all the mischievous adventures that could be done with a little detective. I can get into more dangerous situations and hide I sight with this character. Especially if I have a mechanical friend! That's it. My concept will be a steam punk detective. I'll cast my spells with this mechanical... spider. Yes. And the class I'm going for is a class no one would ever think of. A cleric. The purpose of my character's adventure is that for some unknown reason, deaths started to occur in the temple where I work. After these deaths, some bonds were found. I started to follow these connections and my God is helping me. Normally I am a very religious person and I was... a cook working in this temple. So... a second concept came up spontaneously. Through this cooking I can go into many places and listen to what is happening in the background while cooking. Even when I'm camping with my friends, I can cook for them. I can roleplay that way.
But what about the classic detective in CoC, how can I make it a different concept? I had a hard time thinking about that because that game doesn't have a lot of fantasy stuff. It's more of a horror game and it's a system that I know a little bit less about. One thing came to my mind though. To be a teacher. Yeah. Yeah. I cared a lot about my students. I was normally a physics teacher, but I felt bad when some of my students went missing. Then when I went to the police station and investigated it and reported it, I realized that other people were missing too. I became friends with a police commissioner at the police station. I visited the friends and family of the missing children to investigate these cases and each time I saw similar oddities. Since I am a physics teacher, I try to explain these oddities with science. I have a pencil in my hand and I play with this pencil all the time. Sometimes I put the back of this pencil in my mouth when I am thinking... and so on.
The important thing is to add a piece of yourself and play the fantastic character you imagine
When we create a character, we can fly away. We can also try to put too many character concepts together. That's not right either, and it's not good if you take too many inspirations and try to put everything in the same soup. So you can't play Gandalf and Geralt of Rivia at the same time. You can't play Lara Croft and Alloy (Horizon) at the same time. Choosing something and adding your own ideas to that inspired concept will always be more original and you will enjoy playing it more.
Let's take a barbarian for example. This barbarian is an earth genasi as a race. The inspiration for the character is the stone man (Thing) from the movie Fantastic Four. Whenever our character enters rage, that's when the stones in his body tighten and harden. For example, this is how we can explain why he takes less damage during rage. So is it over? It shouldn't be over. We need to add something from ourselves so that we can both enjoy playing more and make it easier to play. And more original. My character doesn't fight with his fists like the stone man in the movie. Or he doesn't fight with huge swords like other barbarians. I love sculpting. So; This character I created is actually a sculptor. That's why he fights with sculptor's materials. Even in his spare time he finds beautiful marbles and makes little trinkets out of them. One of his biggest goals is to make a big statue in a known city in the world we play in and put it in the city center...
As you can see, once you get inspiration for your character, you can take them to completely different places. Theme, color and hobbies are very important for the character. Instead of creating soulless characters just by choosing race and class, I think you can create more beautiful characters by thinking about the things I mentioned above. A concept, a theme.
So thats it for now, we talked about character concept and theme together. Thank you very much for reading! Take care. I would be really happy if you share your character concepts or themes with me in the comments below!