Creating Characters for Plot-Driven Games
- 1 Concept & Identity
- 2 Background & Motivation
- 3 Interview
- 4 Statistics & Abilities
Concept & Identity
1. Put down the dice and rulebooks for a second, and think about character concept and what kind of guy your character is going to be. Don't pick something dumb.
Background & Motivation
2. Start to write the background. While you're coming up with the story, you can come up with one or two hooks for subplots, things from the character's past that can affect his present. See Creating Characters for Character-Driven Games for ideas.
Most importantly, give the character a good reason to be involved in this plot. Get the GM to tell you what you'll be doing ahead of time. He doesn't have to give you all the details, but if the campaign he has planned involves going around conning the rich out of vast sums of money then you'll want to make a character who is greedy, or has massive gambling debts, or simply hates the rich.
Ask the GM what you'll be expected to do. If you're protecting poor villages from the monster of the week but you're dead set on playing an unheroic, selfish jerk, give him a reason to help out. Maybe he owes one of the other PCs a huge favour and hates to be indebted? Maybe he's being blackmailed into helping? Maybe he wants to impress someone?
Example from an actual game: If you're playing Horror on the Orient Express, you're going to be travelling across Europe collecting pieces of an (allegedly) magic statue in order to take it to a mosque in turkey and destroy it. That's not a spoiler, that's what the GM should tell you up front.
Sensible PCs will dump the first piece they find into the Marianas Trench, go home and whack off to 'What the Butler Saw' which is what passed for internet porn in those days. Your job is to not make a sensible PC. Make someone insatiably curious or a bit nuts or flamboyantly gay with a craving to go see those infamous Turkish bathhouses.
Do the remaining stages as normal but don't take as much time over them. You aren't creating the raw material for a story, just tying your character into the story as it already exists. Get suggestions from the GM - he knows the story, you don't, and he might be able to volunteer ways of integrating your character into it. Maybe one of the villains is your brother? Maybe one of the mcguffins is in an archaeological dig in Lausanne that your archaeologist has been very interested in studying for wholly unrelated reasons?
3. The interview stage. Sit down with the GM and answer the following questions, one at a time:
What is your Name?
What are your Strengths?
Anything your character is good at. Can include moral traits like loyalty, honesty, bravery etc.
What are your Weaknesses?
Things that can throw a spanner in the works. Things you're bad at. Things you don't like doing. Hobbies - if you're an avid collector of coins or have a weakness for fine wine or women or even puzzles, those all count.
What are your Flaws?
These are the things that can potentially ruin you. This can include things you absolutely need - your need to protect your children, or a need to prove yourself. Pride is always a good one. Past crimes. Thirst for revenge. Depression.
What's your Moral Outlook?
What's right and wrong? Why? Does it come from somewhere? Is it innate?
The GM has to think of one appropriate to the campaign. The one we used was this: You find a guard beating up a woman who has stolen food to feed her children, she's begging him not to throw her in jail because her children will go hungry. Despite this the society of the town is generally 'good' and just. Do you intervene, and if so, how? Whatever the dilemma is, answering it will tell you a lot about how the character thinks. Note: If your answer is 'I kill them both, and take their stuff', you might want to start over.
What are your Character Goals?
What does the character want to do? Find his long-lost sister? Become king? Fuck every whore from here to Waterdeep?
What are your Player Goals?
What are your goals as a player for the character? This is less important in a plot-driven game, but it still helps the GM to work out whether you're going to enjoy the story he has planned, whether you'll want to get off the rails at some point, and whether he should adapt the story to give your character a chance to shine.
Statistics & Abilities
4. Now at last you can sit down and write up your character sheet. By this point you should know exactly what skills and abilities to take. If you wouldn't normally be allowed something that is an established part of your background, ask the GM to make an exception for it.