The Character Creation Topic
01-12-2011, 11:32 AM (This post was last modified: 01-12-2011 11:45 AM by ArcturusV.)
The Character Creation Topic
Welcome to the Character Creation Topic
Our mission here is to come up with a general list of guidelines and principles to help with creating a new character. No, I'm not talking about making complete lists of acceptable skills, equipment, races, and the ilk. No. Rather, some loose guidelines to help guide through the common pitfalls of character creation, and how to make your profile/bio stand out in the crowd.
Hopefully this thread will help both those quite serious about their roleplaying, helping them examine their own characters, and those that are new to roleplaying.
Help is always appreciated. If you wish to submit some content here, just PM me, or post it in the thread, and it will be looked over and added if deemed helpful.
The Character Creation Guide Code of Conduct:
As follows are rules that shall be enforced, considering conduct of those who enter this thread. I'm a benevolent ruler, and willing to let some things slide. However repeated and blatant infractions will not be tolerated. I know some people can get into the spirit of the moment and forget themselves... so there will be some leniency.
1: Information Submitted to this thread must be created by the poster. This applies to profiles that are sent in to be critiqued, or articles written for the guide. The exception being if you have the permission and full knowledge of the original content creator to do so.
2: The standards of civilized behavior will be enforced here. This means when you disagree with someone, personal attacks will not be tolerated. You are free to disagree of course, but keep it within the realm of the issue at hand rather than such topics as can be taken as a personal insult.
3: Linking and Referencing. This is a Guide and Resource after all. You do not need to ask me to post a link to this guide in your thread or roleplay. However, I ask that you do not quote my guide in other locations, and instead just post links.
4: Keep posting in this thread OOC. Historically when I have posted this topic some Roleplaying has bursted out in the topic. While roleplaying is great, there are other places to do it.
12/1/11: Bow before your new overlord! HA HA HA HA!
Table of Contents:
1st post: Mission Statement, news, table of contents.
2nd post: The Works, basic profile construction.
3rd post: History Lessons
4th post: Descriptions
5th post: Silk, Steel, and Sorcery: Lessons for the Combative Character
6th post: How to be a Team Player: NPCs, Organizations, and Groupies
7th post: Race: Angels, and Demons, and Vampires, Oh My.
8th post: The Best Blade is the Most Balanced Blade
9th post: Submitting New Content
10th post: Reader Submissions
About the Author:
I've been a roleplaying veteran for many years now, having first started roleplaying online back in Yahoo! Clubs (Before it was changed to groups) in early 1998. And before that, I had been a GM in many tabletop RPGs (Mostly Robotech, but I had done some WoD, D&D, and RIFTs). Now I have nearly 16 of roleplaying, and GMing experience under my belt, both online and off.
I have been involved in one part of another with many of the quasi legendary "events" on certain other roleplaying forums, massive short term roleplays involving upwards of 50 characters. The most successful of these (Or at least the the most memorable ones) being run by the legendary "Opaj". For every event he has run, I've been a Bio/Profile Grader, and usually a GM of some capacity. Just GMing and grading Profiles for his events, I've more than likely seen over 260 profiles in that capacity.
In addition to my regular hunting through other forums and roleplaying sites for good roleplay.
While I consider myself a general expert on roleplaying and profiles, there are some admitted weak points in my skills, mostly because I either don't care to play that setting, or have no experience with it. This includes, but is probably not limited to "High School" RPs, Magical Girl type roleplays, "Lifestyle" roleplays, and "Romance" roleplaying.
I do feel confident however, especially after grading and looking over so many profiles and characters that I do have a good grasp of the basics and the art of character crafting.
Some people need this, some don't. But its worth covering for those that do. There parts that make up a working profile. Now I'm not going to deign to decree some official character profile style that shall be used across all of the site. But there are certain things that all good character profiles do have, and need. Here I will cover those things.
The Introduction: Should be at the very top of your profile. A lot of the most basic information should be here. The wide strokes that at a glance will tell someone how to roleplay with your character. This obviously means covering such things as Gender, Race, and Names. How much more you add beyond this is up to you. But that's all I consider really, really necessary. You can easily go overboard if you start adding in things like Height, Weight, Zodiac Sign, Hometown, and all the other things I've seen there. Of course if an RP demands something such as Hometown, or Zodiac Sign, or Pet, what have you, this is an excellent place to put it.
A standard one might look like this:
Name: Bob Roberts
Race: Human (Bearer of a Chaos Shard)
Notice I tossed in a little note there next to human, right? If for some reason you are not a typical member of your race, for example, having bionics, or being a biological experiment with some alien arm graft, I usually like to note it there. Lets the person reading your profile know what is going on before reaching your history or abilities and going "What do you mean Alien Arm, you're human, aren't you?!".
The Meat: Here should be one of the sections you really spend time on. This is the Description section. Now there are stylistic differences. Some like to go bullet point list down it, mentioning height, weight, nationality, skin tone, hair color, eye color, distinguishing marks, clothes, etc, etc, etc. The list can get quite long, and that style tends to stretch out your profile. Not bad if you're thin on details, but for something with a little more meat the Descriptive Style works better.
There you go into a paragraph style description of your character. I like to start with generalities first, then refine into details. For example, first describing the build of the man, then coloration, including clothing and the styles they like to wear. I generally don't go into details about specific out fits. Too much. But saying generalities like 'Usally wears baggy clothes' or 'wears blue jeans and tee shirts'. Then finally, the minor refinement details. If you have any important objects, such as weapons, momento, and the like, make sure to mention it in your description, as well as where you usually keep it. Of course don't forget scars. Scars are important and overlooked. Saying you have that scarred knee from when you were three and fell off your first bike gives your character an added dimension that really makes them stand out better.
Of Steamworks and Magick Obscurae: Well, lets face it. Most RPs have combat and adventure of some sort. Those that don't, just don't bother with this section.
I speak of course to the Combat related section of the profile. This includes your character's equipment, and your character's skills, abilities, magics, special techniques, etc, etc, etc. There is so many sort of things you could put here, I won't even bother trying to list it.
However, I will suggest a few little somethings. One, make sure your Equipment, and your Abilities actually make sense in the context of your character's history. I can't even count the number of times I've seen Earth native characters with random magical powers, or westerners with Katana, civilians with high tech, secret, still classified weapons... the list goes on, and on, and on.
The other pitfall I wish to discuss right now is Power Curve. Its a touchy subject. But generally I'd suggest, if you're making a character from scratch, don't give your character the Legendary Sword of DOOM, or the Staff of the Archmage Blow Stuff The Hell Up. For one, it gives your character more options, not less, when roleplaying. I mean, it sounds so typical (But oddly enough is never done on Gaia, at least not that I've ever seen), but if you have only normal equipment to start with you can launch a nice, epic quest to find that ultimate sword of doom. Because to me, roleplaying to get your awesome powers and equipment is so much more fun than actually having it.
At the very least, if you're thinking of joining a demanding, literate roleplay, not creating a character with Legendary Status, will more likely get you invited to play. Again it comes down to standing out from the crowd. On most sites where there are so many Legendary Swordsmen, Demons of Ultimate Power, Magic Powers that can blow up a large chunk of the world, being just "normal", or even just "Low Level" really makes you stand out as a unique, talented roleplayer.
You can always accumulate those ungodly powers during your adventures.
Back to the business at hand. Description is KING here. A profile that describes their power armor in detail, including weaknesses as well as strengths, will always appear more intersting than one that just says...
"Diety Inc. Power Armor with Gauss Rifle".
((Note: I'm not picking on people that actually play from Diety Inc. They've always been great roleplayers, and very detail heavy on their profiles.))
Another thing. Just because you have magic, doesn't mean you shouldn't bother with details. People say it's better to be vague than BS about something you don't know. That works fine for Tech. But Magic is already vague enough. When you create a magic weilding character try to be more descriptive with your abilities than "Makes a ball of fire".
The Dressing: I call it that, because frankly, I don't see it as necessary. Some people demand it however.
Personality. That's what I'm talking about. As well as different subsets such as Alignment and "quirks". Lets face it, these things aren't going to define your character. In fact, the best characters generally use this area to reinforce things in their History sections. For example, someone might notice in 'quirks' that they don't look people in the eye when talking to them, using it to reinforce a parent that might have been overbearing in their history.
Beware of The Paradox. I see it a lot. People that say things like "Shy... but will always stand up for what she believes in". Or things like "Coward but will always stick up for her friends". Both of which I've seen quite often. Sure, there are little contradictions in people's personalities in real life. But not to those extremes. Personality, and related sections are one of the few places I'd tell you to be purposefully vague.
The Grand Daddy: This, almost without fail, will tend to be the largest section of your profile. The only thing that should compare is perhaps your combat related section, depending if you go all Deity Inc and into every little bit of ballistic details and mechanics.
History. History, yes. History is like the Force (Or Duct tape), is surrounds your character, flows through your character, binds your character together. History should, optimally, be referenced in part throughout your bio. Use bits of history in your descriptions. Use bits of history to relate how you learned your abilities or gained your equipment. Use your history to explain your personality.
Everything, optimally, in your profile should link to, and make sense in the context of your history. In the worst case, your history would have nothing to do with your character, either his description, or abilities. For example, a profile I graded for Triad had someone from Earth, with a normal-ish childhood (Though it involved a school shooting), who, for an unstated reason had Naruto style ninja powers.
