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Character Crafting: More Than Just Dice and Math

  • September 18 2023
  • Courtland Goldengate

Hey there, fellow adventurer! So, you play TTRPGs but want your next character to be a bit more unique? Exciting times, indeed. Now, while rolling those shiny dice and picking out cool-sounding abilities is a blast, let's chat about something that might just be more important: character depth. Real depth, not just flimsy explanations for why your character has this or that optimized ability or bizarre combination of classes that just so happen to exploit the game system to your character's advantage. We're talking about the tales, quirks, and those little 'aha!' moments that make your character more than just numbers on a sheet. What follows are a few thought starters to help you make your character (or NPC) more interesting. Ready to get started? Let's roll!

1. Where’d You Grow Up, Anyway?

Your character's hometown. Was it a bustling city with more taverns than one could reasonably visit? Or a tranquil hamlet where the sheep outnumbered people?

  • Cultural What-Nots: That mountain village probably had some charming traditions, like... yodeling contests? And that aristocratic upbringing might explain your obsession with shiny shoes.

  • Family Drama (or Comedy): Maybe they learned their skills chasing after six mischievous siblings or from a mysterious aunt who was possibly a witch (or just had lots of cats).

  • Local Legends and Lore: Was there a peculiar tale that all the village kids whispered about? Perhaps a story about a mischievous fae that stole socks, or the mysterious old woman rumored to be a member of a mysterious secret society?
  • Childhood Rivals and Friends: Every hero had that one kid they raced against, or perhaps a young companion they shared secret handshakes with. Who left an indelible mark on your character's younger days?
  • Cultural Celebrations: Did your hometown have a unique festival, like the biannual Moonlit Dance or the colorful Kite Flying Day? Such events can shape pivotal, nostalgic moments in a character's past, and might come up in unexpected ways during your subsequent adventyures.

2. Dreams, Nightmares, and That Thing With Spiders

Every adventurer is chasing something, and running from something else.

  • Pie-in-the-Sky Aspirations: So, they want to be the world's most famous bard? With that singing voice? Brave choice.

  • Irrational Fears: It's okay. Big, burly fighters can be scared of ducks. No judgment here. Okay, maybe a little. Maybe it's not ducks, but a particular sound or scent?

  • Recurring Visions: Those dreams that keep coming back, whether they're of a golden city on the horizon or a shadowy figure just out of reach. What do they mean to your character? Are they premonitions or just figments of an overactive imagination?
  • The Unsettling Awakening: Nightmares that jerk your character awake in a cold sweat, perhaps memories of past traumas or fears of things yet to come. These can be deeply ingrained fears that shape your character's decisions.

3. Friends, Foes, and It's-Complicateds

Who's got their back? And who's aiming for it? Perhaps another player character fills one of these roles, or you could work with your GM to create an NPC to add to the campaign or even just create a tie in with an already planned NPC the GM cooked up.

  • Trusty Sidekicks: That gnome who always has a snarky comment, the childhood friend with an uncanny ability to find trouble.

  • Past Flames: That dashing rogue from two towns over, or the enchantress who turned out to be a bit too... enchanting.

  • Unlikely Companions: That peculiar merchant your character bonded with over a shared love for rare spices or the intimidating orc who shares a surprising soft spot for kittens. Unexpected friendships can add layers of depth and surprise.
  • The Frenemy: A rival from your character's past who isn’t an outright enemy, but someone they love to outdo. Whether it's a competitive bard from the same town or a fellow thief who's always one step ahead, their presence spices up any interaction.
  • Shared Histories: Bonds (or grudges) formed over shared experiences, like survivors from the same destroyed village or ex-members of a disbanded guild. These relationships have stories waiting to unfold, impacting trust levels, betrayals, and potential reconciliations.

4. Endearing Oddities

These make the tales told at taverns legendary:

  • Pastimes: Who knew? That intimidating paladin has a soft spot for bad poetry.

  • Little Habits: Like how the ranger always double-checks their boots for frogs. An old camping incident, they say.

  • Curious Collections: Perhaps your rogue has an obsession with collecting buttons from the garments of foes, or maybe your wizard keeps an array of strangely shaped twigs, believing they have latent magical properties.
  • Bizarre Bedtime Routines: From the warrior who hums lullabies from a long-forgotten civilization before sleeping, to the druid who insists on sleeping hanging upside down like a bat.
  • Peculiar Proverbs: Your character might have a habit of using quaint, often misunderstood sayings from their homeland. “As the crow bakes in the noonday sun,” might be their way of saying someone is doing unnecessary hard work. The fun part? Explaining what they mean to puzzled companions.

5. The Moral Compass (or Lack Thereof)

Everyone's got their limits. And sometimes, they're... unique.

  • Unbreakable Boundaries: Maybe they'd never harm a chicken, but goblins? Fair game.

  • Sacrifices on the Altar of... What, Exactly?: Perhaps they’d give it all up for love. Or a really good sandwich.

  • Questionable Quandaries: Perhaps your bard has a soft spot for thieves due to their upbringing and often pays for their stolen goods, or your paladin wrestles with upholding law vs. personal justice after a betrayal from a trusted authority.
  • Moral Mantras: Your ranger might live by the code "Protect the land, but respect the hunt." This guiding principle could lead to some interesting interactions when confronted with wasteful or harmful practices.
  • Ethical Exceptions: While your cleric might be staunchly against necromancy, they could have an old friend who's now an undead, challenging their prejudices. Or perhaps your rogue, known for their selfishness, inexplicably goes out of their way to help children in need, revealing a hidden depth to their character.

In Conclusion

Character creation isn’t just about math and modifiers (though there is at least a little power gamer in all of us). It's about the tales you'll tell, the laughs you'll share, and the "remember when" moments that'll keep you coming back for more. So next time you sit down for session 0, ponder a bit. Who knows? You might just discover your sorcerer has an unhealthy obsession with collecting spoons. Cheers to the adventures ahead!

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