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RESOURCE Character Development Guideline: [Get Good here!]

Discussion in 'Roleplaying Discussion' started by crazE, Mar 19, 2017.

  1. Hello, and welcome to the character development guideline! Here is where you can gain ideas on how to better develop your characters. Simple as that. Eazee peezee!

    NOTE: There is a difference between making a character and developing a character!

    Here are the sections:

    1. Gaining a Vision for a character
    2. Establishing a background
    3. Establishing relationships
    4. Establishing Strengths and Flaws
    5. Being Real

    Go ahead and explore whichever topic you decide on. I’d recommend starting from the first to the last, but if you feel like there’s a specific piece you’re looking to get into, go right ahead!
    Red Starr and Nebulon Ranger like this.
  2. Gaining a Vision for a character

    Alpha Testing: Habit of theoretical scenario-forming

    Hello, this is first step in the character guideline! Here, you will learn to become someone you’re not-- to play a role. Odds are you are already interested in delving into the fictional realm and experience something that isn’t, to feel of something beyond our reality’s grasp. Whether you’re inspired by the science of Iron Man or the magic of Harry Potter or the atmosphere of Middle Earth, you seek and desire to jump into the imaginary plane and begin a journey!

    Even better than just learning to play a role, it’s achieving something more: a journey. All journeys have a destination, so that’s what we’ll be talking about.

    Creating and developing a character usually begins with a vision of what role personally you would like to play. This vision is the end result of what you want to play as in a roleplay setting. You’d think it’d be as simple as spawning the idea of the character (which is fine in any daydream you want), but in a roleplay, characters are expected to be more than just a manifested concept or augment.

    Firstly, we can all agree that in a roleplaying setting, people want to be more than what or who they are. That’s the whole point of playing a video game, playing a role, etc. However, entirely excluding the human element is the exact flaw that ruins plenty of characters and concepts.

    So, the step here is: Practice making a vanilla foundation.

    A vanilla foundation is a character with no clear or significant background, no special snowflake augments, nothing. A normal, walking, talking being (preferably human to be relatable). This character can be yourself; it can be your friend. It can be someone that doesn’t exist at all. It could be a memory. Regardless, forging a simple character is essential for this step.

    Anyone’s goal in roleplaying is to have a character that’s relatable and feels like they are real. In order to do this, you need to practice roleplaying something that will feel real. Roleplay your vanilla character doing something or being somewhere.

    Here are some things you can reflect on to inspire the mind:

    1. Take your vanilla character and consider what they’d do meeting with a friend. Where . ould they meet? What would they talk about? What’s the interaction like? What clicks between them, or what doesn’t? What would they do together?

    2. Take your vanilla character and consider what they’d do in a stressful situation. What tough decisions would cause stress for your character? What IS stress for your character? How would they handle stress?

    3. Take your vanilla character and consider what they’d do if they noticed someone being bullied/getting mugged. Be very real here: How would your vanilla character react? Would they be fearful? Would they walk away? Would they help? What would be going through their mind?

    There are countless scenarios to consider. There are plenty of situations to test and try your character, and yourself. Don’t just stop on three considerations; push your vanilla character into all sorts of situations, even fantasy situations if you’d like. Give them a name, make it personal. You’ll see that there’s a breath to every word they can speak. You’ll feel that there’s a thought with every step they take.

    One of the best ways I’ve been able to determine a character in their reactions, relationships, etc. is to take a personality test with the character in mind. I’ve done the color personality test from colorcode.com (the full one for $40, although I did mine for free as part of something else. I can get it loaded another time for assistance) and it’s helped me gauge with fantastic results how to properly react with some characters.

    As soon as you get a feel for a character, like you can relate to them or understand them, then you can start to find a niche for characters you may enjoy creating. Do you like playing a serious guy with analytical skills? Do you like the carefree teen with a mohawk? Do you like the humble waiter off his shift looking for a lemonade? Finding comfortable personalities will better help you relate, then better help you to roleplay. Once you start feeling it, you can then move beyond your niche to other personalities and styles. But you will get to that point eventually.

    Eventually as you relate to your character, you will want to decide the vision of this character’s personal timeline: Where do they end up? As soon as you get that handled, you’ll have a better grasp of how to fill in the gaps to take them there.
  3. Establishing a background

    More than just a backstory; the ground on which the character is founded

    Let’s work on adding dynamics to the character.