That's pretty much what I thought.
So when you look over your profile, keep in mind two driving principles. One, Detail is KING. As my friend would say "It's like sex, more is always more desirable than less".
The second principle, everything should more or less make sense in the context of the history you have written.
I do believe that History is the most important part of a profile, and a character. A good history shows not only where a character came from, but gives you a look into why he is where he is, where he might be going, what can motivate him, and what his weaknesses might be.
In short, it makes a character into a person, rather than a collection of equipment and stats. History is what separates great console RP heroes like the silent Chrono, with the great literary heroes such as Aragorn of Lord of the Rings. (I consider him a well written character, with a deep history that was always just below the surface)
There is one major, huge cardinal rule of History, one that cannot be understated.
Just because your character has amnesia, or otherwise does not remember your history, doesn't mean it didn't happen, and that your GM shouldn't know it.
Too often I've seen people cop out on their histories saying something like "Woke up in a forest one day and doesn't remember anything".
Too often I see that later turned into something game breaking like "Oh, yeah, she's actually a fallen god of destruction with limitless power that she just discovered". Robbing your GM of this information isn't just bad roleplaying or character creation, it's almost criminal. It can kill off a roleplay, and it can turn even the most innocent character into a sudden Mary Sue type (In the sense that they are randomly the most powerful, take the spotlight, good at anything, etc).
As players, you should be ashamed if you stoop to such dirty tactics to sneak in God Characters and Mary Sues. As GMs and Moderators of Roleplays, you should never allow someone to get away with such a history that could leave them as the Chosen One that can do everything on their own. (What's the fun of a roleplay if one character can do everything and doesn't need anyone?)
Again, even if your character doesn't remember a part of their history, put it down. It saves people from having nasty shocks later on when the veil is pulled back and it's all revealed.
Point Two: Orphans.
I find myself wondering why, momentarily, that so many roleplay characters are Orphans. Then I realize what it seems to be, as an objective reader, is a cop out. A way to avoid having a family, and thus possibly loved one to be used against you. Or to simplify a profile history while trying to make it look like it has depth.
Take a look at the roleplaying event know as Triad. For that event we had almost 50 bios. Almost 30 of which featured characters who had no Mother or Father. Usually their family slaughtered in some accident when they were younger than 10, and somehow they managed to take up the sword/firearm and go on a crusade of justice. Or just hoboing around. Or becoming a Mercenary, all before they hit puberty.
I know and understand some settings features younger than real world ages. I mean, 16 on here can have you being some ungodly powerful Mage. 18 and you can be running some massive mafia, which you rose through from the very bottom, of course, probably some foot soldier/dope dealer at the age of 6.
Let me tell you though. There is nothing wrong with having a family. Hell, there is nothing wrong with having a normal, functional, loving family. (Out of the 20 so other bios in triad, it seemed 7 had seriously dysfunctional families, and 3 others had psycho parents from hell) In fact, given the numbers, your character is actually more unique for having a 'boring' family life and childhood than being some Batman-esque figure with slaughtered parents.
That brings me to another point.
Overkill. Detail is GOOD. I won't begrudge you that. However, be wary of going into too much detail. Your history should reflect your character, not every birthday, and minor event in his life from birth to present. In general, I say stick with a loose overview of your history. Where did he come from, what sorta place did he live in, how did he fit into society, any special, out of the normal behavior, and Major Events. For example, Parents being Slaughtered, while not recommended, is a major event you go into detail about. Not just...
"Oh, and some guy killed my parents in front of me... moving on"
((Aside: I had actually read a bio once that said, and I quote "She was fighting in the battle. And then she almost died. Then she rescued..." so you see that I'm not blowing smoke, this does happen))
Finally, when you approach your history sections, it is important to have a Policy about it. A set of guidelines and rules you yourself follow when creating it. I cannot stress enough:
RULES BREED CREATIVITY, NOT STIFLE IT!
Set Rules for yourself. Keep yourself on those rules. And call BS when you start figuring out a loophole around your rules. The Rules will force your mind down new paths, new histories that you never would have discovered for yourself. Get specific with your rules. Get downright nasty, and really burn your brains trying to work within them. Trust me, it'll pay off.
Lastly, consider how you want to write you history. Do you want a "Top Down" character, or a "Bottom's up" character?
Top Down characters, by that I mean characters that are designed from the Top, Down, on the profile sheet. Come up with your name, race, gender first, then your description, then your abilities, equipment, etc, and finally, you try to find a history that fits all those details you want. This can be a real organic method. Especially if you have a specific hook you want to hang the character on.
For example, one of my most comedic characters was created this way. Jim, the Underpants Magi. All based around a line I uttered in a roleplay (I ambushed someone in the shower, and he asked to cover his nakedness with his boxers on the floor. My nervous character cried out, "No, for all I know you're some Underpants Magi!". Thus I created the character solely on the idea of a Mage who uses underwear to cast magic.
A Bottom's Up character therefor, is created History First, and then abilities, equipment, description, name, race, etc, all flow out from the history. These characters tend to have a very interconnected profile, as the history comes first, it can be constantly referenced in the other sections. So what you have is something that feels more like one piece describing your character, rather than several different sections breaking it apart.
I love the Bottom's Up style myself. I use it for most of my characters. Including the now infamous Isoroku Ikari (The only character profile that got a perfect score in Triad from the profile graders), Daniel, Morgan Flare, Bob Roberts, Randolf O'Keefe, and many others.
Each has its own unique advantages, and you really need to find the style that works for you. Those are but two of them. The two I use, and can vouch for. Remember if you use a Top Down method, to reference your skills, abilities, and items of importance in your history. Look up, see what major items you have. A silver chain you always wear? Write up a section in your history about where your got it, and why you always wear it. Learn a skill like Magic, or Picking Pockets? Where, when?
Interconnect your profile to your History, and watch it soar by leaps and bounds.
We all have them. We all know them. And we so easily can fail at them. They're not that hard, and can be a lot of fun, as long as you keep your eyes out for these potholes on the road.
As I've said before, your appearance should link to your history. Just like everything else. For example, that Japanese Warring States era character probably won't have Kevlar vests, tennis shoes, and Hawaiian shirts. Just as that modern character you have probably shouldn't have a suit of armor and an ancient katana.
Forum Roleplaying breeds... strangeness. Eras and character types that shouldn't be together, everything from Future Tech, to Modern Anime, to Medival, are bumping right next to one another. Thus there is no real reason why your Feudal Japanese warrior couldn't have gotten his hand on some laser pistol in some scene from one of the Future Tech types. Nor why your modern Anime style character can't have an ancient staff of Magical Doom. While it can be interesting my advice is to wait. Pick a time period, setting, etc, for your character, and when you create them, give them only clothes, items, and other descriptors from that time period. As they roleplay with others you can start adding in your mismatched items from across time and space.
And may the lords of RPing help you if you think you can be clever. To show an example... I had a character profile I was grading for Triad. Who said, and I quote "Does not wear traditional warrior's garb but instead a black shirt, black jeans, and a black cloak".
Can anyone tell me what was wrong with that? For one, he implies his warrior is not traditional, and dresses as his own man. Secondly, the clothes he describes are in fact what a majority of warrior type characters wear when wandering around that particular (And many other forum board) site. So that is actually more "Traditional" than wearing armor, or a uniform.
Keep your eyes open. Read other people's descriptions. Soon you should start to see patterns. Patterns are bad. If you follow the pattern, your character isn't visually distinguishable from others.
For example, the four most common colors for clothing seem to be, in order, Black, White, Blue, and Red. Four colors. That's all. So as you're creating your character, and you find yourself typing up the likes of "black shirt" or "white cloak", pause, look over what you typed, and ask yourself, "Does it really need to be that way?"
As well, think before you leap. Make sure your description fits the character. Strong characters aren't going to be thin and twig like. (With the obvious exception of some magically strong race perhaps) Short people just aren't going to be as fast as taller people. People in snowy climates tend to have less summer clothes than warm, baggy winter gear. People in warm climates tend not to have heavy jackets. Think about what sort of abilities you want, and where your character comes from. Make sure the character you describe fits with these minor little details. (No more 6 foot tall Japanese men)
Don't be afraid to go from the norm on your description. What is the norm? Roughly here's what it seems to be. Tall, thin, all muscle, no fat, long hair, usually age 16-22, either dressed as a Civilian (Tee shirt, jeans, jacket maybe), a Rogue (Read: Cape, black clothes, hood), or soldier (Body armor, uniforms, helmets, always seems to have some sort of automatic weapon). This is by no means a complete list, but in my experience it is a list of the three most common archetypes. With anime style humans favoring the first, demons and theives the second, and Mercenaries the third. (Note that "Badasses" are found in all three, and also this is describing male characters. Female characters have their own lists...)
There is nothing wrong with the above descriptions. If you can do them, and pull them off in a way that is interesting to read, more power to you. If you don't believe you have the skills to take something that any moderately experienced GM has probably read a couple dozen times at least, move on.
Like history, setting some Rules for yourself can really help you create a visually distinctive character. Personally I like to start with a Hook of some type. Say... I want to create a Fat character. Or an old guy who's on the verge of life and death. Or a 12 year old kid. Or maybe a Priest. These hooks can give me a lot of information not only for my history and other sections later on, but on my description as well.
