Give Your PC Some Personality
- Making Your Character Memorable -
Many players new to Dungeons & Dragons feel constrained by the rich cultural details the game's settings present, and can find it difficult to portray their characters as anything but stereotypical members of their cultures. However, the cultural details presented in the game are merely representative of the broad traits ascribed to those cultures, and just as people in the real world rarely fit a stereotype exactly, the same is true of characters in any Dungeons & Dragons setting.
Even in cases where a character is fairly typical, many aspects of personality, not to mention background and appearance, may not mentioned in cultural writeups, such as sense of humor, personal quirks and preferences, and so on. These present any player with a wide number of ways in which to personalize their character, without contradicting broad cultural descriptions if they don't wish to.
Three factors contribute to the overall quality and depth of any given character: Background, Personality, and Appearance. When creating a character it is not necessary to write chapter upon chapter, painstakingly detailing the character's life, outlook, and appearance, but by simply considering the questions put forward in this article, and writing a handful of short answers, a character can be given a life and personality beyond that of a cliched stereotype. Each of the three sections will present twenty appropriate questions, not all of which need be answered, and not all of which will necessarily be applicable.
If possible, the player and GM should work together to create the character, ensuring it is playable and not overly disruptive to the style of game they wish to play.
Arguably the most important aspect of character creation, a character's background provides a sense of personal history, and existence, and it is often the character's upbringing and experiences in life that most define their personality and outlook. Remember: notable events, personages, etc. need not necessarily be notable for good reasons; bad events can be just as notable.
What were the character's parent(s) or guardian like?
Does the character have any siblings?
Does the character have a family of their own, or did they?
Do they ever intend to settle down if they don't?
What about other relatives; were any memorable for any reasons?
What is the current status of any of the character's relatives, i.e. alive, dead, missing, estranged, ill, enslaved, imprisoned, divorced, etc.?
Were there any skeletons in the family closet?
Where was the character raised?
What was the family's status in terms of wealth, social, and local standing?
Did the family move at all?
Does the character have a home of their own?
What was the character like as a child/adolescent?
Were any childhood/adolescent friends or enemies particularly memorable?
Were any childhood/adolescence events particularly memorable?
Did the character learn any skills as a child/adolescent?
- Professional History
Why did the character enter the profession they did?
How did the character receive their training?
Did they find any of it particularly difficult or easy?
Has the character done anything particularly notable since completing their training?
What contacts, friends, enemies or mentors did the character make while training, or pursuing their career?
The character's personality defines how they are roleplayed, and should be detailed bearing in mind the character's Background, as described above. Consider how the character's upbringing, family, past experiences, etc. affected their worldview, morality, and so on, and if they turned out the way they did because of, or in spite of, their Background. Consider how they fit their cultural stereotype, and how they differ from it.
What does the character like/love?
What does the character dislike/hate?
What is the character's attitude to sex?
What is the character's attitude to religion?
What is the character's attitude to magic?
What is the character's attitude to illegal activities?
What is the character's attitude to conflict, physical or otherwise?
Does the character have any misconceptions/bigoted outlooks?
How does the character see themselves?
How do other people see the character?
If the character could be summed up in one word, what would that word be?
What would the character change about themselves, if they could?
What is the character's greatest fear/worst nightmare?
What is the character's greatest hope/dream/aspiration?
What motivates the character?
Is there anything the character will not do?
What is the character's sense of humor like?
Does the character have any hobbies/pastimes?
How does the character relax?
Does the character have any mental or behavioral quirks, flaws, or aberrations?
The character's appearance is usually the first thing anyone notices about them, and can say a lot about their personality, profession, and background. Detailing what the character looks like gives the player a good mental image of the character, vital in imagining scenes in the game. The character's appearance also helps other players visualize the character, and enables GMs to determine how NPCs might react to the character. However, the character's appearance need not necessarily reflect all of their qualities, although it will always reflect some; not every warrior looks grim and determined, and not every magician looks thin and bookish, for example. Also bear in mind the exotic and unusual possibilities that alchemical and magical enhancements can present when detailing a character's appearance; such enhancements can be eccentric to say the least.
How tall is the character?
What kind of build and proportions does the character have, and are they muscular, toned, scrawny, overweight, etc.?
How much does the character weigh?
What kind of style, color, and texture is the character's head/facial/body hair, if indeed they have hair?
What shape and color(s) are the character's eyes, and are they at all expressive of any given emotion(s)?
What color is the character's skin?
Does the character have any distinguishing marks such as birthmarks, scars, disfigurements, tattoos, or brands, etc.?
What does the character's expression usually convey, i.e. disdain, friendliness, surliness, calm, etc.?
What does the character's voice sound like?
Does the character have any favorite sayings or catch phrases?
How does the character move, walk, and carry themselves?
What would the character like to change about their appearance?
If the character's appearance could be summed up in one word, what would that word be?
How would others generally describe the character's appearance?
How does the character dress when relaxing?
How does the character dress when they wish to make an impression?
How does the character dress when traveling?
How does the character dress when working?
What item(s) is the character rarely without?
Does the character have any particularly cherished possession(s), such as an heirloom, memento, gift, etc.?