Making a Player Character Personality

By on 1 May 2014

Most campaigns that I run are for new players and/or novices, one thing I like to do is to develop games where the players start with nothing. Making players climb the ladder to power and riches is the best and easiest incentives to create. Granted It is a ‘breadcrumb trail’ philosophy but for newbies it works perfectly.

Most new players have the same approach to making a character, they make an instant hero with all the trimmings, and this is a frustrating trait ingrained into us by video games. They get so used to playing an instant hero it takes a fair amount of time to work that habit out of them and teach them to appreciate the rags to riches play style.

Another thing is you get to see the popular fantasy tropes that stick in the players heads, but it’s always awkward when you have four heroes from the corners of the world all suffered the same “village burned and parents dead” routine.

So, how do we combat this almost kneejerk reaction when making new player characters? When I first started running games I used to have all the players send me their back stories and I’d sit there and go over them and craft them into something workable with the campaign plot and locations on the map. In my now later years I’ve taken to the more laid back approach of working around the players and not they work around me.

Naturally they still have to abide by the realms “rules” so to speak, but like I have outlined in a previous article, I prefer to create an NPC’s environment and then the character as it makes for a more authentic and realistic entity. I like my players to do adhere to that method and create their characters place of birth and/or childhood home before they make the character.

Figuring out a way to actually put this into place without lecturing them for half an hour was a bit of a problem until I began using the Shadowrun twenty questions. I altered them to fit whichever genre I was running and then send it out to the players to work on. I then accumulate all the information and locations and spread it across the map and build the campaign that way, sometimes a players back story can include some brilliant ideas which I cannot help but work into the main plot.

This method prevents the player from adding too many unwanted years to a character who is written to be in their mid twenties. It can also help new players tap into the imagination of theirs and really bring out some of that potential they didn’t think they had.

Of course these aren’t a do or die way of approaching character creation many times me and friends have turned to popular culture to design an archetype. I’m sure many of us have played a Conan or even a Han Solo styled character and why not? Sometimes you want to play that person in your own style.

If you haven’t already; I would recommend that all GM’s read the Shadowrun twenty questions for character creation and see how you and your players take to it. There’s no harm in trying!

About James Grimes

James is writer from Derbyshire and when he's not running games he's writing them. He has spent 3 years running games trying to perfect his craft. Like a reluctant hipster he supports indie games and new systems that people haven't probably heard of but that doesn't jade his opinion of the classics and greats.

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