For example, the Priest tells me several distinctive things. One, that as a religious man, he probably has strict codes and disciplines. This can include standard vestments or garb that he's limited to wearing. Also it can suggest that he would carry some sort of holy symbol upon himself, a mark of his faith. Also, as a Priest, I can determine that he probably has vows of poverty, chastity, and perhaps others, all of which will visually distinguish him. Because of his poverty charity his clothes tend to be simple, natural fibers, cotton perhaps, wool, no silks, no velvet, no golden ropes or metalic embroidery. And as he vows to be chaste, he takes no particular efforts to make himself look good to the opposite sex.
Which bring up another point. Attractiveness. Lets face it. Real people, there are more ugly ones, or plain ones, than real knockouts and lookers. But player characters aren't supposed to be average joe. No, they're supposed to be Above Average Tim. So it seems natural they would look better than their plebian counterparts, right?
Well, consider what your character does. A life of hard labor, or fighting, is likely to leave skin scarred, cracked, exposed to the elements. They might have blemishes from when they came down with some disfiguring disease... an adventurer's life ain't for pretty boys. There's a lot of stuff out there that'll scuff up the shine on your boots and your teeth.
Finally, one last bit before I take my rest for the night.
Descriptions tend to be one dimensional. The most convenient sense for describing how someone looks is, well, sight. Descriptions tend to be entirely sight based. He is of X dimensions. Color, form, shape.
Liven up your descriptions. Bring some color into it. Take four senses instead of one. Describe how your character smells, perhaps the noise of that old metal hip he has makes when he walks around. How does the character feel? Rough skin? Tough leathery hides? Soft, smooth silk clothing?
Sight, Smell, Sound, Touch. Use them all. Taste is generally out of the question. Unless you plan on being eaten. (Hey, it could happen in a Zombie/Vampire Roleplay)
Correction, one last bit. Finally, if you want a unique description, there is one thing to go to. Everyone else's profile. If you're joining an established roleplay, then most likely there are profiles up there already somewhere. Characters that have been completed, accepted, and are running around.
Look them over, check them out, see what patterns they have, what archetypes they have, then try to avoid using them. That simple.
Like many other arts, creating a visually distinctive character starts with studying the characters around you. See what features are commonplace. Dark skin? Blond hair? Thin? Short? Tall? Dark clothes? Hawaiian shirts? Compile a list in your mind, then try to find a way to describe your character without using the descriptors on that list.
01-12-2011, 11:52 AM (This post was last modified: 01-12-2011 12:04 PM by ArcturusV.)
RE: The Character Creation Topic
Silk, Steel, and Sorcery: Lessons on creating a combatant's profile.
Combat. Some roleplays don't feature it at all. Some only as a minor part. And there are those that are heavily into combat. However, if you are thinking of creating a group based roleplay character you need to consider filling in a Combat section. Because with so many itching for a fight, so many Demons of Instant Doom powers, Vampires, Fallen Gods, Crazed Gunman, and Samurai/Ninja out there, chances are you'll get into a fight sooner or later. Especially with larger groups as there will always be some hothead/troublemaker.
And if you do... well, its always nice to an idea of what your character can do.
In most profiles, a character's combat capabilities comes down to two major sections.
Now, this is a good section to have even if you plan on never, ever get involved in a fight. While it is most often used to describe someone's myriad collection of armor and weapons, I've also seen it used to describe the collection of items a character has obtained over time. (For example: Tweak, who used it to list such things as Spray Paints, smokes, and blackmail photographs)
When you start describing your equipment, especially when getting into weapons and combat gear, there is a fine line you should try to talk between two extremes...
One, the Bare Bones Style. These people generally have a bullet list style equipment section. An example of one might be.
-Suit of Armor
Three guesses on what I'm going to say about it? Well, it's very... bland. It works. At least so far in that someone can tell at a glance what a character is packing. Always nice. But its lacking details. There is no history there, there is no personality.
See what happens when I add a few more details to it.
-Katana. Named Hisoroku, part of an ancestral matching set passed down through the family.
-Suit of Great Armor, colored Green and Black, battle scarred and showing great age.
-Composite longbow, taller than the one who wields it.
-Quiver of arrows, wooden, made with sharp, tooled steel heads, and fletched with black and yellow stripped feathers.
Now, not only do you know what the character is packing, but the equipment has History. It implies a certain relationship to the character, as well as paints an immediate picture of what sort of character uses it. It is still not Perfect, but adding just a sentence to each line has greatly improved the section as you can see.
Now, for the other extreme to avoid. This is usually more of a problem with Experienced Roleplayers than Newbie Roleplayers.
The Iron Clad Technocrat. These profiles often stem from a single problem. They aren't where they belong. An example of this type could be the AMP example of the guy that brings his Gundam into a medival fantasy roleplay because it was approved in the "This is not a medival fantasy RPG" thread.
But as I've said before. Forum Roleplaying is a... strange... place. Where people from different genres, tech levels, and worlds have come together. So there will of course be times where your swordsman is facing down against someone with mecha, automatic firearms, Ballistics Armor. And times that your Mecha Pilot will come across a mage who can blow stuff up with a wave of their hand.
Generally it's easy to spot the Technocrats that will make trouble in a roleplay. Often these are the people that seemed to have done their research online, and have C&Ped Technical Schematics into their profiles. While the detail and the research is normally appreciated by me, this is often used as "Hidden Histories" are used to unleash powers that the rest of your roleplay can't match. Everything from the Sci Fi "Lasers move at the speed of light, you can't possibly dodge, nor could I miss", to people with enough reflective, ablative, ballistics armor they declare that unless someone hits them in the exact same spot with 5 large caliber bullets they won't ever get through.
Now, I'm by no means saying, "Don't use Technology" or not to go into detail with your characters. I know quite a few characters that might otherwise fall into the Iron Clad Technocrat type, if not for having great roleplayers that know the need for balance.
When delving into equipment, generalities are king, especially over details. If you use details, well, you'll often find yourself straight jacketed by them later on, or even worse, causing OOC fights.
Saying your armor could say, stop 5 blows to the same section, rather than going into detailed ballistics information, tends to be a better way to go, and is less likely to cause problems later on.
Finally on Equipment... Generalities With Details.
As I said, you need to be able to walk that line between Bare Bones and Technocrat. Some of this means trusting your fellow players to know what you're talking about. Or if they don't know, that they'll at least do a quick google or wikipedia search.
So if you have a weapon type, that is in no way 'special'. For example a normal Katana, then you don't need to go into details about how many folds were involved in its crafting, or how it could "Cut through a Tank". Instead use this space to perhaps mention things like appearance, markings on the blade, any random little details like where you got it from, pet names for it...
To quote Full Metal Jacket: This is my rifle, there are many like it, but this one is mine.
Personalize it. Throw in details that will separate your katana from the others out there.
And finally, I cannot stress this enough... if you have 'modifications', either magical or technological, discuss them ALL. Go into detail about this as well. For example, don't say...
Say something like:
-Katana. Enchanted, it glows when in the presence of the supernatural with a blue ghostly light. This light will cause discomfort in supernatural beings, equatable with being in a room too hot for them, but no serious pain.
Abilities and Skills
The other half of your Combat section, and arguably, the more important part.
After all, what use is all those shiny gadgets, and all powerful magical artifacts if you don't know how to use them properly?
When you find yourself creating a fresh character, ask yourself questions like "How experienced is my character?". This can go a long way to determining what skills you have. For example, that character you make that's been a star ship mechanic for 10 years will probably know the ins and outs of every ship type he's seen. Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean he knows how to fly it. And there is little in such a background to suggest he knows how to do anything in combat more than duck and cover. Maybe he can swing a mean hydrospanner at someone, but you aren't gong to have a Jet Li master of martial doom.
Again it goes back to history. Your character that's been a warrior disciple and apprentice for the last half of his life? Sure, he can have some nifty martial arts, weapons training, maybe even some minor medical training, mostly the treatment of cuts, lacerations, etc.
Did your character practice a trade? I mean, most likely if you were a cobbler's apprentice for so many years, it's not going to come up in a roleplay. However, it is better to have stated this skill, in case such a thing comes up, rather than appearing to BS it out of thin air. (Even if it is in your history.) So if you had professional training, whatever the field, cooking, shoemaking, the priesthood, soldiering, or anything else, make sure to mention it. You don't have to go into detail about how quickly you could repair a broken sole, but mentioning that you know this skill, and approximately how experienced you are with it can go a long way.
But the meat and potatoes of this is going to be Combat Related Skills.
These skills tend to fall into two Categories. The Martial Arts.
And the Supernatural.
I include all physical combat arts in "The Martial Arts". Because, well, technically they are. Greco Roman wrestling, fencing, marksmanship are just as much Martial Arts as watching Shaolin Monks flying around kicking and punching.
Like Equipment I suggest that Generalities with Details. I mean, you don't need to explain to me if you have Greco-Roman wrestling about how you execute a proper hip throw takedown, or inside cradle. Describe them in your roleplay posts. So you're an expert marksman, right? Well, with what weapons? Thrown weapons? Knives, axes, darts? Firearms? Revolvers, pistols, bolt action rifles? Bows? Crossbows? Eye lasers?
