Creating a character is easy in Warrior Heroes Adventures in Talomir, WHAT. It is the first thing a player does in any role playing or immersive game. In some games it is an easy process and in others, it is a bit more complex. I’ve heard and read anecdotes of characters dying before the creation process is complete in the older versions of Traveler.
What all role playing and immersive games provide is a process to create a character the player hopes will be successful in the game. Many games also encourage the player to use the character to build and tell a story. A story is a telling of events experienced by a character or characters in a way that transfers the experience or meaning of the experience to a listener. In playing a well designed game, the player is both the storyteller and the listener.
WHAT Character Creation Summary
I won’t do a step-by-step review on how to create a character in games from Two Hour Wargames, I’ve done that enough elsewhere. In fact, Two Hour Wargames has done a good summary video on creating your characters:
In reading the rules, the Spell Casting section has caught my attention, especially the Magic Power die rolls for Black Moon aligned Casters. I’ve never played a Caster before, so I decided to create a character and play the game as a Caster, a Black Moon aligned Caster.
It’s no secret that I love miniatures and a new character calls for a new miniature. I actually begin my process of creating a character by looking at fantasy art and browsing on-line miniature catalogs until something in my little mind clicks.
When it did click, it presented a small, but easily remedied problem. You see, the miniature I wanted to use had pointy ears, but otherwise she didn’t strike me as an elf. Yep, you guessed it, she’s half-elven. I gave her the Elf racial attribute and a human attribute in addition to the Caster class attributes. Here’s her WHAT character profile:
- Is it a Star or Grunt? – Star
- What is its Race? – Half-Elven
- What is its Nationality, if applicable? – No Nationality
- What is its Alignment? – Black Moon
- Is it Male or Female? – Female
- What is its Reputation? – 5
- What is its Class – Caster
- What are its Skills – People 4; Savvy 5
- Does it have any attributes? – Cast Spells, Magic Resistant, Slippery, Charismatic
- What type of Weapons does it have? – 2 Daggers
- What type of Armor does it have? – AC2
- Does it use a Shield? – No
The character is now defined enough to play the game, but is she defined enough to tell an interesting story?
The backstory is defined as “the experiences of a character or the circumstances of an event that occur before the action or narrative of a literary, cinematic, or dramatic work.” In other words it’s a descriptive history of your character before the game begins.
Though you can make your character’s backstory as detailed as you wish, the backstory really just needs two things:
- Who is your character?
- What does he or she want?
Everything else is just chrome to make the character more interesting to you. There are entire books written about character development filled with ideas and techniques to bring a character to life. But we’re playing a game with a story-line, not writing a novel.
Who is your character?
Science fiction games often do a better job at helping you determine who is your character. Most fantasy games just provide a line for your character’s name on a character sheet.
‘”What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
What is your character’s name? Names are important and are imbued with meaning and magical power. Sometimes I have difficulty in coming up with a good name, luckily there are on-line name generators which can help in finding a good name. I like to use Fantasy Name Generators.com, not only does it have generic name generators for several races, it also has name generators for several game systems. If you get stuck coming up with a name for a person or place, this is a good site to visit for inspiration.
How old is your character? Some of the Sci-Fi games use specific ages. Probably because our societies have rules about having to be a specific age for certain responsibilities and privileges that weren’t as important in the past. Anyway, you need to determine if your character is an inexperienced youth, a mature adult, or if he or she is beginning to gray.
What does your character look like? We’re lucky in gaming that we can often find a miniature or art image which portrays our character’s physical appearance. You don’t have to write a full description, just be consistent – it introduces confusion into the story if at the beginning your character has blue eyes, but in a combat scene is described as having “steely gray eyes.”
How does your character’s past determine the person your character has become? Some game systems follow the writing techniques of creating your character’s life story from birth to the beginning of the game campaign. What you need to do is just ask if anything happened in the character’s life which dramatically shaped who he or she is. For example, my new character’s mother died when Zhu was only 5. Being a bastard child (being only half elven), her uncle blamed her for her mother’s death and at age 6 she was driven out of the family. She sums up her entire childhood in one sentence: “My mother was a beautiful elven maiden, my father was a rapist.”
The bottom line is to ask yourself enough questions about your character that you think you know who he or she is. I say this, because in the process of furthering the character’s story, the character may surprise you.
What does he or she want?
We all have wants and needs. Some are immediate and some are life long goals. These wants will play a part in how your character will behave in the campaign. It’s important here to focus on what your character wants and not what he or she needs. We all know that our wants are seldom in line with what we need.
Perhaps your character wants to right an injustice, maybe he wants to rid a city of evil, or maybe she just wants to get rich. Your character’s wants are often the driving forces of who she or he is. My new character wants to control time. She believes if she “corrects” the past, the future will be perfect.
Oh yeah, one last thing, your character’s wants can change!
Wrapping It Up
You could spend a lot of time developing your character. As I mentioned earlier, there are a ton of books and articles on the subject.
In the end, you should do just enough that you know who your character is and what he or she wants out of life. The rest you can add as needed. The whole purpose of spending just a little time thinking about your character can prevent your character from wandering aimlessly through the encounters like a murder hobo.
I hope this post was helpful. Let me know in the comments how you flesh out your characters. Your comments are always welcome.
Zhu Paand’s Backstory
Half Elves have difficulty fitting into most societies. Humans mistrust their alien Elven heritage and Elves view them as inferior because of their human limitations. Another assumption made by others is that a mixed race child is a “bastard’, which often isn’t the case, but people can be cruel in their assumptions.
Zhu Paand is the name of my new character. She was born in the borderlands of Lothgolin. It’s interesting that the Elven homeland is bordered by two human nations dedicated to the expansion of the Black Moon. From time to time the humans raid into Lothgolin. It was after one such raid that Zhu Paand was born. Zhu Paand and her mother were treated badly by her mother’s family. They were regarded as objects of shame. Her mother eventually took her own life and at age 6, Zhu Paand was turned out into the streets.
She wasn’t on the streets for long, a sorceress took Zhu in as a scullery maid. She served the sorceress for 14 years learning the dark arts. At 20, she has left the sorceress to pursue a mad dream, Zhu Paand would master time itself through magic and bend each moment of the universe to her will. Zhu Paand is ready for new adventures.
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