The Birth of a Character (Part I)

Commentary: Well, I’m not as happy with this one as I was with the last but I think it might at least provide some inspiration for people trying to think of what they’re going to RP once launch happens. Again, this could also be used for general RP or writing purposes.

Original Link:

Part II

The Birth of a Character


The Human Floyd

Every eager TES fan has been fantasizing about what kind of character they will make once they finally get to play ESO. Whether you like to play the same type of character in every Elder Scrolls game or prefer to mix it up, whether you roleplay or just like to game in the world of Nirn you have some type of attachment to the characters you make. For us roleplayers, a character is more than just a set of skills and some cool armor. We like to put a lot of detail into our characters, most of which can’t be outwardly seen. From hobbies and religious beliefs to quirks and peeves, a roleplay character is a medley of, well, characteristics which you get to create. Most of these details will evolve as you develop your character through roleplay but the birth of every RP character begins with some sort of concept or thought behind it.

The following is a two part article in which I’ll be sharing some of the elements of my RP characters I like to think about before I being playing them. As always, everyone roleplays differently – I’m merely sharing my perspective in hopes that it might be useful for some readers. It’s also something I love to discuss so let everyone know your thoughts in the comments below.

Part I – Backstory and Perspective
Every RPer comes up with at least something of a backstory for their character. History is a large part of what shapes them. It can be a lot of fun to share backstories IC over the campfire after a few meads. Because whatever history your character has obviously takes place on Tamriel, it’s useful to know the lore that affects their story. This is an immediate turn-off for some would-be RPers. Especially in Elder Scrolls, lore can be hard to collect and learn. People get intimidated by the massive amounts of information they must read in order to be accepted by the lore-worshiping RP community at large.

Some people are okay with this and jump into RP with the intention of learning as they go, which is great! I know some will disagree, but a new RPer getting some detail of lore wrong isn’t the end of Roleplaying As We Know It. A kind, informed correction (through whispers or personal chat, no need to call anyone out and embarrass them) is all it takes! Other new RPers will chose to have their character somehow get amnesia and forget their backstory. This is a great way to learn as well. I’d love to see someone RP as the evil wizard who keeps stealing PC’s memories, allowing people new to ES lore a chance to learn up while they seek her/him out to ‘regain’ their lost memories.

For those of you who are new to ES lore, or who just want some additional information about their race or whatever, here are a few useful links:

How to Become a Lore Buff – this is an incredibly useful link put together by Lady Nerevar of the Bethesda forums which goes over pretty much all the basic stuff you need to know. It’s a long read, so if you’re not the type of person who just sits down and devours lore, skip it for now or just use it as reference. Otherwise, have at!

The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages – Around since TESII: Daggerfall, the UESP collects information from every game and source available to us to make concise articles on everything Elder Scrolls. Their lore articles can be very useful and contain information you won’t find so easily elsewhere.

ShoddyCast’s Lore Series – There are a lot of lore video series out there but this one is easily my favorite. Providing lore through entertaining narrative and pictures, the ShoddyCast’s Lore Series is an easy way to start getting into the lore of the ES games. I especially recommend the episodes on the Nine Divines and the Daedric Princes to both those new to the lore and those of us just needing a refresher course.

Now, onto what to think about while creating your character. Personally, I like to start with a pretty simple, straight-forward history. Here are some of the basic hackstory questions I like to answer before I hit the character creation button.

1. Family
Your character’s story most likely begins at birth, but I like to have at least a very basic idea about my characters’ parents to build upon. Siblings could also be considered but I don’t usually go farther than coming up with how many there were and how my character fit into the age scale. Being the firstborn might mean they are entitled, or very responsible, for example. Or it could mean nothing, that’s up to you. Now, as for parents, were they nobles? Somehow involved in religious establishment? Maybe they were poor and had to steal to survive. Tamriel is a dangerous place, are they both still alive? Did your character even know them? If so, how’s their relationship now? Adoption is common enough in some cultures, too. Or maybe your character wasn’t raised by their parents but an entire village, or guild.

There are so many possibilities. Possibilities within possibilities! That’s what’s so great about RP, it’s limited only by the human imagination. It can be overwhelming even, to try and come up with something that you like. That’s where lore comes in handy. Depending on your race, your character’s parents might have raised them a lot differently. I imagine Dark Elf parents wouldn’t be very warm and cuddly, though they do value family. An Orc child is likely raised by his whole clan, not just two parents, and would be instilled with clan values early on. A little research on a race’s characteristics can really help give you ideas for many of these questions. It’s really up to you how ‘traditional’ a character’s parents and upbringing were.

2. Upbringing and Important People
Having a general idea about your characters’ upbringing can really help you shape who they are. Some people reject their past, and how they were raised, others may embrace most of it but reject certain memories. A particularly traumatic event could haunt them to this day… or be the source of their strength. In addition to events, it can be fun to come up with significant characters in your backstory. Aside from family, your young Breton must have had some friends while growing up in High Rock. Maybe some old elder she looked up to? Or a mean orc kid who would bully him? It can go far beyond childhood, depending on how old your character is. Lovers, employers, rivals, slaves, war buddies, you can create as many characters as you want to enrich your backstory. I like to stick with two or three important people to start with. As always, I usually develop these characters and add plenty more as I come up with things while roleplaying.