The same goes with Martial Arts. Don't expect someone to know exactly what Jeet Kune Do is, or the Russian Commando style of Sambo. When you state your martial arts mastery, at whatever level, include a basic idea of what the art includes. Strikes with hands and feet? Locks, holds, throws? Deception and feints or quick attacks and combination?
Keep age in mind when you create your Martial Abilities. While some arts, such as Rifle Marksmanship, can be picked up quickly. (Hell, if you practiced for hours a day for a year you'd probably be a damned crackshot) Others, such as Jeet Kune Do, or Akido, take years, nay, decades to master.
Claiming that your 16 year old character is a Martial Arts (In the 'traditional' sense) Master is just... crazy. Make your character a student, a recruit with some talent but not enough practice or training, and not only does your character make more Sense, it will also feel more like a Real Person and less like you tried to make Badass Incarnate.
((Note that like many things, the above statement has exceptions for characters that have vast reservoirs of Roleplayed History. As in almost any system, story, or source known, characters on Adventures always seem to progress in powers more rapidly than people who sit down and study everyday. Practical Applications, blah, blah, blah. Basically means if you've actually played your character as a warrior of some type, through various adventures and battles, you can get away with claiming Grand Master status, or at least Veteran Status.))
Magic. This tend to be the other half of skill sets. While I call it "Magic" here, I do not mean merely Magic as in the Arcane Arts of Wizards and Witches. Magic, in Profile Terms, can include the Arcane, "Mutant Powers", Psionics, and even "Technowizardry". (Technowizardry in this case meaning characters that are scientific/mechanical genuises and can create things beyond the standard for your setting, or are experts at Scrounging Together ways and means. Standard techies don't apply for this, I mean the real Geniuses. Those ones that with a monkey wrench and hour, and a roll of duct tape could repair just about any machine, etc.)
Thus, you can really come up with Three Types of Skills. Professional Skills, things like crafting, knowledge sets, etc, The Martial Skills, and everything else.
Magic generally comes in two types. One is the Spell List. Where people will bullet point, and describe every single type of effect they can do. These lists are often quite handy as it includes all the pertinent information. Times, distances, ranges, areas of effect, effects. People with spell lists can, and sometime do just Quote their ability at the end of a post rather than having to type it up every time they use it. As you can imagine, over time, with a long played, persistent character, that can save you a lot of time typing up the same descriptions over and over, and give you more time actually roleplaying.
The Other is the General List. Now those paying attention would notice that for this section I've endorsed "General, with details" quite often. The General list however has a lot of drawbacks with supernatural powers. For one, it leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and things that you think are included in your stated powers, someone else might not agree.
For example, I saw a demon, a Fire Elemental, that claimed because he has mastery of fire, he had mastery of Cold as well, as Cold, magical or mundane, is merely the absence of heat, and thus he could by drawing the 'fire' element out of an area create an area with the cold of deep space, near absolute zero.
Now if I was the GM in that situation, and someone claimed a loose description of "Fire Mastery" gave them such a power I most likely would have ruled no. And again, you could, if one party was especially stubborn (And the GM should always be stubborn in such a case), with a massive OOC arguement bringing role play to a halt. ((Author's Hint: Good Roleplaying should ALWAYS move the roleplay along, not bring it to a crashing halt or cause Out Of Character fights.))
Again the "General With Details" can save you from such a situation, if you do not have the patience to come up with a complete Ability/Spell list detailing your powers in full.
So you have Fire Magic? What does this include? Exploding projectiles? Creating and tossing around Lava Flows? Summoning flames onto your body? Shooting Eye Lasers? Give me a general idea what you can do, and what you can't do.
Be reasonable with your powers, just as you would with Martial Arts. For example, your 15 year old telepath who's powers appeared at Puberty probably doesn't even understand how far their powers go, much less has any finesse or real skill with it.
Where as your Archmage who has been a practicing Battle mage for 40 years, and spent another 20 years in his Arcane Laboratories should have a fairly in depth, powerful grasp of his abilities, as well as the experience to hone his skills and know the optimal, and optional uses, of all his spells. (For example, a novice might forget that Magical Light can cancel magical darkness, an Archmage should know such a basic of magic, that opposite effects cancel one another out in almost every setting and system)
Notes on Supernatural Powers.
Forum Roleplaying Standard for the use of Supernatural Powers is what I refer to as "Will Casting", or Spontaneous Casting. For example, if your typical mage wanted to throw a ball of fire (A standard and favorite attack), he just "wills" it into existence. The moment he wants it, it happens.
This especially happens with "Barrier" magics. Defensive spells, for obvious reasons. (If you had to do a D&D style casting with gestures, words, and material objects you'd never get your barrier up in time to stop that knife flying at you, bullets, etc)
What you may want to consider, to improve your character and make them further stand out, is Methods.
As I said, Will Casting, as above, is by far the standard. If you found a random allotment of 10 mages, it's almost guaranteed that 9 of them will be Will Casters like that. Battle Mages, Artificers, Summoners, Clerics, White Mages, Elemental Mages, Demons, Angels, Elves, doesn't matter what you pick, that's almost guaranteed to be their method.
Consider, if you can, using a different method. For example, recently I saw a character who used music to control his magic (His magic being Wind Control), and by playing different tunes, and different instruments, he could produce different wind effects. As I read his bio, that immediately set him out to me.
Consider suggesting to people that Limitations Increases your Powers or Stamina. This is something I harked on back in my days at the Council of Magi on one site. That "Will Casting" should be a very draining process. The More "Tools" you use though, the easier it is to cast, the less energy it takes, the more you can cast.
For example, if I use a staff, draw an arcane symbol, and have to release a drop of my own blood to power a spell, it should take less of my 'personal' energy, as I'm using more outside tools to power the spell.
As well, the longer I take to cast a spell or create an effect, the stronger it should be (And less energy it takes to create an effect of that power as I'm slowly building it rather than 'rushing' it and creating wasted energy with my haste).
While you don't have to use such a system or set of ideas, it makes your typical Supernatural character (Whatever it is, Alchemy, Magic, Mutant Powers) appear more unique, gives them a distinct, individualistic flair (What separates one guy chucking fireballs from another? Perhaps the guy that uses a fearsome Ram's Head Staff while he does it?). These little details on your supernatural powers can help make a bland character something great.
While you don't have to use any system, I will say that you should always indicate how you cast your spells. While "Will Casting" is generally assumed, it never, ever hurts to explain just how you activate your Powers of Ultimate Doom.
How to be a Team Player: NPCs, Team Equipment, and Groupies.
Team Player, you might ask, what does that have to do with creating a character profile?
More than you might think.
Chances are, unless you're trying hard to solo RP, or be the "Lone Wolf Badass", you're going to end up with a group of people on your side. In fact, you might even start your character off as part of some team (Or re-write an old character's profile as part of a team).
Or you might create a character that should have group resources. For example, soldiers and mercenaries as part of an established unit. Or Organization figures, such as the various Mafia types, Vigilantes, Pirates, or what have you.
I was tempted there for a moment to say that more problems are caused by Team Member Profiles by any other.... but that's not true per se. There aren't as many team member profiles. But I will wager that Team Member Profiles cause more trouble per capita than traditional characters.
Team Members, whatever they are, Justice Leagues, Mafias, Mercenary Companies, or Companies with their own Mercenaries, lead to the same problems. Resources.
Now, when making a fresh character, I can hope you've taken some of my advice to heart, and kept that character reasonable on a Power Scale. That commoner with no real connections isn't going to have high powered assault rifles. That 16 year old just discovering her powers isn't going to be some Arch Mage most powerful Supernatural Being ever. ((See Notes later on about Races))
Characters that are part of a team are... different. Whether it's that Mafia down the street, or the Rag Tag, Unlikely Group of Well Meaning Heroes, they have something other starting characters usually don't.
For example. Compare an old west gunfighter, with a soldier from his time. The Gunfighter might have a Colt Peacemaker, maybe a scatter gun or Rifle. He might have a belt, and some 20 rounds available. And if he's lucky, he might have a horse. But he didn't start off with these things. He probably had to steal, or work for years to earn up enough money to buy the meager gear he needed to be a gunslinger. He probably doesn't have all that much practice with his shooting iron of choice, only because bullets are expensive. And the only way he'll be earning enough to buy those bullets are through dangerous tasks, robbery, gunfights, etc. Either alone, or with people he can form a tenuous, immediate alliance with. (And if they're robbers, they're not the type to be trusted, thus reducing his willingness to do such dangerous group jobs)
Where as the soldier, is just provided his weapon. He doesn't need to buy it. He is just given everything he needs. He even gets in more practice than the gunslinger for hire, and doesn't have to stick his neck out for every dollar he earns. Even when he does something dangerous, he's part of an army unit, and has other people watching his back. Everyone will, and can work together in perfect harmony. He has drilled with these people for months after all. Not only that, they have the very best gear, fresh off the assembly line, all the ammunition and supplies they could need, and even if they get in trouble, well, they have the cavalry to save them, and the old sawbones to patch them up.
Look there at the difference between the Gunslinger (The standard stand alone character) and the Soldier (The standard Team Member character). Resources. Power. The availability of equipment, access to healing. Not only that, one NEEDS to adventure, per se, to pay for their needs, and keep their equipment stocked, the other needs to adventure only because their commanding officer says so.
