Favorite Characters

 Posted by at 14:42  No Responses »
Apr 302008
 

In the previous post, I discussed the origin of Nigel, a character I play in a space cowboy-themed game. I adore Nigel and playing him is a joy. There have been just a handful of such characters, and only Nigel panned out as such a character during the course of play. Instead, these others grew into interesting characters after I had stopped playing them. Rather than disappearing from thought, they lived on and developed on their own.


The first character that became more than my own in-game avatar was Fornan Dejat, a Cardassian character in a free-form Star Trek IRC game. Dejat’s personality was based on (one might even say copied from) the character of Elim Garak from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Dejat was a defector to the Federation from the Cardassian Union and a former member of the secretive Obsidian Order. This made him a priceless asset to Starfleet Intelligence. He would go on to be the helmsman for the titular ship of the game.

Sadly, little of what made Dejat a great character came out in-game. My greatest joys with Dejat came through writing out-of-game “logs” (akin to play-by-e-mail posts, though concerning a single character and further fleshing him out). I had the notion of anti-Cardassian sentiment among the ship’s enlisted element, which might have gone on to become its own subplot had I not abandoned the game due to waning interest. Dejat, despite my frustrations in both my own inability to execute the character as I imagined him and the lack of opportunity afforded him for expression, nevertheless lives on as one of my favorite characters.


The second character that made a lasting impression is an even more bizarre case than Dejat: I’ve never played her as I imagined her. Instead, I created a variant version of her from the seed idea and played that version. Despite that, Belle Lamairian lives on. I hope to find the opportunity to play the real version in the future.

Belle is a young woman intended for a fantasy setting. The version of her that saw play, Belle Hammason, was the orphaned, adoptive daughter of a great swordsman. While tasked with much of the housework in her youth, he would grant her wish to learn swordmanship. When he was murdered, she vowed to avenge his death and set out to do just that. After enlisting to guard a caravan and becoming mired in a web of suspicions, the caravan master ejected Belle and two companions from the guard. The three were later set upon by some of the caravan’s less savory guard elements and two of them — Belle included — died.

The GM gave me the option to let Belle live, but at the point I knew I had taken the character in the wrong direction from the beginning. I moved on to a different character. In retrospect, I wish I had kept her and tried to develop her into my vision for what she was meant to be. In some strange way, I think doing so might have resulted in a very different social path for that particular gaming group.

This meager description doesn’t do justice to the person living in my imagination, but I offer it all the same. Belle Lamairian (the proper Belle) is based in broad strokes around the appearance of the character Sorsha, from Willow, though without the whole “daughter of an evil queen” aspect. She’s also similar in many ways to Lord of the Rings’ Eowyn, though again from a more common background than Eowyn’s. She’s young, spunky, and a hot-headed (to match with the redhead stereotype). She fancies herself much better with a sword than she is — she’s a teenager, after all — but as she adventures, she grows into its use and becomes one of the greatest swordsmen alive (another concept inspired by Willow, though this one from Madmartigan).


My final mention for this entry is someone to whom you’ve already been introduced: Nigel. I detailed Nigel’s origin and unlike the other two, he’s an active character. The first great moment I had playing Nigel came early in our first session. The group had made its way into a seedy establishment to meet with an even seedier information broker, who tried to poison the biologicals (Nigel’s word for non-robots) with an offering of hors d’oeuvres. Nigel’s sensors picked up on this. As they began negotiating the price of the location of a particular bounty, the broker demanded 70% of the bounty’s payout. Naturally, we found this unpalatable.

Before much could be made of the situation, a loud alien bashed his way into the cantina and started yelling at our informant. The captain hid behind Nigel during this, but Nigel was content to watch it play out.
Once the alien had finished his rant, and seemed prepared to act against our informant, Nigel calmly tapped him on the shoulder and, with no ceremony at all, punched him out cold. Nigel then turned to the informant and said, “Thirty percent.” The informant replied, all to happy, “Thirty percent!”

Creating Characters

 Posted by at 19:25  No Responses »
Apr 282008
 

Enough with the negative articles. Let’s talk about something more fun. At the heart of every role-playing game is a character, usually several. These characters run the gamut, ranging from simple stereotypes (“Rar, orcish barbarian!”) to deep, complex individuals whose players portray them with such conviction that it rivals some of the best screen or stage performances. On the assumption that such characters are the goal of every role-player, how does one go about creating them?

As with many aspects of role-playing, we can turn to the writer’s craft for advice. Almost any exercise to concoct memorable characters in fiction in which one engages applies to the creation of characters for an RPG. Most of this advice is easy to locate on-line, so I’m not going to go through most of it here (sorry!). What I will do is outline how I came up with one of my own “most memorable” characters. It all starts with thievery.

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