The time has come. Your group has slayed the dragon ...or defeated the wizard ...or saved the princess ...or whatever. Your next Epic campaign has been decided. How do you go about building your next character? There are many paths, I can only walk you down mine.
MK Tackling Tough Topics: From Concept to Creation; Character Building
I am not going to go into system specific details. I will assume that you have spoken with your GM and have the basic dos and don'ts discussed. You know what game you will be playing, the basic lay of the land and the rumors that cause your character to decide to take action.
This is about building the character you will be playing; from first concept, to playable personality. So put your dice away. Let's instead take a look at who you are going to play. Not what race, class or skill set you will provide, but who is this person you will become when your group meets and the role play begins? Answering this question will help you make all of the other stat/ability related decisions.
Every person in the world has the six basic pillars of character to varying degrees. These are what we are going to look at today in our fictional persona. Keep your pencil out and make notes if you are like me and forget "where was I was going with that" more often than you like to admit.
Your bullet points will be the six pillars. For each of these I suggest using a scale to give an estimate of the trait within the character you are creating. It could be as simple as a 1-5 scale, one being the lower impact to actions/reactions and five being the one thing this character will never bend or break on their path. I would never go too high on all of the pillars. Have a couple of them lower on the scale. Every character has their flaw, their weakness.
Another option: 1 - 6 Each pillar can only be assigned one number and each number can only be assigned once. This makes your character play quite uniquely and lays a foundation of morals on which to build your actions and reactions to the game that will ensue.
This covers not only how trustworthy your character is, but also how easily they trust others. I have one character who is very young, fourth generation military (Sable Company for those who know) and was raised to trust in the words of his elders and superiors. All hell brakes loose and he soon finds out that he has been lied to and betrayed by most of the people he has been trained to defend. He now lives by the old "Trust is Earned not Given" motto.
Another character I am playing has been around for a while. Battle worn and used as a pawn by his leaders he fled into the life of a mercenary. Over time, with the crew on the ship he travels, he has come to trust and respect many of them. He is more of the "Trust Until Proven Unworthy" type. Both started one way but due to the game they have headed a different direction. All you need right now is how easy do they trust, and are they worthy of trust?
This is a question of how important Respect is to your character. Is it something you desire? Something you demand? Whom do you give it to? Is giving it as important as receiving it?
If your character struggles with giving others respect because he is obviously above them, it might mean your character acts arrogantly. It might mean he has a hard time getting information out of the common folk, but is able to appropriately banter with the court nobles. If your character goes out of their way to assure they respect others in an attempt to earn their respect, they will most likely fit in well with the peasants, laborers and soldiers, but when the shadowy parts of town see her they assume she either wants something, or is hiding something. Respect both given and received will have a huge impact on what actions and reactions the character you build will live.
How responsible is your character? If they see a pick-pocket in the town market would they stop him? Bring him to justice? Take what he has stolen for themselves? Does your character take responsibility for their actions? If they brake a wagon while slaying the attacking Orcs, do they feel obligated to pay for the damage they inflicted? Or is that just the cost of having your life saved?
Questions like these will help you determine just how important responsibility is to the person you are creating. Responsibility is measured both in what actions you take and what actions you do not take. If you let the thief in the market go without any actions taken and he then turns into the right hand of the big bad you are up against, it was your un-taken action that allowed that plot point to form. Had you stopped him and brought him to justice, he might have died in prison. You inadvertently caused his death. If you took the time to mentor him and show him a better path he might become your co-hort. You would be responsible for helping him become something more than a thief. All based on different views of responsibility. What view does your character have?
Again you get to look at the spectrum of importance. How fair is your character? Do you assure everyone gets their share equally? Do you rationalize reasons for getting bigger payouts than others? Does necessity have an impact on that outcome?
If everyone is given 2000 credits an an equal split, would they be alright with giving another PC a bigger cut to get the arm they lost on the job replaced? Or does your character just consider that a job hazard and decide how to spend your cut? This can go on many levels. If the Moff is holding back funds from the citizens and giving larger portions to the Soldiers and Title Holders is he paying fair wages based on skill needed of tasks preformed, or just lining the pockets of the friends he has appointed into these positions? How would your character look at it?
This one is tough for some people. I have seen so many characters built with a base concept of "I don't care" as the common thought. That can not be an actual truth. If you not only want to have fun yourself, but allow everyone involved to enjoy the game they have to care. Everyone cares about something. If nothing else, there has to be a reason you adventure. You are not jumping from space-port to space-port with this motley crew just to survive. You could pick almost any planet and do that.
Something has made you chose the life. You cared about something enough to get on that ship. Maybe what you care about is living so you stay on the run with a group skilled enough to protect you. Maybe you care about defending those who can not defend themselves so you always find yourself fighting for others. The question here is what do you care about? More importantly how much do you care? Are you driven? Are you motivated? Are you just mildly interested? Find a good reason to care. Not only about why you are out with the group, but what keeps you with this group? Find that reason and do it early. Just some advice. Everyone has to work together during the game in order to succeed. So find a reason to care enough to want to pull your own weight.
In every game you will play there is some sort of entity. It could be an Empire that rules with an iron fist, or just a small village that takes turns being in charge when the need arises. What you need to decide is what is your place in all of this is. Are you a lawful person? Do you side with the government based on what they tell you? Are you a conspiracy theorist that refuses to believe anything "they" tell you? Are you aiming to remove a tyrant from rule in your kingdom? Are you defending the old fat king who is wasting the kingdoms funds on whiskey and women because he is the king?
I really like the quote "It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen." It reminds us in these creation moments that what type of citizen you are does not effect your characters alignment. It will only effect how you perceive the establishment in charge, and will help you to dictate your actions and reactions surrounding it. So decide how your character feels about being a citizen.
The Wrap Up:
These are the pillars of character. They are widely accepted and taught all over the world. While they may not have been written down and designated as pillars for the purpose of RPG character creation, I personally like to go in depth with the personality I create. After this first step, most of the feats, skills, or XP to spend tends to drop into place as an obvious choice for who this character is becoming.
Next time on MK Tabletop Talk we will look at the next step in my character creation process. We will be building weak by weak! If you have ideas, thoughts or preferences on what direction we go please feel free to drop a line in the comments section! The direction that gets the most likes will be the one we run with to start the next step. So for this week, what pillars would you rate high? Which ones would you rate low?
Until next time ...Game ON!