When you create a character that is part of a team, the balance issues aren't that bad. It's when you start talking about Organizations that suddenly you can find Average Joe getting turned into Super Joe. Not because the player is talented necessarily, or the character is especially good, but merely because he has nigh unlimited resources to draw upon.
One of the first mistakes I see with the Team Member characters, is Equipment. And it really isn't a mistake. If you're a member of the military, or an organization with vast resources, then yeah, you should get good equipment. With a few notable exceptions most militaries, organizations, super hero teams, etc, don't purposefully give their members less than the very best they have to offer.
And, usually, most organizations don't hang their members out to dry when trouble hits. This is the other great problem that Teams run into. The problem with "The Cavalry". More of a roleplaying note, but GMs should always check into players that might have such a thing on their profile.
I've seen it, chances are, if you've hung around roleplaying involving military characters, characters involved with large organizations like the police, CIA, or even Shady Corporations. The guy gets cornered in an otherwise fair fight. Is losing, then he just patches in a call to his team/group. Next thing you know, the Marines are there in his next post, busting down door and putting a cap in every ass there, or the Orbital Satellite of DOOM, or the Cannons from Beyond the Horizon, whatever, come, and instantly clear away the bad guys.
Not only is it not cool to be on the end of that, it's almost criminal.
Again, anyone with experience playing with those types of people are probably aware of just how annoying that "Call for Help" can be.
So, tips for the Team Player.
If you're going to be part of a Small Team (I once called them Groupies, and I stick by it), say, 3-6 players maybe, with no big Organization behind them, just some rag tag everyday Adventurers, you'll probably be fine. There shouldn't be any problems with your profile. However if you want your character to be used to fighting with those characters, or to have complimentary tactics, you should mention it in your combat section. It can't hurt your profile, but it could possibly help you, and reinforce that you are part of a team, and your character is used to working as a team.
If you are part of a small organization, and I'm talking I dunno, a collection of 10-20, whether players all, or mixed in with NPCs, you have a little more work cut out for you. One, it's a small organization. So unless you're like the damned Patriots from MGS (The shadow organization that rules the world), you won't have limitless resources. You probably won't even have limited resources of cutting edge stuff. 10-20 Goons is probably the least that even a minor evil figure has going for him. So it's not going to be enough for you to claim having a Secret Volcano Base, Orbiting Satellites of DOOM, Experimental Weapon Systems, etc.
It would probably mean that, if you are expecting trouble you can bring along a Henchman or Two. And that you probably have a small base somewhere. (But probably not the typical FFA or M/O Invincible Base type. Probably more like an office building or tavern you've appropriated) You probably won't have heavy metal, meaning Mecha, Tanks, APCs, at least, not in any real numbers unless the setting says otherwise.
And, if you get in trouble, you're probably more likely to have The Cavalry come save you. Because, in a small organization, each man matters. You probably are less likely to leave people behind (Yes, even if they are NPCs). And if a GM says you HAVE to go save someone else, rather than being the Savee all the time, you should accept it as the tithe for being part of the team.
If you have such a small organization, you should in your profile list all of your organization's assets. Or at least the assets that will matter in combat situations. This shouldn't be hard. Include personnel in this. You don't need to list Suzy the Secretary (Unless she's also an assassin), but listing those 5 Storm Troopers you have with M1 Garands and Pineapple grenades is a must. And if you can, with such a small organization, give you NPCs names. Identities. You don't need to make a full character for them, but if you have a little section with their names, general description, perhaps a note or two about them... It'll make your forces seem more like an organization of real people, rather than Faceless Automatons.
Now, Large Organizations. If you have a Team, or Group you're in, most likely, it's something like this. Groups that have enough personnel, and probably enough recruits waiting, you can't possibly go and count them all. They probably have several different bases/locations. Everything from downtown office space, to their own FFA or M/O Invincible Base threads. They apparently have more money than God, based on how much they can spend on security and defense. They have the cutting edge equipment, anything they can beg, borrow, buy, steal, or get some egghead to make for them.
Large Organizations tend to be... problematic. Or at least the ones that cause the most trouble. People in Large Organizations believe they have nearly inexhaustible resources to call on. And technically, they're not that far off. If you're talking about a group like the National Guard, you're talking about Armies. All fully equipped, ready to wage war. Of course they have more than enough resources available to see you through whatever little adventure you're on.
But, I said Technically. Not "They are correct". Technically. Now... it is a serious deal if you claim to be someone so important in an organization that you can call upon it's full resources. The head of a Mafia family. The president of Alpha through Epsilon Industries, the 6-star General Pershing of your military, what have you.
Those people those are the ones that should be able to call forth the unlimited resources. And their right hand commander types. Also... you most likely shouldn't be making characters like that.
After all, can you name me even a handful of Generals that have actually seen the frontlines since WW I? How many CEOs go on adventures in the slums? How many Mob Leaders actually get their hands dirty personally (Few I'd imagine, as they want to keep their records clean so they don't get shipped off to prison)? That's what underlings are for. They do the work, you just get to sit back, plan, gloat when everything goes right, and blame your underlings for not following your glorious vision when you fail.
Personally, I don't even know why you'd want to create that sort of character. The best you could hope for was playing some type of Lex Luthor villian. (There wouldn't be much for a hero to do...) You know, evil mastermind coming up with plans. Can't do squat when the heroes knock on his door though. Otherwise, all you're talking about is a glorified planner and paper pusher.
And no, Batman doesn't count as being part of a large organization. All his adventures he does alone. Or with but a single partner. He doesn't use Wayne Enterprises for anything other than getting Bat Parts.
So if you're playing in a large organization, the most likely, or at least, your GM should demand, you are playing as some lowly Peon. Oh, maybe you've worked your way up to middle management. But you're not the Big Guy. Hell, you're still probably Expendable even if you did get to that middle management post. There are hundreds more like you. You're not special. You can be replaced. (And if you couldn't be replace, meaning you lead the Group, or you're some egghead who is into secret experiment tech no one else knows, they'd probably never put you anywhere near fun/danger)
So sure, you have access to some kick ass equipment. Best that money can buy, to be sure. So enjoy that kick ass rifle, those fast jets, and armored cars.
But also be aware that you're probably expendable in the company's vision. They're not going to send a full Division to save your ass every time you get in trouble. Nor are they going to keep the cavalry 'on call' just One Post away from you at any time. If you are deemed worthy of reinforcement, probably because you're protecting something important, or you're part of a lovey dovey organization that never leaves men behind, you'll probably only get minimal reinforcements. They'll probably take several posts to actually get to your location. They'll probably be outfitted like you are. Unless you're in a scenario where the Oribital Laser of Doom is prepped and on call, or the Artillery is set up, waiting for your word, they aren't going to nuke a place from way the hell over there.
Think logically. You're Private Newguy, is the military going to bother sending in their big guns to save you? No, they'd probably do what they did in Saving Private Ryan. Send in a small team to find you, and pull you out. And they wouldn't be getting there instantly either.
Also keep in mind most organizations equip their personnel for the task at hand. Just because your group has limitless resources, doesn't mean you'll get your hands on everything you want. If all you're doing is going to walk the walls of the base, so to speak, they'll probably give you a radio, a rifle, your body armor, and send you on. You don't need a mecha to be a lookout. You don't need a Nuke Gun to sound the alarm. They probably won't even give you a NPC. And if so, it'd probably just be one other to help you keep watch, with the same equipment you have.
So, be reasonable. That's the gist of this. Just because you're part of the Don Lima Mafia, or something, doesn't mean you have access to thousands of mooks, every conceivable item you can think of and want, and instant speed back up whenever you get into trouble. And if you're the type of person would could call down army regiments with just a word... what the hell are you doing adventuring and getting into trouble?
So as part of large organization you should, A, state what your rank in such an organization is. If you're higher than a "Battlefield Commander" type rank, you should really reconsider. B, just how much "Backup" could you expect in the standard "Radio for help" scenario? Meaning you haven't planned on getting into a fight. You don't have a Division of Troops setting up camp next you. Just "I got caught in a riot on my way to the bar" sort of situation. C, What is the "Standard" equipment for your Backup? When you call those NPCs down to save your bacon, just what are they bringing to the fight? What are the goals of your organization, and their SOP (Standard Operating Procedure. How do they go about their business?)? State them. Don't let it be a surprise. Even if they have a hidden agenda, state what that is.
Notes on NPCs:
Off topic, but it bears mentioning.
NPCs are generally treated in two different ways. Almost always depending on which side the person addressing them is on.
The first way is the "Scenery". They're there. They set the scene. But can they actually do anything to a Player's Character? No. You've seen it in action movies all the time. Something like the 40 soldiers with automatic weapons charges the lone hero who only has their body, or a sword, and they don't even get a scratch on the guy, but he manages to kill them all.
Oh, sure, Scenery Characters can damage other Scenery, and NPCs. But they always, always, get slaughtered up against the Stars.
The other side is the Gamebreakers. This is "The Cavalry" I've been talking about. They come in, they have their weapons ready, they're rarin' for a fight. And they alone manage to either force the enemy to flee/surrender, or just go firing squad on the Player Characters and pretty much instantly kill them because there is too much firepower to dodge/defeat.
As you can guess, mostly it is the person playing the NPCs that treats them as Gamebreakers, and the people against the NPCs that treat them as Scenery. Scenery which happens to be 40 gallons of pressurized blood bags ready to be cut open.