    Already at this point, I’m sure you would have already thought up the character in many aspects including background, concept, personality, etc.. What this section is going to focus on adding is depth to a character.

    What makes Batman the way he is? It is obviously because of his background- events, circumstances and variables that have molded him into who he is. His parents were shot and killed in front of him. He had a traumatic experience with bats when he was a child. He found his way to a ninja sanctum and learned to fight and master martial arts. He inherited billions of dollars. Bruce Wayne himself dislikes crime and the hatred that fuels the world.

    Take any character, whether one you have or your vanilla character you’ve made from the prior step. Start with a backstory. This entails taking the character and rewinding their life to any significant details in their life. This establishes the “why” of a character’s doings and habits and entity. It gives context to what they wear; how they speak; who they fit in with.

    Upon these guided considerations, you can also apply these questions to your character and /then/ apply them to the questions in the prior topic.

    1. Was your character bullied in school/beat up at a younger age? How do you think that would affect their life? Did they grow out of the after-effects? What trauma remains? Did they adapt, and if so how?

    2. Was your character put through a traumatic experience? How do you think that would affect how they see the world? If they saw a similar experience, what would that do to them? Would the experience haunt them?

    3. Has your character failed before? Was it disastrous, or humiliating? Would your character take personal responsibility? Would your character try to make reparations?

    4. Has your character been in a relationship? How did they treat their significant other? How was their significant other in relation to them? Was the relationship trying at times? Were arguments/fights ever resolved, and how? How did your character move on, if they did, and why?

    Introspective questions help determine the depth of your character. The less questions you ask, odds are the less depth your character has. Imagination is key to playing out scenarios, predicting your characters and reading their thoughts. If you are to master roleplaying, you are to master being the ghost in the body of a being, and not the being in the body of a ghost.

    The Backstory is just one part of a character’s background. The background of a character is where you may spend most of your time developing. As said before, many aspects of a character’s life are probably considered simultaneously and not progressively; this isn’t a problem at all! However, until one masters step-by-step development of a character, multi-tasking character creation can result in a jumbled, rough, unstable character without a strong foundation.

    As soon as you feel comfortable playing a vanilla character, go ahead and add dynamics. This includes whether they lived on an Earth-esque planet, or something completely different. Do they have any capabilities, anomalies, or other such traits that makes them stand out from their peers? Are they even human? How does that change the character’s personality, habits, reactions, etc?

    Feel free to ask as many questions as possible. Obviously, building a character from another imaginary planet requires waaaay more development than just the character. You must always take into account what foundation the character is built on: Is the backstory setting stable, if checked for information? Or are loose ends found waving in the wind? Make sure the character can ask simple questions, such as “what’s the weather like where you’re from?” or “what did you use to do before ‘x’?”

    From there, you can probably start feeling like a double agent with a split personality. As creepy as that may sound, that’s the point! If anyone were to walk up to you and start talking to you like your character, would you be able to hold the conversation?

  4. Establishing relationships

    Getting the idea: What agendas/motives does the character have?

    Your character may have a well-founded background, but now it’s time to get into the present. This section deals largely with how actively the character interacts and WILL react when given scenarios. This is, essentially, the step on how to roleplay your character.

    I will be clear on this: A character is developed like how a person gets famous on social media. The more your character interacts, the more of your character is found. To decipher this in another way, in order to give your character life and development in a staged setting like a roleplay, the character needs to interact with as many other bodies as possible for the character. This stretches the character’s influence and expands the character’s existence beyond the foundation. In essence, it is building the character beyond themselves.

    There is a catch: Throughout the first two steps on this guide, we’ve been discussing the character themselves, how they are, who they are, what they are. We’ve developed their backstory; they’re entities that exist in their sphere of existence in the fictional plane. What we have to establish as roleplayers is the truth of the character.

    Factual statements about a character are considered the “truth” of the character; these are pieces of information that founds the character as who/what/how they are. You can also consider calling this their nature.

