Jul 062016

All-Star Player CharacterWhat is an All-Star Player Character? It’s a character that has all the tools needed to make him or her as interesting and fun to play as possible. It’s not necessarily an overload of information; just the right amount of information.

When a player writes up a character, it could be just a single sheet with a few numbers on it, several pages of a short story, or somewhere in between. What’s important is that a player gathers just enough information about their character to maximize their enjoyment. Too little information can make the character vanilla bland. Too much information can make the character too complicated to remember.

Of course, this specific amount of information differs from one player to another, but I’ve found a nice equilibrium that has worked for me and mine. It’s a middle-of-the-road approach, and should appeal to the most number of players. Please remember is that this is my equilibrium for fun; yours may vary…

[Note: I have traditionally just handed out a questionnaire to my players, but Chris Stevens has been kind enough to whip up an All-Star Player Character PDF, and I must confess that I like it more. Thanks, Chris!]

Personality Traits
This is a staple in almost any roleplaying game, or (at the least) it should be. One thing to watch out for, though, is that a Personality trait does not necessarily define your character 100% of the time. Just because your character’s most dominant trait may be “Cocky,” that doesn’t mean he or she is always cocky (unless, of course, your trait is “Always Cocky!”

Write down one, two, or three personality traits. The first one is the most dominant, followed by the others (if you have more than one). I would suggest one positive trait and one negative trait (a third would be a bonus!).

Positive Personality Traits
Adaptable, Capable, Charming, Confident, Courageous, Driven, Dutiful, Encouraging, Exuberant, Fearless, Gregarious, Helpful, Honest, Humble, Imaginative, Impartial, Independent, Intelligent, Keen, Meticulous, Obedient, Observant, Optimistic, Patient, Persistent, Precise, Reliable, Responsible, Suave, Trusting, Valiant

Negative Personality Traits
Arrogant, Boorish, Bossy, Conceited, Cowardly, Dishonesty, Finicky, Impulsive, Laziness, Malicious, Obnoxious, Picky, Pompous, Quarrelsome, Rude, Sarcastic, Self-centered, Slovenly, Sneaky, Stingy, Sullen, Surly, Thoughtless, Unfriendly, Unruly, Vulgar

History Hooks
Past events are in the past, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t come back around (especially if they might bite you in the butt). History Hooks can easily and instantly either flavor or feed the plot at any time.

Were your character’s parents killed amid weird circumstances? Did your character train in an illegal monastery? Was your character strangely (and without reason) pardoned for a crime he or she committed? Was the family butler fired without reason when your character was a child? Did your character used to run with a different group, one that he or she is no longer welcome in?

A player character should have two History Hooks: one that is significant and one that is seemingly insignificant.

Time after time in any story (novels, comics, plays, and movies), the main character often begins as one thing, and then grows into something else. In a typical roleplaying game, this can often be a low-level PC growing into a high-level PC (as they discover their new skills or powers), but in a more immersive story, the characters might grow into something else entirely. This is usually a belief or standard, one that (after time and experience) the character might eventually change or turn completely around on.

Perhaps the PC has one or more negative personality traits, and who knows if he can overcome them? Perhaps the PC was once a royal child (now dethroned), and who knows if he can ever fulfill his destiny of reclaiming the throne? Perhaps the PC simply hates elves, and who knows if she might one day come to like them.

This can be a tough area to figure out, so don’t sweat it if it doesn’t come to you right away. Or, skip it entirely.

Quirk / Habit
Some of the most memorable characters have very specific quirks and habits that set them apart from others. That’s just how it is. Think up one or two habits and/or quirks – any more than that and the character will be dramatically overloaded.

Does your character curse a lot? Are they always chewing tobacco? Are they a clean freak? Do they have a chip on their shoulder? Do they pick their teeth? Do they always enter without knocking? Do they do intricate and lengthy movements while speaking of the gods? Are they a packrat? Do they occasionally use words incorrectly? And so on, and so on, and so on…

Quotes aren’t necessary (and they very well might fall under the Quirk / Habit category), but they can still be fun to include occasionally.

“I have a bad feeling about this.” “I’ll make ya famous.” “Yippee ki-yay you mother!” “I’d buy that for a dollar.” “You dirty rat.” “Back when I was a kid…” “I love it when a plan comes together.” “Oh good grief.”

Regional Affinity
Pick an area, town, city, or region. Your character knows people in that area and generally knows how to get around. Perhaps he or she grew up there, perhaps this is where they love to visit, or perhaps this is where they spent time in slavery. Talk with your gamemaster about your choice so that there aren’t any conflicting story elements.

Friends & Enemies & Frenemies
In the area of your Regional Affinity, you could very easily know 100 people as acquaintances. In fact, I might even jot down 20 of them on a separate piece of paper (name and occupation). However, the people that you really need to know are your Friends, Enemies, and Frenemies. Your friends will help you out in a bind (and may ask for your help), your enemies may want you dead or ruined (same goes for you), and your frenemies are those people you hate, but in a cordial way. Pick one of each, because they will round out your character!

And there you have it. With this bit of information, players should be well on their way to playing some of the most fun and memorable characters ever.  Also, don’t forget to  an download the PDF for them!

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20-something gal who loves gaming and gabbing. I think everyone has roleplayed at some point in some fashion or another, our take on the hobby is simply way more fun and entertaining.

  2 Responses to “All-Star Player Characters, the making of”

  1. This is one of the very best articles I’ve read on this subject. One page, meaningful, practical gaming goodness that makes a player character fun for everyone. Very nice job!

  2. Thank you. That means so much! I’ve been using some form of this for my games, even if I’m not running. It really makes a difference, I think.

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