Not always will the rift between sides be that big. But often enough. So what do you do?
Well, you can always go down to the lowest common denominator. Find out how willing your opponent is to accept NPC actions against his character. If he only accepts the Scenery type, go ahead and do that. If he's hardcore and feels like a real fight, have them be gamebreaker types. Communiction is key here. Preferably talk it over BEFORE your reinforcements show up, not after. It'll make things run smoother, and will prevent you from stopping the roleplay to figure out just how effective those guys are.
The other solution would be to find the middle ground. Your guys aren't going to be Navy SEALs or Marine Recon, and take down the whole damned thread by themselves. Nor are they just going to sit there with a grin on their face as they're cut up, shot, burned, and basically killed. They'll fight. But they aren't likely to kill the PCs. Make them rookies, cadets, good soldiers, but not up to the "Hero" quality of Player Characters. They might get in a few good shots, injure characters, maybe kill one or two that are especially vulnerable/stupid. Let them miss, and have aim that is off. Let them die if it comes to that. They were made to be defeated. Or to let the enemy run away. Or give you the time and cover to run away. They were never meant to secure victory. Or to do all the dirty work for you.
If you can follow that middle ground concerning your NPCs, you'll most likely avoid real OOC arguments, have a lot of fun, and even manage to have some Epic Scenes where the heroes triumph after being outnumbered, and nearly overwhelmed. This can make for some very satisfying Roleplaying.
Races: Wolves and Angels and Demons, Oh My!
Race. Usually it's one line on a profile. If its even mentioned.
Race: Half Angel, Half Demon, Half human (I've seen this one in particular more than I care to remember. I could never get a real answer on how you could have three halves...)
However, Race is one of the things that will most effect your relations with other characters. Race is the first thing that most others should notice about your character. It's easier to see those big demonic wings after all, than to spot that pendant on your neck that marks you as some Demonic Royalty, for instance.
Not only that, Race can have a huge effect on your history and abilities. After all, if you're an Adult of a long lived race (Say, elves that live for 1000 years on average) that means you're probably 100-200 years old, at least. You probably grew up with several different generations (For example, having a living Great x 8 Grandparents).
Also something to keep in mind (And I seldom see), is that longer, or shorter, lived races probably have different cultures relating to age and status.
What I mean is this... back in the Ancient Period of Human History (Think classical Greece), men lived to be about 40 if they were luck. A person was considered an adult at 14, and usually had their first kid at 15.
Compare to the present, where people typically live to be 84 or more. Now, you're not considered a full adult until you're 21 (A Greek probably would be having their 3rd or 4th kid at this point), and the average age of newborn parents now is supposed to be between 28-32.
So if a race would live for 20,000 years (The age I often see on demons), that means you probably weren't considered an "Adult" until you were some 2000 years old. You probably won't be having children until 4000. And you'd be considered an old, wrinkled, senior citizen at 15,000.
Also consider the cultural effects that such a long lived race would suffer. In the above situation you could be talking about 5 generations living together. Hell, maybe 10 if you had people who were scandalously young, all side by side, kicking at screaming at once.
Human culture is still slow to change socially because we have "Good Old Boys" and the like still kicking around in their 80s, out of their era and comfort zone. But as new generations are born, and the old die off, leaving no one to be 'insulted' by social change, we can advance fairly quickly.
At least, more quickly than I imagine some 20,000 year old, plus, race could, with 5-10 generations all living side by side, their leaders and patriarchs being nearly 20 millenia removed from the time they were born in.
So, by this logic, shorter lived races should advance more quickly (Part of the logic that creates Humans as the dominate culture in most fantasy settings), and not only that, they start their Adult life much sooner. Though they have less of a connection to their past. Whereas longer lived races should have Old World sensibilities, passed on by elders that have lived for far too long, both good and bad. And as their society is slower to change, they most likely won't advance as much in the sciences as shorter lived, more ambitious races.
Yes, I said shorter lived races are more ambitious. Why? They have the Death Clock to keep them motivated. Think how many times in your own life you're said "Well, I can do it tomorrow" and procrastinate. Now imagine how much a race that will live for millenia can do that. Eventually human life moves pretty damn quick, and they have to get things done before they die off. They know they only have that 80 year so clock to get everything they want accomplished. Life works, fame, power, wealth, family, children. They know death looms close.
Your typical 1000 year elf has almost 15 times as long to accomplish the same set of goals. So most likely, they'll take 15 times as long to actually get it all accomplished.
Of course, your longer lived races should have lots of advantages over humans and shorter lived races. I mean, even if they are slackers by nature. At least meaning they aren't as driven by death and time as much as those shorter lived races, not that they are actually slackers when they get to something. It's not like they're "Untrainable". If it takes a human a year to become an expert marksman, than your Demon or Elf could do it in a year too, if they buckled down like the human. Still, even with a more 'lax' schedule it's not like it'll keep with the proportional life spans. It's not going to take an elf 15 years to learn how to shoot. Maybe 2. If their culture doesn't really support marksmanship.
So this does mean that by rights, your "Adult" of a long lived race should know more, and probably have more skills, than a shorter lived race.
And an Adult that focuses solely on one area, such as a Determined Martial Artist that does nothing but train, should have near perfect form in those 100 or more years since they picked up the skill until their adulthood.
While the human that probably started training 6 years ago before adulthood, would be a rank novice still. Or maybe someone with a little talent and skill, but needing a lot of work still.
Balance should always be a prime concern when you create a character. Look at what I just said. By all rights your Demon Adult Martial Artist should not only be stronger than even the eldest human martial artists, but he also most likely has a handful, or more, of Demonic Powers. Increased Strength. Flight. Speed. Innate Magic/supernatural powers.
Balance. Just because you wrote in Demon on a profile, you're much more powerful than you would have been if you wrote "Human" or "Goblin" or even "Werecow".
Just because you are a Demon, or an Elf, of a Half Vampire-Half Toilet Seat, what have you, does give you a right to claim more power than a typical starting character.
But, you should try to restrain yourself. Claim too many powers, too many skills thanks to being in a long lived, or otherwise powerful race, and you're likely to get slapped down.
Either by GMs, or OOC arguements by players.
So when you pick your race, consider how many "powers" that race will give you. Dark vision? Super senses? Increased physical abilities? Magical abilities or affinities? Flight?
Always make sure to list any race benefits you may have. Describe them just as much as you would your sword/rifle, or your own supernatural skills.
And remember, as many have said before "Hard work beats out natural talents".
Something to keep in mind, and mill over. If your race naturally does something, for example, as some form of Telepathy, or Magic innate to your people, it is most likely not going to be a strong, or as varied as that of a psion, or mage, of the same type. The professional type will practice, train everyday... the natural born talent tends not to practice as much.
And if you are practicing your racial powers as much as a mage would practice the same... then you should probably consider switching your profession and skills to be the appropriate type of supernatural type. And not some other profession.
Three Halves do not make a Whole.
I cannot stress this enough. It's basic arithmatic. You probably learned fractions back in second grade. You should know this by now.
But still I see it.
Half___ Half____ Half_____
Characters. And to top them all off, it is usually some combination that isn't even remotely possible.
The first one I ever saw was "Half Angel, Half Troll, Half Red Dragon"...
Quite often I see things like "Half Angel, Half Demon, Half Human"
Or "Half Angel, Half Demon, Half Vampire"
Or "Half Werewolf, Half Vampire, Half Angel"
You get the idea.
I personally find it vastly annoying. Not to mention improbable. Think how often races, especially races that hate each other, like Angels and Demons would breed. Especially races that in some settings are considered 'undead' or "Curses" rather than a real race, like Werecreatures and Vampires, Angels and Demons.
Then, what are the odds that these two, nearly impossible combinations, could find one another, mate, and produce offspring.
Try to avoid anything more than two 'Halves', or Races in a character's background. And when you do pick races, please try to pick ones that can at least possibly get along. Or at least have enough contact to produce a small population of half breeds. (For example the typical half elves, or half orcs)
And of course, keep creature type in mind. Trolls, towering beastly things, probably would have a problem mating with a dwarf. Dragons with humanoids, etc.
And if you ever, ever plan on making a Half Breed character, please, please, I cannot stress this enough, come up with a full Story about this character's origins. Parents, where they came from, how they met and procreated... It can be a vastly useful rolplaying tool
01-12-2011, 12:19 PM (This post was last modified: 01-12-2011 12:22 PM by ArcturusV.)
RE: The Character Creation Topic
The Best Blade, is the Most Balanced Blade
Metaphorically speaking of course. I am in no ways a metal smith, or blade expert in real life so I could not say for certain. But I do know from basic shop that well balanced tools work better than tools with odd balance points for most tasks.
So... what does that have to do with Character Creation?
Other than the obvious reference that I shouldn't have large, top heavy weapons, and their ilk?
Well, just one point. Character Balance. A well balanced character reads better, and is more entertaining than a lop sided one. Think of characters as people, rather than a collection of numbers, skills, and equipment. Though in Forum Roleplay there are seldom numbers to think about... I do see a lot of characters that are obviously stemmed from a Collection of Skills, with little thought to making them a living, breathing character.
A good example of this would be most Vampires, Demons, or "Elementals" I see. These characters seem to be designed first in a way that makes them "Bad Ass". They have big, flashy powers. They have some stylized dress or appearance, that usually serves no function whatsoever or is very out of place with the character. Goes back to that "Make sure things fit with the history".