    A character’s truth or nature cannot be changed on a whim by simple means. These are ideals, beliefs, theologies, philosophies and mantras that the character has picked up over their backstory. These are precious gems that give value and virtue to the character. A very simple way to gauge intent and styles of your characters is the simple DnD chart here:


    What makes your character do what they do? As soon as your figure those things out, try to understand why it wouldn’t be easy, or why maybe it would be easy, for those ideals/philosophies/truths to change in the character. This becomes your boundary for the character, and becomes the most important tool to action and reaction in the roleplay setting. As soon as you have a grasp of the truths of your character, you are capable of driving the character in as real of a manner as you provide.

    You can ask questions like:

    1. What traits, philosophy and ideals does your character align the most with?

    2. What traits, ideals and philosophies would your character connect with and/or butt heads with?

    3. What character flaws does your character manifest because of their traits, ideals and philosophies? How does that increase the diversity of their character?

    As soon as you get these things figured out, you now have full reign to figure out your character’s agenda. This includes motives, goals and ambitions. You start to understand how your character ticks. What kind of expectations do they display?

    Sometimes it’s easier to see these aspects in exaggerated forms. Take, for example, some plays where the characters are very dramatic in their expressions and actions. This is to make clear to the audience this character’s expectations and intentions.

    We can take Batman for example in this situation. Although his actions may be unpredictable, his intent is always good. He seeks to help people. You can know what whatever decision he’s going to make, he will try to make it the most good decision he can find based on what he can perceive as good. And in contrast, you know that the Joker’s intent is anarchy, for the sole purpose of destroying establishment. His intent is evil, and to accomplish evil purposes in a chaotic manner.

    Remember, when you’re not playing your character, your character still has agendas and goals. They still think outside of you. Giving them that liberty and freedom really helps them to run their lives that you provide.
  5. Establishing Strengths and Flaws

    Sculpting the stone: What flaws from their personality, concepts, abilities and circumstances do they have? How does that provide dynamic?

    So you have your character. They’re smart, funny, serious, comical, practical, clumsy, whatever. They have a backstory. They come from planet Earth, or Planet Zebra. They’re human, or a blob of molten rock.

    What can make them more objectively realistic?

    Over the past few steps, the goal was to shape a character into having a background comprised of a backstory, achievements, failures, etc. and having a personality and an agenda. The question needing to be asked here is: what are their strengths and flaws, and how does that shape the character into who they are?

    Here we are going to dig really deep into the character. We’re going right into their core, their direct influence to the imaginary world and how that impacts what they do minute by minute, what they think second by second, and how they feel moment by moment.

    As soon as a character has a solid foundation, thoughts about the character’s flaws and strengths should be manifest based on what has been developed so far. Are they quirky? Clumsy? Are they good at math, bad at math? Are they too analytical, or not focused enough? Are they depressed or eccentric?

    As soon as you have a grasp on the character in question, go ahead and start listing off strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to note at every turn that there are redeeming qualities to your character that manifest into strengths; equally important, however, is making sure to accept and encourage the faults and flaws of a character. Remember, at the beginning of this guideline we talked about how the human condition shapes characters better than perhaps not having any conditions at all.

    The best way to make a list of strengths and weaknesses is to do another self-evaluation test. This one is like a counter-argument. For whatever strength you note, try to counter that strength with a flaw. For example:

    1. Goru is built for brawn. -- Goru isn’t good at strategy

    2. Seigura can cast powerful spells -- Seigura lacks stamina

    3. Kyuram is brave. --Kyuram is very stubborn.

    The same works inversely with flaws (and it might feel more positive that way). Making sure to note aspects of a character from both sides of view allows for a very rounded character perspective. It gives the roleplayer power and confidence in playing the character /well/. It also provides a quick-look reminder of how to read the character’s next actions.

    One thing you can appreciate from making a list like this for your character is growing to like/love/understand your character beyond the goal of just roleplaying. They start to become a being, and not just a creation.
  6. Being Real

    Giving the character freedom to fail: No one stopped you from sucking!

    At this point, it’s time to take into perspective all that you’ve gathered from the guide, and also from your experience as a roleplayer. What’s it like playing a galactic trooper, or a white mage, or a monster? What techniques have you learned that have helped you become better with roleplaying?

    This last section is a reminder and a summary of how to better help your characters in roleplaying and to better help you understand how to use them.

