This article was originally written by me for the Blue Dwarf website, but most of this applies to most other roleplaying games where you need to create a character.
The character you play is probably the most crucial part of your role-playing experience. Your character will be your outlook onto the crazy world of Blue Dwarf, and how you interact with it. It is your character’s actions that you will write about, so they should be interesting!
Choose a name
The first thing people will notice about your character is their name. If they are a wacky character, they might have a wacky name. If they are a posh character, they may have a posh sounding name. If they are a mechanoid, they might have a name with lots of numbers in it. If they are a national/regional stereotype, they might have a national/regional sounding name (Don’t be racist though!!).
Avoid existing names
We seriously advise against using names that already exist in the fandom of your game’s world (this only applies if your game is based on a fandom!). In the Blue Dwarf game, which is based on the TV series Red Dwarf, people sometimes try to join with similar names to existing characters from the show. Like Lister, or Rimmer, or Kotchanski. You could come up with a long tenuous reason why your character is related to one of those existing characters, but it’s just confusing. Be original!
Seventh Sanctum has a good random name generator if you’re stuck for names.
Your character’s background is important as it make him or her the person they are today. Do they have any hidden secrets? Has it been a strange set of circumstances that lead them to where they are today?
Nasty things happening to them as a child might make them a stronger person, or it might make them a total nut-job.
A character with a dark and dodgy background is usually more interesting to write about than someone who grew up in a safe loving environment.
But don’t go too overboard! Make it realistic at least, the worst character histories are ones that mention the character has saved the world twice before their 16th birthday. Don’t make your character a hero! It will make them extremely hard to play, and it will frustrate everyone else when your character kills a million people in one paragraph without any drama or suspense.
If you want to have a lot of fun posting, you need to give your character some challenges to overcome, and conflicts to get out of. A post about a character struggling to fight an enemy barehanded by being resourceful is loads more interesting than about someone who just stands still easily shooting loads of people dead. A character who finds everything easy is boring to write about.
A good background might lead you to wanting to explore more into it at some moments. Maybe something that happened in the past has just popped into mind by something in the present, it could be interesting to see your character have a flashback (but only if it’s relevant, this isn’t series 1 of Lost). Keep as many relatives or old friends alive, in case you want to have your character bump into them at some stage. This could be a good opportunity for character development in a time when posting is going slow, or the storyline is in a slump.
Choosing the personality of your character is extremely important. It will determine what he or she does at all moments. When they are under attack will your character run and hide, or rise up to the occasion? The first is more heroic, but the second is funnier.
There are several types of personality types that you can consider for your character:
- Pessimistic – does your character worry and complain about things often?
- Optimistic – is you character care-free and happy all the time?
- Enthusiastic – is your character good at their job? Or are they a slacker?
- Selfish – does your character only care about themselves?
- Generous – would your character stop to pick up a distress call and help out?
- Pushy – does your character try to order other people around?
- Egotistical – does your character boast about everything?
- Laziness – does your character really hate having to do stuff?
- Helpless – does your character constantly get into situations they need rescuing from?
- Frank – does your character speak their mind often, and tell it how it is?
- Nasty – does your character go out of their way to spite other people?
- Ambitious – would your character step on people to climb the ladder to success?
- Shyness – is your character quiet and afraid to talk to other people?
- Forgetful – is you character a total retard?
Think about who your character is when writing your posts, and make them react to situations realistically. For example a person who was tortured in his past by clowns would react badly to going on an away-mission to a circus planet.
Don’t be ‘just another alien’
Try to avoid being ‘just another alien’. Red Dwarf has a strict no-alien policy, it states that aliens do not exist. In the Blue Dwarf game however, we have broken that rule a few times, but the essence of being alien should still be kept a rare thing. If you insist on having an alien for your character, don’t just bring him/her aboard and assume everything is nice and okay – being on a human spaceship would be a very bizarre thing for the alien! Go into detail about how different life is.
Also people might not treat an alien the same, this could lead to many tensions and misunderstandings among characters. Think about differences in culture, laws, faith, language. Really bring this to life as being an alien has many advantages for challenging character development.
Character flaws / pet hates
Nobody is perfect. All the best characters have a darker side, or some personality flaw they have to overcome. Indiana Jones had a crippling fear of snakes, which made that scene where he dropped into a pit of them all the more interesting. If he loved snakes it would be dead boring if he instead goes “Ooh lots of cuddly snakes” and starts stroking them. Giving your characters a crippling fear, then making them face it can be loads of fun!
Your character doesn’t have to be a goody two-shoes, they could be someone who only looks out for themselves and will screw everyone else over, or would care more about what’s for lunch than to save someone else’s life. Anti-heroes are terrific! Everyone loves to laugh at a cynical bastard being…well, a cynical bastard (but at the same time, avoid being totally insular and not interacting with other characters).
Or your character can have a severe drug or alcohol problem. Anything like that allows for character development.
Your character should be able to grow, or it will just become stale, you’ll get bored of them, and either kill them off so as to introduce a new one, or leave the group…or both. And we don’t like loosing people for silly reasons!