The Birth of a Character (Part II)

Commentary: My third article for TESO-RP. Woo! It’s a lot shorter than the previous one. I enjoyed writing this two part article but it’s pretty basic stuff. I’m excited to get into the more in-depth aspects of RP.

Original Link:

The Birth of a Character

by The Human Floyd

Part I

Part 2 – Personality

In the first part of this article I offered some tips on creating a character’s history and beliefs. In Part 2 I’ll be talking about personality. You can use your character’s backstory to build upon and reference when beginning to develop their personality. As always, race will also have an influence. If you’ve played any of the Elder Scrolls games in the past, you’ve probably picked up a thing or two about the different racial personalities, and you can always look them up in the Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages.

Even more than backstory, a character’s personality will evolve and even change completely. Significant events or other PCs they encounter throughout the time you’re RPing should have some sort of impact on who they are and how they act. You’ll also find yourself fine tuning different traits as time goes on and you become more comfortable with your character. A static character who never evolves (or devolves) will get boring not only for you, but also for the people you RP with.

Personality is one of the main characteristics we look at when deciding whether or not we like someone. Even if your character doesn’t like another’s personality, it doesn’t necessarily effect whether or not you enjoy RPing with them. An interesting personality will make your character immediately more entertaining to yourself and others. When I say interesting, I don’t mean that they have to be charismatic or extroverted, a brooding mercenary who doesn’t speak much is just as fun to RP as an excitable inventor who cracks jokes at inappropriate times. You just need a little direction and practice, most characters’ personalities take time to develop and learn to express.

This isn’t something you can always just write down, in my experience. Personality is more complicated than that. Some people think that making a unique character is all about their powers, backstory or whatever, but I think every character is unique mostly by their personality. Much of how your character is presented will probably come directly from your own persona, especially at first. As you play them more and more they will become more independent. This list is just a guide to some of the answers you can come up with to lay the foundation for your character’s personality. It will likely grow far beyond whatever you come up with before character creation, but it’s good to have somewhere to start!

1. Disposition

Some people roleplay their character as generally always being in the same mood. They’ll have them set in a static characteristic, always gloomy or ever the happy-go-lucky one. Changing a character’s mood keeps things fun and realistic. Some things that could affect a character’s mood could the company their in, how tired or well rested they are, hunger, recent events, thoughts they’re having, etc.

While keeping a character ever-changing is good, there tend to be things about people which don’t change so often. A person might feel differently from one day to the next, but they don’t always show it. Likewise, most people tend to have a boundary for how high or low their emotions tend to stretch. One person’s idea of being angry might be completely different from another’s. You can come up with a few things that really upset your character. Think of situations or conversations that might upset others but don’t bother her, and vice versa.

It’s always fun to improvise, but spending the time to consider backstory elements and how they might affect your character’s personality traits can make them more complex and believable. Race usually has some bearing on that too. An average orc is more likely to lose his temper than an argonian for example. A character’s ideals will obviously play a part part in this too. Cursing Saint Alessia might not go over well with a human but I can’t imagine that offending a mer or beastfolk.

2. Likes vs Dislikes

This can range from food to hobbies to fighting style. A real person has unlimited likes and dislikes, more than you could ever come up with for a RP character. That, and the fact that my character’s preference for dark vs white meat isn’t usually very important to roleplay are two reasons I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this one before character creation. There’s plenty of time to develop the little details. I do, however, like to come up with a hobby or two for my character before entering the world for the first time. This could be an in-game ability like picking herbs or hunting foxes, or it could be something like fixing watches or writing novels.

3. Extroverted vs Introverted

How social is your character? Does he only say what needs to be said or only talk when it’s about something that really interests him? Maybe he talks too much. How much a character speaks doesn’t always correlate with how open or closed off they are though. We all know some people who can talk for days without ever saying anything. We also know people who might be less talkative but aren’t afraid to share their emotions.

Some wear their hearts on their sleeves while others only tell their closest companions anything deep, and may keep secrets even from them. Personally, I think everyone has some secrets and it’s fun to have RP characters who do as well.

This test, based on the famous Myers-Brigg’s personality types can be helpful in figuring out if your character would make a better introvert or extrovert, and adding more layers to it.


4. Friendliness

Even an introvert can be friendly, and friendly doesn’t have to mean bubbly. There is a wide range between friendly and not-friendly, which can mean many different things itself. Friendliness can also be a lie or a cover. Basically, the question to answer is: How does your character interact with strangers, friends, family and enemies or those he dislikes?

Well, I guess it’s more like five questions. Speaking of the number five…

5. Intelligence, Wisdom, Common Sense

Everyone likes to play a smart character, unless they want to do the exact opposite and play an irredeemably moronic one. There’s several aspects to how ‘smart’ someone is. A character could be very book smart but be lacking in common sense. Some are wise beyond their years, full of insight into complex social or intellectual matters but have no practical, day-to-day knowledge. I’ve seen talented RPers play characters who are complete buffons at everything except for a few specific areas in which they greatly excel. It can make for some pretty funny RP at times.

As I’ve said before, a lot of RPers find it fun to play the learning process when developing a skill. It can be the same for a character starting to grow more wise as they learn from their mistakes or a mage delving deeper into the pages of magic and cosmic philosophy.

There’s more to a character than even all this, but it’s a pretty good start. As a final note I’d like to say that, while realistic characters make the RP feel richer, most people do play heroes, and heroes have to be a little extraordinary. Otherwise they wouldn’t be heroes, right? It’s easy to overdo, but don’t be afraid if your character seems like something out of fantasy… because they are.

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment, after all RP is about Perspectives!


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