    Firstly: Give your character freedom to fail. In all of roleplaying there has never, EVER been mistakes…. Is what nobody said ever. As much as you are allowed to try and try again, your character should have many liberties to be susceptible to their own weaknesses.

    Secondly: Speaking of you, do not let yourself lose hope because you are capable of failing. If you have a hard time at roleplaying, don’t worry about it. Starting piano players are not expected to play at Carnegie Hall! It’s okay to make mistakes. The great realm of roleplaying is entirely fiction; things can be rewritten, and mistakes can be patched up. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a chump.

    Thirdly: Display greatness in gradual progression: There is nothing wrong with letting your character learn over time. I know, it’s hard to be a part of a roleplay that isn’t AS fast as you’d like to get your character to be the best possible version that they can be, or perhaps with how the roleplay goes they may never be their greatest for the duration of the roleplay or in their fictional lifetime.

    But here’s the thing: The beauty of the roleplay isn’t captured in the concept, it is captured in the development of the concept. Your character has a life through you, and you’ve had to learn one step at a time and you may never be YOUR best. Negating healthy progression is denying that character true life from you as a flawed human, who has learned and become better regardless of the expectation or the measurement.

    Fourthly: Relate! The easiest judgment of how well you’re doing at roleplaying is if you’re able to relate to your character from an outside perspective. Even better is if you can gauge this with other peoples’ characters. If you cannot relate to or at least reasonably understand other peoples’ characters, then you can gauge how well they’re giving that character realism and life. Relation is one of the core hooks that makes people want to read stories. If you can’t relate to a protagonist on anything, or even some things, it can be hard to really get into how that character lives their life.

    Fifthly: Give others plenty of opportunity to grow. This means that as much as you find opportunity to progress and develop, strive to give others the same. The worst thing you can do is consciously exempt others from development /when there is clear possibility to help others develop as well/. Speaking outside of whether it breaks the truth of your characters, speaking outside of the circumstance of the roleplay, since those two things obviously we will not break. If you do not work with others, you will be the one to hurt just as much as anyone else. Scenes need to grow together, not apart.

    Strive to collaborate! Make compromises, take chances and risks. Hold true to your character’s virtues, but actively seek how to move through with these rules and bounds set. That’s what makes creativity creative. As I’ve been told many times, creativity is not just thinking outside the box, it’s being able to find all the means to do inside the box as well.

    And Lastly: Be yourself…. Unless you’re your character. Because your character isn’t you! Make sure that you are always checking yourself if your personal self is coming through your character and breaking the truth and virtue of the character. It’s never good to impress yourself through the character when the character is (possibly) someone different. Additionally, the fictional world is a place to freely explore all viewpoints harmlessly; take advantage of that!

    With those things in mind, remember to have fun! The whole point of roleplaying is being able to freely roam and create a whole world for you and for others. There’s limitless possibilities, boundless potential!
  7. Final wrap-up points:

    1. Know that a character is only made of the stuff they receive. If you give your character rough, poorly-drawn developments, bad background and/or not-well-used concepts/tools/resources, the character will not be able to blossom very well, even if they get the sufficient character relationship development.

    2. Establishing the truth of a character is establishing the foundation of their decision-making; namely, ideals, beliefs, flaws and goals. The truth of a character is the factual side of who they are and what they are. The truth of a character establishes purpose. Rarely should the truth of a character be bent outside of in-character development (Meaning that characters are rarely going to interact/react outside of their nature, and trying to force it so removes the value of the character’s truth).

    3. Get your character to interact with as many other characters as possible in any way one can find (without stretching the truth of the character); this makes the character more than what they are. Like social media.

    4. You character has thoughts even when you’re not thinking. It is imperative that one establish a thought path with the rest of a character’s introduction/scene; using a thought pattern as the foundation of a scene is also very beneficial. Not doing so makes a character feel that they lose consciousness as soon as you leave them alone.

    This ends the guideline. It may not be perfect, and may receive further updates. Comments are always welcome as well (just shoot me a PM if you’d like to see other content included)! At the end of the day, this is meant to support you as a roleplayer and increase your knowledge and skills at roleplaying to gain experience. People move at different paces; hopefully each of these steps can help you along!


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