Thursday, March 10, 2011

Character Concepts

For me, the hardest part of making a character for a game is choosing the concept. The actual build is pretty easy. I can crunch numbers, and come up with a character who can fulfill whatever role I'm aiming for. But it's the concept itself that is really really hard for me.

When I started playing in Dennis' Deadlands - Hell on Earth game, I thought that I wanted to make a character who wasn't magical. I didn't know the rules system at all and wanted to make a straightforward character. So I thought "man with a gun". And when I thought about "man with a gun" in a wild west setting, it reminded me of Chuck Conners old show The Rifleman.

I refined it a bit to make my "Chuck Conners" (that's the name of the character. If I want to rip something off, I'm going all the way.) into a sniper. I bought the best gun I could afford, and gave him the skills to use it. Beyond that though, I didn't really have any depth to the character. (Well, I had a backstory about how his wife and daughter survived the initial apocalypse, only to be set upon by reavers - leaving Chuck to wander, without family, looking for purpose in his life. But that really just gave me a reason that he was a blank slate).

Once into the game, Chuck has grown a little. He's found God, and is slowly working his way towards being Blessed (gaining magical power through his faith). But he's still somewhat shallow.

My Dungeons & Dragons (or Pathfinder, now that WOTC has pretty much killed the name Dungeons & Dragons) characters tend to suffer from the same lack of depth. I'm currently playing a cleric called Brother Elias, who has served a succession of evil deities, even though at least one DM says that I play the character more Chaotic Good than evil. He has no real backstory. He's simply "cleric of an evil deity, with a wicked good animal companion". His lack of depth hasn't hampered my fun in playing the character. Of all the organized play characters I've had, he's in the top two in terms of fun.

The other one of the top two OP characters is the late Vekna! (the exclamation point is mandatory) that I played in Living Forgotten Realms. He was a Dwarf Fighter (sometimes Battlerager) that had an affinity for mounted combat. He had absolutely no backstory whatsoever, other than being supremely confident in his own abilities. Despite the lack of backstory, I have multiple custom miniatures that I've made of Vekna with various mounts (Horse, Hippogriff, Riding Lizard). Brother Elias also has his own custom mini, along with his faithful animal companion Mister Chuckles. (Large ape wearing armor, wielding a lucerne hammer. A sight to behold).

I'll try to get some photos of the minis in time for next RPG Thursday.


  1. How important is depth to you? If you want it, do you want/need help getting there? You seem to be having a good time regardless...

  2. Oh, I have a great time. I just look at other people's character backstories, and wonder how they come up with such interesting ideas. Mine just tend to take some basic idea, and build around it. Then sometime along the way, the character might or might not get filled in with more depth.

    It's rare that I've seen a backstory come up in a campaign (other than Dave's), and maybe that's why I never spend much time when I'm building the character worrying about it.

  3. Wait, aren't you the same man whose mind gave birth to Nathanial Pennywhistle, ancient halfling cleric who spent his entire life dreaming and planning for adventuring, only to take the chance Sivanah gave him when his wife of three million years left him?

    Who took profession (counseling) to help his "girls," and then got to use that profession at the sanitorium in order to talk down the fevered mental patient?


  4. Nathaniel was one of the rare exceptions. I was building the cleric, somehow decided I wanted him to be a halfling. He was old because I really wanted the +2 to his mental stats, and was willing to sacrifice and take a -3 to all of his physical stats. (Powergaming the cleric build.)

    So once he was old, I needed a reason for some old halfling to be out wandering the world, as a brand new adventurer. So I came up with the idea that he always wanted to adventure, but something held him back. Hmm, family. He needed to be a good guy, so his wife needed to be the one who left the relationship. And if he wanted to adventure for all of his life, but couldn't, then he probably would have done the next best thing - he would have read every book that he could find on the topic, making himself "an expert", without ever having actually left home.

    So really, Nathaniel just came from one logical progression after another, and didn't really require a lot of creativity. It was just a lot of "how do I get to this powergamed old halfling?" to justify the build.

    (I still say that Chesterfield needs to be older to be as supremely confident as he is. I'm thinking a Sean Connery of bards. Or a Martin Sheen. Instead, he's more like a Brad Pitt. (Hoping he's not a Charlie Sheen.)