Friday, August 20, 2010

The Birth of a PC

One of the things I love most about tabletop gaming is the people I get to know. In the six years I've been playing, I've gotten to know tribal princesses, space mechanics, cultist runaways, and countless more. Some people play for the thrill of beating up great mythical beasts, some to build an empire, I play to make characters and learn their story.

There's lots of ways to go about building a character. I like to start from the base, pick a class I want to play and build up from there. I tend to stick to a few specific classes: rogue, warlock, warmage, dread necromancer, or monk. I can't get into fighting classes like Ravi. Then, while I'm building her character sheet (I always play girls, I just can't play a male character, unlike Ravi, who is just NOT ALLOWED to play a male character), I start to think about her backstory.
- Where's she from? We still don't know
- What's her motivation for leaving home to adventure? GOOOOOLD!
- Does she have any goals while she's adventuring? Keep Ravi from getting us both killed...
- Do I want her to be designed after a character I like from something preexisting? This always leads to hilarity. No exceptions.
- Have I made a character with this story before? I don't remember.

For Indeah, I wanted her to be a treasure hunter, and Factotum uses Intelligence for their abilities, so she was going to be smart. At her base, she was a female Indiana Jones, so I decided to name her similarly. (Our last name is Geness.) Yes, she does use a whip. No, she doesn't have a cool hat. Although, she used to have a foppy hat she stole from her sister's ex. Her parents were former adventurers and treasure hunters too. It was her basic persona, no personality, no likes or dislikes, just a simple, base person. I cannot give my characters much personality without the game. I can say they're polite, or spoiled, or any of various other traits when interacting with people, but it can't get detailed. I prefer to let them grow as we explore the world the DM created together.

In this case, it changed her a lot. Ravi joined the game at the start, and our characters were the same age. Suddenly, Indeah had a twin sister. She found a trinket in a dungeon, carved by a long-dead soldier. Suddenly, she started to collect things that seemed useless with the idea that maybe they can be used for improving relations or, if she was lucky, gear. Bouncing off each other, Ravi became the wild child and they don't talk about "three towns ago" because of her (and they don't visit certain temples, either), while Indeah became the straight-laced sister who tries to keep Ravi in check. Without the other characters and NPCs we've met, Indeah would be someone completely different. That's why I can't build a character completely beforehand. It's who a person interacts with and how they react that makes them who they are. I don't know who they've interacted with before or how they've behaved when they haven't had a chance to exist yet. And that's why I play tabletop games - to find all that out.

Happy rolling!

1 comment:

  1. An interesting alternative to making up your character's entire backstory is to randomly generate it. For 3rd-edition D&D groups, check out the Hero Builder's Guidebook. The first half is mostly about races and ability scores and that sort of thing, but the latter half has tables you can roll on to determine everything from how big your family is to the climatic region in which your character was born.