PDA

View Full Version : Bringing Characters to Life!



turelus
November 28th, 2008, 19:27
I have been reading over a few threads of different forums about how people bring their characters to life and take them off that paper and make them the honoured hero's, infamous villain's roleplay groups remember and talk about for years to come.

It's been a long time since I played in a long term campaign and am looking forward to bringing my new character to life in January and finally making him more than some statistics written on a piece or paper. I was wondering how some of the other players on this community bring their characters to life? I have my own style of roleplay and plenty of ideas how to make him come to life but reading other peoples stuff is always great for ideas and discussions.

Oberoten
November 28th, 2008, 20:25
Flaws in their character... for the hero to overcome, and for the villain to fall prey to.

What makes the hero a hero and not just a braggart or a bully is just moral fiber, the ability not to thwack anyone in sight no matter how sturdy they are, but to raise beyond his own wants and needs to the needs of those around.

A good example would be the parent who wants to protect his/her child but also knows that by doing so too much they will stunt the growth of the child emotionally and socially. So holds their hand back to let them (under supervision perhaps) do their own decisions but helps them deal with what they have wrought so it does not become disastrous.

A good example of a villain would be the mother of a certain Bates who ran a hotel?

Or another example, the commander in charge who has the full picture. He has assembeled a great troop and gained considerable power all because he KNOWS there will be a greater enemy... Some consider him to be a villain because how he has assembeled his troops. Finally the great day comes, but with one little niggling fact... there has risen among his troops someone as respect, more skilled. Now, the Hero would step down, release his power and hand the reins over to the more fit person. The villain would give in to the glory and the temptation of power despite a maybe higher cost in lives for meeting the threat.

Heroes overcome. Villains are corrupted. Both start out meaning well as a rule of thumb.

Dependents. :) Having a sickly aunt or a child that depends on the character can lead to lots of fun. Especially with the assassin trying to explain to his teenage son/daughter what he actually DOES for a living so they can afford these swank accomodations... It gets even MORE fun if they actually want the kid to grow up GOOD.

The way to make a character memorable is to build future stories into them from the start. A character that manages to focus up the story for everyon, tightening the skeins of the tale for the GM and players alike by his/her sheer existance is a JOY for everyone. And in the end what it comes down to is wether or not everyone has FUN.

The almost all-powerful grand sorceror... Who can obliterate with a word anyone or anything. As long as he can hit it... oh? Blind you say? Now THAT is interesting.

Or the bumbling warrior with more magery than swordsmanskill in his hands and body... pushed into the career by the expectations of his family.

After all.. not EVERYONE is very suited for their profession or the role that fate has trust them in. Some might handle this with a grumble and bitterness, others will make light of it... What is the greater flaw? What is the greater strength?

Make them with a backbone and a backstory and the rest will come naturally.

- Obe

Spyke
November 28th, 2008, 21:26
In a word: conflict.

The character must have something to overcome, either an inner conflict, or a driving motivation outside the immediate scenario arc. Or both.

As Obe says, character flaws are a great way to provide this.

Spyke

turelus
November 28th, 2008, 21:47
Obe some awesome stuff I love the idea of the Assassin who has a child! It would be interesting to have a character with a son or daughter never really thought about that, might be worth giving my new character this concept.

EugeneZ
November 28th, 2008, 23:58
Villains are corrupted. Both start out meaning well as a rule of thumb.

I wouldn't say that's a rule at all. Villains that meant well are a "quick-n-easy" way to add life to a villain. Corruption is evil and easy to spot. But I find it's more challenging but also more rewarding to work around the cliches and develop a villain who is truly evil, and never meant well. It's harder for a character to hate him because it's harder to relate to him. It's always easier to hate someone who is similar to you in some way. Which is why you have to go the extra mile when taking this approach.

The best example I've seen of this technique is Johnny "Dread" Wulgaru from the Otherland series by Tad Williams. Evil personified. Sauron of Lord of the Rings fame is another good example but I'm afriad he's where most of the cliches I mention stem from.

I find it helps to create displays of vulgar, untethered evil. This type of villain is sometimes difficult to play. If you find it difficult, you're doing something right, because that means the character is repulsing even YOU, his creator. Have him do something totally ruthless and unneccessary in front of players and that should help flesh him out as a character no one will forget.

Doswelk
December 1st, 2008, 12:54
I cannot remember where I read it now, but there was a set of web articles by one of the D&D team (3.0 or 3.5), and in there he told of two evil villains...

They were working together to rule the world and the party logically decided that the only reason for the two to be working together was that at some point one would betray the other (as always happens), so they approached the "weaker" of the two villains and presented "evidence" that this was going to happen..

What the party did not realise is that the two villains were childhood friends and thus were not going to betray each other, they were planning to rule the world together!

This simple but subtle part of their background in my mind made them instantly different from the standard rule the world villain that is so clichéd these days..

