I often find myself blessed and/or cursed with a plethora of ideas for awesome characters to play. Unfortunately, there simply are not enough hours in the day to play all of them. Because I often run games, many of these characters become NPCs that the player characters meet in their travels. Some become friends, others become enemies, and some others are merely passed by in a tavern along the way. I have never had a problem coming up with new character ideas. My problem has always been figuring out which one of these many characters I want to play when given a chance. Other players I know have the opposite problem, struggling for sometimes days or even weeks on end to come up with a character they think will be interesting and/or fun to play. This challenge is often made more daunting due to the sorts of games my groups play, ones that can last months or even years to play out. Deciding on just one character for a campaign of that scale can be very taxing, and not a decision you want to make too lightly. So, in respect for that dilemma, let’s look at where you can draw inspiration.
Well, the easiest answer is from characters you read or watch in books, television shows, and movies. These characters always seem really cool and it is easy to say “yeah, that is what I want to play.” However, before you invest too much into that sort of character I would recommend you stop and think about it long and hard. Ask yourself what it is about the character that you like so much. Sure, Legolas is awesome in the Lord of the Rings films, as well as the newest instillation of The Hobbit, but is his “cool factor” enough to keep you interested in playing a clone of him for however long your campaign lasts? Thinking about what draws you to these characters, what makes them interesting to you, is a great way of building from a basic idea. Basically, what I am suggesting is not to get too stuck on a singular image that already exists. Make it your own. Copy/paste characters can be a lot of fun for short-term games but tend to lose their spark of cool whenever the next cool character strikes your eye.
Another great inspiration for characters are personality quirks. Everyone has them, and sometimes they can be quite endearing. Coming up with a certain way a character does something may be a rather unexpected first step, but it can work incredibly well as long as you do not let that one thing dominate everything your character does. Let’s say you come up with a character who really loves the color gray (my personal favorite) and refuses to wear anything else. Well, maybe he is a wizard and actually changes the color of all clothing he wears so it is gray? Maybe this is unintentional on his part and is in reference to his stance on being absolutely neutral in all major disputes (gray being a neutral color)? There, from one tiny trait we have figured out a class, alignment, and even the character’s ideals as a whole. Once you really get thinking about it, ideas tend to fly. Let them.
You can draw inspiration from anywhere. Music, animals, stories you hear when talking with your friends. Anywhere. Everywhere. Personally, I watch a great deal of anime with a friend and fellow gamer, and in doing so I find myself trying to figure out just how to build the various characters we like in the various games we play. What class would this character be? How could I achieve something similar to what they are doing in this system? What alignment are they? From these basic breakdowns, new ideas often come into my mind. Ideas like “what would a character who sort of acts like this character but does something similar to what this other character can do be like?” Sure, it might not be for everybody, but it works for me, and that is the greatest trick about it. Find out what works for you.
As always, I thank you for reading and wish you all good gaming.
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