OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


Give your character some believable character traits

So you’re playing a PBEM/PBP game and you want your character to be as believable as possible. The reason why you want this is so that other members of the game will read your posts  and really feel like your character is a real person. They will also respect you as a writer.

womans facial expressions

Inventing some character traits will mean people can understand your character's personality

Other writers may use your character

There will also come a time when other characters will want to write about your character, this might be when they want their character to interact with your character, or perhaps someone is writing an *Action* post which involves your character, and it’s important that they easily get to grips with your character. It’s really handy for them to be able to assume how your character will talk, and how s/he will react to certain situations (or they might leave this part up to you). But if your character (lets call him “John”) has a French accent, is a vegetarian, and is really afraid of scissors, then it’s important for other members to know about these things so that when they mention your character they don’t mention John going to the butchers on his way to the hairdressers.

Types of character traits

There are an infinite amount of character traits that you can assign to your character. These can be in the form of:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Fears
  • Phobias
  • Dreams and desires
  • Weird neurotic habits
  • Illnesses and handicaps (like maybe they only have one leg?)

Simple character traits are better

The simpler the traits are the understand, the better. Other members using your character will have to easily understand what the character trait is, and use it when writing about your character. Other members are more likely to use these traits if they’re simple, like a verbal stutter when talking to women;

Eg. “P-p-please d-d-don’t, I’m a v-v-v-vegetarian.”

Or if they’ve got a fear, for example an irrational fear of cats;

John froze as Mandy opened the door, her long-haired tabby was laying on the floor.
“John… John?”
Mandy turned to see John running down the corridor, wailing like a lunatic.

Fears are a great character trait, because they can be irrational which requires no explanation. So your character can be afraid of random objects or creatures. Also they give you the opportunity to at some point write a flashback story set in your character’s past, and explain where this fear came from.

Having a unique skill

Your character should have some strengths as well as weaknesses, these will be the things that your character will do best. For example they might be able to pilot a spaceship extremely well, or fix anything with a pair of pliers and get your characters out of any scrape. Or they might be brilliant at hand-to-hand combat. Be careful not to give your characters too many good skills though as this might make your character boring. There needs to be many obstacles to overcome in every good story, and if they can be solved too easily then your story will become boring.

Having a unique skill though will mean that your character (and only your character) might be called upon to solve a problem which might save everyone.

Doctor from voyager

The Doctor from Voyager initially had a handicap which he overcame using a decive called the mobile-emitter


Your character might have a physical handicap, like a loss or limbs, or be wheelchair-bound, or even something more unusual like they’re a brain in a jar, or a hologram without the ability to touch anything. These make your character quite interesting, as they have a lot of obstacles to overcome to do some things which other characters might find easy.

Be careful to not make your character too handicapped, or they won’t be able to join in the fun with other characters all of the time. Fire example the Doctor on Voyager was limited to Sickbay in the first few series, but as time went on this meant he couldn’t be used on away missions, so the writers gave him a mobile-emitter, which allowed him to go anywhere. The way they wrote this into the show was very clever, and it allowed the Doctor to show extreme amount of growth, and we saw him gain some freedom he never had at the start.


So give your character as many character traits as possible, and remember to keep them as simple as possible without reducing your character into a stereotype. This will help other members be able to understand your character, and use them correctly. I could write a really long list with recommendations about what character traits to give your characters, but its best if you come up with your own.

Feel free to comment on this article with the best character traits you’ve seen or used in your PBEM/PBP games.