CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Putting a Little Meat on Those Bones

So you’ve gotten a basic character idea, maybe a bit of a character history, maybe even more than a bit. You’ve thrown some dice and configured the mechanical aspects of your character, but it’s still missing something. You want to hammer out a complete personality. Sure, we know he was a former military man and this is borne out in his background and his stats, but how does that affect how he acts within gameplay? How do we flesh-out the character we’ll be playing, and not just their history and their mechanics.

For some of you this will be old hat, and hopefully you can add anything you  think I’ve missed. To others this may include new ideas. To other, newer gamers, this may be your first foray into the wider world of character development. Keep in mind I have only so much space and my own personal experience, so I may not touch on every possible way to explore your character. Think of this as a starter article, which hopefully other gamers will be able to expand upon.

When forming the personality you want to look at some general traits and determine how they translates into your character’s behavior. If your character is an older military veteran you’ve got a few broad categories to work with. The first broad concept is "older." What does being older mean to your character? Is he a “Hey, you kids, get off my lawn” kind of old or is he the “I know more, so let me show these kids how it’s done” kind of old. One is a complainer and the other is a teacher but both are more well defined than just saying “older”.

Stats, especially but not exclusively mental stats, can help guide your character's personality. Just look at the basic D&D and Pathfinder stats, they each represent a number of different traits. Charisma could be good looks, natural charm, or just someone who is well spoken. Just saying that your character is charismatic means little, how is he charismatic? Even physical stats can help guide a character’s personality. A high dex probably means the ability to physically wiggle one’s way out of trouble. Personality wise this could mean a slippery character, one who would rather run or avoid a fight than face one head on.

Other mechanical aspects can help define your character’s personality. When I played a lot of World of Darkness, Eidetic Memory was one of my favorite character traits. This can’t just be about the mechanical advantage of remembering everything. How does this affect how your character interacts with the world? Some of my characters got frustrated with people who couldn’t keep other people’s names straight. Other times it would be that the character would concentrate on some areas of life so hard that he would ignore others.

Another example of translating mechanics into character personality traits is my current Rise of the Runelords character, who is an Aasimar. He has an alternate racial ability to quickly and efficiently learn languages. And, sure, as a mechanical effect, he gets two languages for every linguistics skill point. But how does this manifest in character? I decided he would always speak with a perfect accent and quickly learn the customs of the races whose languages he’s learned. This is how you turn a purely mechanical advantage into a roleplaying opportunity.

Are there a million other ways to make basic background information and mechanical notes into a character? Sure there are hundreds, thousands. There is no one way to flesh out your character into an actual person. There are many ways to create the person you will become for the hours that you are at your gaming table. Hopefully these ideas will get you thinking about what kind of person your character is and how they present themselves to the world.

How do you flesh out your character for actual play? How do you decide on quirks and personality traits? How do numbers on your sheet translate into the actions your character chooses to perform?

Just as the CRB attempt to help flesh out your gaming experience, you can help flesh out my ability to have time to produce the content you love. Consider becoming a contributor on my Patreon and check out a special video message on the main page of my Patreon site. Also join the growing CRB community on social media. G+, Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter all have a CRB presence. See what everyone else is saying and feel free to drop me a line with any questions, comments or requests.

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