Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Adding A Spark Of Life To Your Character

I wanted to retouch on this topic. There's lots of things you can do to add a spark of life to your character. Anything that makes them feel more real helps. Today, I felt I'd ask some more personal questions and explain how they can help figure out who your character is.

Who Can Your Character Be Themselves With?
The default answer most players have to this is everyone. It's not a surprise. RPGs are about fantasy, and one of the most common fantasies is the confidence to be yourself unabashedly. But step past that, and think about it. This question is actually several questions in one.

  • Who is your character really?
  • Who is your character with most people?
  • Why is there a difference?
  • In what company are they ok with letting the facade drop?
This is less about identifying who your character is closest to, what "tribe" they're a part of, or anything like that. It's about figuring out who the character is deep down.

Consider for example the charming thief. On the surface he's charming - obviously - confident, dapper, dashing, and always has a plan. What about inside though? Now you could add the insecurities and frailties that are normally there in fictional characters. You could add the heart of gold and the concern for the needy. You could put in a driving ambition to be the king of all thieves. Heck, you could even put in a desire to be a paladin or some other thing.

Now why the layers? Because it makes people more real. We're all, even the most confident of us, two people. We're who we are, and we're the person we project ourselves to be. By having the layers in your character you make them more real. By figuring out why there is a difference, why they hide what they do, you build in conflict.

Finally, the last part tells you how you get through to the real person. Maybe they only confide in close friends. Maybe they only confide with people who need help. Maybe they save it for key times for strategic use. Why and how tells you just as much as everything else.

Your Favorite Quiet Moment
This one is more about you, but think of a quiet moment for the character. Whether just their favorite way to unwind, what they do after a hard day, or how they handle the weight of the world being on their shoulder. It can even be a moment of preparation. What is it?

Is it a social face character getting ready for an evening out? Cleaning up in a mirror, pulling on stockings, or checking suspenders against a shirt? Perhaps cleaning guns at the kitchen table? Cleaning and treating a sword in a ceremonial style? Smoking on the roof of a building? Laying back in bed with a loved one? Bringing someone unknown to a different bed?

How does your character unwind? What is their candid moment? Where do you see them?

It doesn't matter if it is out of character for them, or if it is the most common thing in the world. The hope is you can see them doing it.


These quiet moments are also often moments of vulnerability. It's the person without their defenses up. It's the person without the worry of whatever is to come, or whatever has just gone to past. Even the social construct of who they are to themselves is gone.

Now, take those two moments, and who is your character?

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