Most ill balanced characters won't have a good history. That's always a good indication. If someone has a Fresh character (Never been roleplayed before), and it's Combat section is by far the longest section of the profile, look out.
So, for a change of pace, I'm going to list a few typical "Unbalanced" Archetypes I see.
One: Fallen God.
This is sadly one of the more common types. New roleplayers often end up making these. Though a few veterans will as well, usually with excuses like "He's been roleplayed for 7 years", or the like. There is NEVER, EVER, EVER, a reason why such a character should be accepted. Maybe as a quest NPC, but even then, iffy. Never as a player though.
Things to look for in the Fallen God.
One, they're good at EVERYTHING. This might not be on their profile, but it'll come out soon enough. You'll notice you can't find a single situation where the Fallen God doesn't have some relevant skill/knowledge. As well, they won't have a single weakness. Magic, swords, intellect, they'll beat the best of the best at anything.
If you have a character, and looking over it, it has (Over the years), gained enough power to fit into that category... Or even come close to it, it's a good time to think about retiring them (Perhaps promoting them to NPC status, and give them the occasional cameo), and picking up a new character.
Two: The Sole Weakness
This one is a bit sneakier than the previous one, but presents the same problems. This is something generally only newer roleplayers have. This character type almost never forms with experience. (Meaning over the years, it's almost impossible to turn your character into one of these types)
Sole Weakness characters aren't necessarily BAD. In fact, most Vampires should fall into the Sole Weakness category, as well as some Demonic types, undead, etc.
Sadly what the Sole Weakness is used for is generally to come up with a powerful character, with an obscure, seldom will come up, weakness to "Balance" it.
For example, a Sole Weakness Character might be a humanoid, who has Shapechanging powers, high level magic, is a martial arts expert, and is immune to all sources of damage... Except those inflicted by weapons made out of Cheese. Obviously this character isn't balanced. And with the exception of Cheese Weakness, is exactly like a Fallen God type. Since these characters tend to have one or two obscure weaknesses, they're easy to spot. In fact, the people that create these characters usually go to great lengths to mention their 'weakness', so you won't notice between lines explaining about the aggravated damage Cheese inflicts, all the ungodly powers that can destroy a planet at will.
The answer is simple. Demand more weaknesses, and more common weaknesses. Or just don't allow the character. For example, if you have a Vampire, tell the player they will get killed by sunlight, fire, silver, blessed objects, etc. Even include some of the weaknesses like decapitation, the inability to cross running water, etc. Vampires already have so many freakin' powers even with those limits they're fearsome creatures.
But they'd be more balanced, and less likely to take over the game.
Three: The Min/Maxer
We're not out of the woods yet. The Min/Maxer is the last of the real "Dangerous" balance types. Anyone familiar with the White Wolf roleplaying games should know this type on sight. Or anyone else that's played a "Point Buy" system. That's where they were created. That's where they flourish. Still, the "Point Buy" system, and Min/Maxing, is used as a rationale for a lot of characters.
For those who dont know what Min/Maxing is. Min/Maxing is the practice of taking "low impact" "flaws", in order to get points to buy up High Impact Skills/Specialties.
For example. Say, I take something like "Fear of Snakes", in an RP set in an Arctic Setting (Thus meaning there is about 0% chance you'll run into snakes), as a Rationale to let myself have a full mastery of Necromancy. (Obviously the Fear of Snakes, in that setting, is not going to really matter, but a mastery of Necromancy, a potent magical skill, will be a great boon). In addition, I take something like, oh, an old favorite one of my groups used to use "Hatred of Politicians" (Again, how many adventures really get to meet politicians, or have to deal with them regularly), in return for Five Ranks of Jeet Kune Do (The martial art Bruce Lee developed)...
Again, these types aren't as bad as the above. mostly because if you're a smart GM, you'll read those "Low Impact" flaws, and you'll make sure they come up time, and time again to bite those bastards in the ass. Maybe next time they won't try it on you.
That's really the best situation. Show, by example if necessary, that you will never allow a "Low Impact" flaw. Whatever it is. And then you'll have less Min/Maxers.
Four: The Meticulous Master
I personally don't consider this type a danger. And it's balanced enough (Through lack of balance, oddly enough), that I consider it perfectly fair game in any roleplay I'm running.
The Arcane Master, who devotes his whole life to spellcraft. The warrior who trains day in and day out, the athlete who eats, drinks, sleeps, and plays their sport and nothing else. These are the Masters.
The Masters are characters that spend all their "Points" after a single craft. For example, Opaj is a good Master character. He's a martial Artist, using Katana. And nothing else. He doesn't own a business (Though he does have a dojo... which he trains at). He doesn't practice magic. He doesn't spend his days chasing the ladies. He trains. He fights. He adventures. That's all he seems to do. And he's good at it. One of the elite.
Now, this does sound Unbalanced, doesn't it? After all, as I stated it so far, he's a Master at his swordcraft... but what balances it out?
Personally I take the stance stated in RIFTS, and a few other RPG books. Player Characters AREN'T normal people. Normal people don't have assault rifles. Magic. Mecha... Well, you get the picture. Thus a Player's Character has the right to be "Above Average". Note I said Above Average. Not "Exceptional".
If you know Opaj, you know that while he is a Katana master, he has no magic. He has no particular supernatural strength. He isn't a genius by a long shot. Not does he have some giant energy sword weilding mecha he can pilot. He's average in every way, except his martial arts (And the implied strengths it gives him). Thus putting him in "Above Average" range despite his one area of expertise.
Now, fixing. If you hate this type, for whatever reason... well, it's easy enough to 'fix. Just claim that have some weakness. Usually one is perfectly easy to balance it out. For example, Opaj's character could be balanced out by the fact that he's a Wanted Man, and thus will be hunted every time he goes out in public.
Five: The Jack of All Trades
The Jack of All Trades... but there is more to that quote. A part that's often forgotten. "But a master of none".
Basically this would be, you could say, a Balanced version of the "Fallen God" type.
The Jack of All Trades can do a little bit of everything. This is probably the type of characters you'll have in a "High School" RP I imagine. Or a "Realistic" one. They shouldn't have any particular strength in one area. They're not the Star Jock, or a Master Artisan. Or a Wizard Adept. Rather you're talking about things like the Vagabond who's worked so many odd jobs he knows a little bit about a lot. Mechanics, sure, he could change the oil, but not rebuild a V8 engine from scratch. Computers, he knows how to work the programs as intended, but not how to hack into the CIA database. Firearms, probably shot a few off, knows how to aim, reload, etc. How to field strip an assault rifle and fix a jam? Probably not.
The Jack of All Trades is the "Good" character type that will probably need the most balancing. Players will have a slight tendency to forget they aren't Masters. They'll find a lot of their attempts at various arts and skills 'working' regardless of how little training they've had in them. Best way to balance this out is just to be a GM. Step in if they've had an unusual string of successes, or are about to accomplish something outside the realm of their meager training, and demand they fail.
A Jack of All Trades, optimally, should be a "Second" character in your party. It's not the healer, but the one that can do some first aid while your healer is busy reattaching someone's arm. Not the Warrior, but someone that can cover the warrior's back. Not the "Leader", but a good second in command.
If you find a Jack of All Trades outshining the "main" character in a certain role, let them know, and scale them back, if you need to.
Six: The Apprentice
One of my favorite Starting Character types. This is the type you'll find in games like D&D. They're characters that are more or less untested. They are mages, sure, but mages that don't have five ways to blow up the world yet. They are Warriors, but ones that have just completed their 5 years of training. They are Thieves, but still just pick pockets, not those stealing the crown jewels from under the noses of the Palace Guard...
The idea behind the Apprentice is a simple, time honored one. You've been training. Whether it was forced on you, such as press gang recruitment for an army, or you chose to, such as running away to join the circus and become a lion tamer, you have been learning for the past X part of your history to be something. A warrior, an artist, an acrobat... A Baker. It doesn't matter.
You have the basic skills to do your job. Whatever it is. And your Apprentice character is probably going out on their own for the first time when they join in a roleplay.
I like these characters because, even without attempting to "Balance" they balance well. They may have potential to grow into a Master type. Or they might just become some Jack of All Trades type. Either way, they don't have the problems associated with either one of them.
These characters are easy to spot, even if they are seldom played online. They have very few skills. It will be stated time and time again that those skills are not fully developed as well.
These are some of the easiest characters to run, as a GM. Plus, since they are designed not to be all that strong, they should be gaining powers during the roleplay, and it gives you, as a GM, more options for adventure types.
(For example, seeking out the Legendary Magic of Meteo in FF4 to defeat Golbez. Something a Master type would never have to do. Because they most likely already know it, or would never learn it for some reason or another.)
Seven: The Arcane Trickster
Note that this character type doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the Arcane. however, most characters in this class tend to be magi of some type.
The Arcane Trickster is a combination between the Jack of All Trades, and the Master classes. This is more commonplace than The Apprentice, but can lead to more problems than any of the other "Good" Balances.
