Developing a Character

A character for a role-playing game is much more than a collection of skills, attributes and treasures. A character should have a personality, a history, and a personal outlook on life, all of which should be different from the player's. This page is a series of exercises to help develop character.

Remember, you are creating a character, similar to characters in books, comic books, or television. You can use some of those characters as ideas, but try to be original - use your imagination.

Background and History

Write a background history for your character. Tell how he became an adventurer, and why he chose his profession (what class he is).

Questions to think about:

Typically when I run campaigns, I give extra experience to anyone who has created a strong character history. Frequently, I will add elements from the character's story into the history of the region (if it makes sense), and tie events to a character's background.

To get you started, here are a few character histories of characters, either from my campaigns, or my own characters:


Many times a gamemaster will write journals for his campaign. But that doesn't mean that players also should not do so. It is a good way to remember the events of the campaign, and give other people a way to see inside your character's mind.

Try writing a journal of your most recent adventures, from the point of view of your character. Remember, your character knows nothing about dice or game mechanics, but instead will see things from a personal view. He also will not necessarily know everything that happens in a game (this is a good way to separate character knowledge from player knowledge)

As an example, here is Krandar's journal.

Spellcasting or Special Powers

In many RPGs, a character has some magical talent, special abilities, or superpower. Think about what the effects look like - if your mage casts a Lightning Bolt, does he gesture and speak arcane incantations, or does he carve runes into a piece of silver and throw it at the foe? Does your flying superhero leave a trail? Do psychic disciplines, like mind reading, cause your eyes to glow?

Think about this kind of special effect. It usually has no effect on the actual game-play, but detailing the look and feel of a spell does have some advantages. Since mages typically learn from each other, you might be able to tell which magical academy a mage learned from. Perhaps the superhero can leave glowing sky-writing, but would not be able to sneak up on a foe. Or if a psychic's eyes glowed whenever he used his powers, would he try to hide his talents or make them obvious?