We’ve been talking a lot about running a game, so let’s get into making a character to play in said game. Now, I’m not going into all the details of how to fill out your character sheet and all that jazz. Between the Player’s Handbook and like a zillion articles and Reddit threads out there, you’ll find plenty of help for that This little chat we’re having is about how to make your CHARACTER. Who that person is, was before the game started and where they want to go. I’ll touch on some of the aspects of BUILDING the character but the focus is on who they are.
You can find that first tidbit or trait for your character from almost anywhere. Favorite TV show, movie or even a real person. Love the Dwarves from The Hobbit, play a dwarf. Did Orlando Bloom’s sick archery skills in LOTR look fun, elf it is. Is The Terminator your favorite movie? You can literally be a cyborg, there is a race in D&D called Warforged that are basically C-3P0 with balls. That weird guy who lives at the end of your block? Human Warlock who draws his power from the Cthulhu gods. Think on it a little, do some research and the game will work for you.
Next, is the all important backstory. You don’t need to obsess over every detail, leaving space can actually allow you to add things as the game goes on. The important stuff like your family, upbringing and whatever moment/event set you on the path to adventure. Maybe your Halfling Rogue’s quips and happy-go-lucky attitude hides a dark past: He/she is wanted for a murder he/she didn’t commit. Or worse yet, DID commit. Maybe the brave fighter who always leaps into the fray does it because he watched his whole family cut down by a pack of Gnolls when he was a child and it will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN WHILE HE DRAWS BREATH! Hey you know the cleric? Yeah the sweet, wonderful and powerful woman who not only heals the group’s wounds but is also their moral center? She gained her powers thru a dark ritual performed by her cultist parents that required a human sacrifice. Her healing powers come at a great cost, as they are slowly draining her life force and will one day consume her soul. Get imaginative and always fill your DM in on these details, so they can include them into the story when possible. One of my players is currently bringing his friends back to is old home town and he’s big time nervous to see his mom. They don’t even care what’s going to happen, they just NEED to meet Toother’s mom!
Next is why your awesome new character is in the market for some new buddies. Joining up with a group of adventurers is, if you think about it, kind of foolish. Who are these people? Are they trustworthy? Things have to be dire to put yourself in a position to be betrayed or used as a patsey. The old “strength in numbers” deal only goes so far. Spending some time interacting with the other players early on will allow everyone to fill in the blanks, find common ground and mesh. Then, as the story unfolds it can be a tale of brotherhood (or sisterhood) and the DM can sometimes even take a break while you all interact. Your reasons for joining up can be simple, like you need some cash and looting haunted crypts can be lucrative. Or simply staying on the move to avoid the authorities/memories/curses that accompany adventuring types. Heck, why not the search for true love? Nothing beats a gnome bard flirting with a dwarven barbarian to the point of inter species warfare. The bard’s last words you ask? “One more crit and she would’ve been mine…….”
A memory of my own gaming experience comes to mind. I played in a campaign (shout out to the DM Bruce) as my all time favorite D&D character, Quimby. He started out as your basic holy warrior, a Dragonborn (not Skyrim type, in D&D they are a race of humanoid/dragon hybrids) Paladin who fought in the name of his dragon ancestors. He was the last of his order, as they were betrayed by one of their own and wiped out. What started out as your basic dumb but strong front line tank, became a trusted friend (I got to be a lawyer for a teammate who got arrested for spying AND WON!!), protector of the defenseless and a nightmare to his enemies. By the end of the game, he was very different than the vision I had of him at the start. Damnit though, he was fun to play. Reliable to his friends, respected by the troops he ended up leading and at all times a symbol of what a dragon represents. Sometimes a bit thick headed, not great at figuring things out but ready to stand tall and do what he thought was right. Plus, he didn’t always get along with his teammates either. Captain Dagfin sometimes didn’t benefit from Quimby’s “all allies” buffs and auras. Vorn the sorcerer was quite dubious and DID shoot Quimby in the head that one time……..
So take some notes, think and take inspiration from the things/people you love (or hate) and find yourself a character to play. Be prepared to evolve and change/improve as the story progresses, but always say to yourself: “What would this character do?” Then do it, roll the dreaded D20 and see what happens! Spoiler alert: ADVENTURE!!