Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Character Development - Who, What, and How

I sent an email to the players of my L5R game today. In the email I asked them each to take some time, think about the questions, and then answer three fairly straight forward questions. The questions?

  1. Who is your character?
  2. What does your character want the most?
  3. How will your character attempt to attain what they want the most?

Now, along with asking the players to think about it I also recommended that they discard the first three responses they come up with. My motivation behind that is simple: when we think about our characters and ask these things the stuff that will pop to mind first is the easy stuff, the superficial stuff. It is the kind of stuff that, as amusing as it can be, will have a person honestly respond "my character wants a bucket most right now".

I am hoping my players will think past that. This is more about philosophy then items. A character could be on a quest and want to redeem an item or person, or be steadfast on wanting to defend their clan or lord. Those are good things and tell a lot about the character, but I'm hoping they go a bit deeper and find the truth behind it. Perhaps the person tasked to redeem a person wants more than anything to prove themselves worthy of that legacy. Perhaps the loyal guard wants to be recognized above all servants for their loyalty and commitment. Perhaps not.

Now i have two objectives in asking my players to answer these questions. The first is very simple to understand. I want to know the answers to these questions so that I can lay the groundwork for the answers to question 2 and 3 to come up during the game in a way shaped by question 1. I want to give opportunities for them to grow towards achieving that thing they want most, and I want to put obstacles for them to overcome along that path.

The second reason is because in doing this exercise, in answering these questions, it makes the players think about their character long and hard. They have to think about the three core aspects that can really shape how a person comes a long: who they are, what they want, and how they go about getting what they want. It is possible for any one of those questions to have the same answer from two different characters and yet result in completely different personalities because of a different answer in one or both of those questions.

Consider for a moment a pair of bodyguards who both want more than anything to be recognized for their loyalty and commitment. In other words, 2 of the answers are the same. However, one of the bodyguards goes about attempting to achieve that recognition by making sure that his boss sees him doing his duty and that his boss knows when it is he who saves his life. The other goes about it by aspiring to be perfect in all aspects of his job.

Both of these characters can achieve their goals this way, but these characters are very different and we learn a lot about how they are different based on just that one question.

1 comment:

  1. Cool idea, emailing those questions to your players. This will probably prompt me to do the same at some point.