One of my favourite parts of any roleplaying is coming up with the story of the character I am aiming to play. I used to frustrate my Storytellers because it would take me so long to build everything up history wise. Delving deeply into cultures and their rituals and relationships with the world around them. Using that to build up my character’s core. It has always been a vital process to me; whenever I would throw a character together in a half hazard manner it would always feel – incomplete and disheartening to play. Making the roleplaying experience for those at the table with me lackluster compared to my usual roleplaying.
They were characters it always felt difficult to be in their ‘skin’ as I interacted with the world and players around me; and if I couldn’t find their core – I would lose interest. I struggled to understand how others could simply be content to calculate their rolls and simply be happy to play based on their power, rather than their persona. In my later years, I’ve come to accept that some people are just interested in their rolls – It’s just not my style.
I’d like to share some of my processes and considerations as I build a character.
First – Concept
This is the character inspiration. What idea, image or power combination which you want to base your character. Sometimes it’s easy – other times it can be a struggle to settle on an idea. Here are a few of the things I use to inspire a new character when I can’t decide what to play.
Most often I start a crawl through different image repositories; Pinterest and ArtStation in particular. I will find many character concept images that I find interesting, quirky or striking in some way.
My Pinterest is overflowing with images I’ve saved that have caught my eye for characters – Art Station as another great source for character concept art. Taking inspiration from a favourite character from a show or movie can be useful and even fun to try so long as it is a tribute rather than an absolute replication. I want to build a character that can grow and develop with the RP that follows, and a true to life replication will rarely live up to the expectation.
A cool miniature
Sometimes inspiration can come from a cool miniature I’ve found at the game store, convention, online, etc. Perhaps even one created with Hero Forge for fun. Try to find details on the mini that you want to use as focal points – That scroll they are using, the pose they are taking, the broken sword they hold, or the goblin head in a bag at their hip. What do those things say about the character, or where did they get them or why do they have them.
Sometimes the miniature isn’t exactly what you want – but with a few tweaks could be; and those I have taken and made adjustments to; add a sword here, a long braid there. Fleshing out the character while fleshing out the mini to represent them.
Xanathar’s Guide “This is your life”
A little over a year ago I got to join a D&D Discord server and having not played D&D for nearly a decade; but excited to be back into it – I was at a loss for building a concept. I knew I wanted to play a Tiefling bard – beyond that a vague idea about being a child of guild artisans; silk merchants. Not really enough to build a whole character around.
Some RPG systems have a part of their books that will have a random background generator. I will happily use these when I am struggling to gain purchase on a concept for my character.
Pop Culture/Historical References
For me, last resort is using some pop culture or historical figures as reference points for my character’s core concept. I personally use this the least because too often I’ve seen people take it to an extreme – trying to make Billy the Kid or Goku and limiting themselves heavily to this concept.
There’s a difference in paying homage and making a facsimile of someone else’s creative works.