Character Creation

I’ve got a few things to catch up on in reporting about, including my account of Kapcon 18. Recently  though, I’ve been thinking about the various scenarios that I’ve written for Kapcons’ past and how I create characters for those scenarios.

When I go about creating a scenario for Kapcon or the SDC, I typically start with a system that I want to run or a genre that’s really got my attention at the time of my inspiration.  What follows is a basic arc that I would ideally want the plot to follow; this is usually broken down into 3 or 4 acts.

At this stage, it’s an incredibly rough outline as when I sit down to create the characters, their personalities and histories are integrated into the plot. For the most part my previous games have been pretty superficial, by that I mean the characters and their relationships are built separately to the plot and tend to operate that way in play too.

At the moment I’m writing a scenario where hopefully the characters histories are going to be a little more immersed in the overarching plot, which should hopefully be a bit of a change of pace for me.

What I wanted to discuss though, was the way that I come up with characters for my scenarios. It’s actually rather simple, I tend to steal any character concepts that I’m exposed to at the time of writing and if their basic concept fits, I mold them into the scenario. I won’t take a concept that won’t fit, but if I can find parallels in the world I’m writing in, then stealing the character is fair game. After I steal 3 key concepts for characters, the remaining 2 characters usually full into place as necessary for group dynamics to work, or interesting elements that link the plot to the group. This is assuming I’m writing for a 5 player game (which is my preference :))

For example: Recently, I’ve been watching a lot of Supernatural (which I totally love BTW) and totally love the Winchester family. At the same time I was thinking of the characters that would inhabit my Cthuhlutech game, and loved the dynamic of the two brothers, Sam and Dean. So what do I do, I steal the basic concepts and begin to mix them into my scenario with incredibly promising results.

Obviously, a lot of my games have directly taken characters in their entirety (Super Stir fry Samurai, Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Pizza Cats are examples), but the above principal applies even for characters that I play in long term games.

What about you? How do you create characters for your scenarios or other forms of writing? I’m interested to know how others approach the creation of a roleplaying scenario, more specifically, how you build characters in?

Currently listening: Boy Kill Boy- On My Own



  1. Jon Ball Said:

    it sort of depends. I tend to have a scenario in mind, and then build characters to fit that scenario.

    So, my Star Wars Dark Sider game, some of the creation process was working out ways to make the different characters unique. I think I sort of decided on Javram, the Alpha Dog, first. I knew I wanted someone big and physical, strength focused. Then I think I developed Vilo as his counterpoint – I liked that Vilo had started as a Sith and wanted to turn good, while Javram started as a Jedi and had turned bad. Tayshaun was built so that there was a pilot involved – one of the challenges I wanted was that there needed to be a reason to keep someone alive to get off the planet. Flika was built as a non-Jedi Dark Sider, and then D’Kal was just something a bit funky and weird. I liked that D’kal actually wanted to kill every other character (as compared to the other characters, who only normally had 1 or 2 other characters they wanted to kill).

    My Light Side game from 2008 I think became much more about distributing powers. Person X can have Surge, so person Y can have Move Object, etc. there were some ideas in there (one of the characters was leaning towards the dark side), but the characterisation was almost an afterthought.

    Then again, these examples suffer a bit from being Star Wars, and therefore not hugely in depth in terms of characterisation. I figure if you work with stereotypes, people can grasp the concept much quicker.

    Rant mode off.

  2. Jenni Said:

    Ok, so I haven’t written characters as a GM in forever, so this comment is going to be completely useless.

    But one thing that helps me flesh out a character as a player is a soundtrack. Like, my character from PrimeTime Adventures was all “Welcome Home” by Coheed and Cambria because of the emo and the angst and the different worlds, then he turned into ‘Troublemaker’ by Weezer because he was finding his feet and doing what he wanted, no one could stop him. I actually have another song for him from the end of the series when he walked out on his love interest, but I’ve forgotten it now.

    My new Buffy character is possibly ‘Hysteria’ by Muse for starters.

  3. pandapitt Said:

    Jenni: Thanks for the input! 🙂 Now that you mention it, I come up with soundtracks for my characters when I’m involved in a game (more like entry music, like they would have if they had their own opening credit sequence).

    I don’t tend to do this for a game I’m creating, because the music that I’m thinking about is for scenes in the game or general themes reflected in game itself. I’m thinking I could come up with a song for each character to establish their individual mood. Could definitely help with the writing of each character 🙂

  4. pandapitt Said:

    John: Sounds like a pretty useful method for creating Star Wars characters, as each character tends to have a basic shtick. I must admit, I’ve used this method in creating alot of one off characters on the spot.

    The way your Darkside characters came around seems pretty similar to how I fill out most of my games. (a few character concepts you really like, coupled with a few to round out the group or connect them to the plot of the game.)

  5. Jon Ball Said:

    I like your idea too Jenni. I know that, when creating my own characters for game (particularly thinking LARP characters for Masquerade here) I had theme music in my head (a lot of it Tool).

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