Creating a PC for a roleplaing game is a fun process and a giving one. But a character is more than a statblock and when creating a PC for a long-term campaign, it’s good to leave room for character development. Make sure that your character is defined by more factors than the stats and information on the character sheet.
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.
Many players, when creating a character for a roleplaying game, write about their character’s backstory and personality, which is often a detailed and long document. Other players note a few things down on their character sheet. Then there are yet other players that note nothing down and don’t mind the backstory or the personality at all, focusing on other things in the creation process.
Whatever style suits you best, creating a character is a fun process. There are all the rules related things to consider, e.g. is my character a silver tongued socialite or a brutish thug? How does that show in my attributes and skills? You need to take all these things into account, you’re going to have a hard time getting the desired results as a silver tongue if your Charisma score is low and you don’t invest in social skills.
But creating a character is so much more than adjusting the attributes and skills. And building a character takes much longer than the PC creation process. Make sure you leave room for character development.
You can’t put a numeric value on character
We know some people who are genuinely nice, others who are easy going, yet others who are arrogant and know-it-all. Perhaps we know someone who is all this and more. How do you put a numeric value on how a person makes you feel? How do you measure a person’s character or personality?
Of course, you could argue that in a way this is reflected in different skills or attributes, but then again, how do you measure nice? What is being nice? How do you roleplay a nice, easy-going know-it-all?
Skills and attributes are great measurements for the systematic parts of your PC, but the character is the role you take, it is how you portray that person, it is the sum of all your attributes, backstory, traits and skills and yet, so much more.
When you are creating your PC don’t forget to give thought to these things. For we tend to forget the things people say, what they wear or even the things they did, but we remember how they make us feel. How does your character make other people feel? What would you like them to see in your PC?
Experience changes you
As a Gamemaster, one of the most fulfilling moments of roleplaying is when I experience that the PCs develop, when everything that they’ve been through together has somehow shaped them, and changed their views.
Perhaps the group’s paladin has a moment of doubt, pondering if she’s fighting for the right cause, or the cleric, after series of failures, who decides to stop venerating a certain deity. Even the fighter who used to idolize his father and finds out that he used to work as a hired thug for a crime lord, to the fighter’s great disappointment.
If you don’t leave room for this kind of character development, if your PC character is etched in stone, then perhaps you should ask yourself why are you bother playing the PC in the first place?
If you leave room for development, you make sure that your character can be defined by more factors than the attributes or skills she has, that the story can shape your character, the failure and successes will have an impact on her.
Perhaps your character will fall in love, maybe the dynamics of the adventuring party will change her, e.g. in the One Ring RPG your character has a focus, i.e. another PC is her focus and how would your PC deal with it if that focus either died, got married or betrayed the fellowship? These things matter.
The group’s dynamics
Every group has its dynamics, its own set of unwritten rules on how roleplaying sessions should be like. Some groups like to head straight on, from encounter to encounter, and keep the dice rolling as much as possible. Other groups take things slower, roleplay each encounter carefully and make sure that the PCs have enough space to discuss and plan things.
There’s isn’t any right or wrong. But you need to take these things into account when creating a character, especially if you lean into the latter but you’re playing with a group that’s more into the dice part of roleplaying. You need to figure out, either alone, with your gamemaster or with the group, how to reconcile these different aspects of roleplaying.
Roleplaying is a social action and it’s best when everyone in the group agree on the group’s dynamics. If one player decides to break the dynamics, it can spoil the fun for the other, as Hjalti mentioned in this great article. And to have fun, is the golden rule.