Valarian
December 1st, 2008, 13:17
I wouldn't say that's a rule at all. Villains that meant well are a "quick-n-easy" way to add life to a villain. Corruption is evil and easy to spot. But I find it's more challenging but also more rewarding to work around the cliches and develop a villain who is truly evil, and never meant well. It's harder for a character to hate him because it's harder to relate to him. It's always easier to hate someone who is similar to you in some way. Which is why you have to go the extra mile when taking this approach.
To expand on this point, a villain will never think of themselves as evil. They will have very good reasons for doing what they do - unless completely chaotic evil, in which case the reason may be "because it's fun". You have to look at the things that motivate a villain. Is there something in his past that has made him the way he is? If so, is this something the players might exploit if they find out about it? There may be occasions where the players and the villain might work together, the enemy of my enemy sort of thing. In Star Wars, the redemption of a major villain of the first two films (Darth Vader) became a plot arc for one of the main characters. A villain could be a boyhood friend of one of the players. He made a choice differently to the character and has become a shadow-self of the player - showing what the player could have become if he'd made different choices.

Some "evil" people would consider the balance of "the ends justify the means" differently. For example, the old adage of having a cure for cancer if you just kill one person. The "evil" person (or a Vulcan) may take the balance of the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the individual. A despotic ruler may also use the justification of keeping order outweighing the freedom of the people.

Writing tips and articles can be a good source for getting ideas and tips for roleplaying games. After all, you're trying to come up with the same stuff, only the players will be expanding the parts of the main characters. The preparatory work, plot, description, supporting characters is all the same as if writing a novel.
http://www.theromanceclub.com/writers/articles/article0042.htm
http://storymind.com/dramatica/character/4.htm

longarms
December 4th, 2008, 06:45
"They will have very good reasons for doing what they do - unless completely chaotic evil, in which case the reason may be "because it's fun"."

Do you remember the movie warriors, when they asked that skinny rogue gang member why he killed cyress and blamed it on the warriors? His answer - "I like doing stuff like that".

classic :)

Another favorite villian is Toecutter from mad max. He was so weird. Best part was when he explained to Max's wife that:she had a very pretty face - but the problem with that is what if you... (pauses to strangely move the inside of his palm from his forehead to his lips and then back again) ... lose the face!

mike

Oberoten
December 4th, 2008, 08:03
I'd say that the creepiest villains still remain those whose reasons are ones you can understand or at the least get a feel foor, yet they are utterly alien.

One of the most wonderful villain characters a player has brought me had a background that starts 'It started with the rabbits... ' no further explanation but when you look at the background of the psychotic evil little tyke growing up you know the thing with the rabbits was BAD.

(( Characters started at an Asylum for the criminally insane, all of them there because of murder or worse. In the case of Brian? MUCH worse. Several much worse. ))

You understand that this fellow DOES get his thrills from killing... and you even pick up a few hints on the triggers. But he still seems utterly unpredictable due to how warped the mind is.

I suppose that the setting with things that might or might not be real melting together didn't exactly HELP the creepiness of the scenario and characters either.

"... Poor nurse Ratchet, her face is melting, flowing all the way to the floor as she screams incomprehensibly at you. "

mr_h
December 6th, 2008, 01:39
Why would I want to bring a character to life after all that work I went through to kill'em?

:D

There's a series of books out there, Central Casting, that is kind of nice for character creation. They're a bit rule neutral so you might have to edit things, but you go through, roll dice on various charts, and come up with lots of little tidbits to add to your character. If you can find one, I recommend taking a look at it. It might not work perfectly, but I've found it gives me some good ideas to play with.

MeepoSose
December 6th, 2008, 04:42
Some of the most memorable ones I've seen or used were the unlikely villains. I turned Meepo from the D&D 3.0 module into a kobold genius mastermind who manipulated the party into killing the kobold queen for him and leaving him in charge to "convert the rest of the kobold clan to good." Only the party rogue, who spoke draconic, ever knew the truth until much later. From that point on, the party referred to him as Meepo Sose, like Kaiser Sose in The Usual Suspects.

Other times, single acts were enough to bring out intense hatred. With most of the party incapacitated or near defeat, I've had a villain gruesomely coup de grace a downed party member and then leave the battlefield with a trophy. I tried to be as descriptive as possible. They eventually defeated the evil minions left behind to "deal with" the players but the hatred was already ignited.

Another useful technique is to make the main bad guy so miserable and feeble that the party feels bad about killing him. He always surrenders when cornered and never overtly takes action against the party. This only works if there are one or more goodie-goodies in the party but it does work if played right. The party instead brings them to the authorities where he is locked in jail. Once safe on the other side of the jail cell, the evil guys courage returns and he begins taunting one or more party members by drawing his finger across his throat menacingly or something or whispering some threat. Eventually, the party can't stay and baby-sit the jail every day so they go about their business. Later they find the bad guy has escaped, was acquitted, bribed someone etc and is back on the lose to plot revenge against the party. The challenge here as a GM is to see how far you can push this with the party before they finally snap and take the law into their own hands.

Oberoten
December 6th, 2008, 04:47
And lets not forget cut-scenes.

We do a few of these each session, letting the players see the villain give orders or deal with THEIR friends.

Nothing builds hatred better'n knowing that the villain is not only planing to kill you, he is also corrupting your woman... and worse she is falling for it. :)

- Obe