On Roleplaying

On Roleplaying
written by Juliana Shadowfyre

"Expelled from individual consciousness by the rush of change, history finds its revenge by stamping the collective unconsciousness with habits, values, expectations, dreams. The dialectic between past and future will continue to form our lives."

- Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

Inspired by an AD&D article (url below) about making up a character's personality, I was tempted to convert the ideas into SMAUG mud form. In it, Benner suggests first and foremost, rolling up the stats of the character, choosing race and class, and so on.

In the Realms of Despair, you can work both ways.

(*) Got a ready made character already and wondering how to start roleplaying? Need another thief for that run you always wanted to go on? Wanting a cleric or a mage since no one can really live without spellcasters of their own? Here, the character comes first. You've got a class in mind, and perhaps a race as well, for those yummy elf-only pendants, half-troll/ogre-only girths, etc. The good thing about this is that certain ideas about his history are then more plausible than others. The drow mage is likely to have lived underground in the past, and very unlikely that he grew up in the undersea kingdom of the sea-elves.

(*) The other way is to have the idea first, and pick a race and class suitable to it. You want to play someone studious and hardworking but with an insatiable curiosity and knack of getting into trouble. Doesn't sound like your average lizardman warrior, does it? A frolicksome pixie mage or cleric would fit the mould more.

Whatever the case, you now have a character in the Realms, and a hazy idea of what he may be like. Time to clear the fog by seriously thinking about:

a) Personality Traits

b) History An easy way to define a character's personality, and yet give him more life beyond the stereotype, is to think of a few main primary traits, and one secondary contradicting trait. (I think I ripped off this idea somewhere, but am not sure where precisely.)

As an example, I'll use Juliana, because I'm too lazy to make up a separate character for this. She's a sea-elven cleric, and when she first appeared on the RP scene, she was every inch the stereo-tyical kind-hearted soul. Pacifist, concerned about others, ever the healer. Those were her main traits.

Somewhere along the line, a darker side of her began showing. Juliana was stubborn, rebellious and had a touch of paranoia. Secondary traits aren't really contradictory, but they do give a character greater depth if used carefully and do not overpower the primary traits too much. Now the interesting questions begin. Juliana is kind-hearted but paranoid.

If someone were to beg her for help in healing another wounded far away in some other place, when would she agree to go, and when would she balk and be suspicious? You will never be able to prepare for every eventuality, and this is where having a detailed history of the character works wonders.

When I say detailed, I do not mean a timeline of events, though you could have that if you wanted to. Most importantly, you should know the major things that have happened to the character and how it has shaped his personality, his beliefs and values and his outlook of the world. Back to our example and a little history lesson. Juliana was a rebel in childhood, and left the seas after an explosive quarrel with her father. She met a vampire named Cassoc, and betrayed him later out of a desire for forbidden knowledge. Since then she's been wary of necromancy, afraid that the risen vampire would kill her, and determined to make the most of her second chance by helping people.

I would be inclined to say that Juliana would go along in most cases, except that which smells too much like a trap set up by Cassoc and that which involves healing her father, or any of his friends.

Personality and history, both developed in tandem, is a very powerful tool for knowing your character and predicting his future goals and actions. Another great thing about it is that you won't ever fill the past up.

Even a brief incident in the day of a character might have affected him in some way. When feeling burned out, a trick to try and revive interest in roleplaying is to work out another small detail of your character - what happened in his past, and what implications it has for him now.

Not only in personality, not only goals and motives, but even other NPCs or people might be created, if you only spend some time asking questions and thinking. Juliana's 10 Favorite Things to Ask When Developing a Character

1) What is he like? (argumentative)

2) Why? (inferiority complex, everyone must agree with him.)

3) What happened to him that made him so? (his teacher used to punished him a lot for being wrong)

4) Why did this event make him like that? (didn't like humiliation in front of his friends)

5) How come? (cos that made him an outcast)

6) How so? (cos his friends would laugh at him and stay away)

7) Any reason in particular? (they were prejudiced because his father was retarded)

8) How did that happen? (Um, because his father was just born that way?) (He was dropped on his head as a small kid, is another possible answer)

9) Anything else this brings up you can elaborate on? (Yup, his mother must have been really nice.)

10) Or is there another possibility that sounds more interesting to you? (Maybe his mother was in a forced marriage with a very inbred nobleman.)

Keep repeating the process until you develop something. The questions don't have to be asked in order. It's amazing how many branches of possibility you can encounter, but steel your heart and pick one you like.

You can explore the other avenues with another character later. Hope this gives all of you some more insight into how someone can create a roleplaying character. I would love to hear comments, and alternate methods of character creation, you know where to email me. *grin*

P.S. Don't be afraid to turn a cliche upside down. There is, though, a fine line between a unique character and something utterly ridiculous and absurd. Eric Benner, Playing a Role

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