The Arcane Trickster type generally specializes in two or three areas. For example, one that I most often see is the "Spell Sword". These are people that are suppose to be mostly warriors, but have magic to back them up. Ideally they would be similar in skill, but hopefully not as annoying and bossy as, Paladins. This... tends not to be the case. Again it often comes down to the "I don't want to lose/die" which can cause problems. But if the Spellswords are let go, you'll find them capable of combating with magics, and with swords, just as well as you "Master" classes, and stealing the thunder from them, as they have fewer weaknesses.
Using the Above Example, the Spellsword won't get beaten black and blue by magic like at typical warrior would, probably because he knows barrier spells, spellcraft, and the limitations, and possible counters, to various magical assaults.
However, unlike a Mage, he's a Warrior as well. So if that big meathead gets the jump on him, and is right in his face, he can trade blows, instead of just wetting his pants, and praying that someone saves him like your group's dedicated spell caster probably would be doing.
Obvious GM steps in this is to come up to the plate, and tell them they aren't hot stuff. Just because they know some magic doesn't mean they can form a barrier strong enough to completely stop that Lightning spell the enemy is tossing at them. Nor does it mean they're Warrior enough to trade blows with the Bruce Lee wannabe and come out on top.
What this does mean, is that if they can cleverly manage to use both their strengths together, along with their teammates, they should have very few flaws, and can win out.
Only the moron would test his 'half training' against a master, after all. But they won't hesitate to throw out every trick they can, and hope to find something the enemy can't guard against.
If you want to balance out a Trickstery type, whatever two or three skill sets they have, at Character Creation...
Hmm... best way to go is make sure they understand the limits of diversified training. Not as bad as the Jack of All trades, but state clearly they won't be able to match a specialist. Throw in some Background "Weaknesses" as well. Never forget the effect a good background can have on balancing out a character.
Eight: Stu from down the street
This is... the most balanced character. And also probably the least fun to play for most people. Oh, and also about the rarest balance type I've seen. Ever.
Stu is... Stu. Average Guy. In a typical setting he won't have weapons, armor, mecha, firearms, magical doom, etc. Think of characters like Annie from Robotech. They're sidekicks, maybe comedic relief. But that's that. They aren't heroes. They aren't villians. Heroes, villians, adventurers, mercenaries, etc. They all have things that Stu doesn't have. Training, weapons, destiny, magic...
Stu has, almost no skills to speak up. Generally a typical education for the time and place. And any skills he has, probably won't matter in an adventure. The farm boy that knows how to grow a crop, milk the cow, etc, probably isn't going to have a lot to add to an adventure.
I like these characters, occasionally. There shouldn't be more than one, maybe two, in an RP. They get old, fast. Plus players can often get frustrated that whenever anything happens, all that Stu gets to do is duck, cover, and pray.
They do offer a nice perspective though. And can often be the voice of reason in a group. For example, pointing out to his gung ho adventurer buddies that charging into the Dragon's Lair without a plan, or even with a Plan, is Not A Good Idea.
Mostly because he knows if anything goes wrong, well, he'll be the one to pay the price. They all have magic, training, super powers, etc, to help them out.
This isn't to say per se that the Stu character type can't do Anything. Just that they don't have the skills, items, and technique to do the things heroes can do. They should always be the 'weakest' character, in terms of power.
But there are plenty of stories, even in history, of the Meek rising up to positions of greatness, and altering the course of history.
To balance these characters... well... you don't need to do anything. Anything at all. In fact, you probably need to give them a little GM 'nudge', some good luck, etc, to keep them alive, well, and their players happy.
So, looking at the above, how do you become one of the "Good" types without becoming a "Bad" type?
Well, I generally like to think in a Point system. Lets face it. Anyone reading your bio is going to be thinking in "Points". They're going to sit there and click off every little power, skill, item, etc, you have, across what they think is the Standard Power Level they want in their game, and against all the drawbacks your character has to prevent them from going too powerful.
So, here's my loose guide. With it, you shouldn't go wrong. Consider your basic character has... 3 Points. These points can be whatever Good Things you want your character to have.
Is your character rich, and has some old money they can dig into? That's a point.
Does your character have Connections? That's a point.
Is your character supernaturally strong/fast/smart? That's a point.
Apprentice of a Martial Art? That's a point.
Master of a Martial Art? That's going to be the whole three.
Are you getting the picture? Points covering everything that's "unusual" about your character and would help.... Having a Kitchen Knife isn't a point. Having an Ancestral Masterwork weapon with magical powers? That's a Point (Possibly two if its a really powerful weapon, as such things are).
If most characters in the setting (Not players, NPCs) for example have a car... then having a Car isn't a point. But if instead of a car, you had your own personal helicopter (Which most people wouldn't), then that's a point.
Now... Three Points? Well golly gee whiz, that doesn't sound like much. And no, it's not. It's really designed to create something like the Apprentice characters.
As you noticed I said being a "master" would basically be your whole wad there.
So how do you get more points? Say you want to be a Master Martial Artist, and have some legendary/special weapon...
Well, that's where Drawbacks come in.
Here's the thing. Don't be a Min/Maxer. If you're going to use Drawbacks to balance out a character, make sure they're ones that can come up in an adventure without your GM really reaching for it.
For example, saying you're an... Agoraphobic (Fear of being outside), is a significant drawback (But from a GM perspective, not a good one if the RP is mostly going to be indoors/dungeons, etc, or if they're planning on having an entirely wilderness RP, as it'll either "Not matter" or be Too Crippling to your character to survive and have fun).
A good drawback can be things like "Trouble with the Law". In your past you did something stupid. Robbed an important merchant or official perhaps, killed a beloved figure, etc. So thus you're on the wrong side of the law, hunted by marshals, bounty hunters, etc wherever you go.
That's good. Its' something that will effect play. Gives you GM more options in game. But it's not something that will Dominate the RP (Your GM could always determine you were hiding well enough, or moving enough that you won't have to deal with the Lawmen and your rep for a while, for example, if he needed to get something else done). That would be a one point drawback.
Another good one might be something like Crippling Debt. Your father was a moron. He racked up a lot of bills. When he died, you got to assume his debt. yay... So now you have people hounding you for money. Perhaps a good reason to take up an dangerous, exciting career like Mercenary work.
Again, it's another flaw that can have a roleplaying boon. Gives your character motivation. And puts it apart from the random "Bad ass" mercenaries out there.
Now, a good rule to follow, so you won't end up with some EXTREME character, with something like 10 drawbacks, and 13 "points", is to set a limit to yourself. Say, something like No more than two drawbacks, for a total of 5 good points.
That simple. In fact, I'd recommend 5 as a good number to stop at. Anymore than that, and you can end up with an unbalanced, ungodly powerful character. Not to mention having too many drawbacks really makes your character stand out like a sore thumb.
"Okay, so he's a fugative, unslightly mutant, who smells like chum, can't speak any language, who has "magical mishaps' around them, a fear of Light, a hatred of Water, an irrational unquestioning zeal to follow religious authorities, paranoia...." and so on and so on. While I could actually make a character like that, and make it somewhat interesting, the sheer number of drawbacks would make it feel more like an Albatross around the neck, than a nice additional to your roleplaying experience.
Submitting New Content
So, you read this thread. You're a smart fellow. Articulate? Experienced? Think you have something to say about creating a better character I missed out on?
Or just something you think you could have said better than I?
Well, now here's your chance to show off your stuff.
The "Process" is very informal. No Forms to fill out. No required Fields. no need to toss a bribe my way...
Wait, feel free to toss some cash my way. It won't help you in any way... but I could use it.
Here's what you do. It's very simple.
Kick back, open up your word processing implement of choice.
In there, type up your Article. Try to keep your article to one subject. You can go into asides. Lord knows I do so too. I'm not going to hold it against you. But asides should be relatively on topic. (For example, when I discussed NPCs during my Organization and Team section)
The limits on topics is simple. The topic must do with creating characters. That simple. We're not going to be talking about how to Combat Roleplay, or how to write up proper dramatic scenes. Or comedic scenes. We're here to talk about Character Creation. It's in the title.
When writing your article, please try to state examples of what you're talking about. It doesn't matter if they're Examples created solely for the purpose of the Article, or taken from Experience. Though you should try to state which.
If you are uncertain about your ability to write a post with relatively decent grammar and spelling (Hell, I've probably made a few errors in this post alone, but nothing that distracts from the ability to read it too badly), run it through your word processor's grammar and spell checkers (Or use one over the net, they're not hard to find). If I have any trouble reading your Article, I'm not going to accept it. Doesn't matter how brilliant your ideas are if you can't communicate them.
Once you believe you are done creating your masterpiece, go ahead and copy it over to your "Post Reply" window for this thread. And post it. La!
Make sure to copy the URL of the exact post (When you are kicked back to the page, it should give you that URL, which will take you directly to your post). Edit that URL onto the bottom of your article. This is for use by me.
I will come in here, a happy little Thread Overlord, and read your article. If I believe it is well written, with good information I haven't already covered, I'll take that happy little link you provided, and enter it into the "Reader Submission" Index, on the post after this.
Then, when the next person comes into the thread, then can see that little list of Additional articles, with Links. Click, and read your wisdom. Isn't that snazzy?
None as of yet.
01-12-2011, 12:33 PM
RE: The Character Creation Topic
This is a great thread, Arc.
One this that I always run my characters through is the The Writer's Mary Sue Test. As the title suggest it's a simple test to make sure you're character isn't to unbalanced and ends with summery and score of how did. Very straight forward and I find it helps XD
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