It can make for a more involved, novel-like RP experience if you find someone to actually play characters with connected pasts. It’s usually pretty easy to come up with a reason to connect characters who are already established but if you and your buddy make a pair of characters together and connect them from the beginning it can be incredibly fun. With RPers I’ve played with long enough, I like to “remember good times we had growing up”, improvising a story together as our characters reminisce. Of course, it’s usually best to discuss any major backstory elements they may have shared before you start spouting off your ideas in /say.

As stated, race and region have a lot to do with how your character may have been raised. Of course, there are always exceptions. If you feel your story would be better if your character was an Argonian born in Black Marsh but raised by lost Wood Elves, more power to you. But having an explanation is essential, otherwise your concept is weak and unconvincing. I like to stick a little closer to lore, personally. I find that having a fairly ‘typical’ member of a certain race doesn’t actually restrict my character from being unique or interesting, as some RPers think it might. Adopting the traits of my character’s race into my RP makes me feel like I’m more a part of the game world around me, like I’m seeing through the eyes of a ‘real’ denizen of Tamriel.

3. Trade/Skills
Anything from battlemage to farmer, miner to mercenary, your character’s skills are usually directly tied to their backstory. It’s easy to say “I have 100 Mining so I’m an expert miner”, but pulling that off in a genuine way through RP requires some knowledge of actual mining. Or at least the ability to fake it in a convincing way. Tying their skills to their backstory will help make your claims of your characters’ Destruction magic prowess a lot more convincing. It’s also a lot of fun to roleplay the entire process from clueless noob to a practiced adept and beyond, especially if you can get someone to roleplay your trainer or master.

You don’t have to be limited by game mechanics when adding color to your backstory. I had a tauren character in WoW who was primarily a healer but also distilled whiskey. Game mechanics didn’t allow for that but he would talk about it and offer “pretend whiskey” (as if having an animation for it makes it any less pretend) to his friends. I would then use emotes to describe the taste and burn. Your character could have any hobby or skill that fits into the lore and setting of the game. But how did your character gain these skills, how long has he been practicing them, is he particularly talented or just average? Maybe he’s terrible at one thing but very talented in another field. Varying degrees of competence in different character skills is realistic and fun. I usually only acknowledge two or three of my character’s in game trade skills like blacksmithing and alchemy. Otherwise I’d just have all the same skills as every other PC out there, which isn’t a fun.

4. Bias
Everyone stereotypes someone, even if they don’t intend to. The poor think the rich are selfish and pompous, the rich think the poor are unmotivated and trashy. The religious think the nonbelievers are heathen, the atheists think the religious people are nuts. Those are all extreme examples, but even someone who is very open minded most likely harbors strong opinions on something, even if it’s just a concept. Realistic RP characters will have some biased opinions about other races, regions, lifestyles, guilds, specific people, politics, philosophy, etc. Even if they hide some of these thoughts, only showing them in unintentional or subtle ways. They might not even know about they’re opinions are unfounded or unfair. Now, biased don’t all have to be negative, nor should they. Maybe your Wood Elf has found that he’s always gotten along really well with his cousins from Summerset, though I don’t see how anyone could get alone with those pricks. 😉

Political views and racial stereotypes are often heavily influenced by what race you play and where they live. You’d be hard pressed to find a Nord who doesn’t think very highly of the rugged Skyrim lifestyle and not so highly of elves and beast races. And it’s safe to assume most everyone will have a negative opinion (at least in some ways) about the other factions in ESO.

5. Beliefs and Ideals
Roleplaying religious characters, for me, is very fun. I like to play fervent zealouts once in awhile but simple followers of a faith or ideal are just as fun. Unless your character is doing it in secret, most people on Tamriel won’t look too kindly on worshiping the “wrong” gods. Depending on what region you’re in, your character might have to keep their beliefs secret or risk being ostracized. Except in Morrowind, dadra worship is usually outlawed. Every race has their own versions of the Eight Divines (remember, Talos hasn’t come around yet) and worship them in their own ways. Again, figuring out what gods your character’s race tend to worship will take a little research.

Ideals have a lot more wiggle room but they will probably be influenced by whatever god(s) your character worships the most devoutly, at least to some degree. Followers of Kynareth tend to be tree huggers while worshipers of Boethiah believe in chaos and change. But the gods don’t have instructions for everything. Family, honor, compassion, accumulation, revenge, what does your character value and what don’t they care about? Do they see morals as a waste, a clear set of rules or a subjective path? Would they kill an innocent to get a job done? Would they die to save a stranger? A person’s beliefs are never black and white, and are very individualized. Having a character with a wide spectrum of morals, ideals and beliefs allows you to explore different points of view that you maybe hadn’t considered before. Even if you don’t agree with them, you might come to understand them better by playing a character who does.

Alright, that wraps it up for Part I. Thanks for reading, stayed tuned for Part 2 and feel free to continue the discussion in the comments. After all, RP is all about Perspectives!


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