In this part of the Way of the RPG, I'll explain how I feel about Character Creation, and then about Character Role Playing, to a certain extent, I may find more on that matter to cover later on.
Before I create any Character, I always look into their name, age, sex, home, et cetera. Example:
Name - John Nelav Spencer
Sex - Male
Age - 18
Homeworld - Derra IV
With that basic information, I can then put together an appearance.
Appearance - John's eyes are a light blue, and his hair is short and dark. His features are, at best, bland, a few scars mark his face and he has a bit of stubble growing, and his accent is Terran English. He wears his old Derra IV Military Armour, black flak and jumpsuit, but forgoes the helmet. He is approximately 5'8" tall, and weighs 11 stone, most of the weight being muscle.
As you've noticed, the Appearance is a lot more than just a few words. Try to expand upon Characters to make them enjoyable. Even with hodgepodge characters it doesn't mean you have to neglect their appearance! It actually cuts down on the fun of roleplaying a fully made character that's had attention put into him/her because the character isn't fully developed. A little effort can go a long way.
The thing I do next is give John a Background, leaving some place for Equipment, Traits and Skills, and Personality.
History - John grew up on the planet Derra IV, one of the planets near the Eye of Terror. By the time John was six, he had found the best hiding places in his home city, and could spend days waiting there with a book or a toy gun and food waiting for his friends so he could "kill" them and tag their names on his killboard. John realised that, six years later, war was nothing like that, or like the war on the holovids, or any of it. He was conscripted into the 154th Derra Black Outs, given a gun and pushed into battle against Heretics and Xenos alike. For five years John fought for Derra IV, the only thing keeping him alive were wits, slight ability and the places that he could hide, not to mention determination. Derra IV had a population of five billion humans. After five years, the human population was barely eight soldiers, John included. At the age of seventeen, John witnessed five years of blood and war wasted as the Inquisition put Derra IV under Exterminatus. For the past year, John has been tested for signs of corruption, but was found clear and passed over to a new regiment on Caridera, as a guard for an experimental tech facility...
See? More than just a few lines, although John is underdeveloped at this stage, it doesn't matter. In the RPGs I use him in he's older, and has a much fuller history than that. With that history, you can building up John's equipment from that of a standard Guardsman's;
Equipment - MK IV Cadian Pattern Lasgun. MK VIII Cadian Pattern Flak Armour. Fragmentation Grenade. Combat Knife.
Because John is a standard Guardsman here, he doesn't really have anything special. He doesn't have the Special Family Heirloom Axe with the Silver Inladened Symbol of the Jaguar Battling a Igauna, nor the Signit Ring of Dracula Versus The Space Hippos. He might pick that sort of thing up later after his adventures on Caridera, but for now, he's a simple Guardsman.
The next thing is the Personality. I don't tend to build Personalities until I've built the History, which builds the Personality.
Personality - John is calm and reserved, speaking little. He's found that his friends die all too often, and has distanced himself away from people so that he doesn't suffer emotional pain when they die on the battlefield. This is not to say he's callous, it's to say he'd prefer to have a comrade die than a friend. That said, John will speak his mind when required, and is fast thinking and trusts his gut instincts.
It should be obvious that the Personality has been built around the History, with John's lack of friendliness owing to his time on his once-peaceful homeworld turned hell, Derra IV, but John is strong and will not shun people away, he just finds it hard to befriend people because of his past experiences, but knows when and where to act and when to speak or when to shut up and do as he's told.
The last thing, and one that is in my opinion of minor importance, is the Skills and Traits. This sort of says what the Character can and can't do. If he prefers Gunslinging, then he isn't going to be the best shot with a Sniper Rifle, and if he's the kind of rip you apart slowly and let you die in pain, he's going to have some skill at maiming and hurting people.
Traits and Skills - Quick Thinking (After being on Derra IV for five years, John eventually began to get accustomed to making sharp, quick decisions to save his, and perhaps others' lifes' until the next combat). Determined (He was determined to live. He did. John can set his sight on any goal he wants, and through sheer determination, he will eventually get there, no matter the obstacles). Fearless (Reflected back from his time on Derra IV. That'll harden anyone's mind against the Horrors of War!)
Having a character that has done feats that are realistically possible is also something I'd suggest. There's no way Bob the Empire Untrained Farmer Boy is going to be able to take on a Greater Daemon, or even a Foe-Render. He wouldn't have the fighting experience nor the knowhow. On the otherhand, Bob the Empire Swordsman Of Nuln has some kind of chance against the Foe-Render due to his training and any past experience he's had. Lastly, Bob the Empire Grand-Master of The Order Of The Drunken Dodo wouldn't have achieved his position by not knowing how to fight, and would have spent years fighting and collecting experience. The forementioned Foe-Render wouldn't stand much of a chance against him, and Bob would more than likely kill the Beastman because of his superior experience.
Another thing I've found about characters is that their personalities should be based around something that you have experience with. If you don't know what noble and honourable and lives by a code is anything like, then you shouldn't play a Knight or Paladin sort of Character, if you don't know what being a scoundrel and a lier and a gambler is, I wouldn't suggest Rogue or Theif classes of Characters.
And perhaps the most important thing about Characters is their personality and their morals. Because of this, I would never try to do anything out of character. If I'm playing said Paladin, I wouldn't steal from the weak, and if I was a Theif, I wouldn't be leaving easy purses hanging off of belts so some scrounger could come along and pick what could have been mine! Or if I'm a wise, mystical person then I will have my character act wse and mystical, rather than dull and stupid. Well, duh, he IS wise and mystical!
Building a Character personality can be pretty daunting sometimes, especially when you look through the history to see what sort of a personality the character would have, or whether the history would cause a personality paradox (where a character would believe in the Emperor being a god and then realising that the Emperor is nothing but a dead man on a golden throne). In this case, it creates a shaken personality, where the character would have something along the lines of; "John believed in the Emperor, until an incident on Xera made him doubt his self-belief and ability, so that for months he was nursing self-pity and doubts until he found his way back to the light with a purpose remade. His belief is not what it once was, but he still believes in the Emperor and that he is pure for believing in the Emperor, and that is the most important thing during his time under the interrogations of the Inquisition."
Often, Characters can be overpowered. Example one, walking armoury kit;
"I'm going to take a sniper rifle, two las pistols, two swords, a dagger and a few frag grenades!"
"Okay... why? What does your character do?"
"Snipe people, gunsling, combat fight and blow stuff up!"
"Erm, any particular order?"
"All at the same time!"
"Bugger off, powergaming noob."
Example two, godcharacters;
"You can't threaten my guy."
"He's a god incarnate?"
"You think that's going to stop my character's wrath?! She's a woman for god's sake!"
"Yeah, and, I'm a god incarnate! Threaten me and I'll puff you out of existance!"
Example three, knowitalls;
"Your character can't possibly know my character is an elf!"
"I'm speaking in common, I'm in a god damn clock and hood, hiding my face and ears, wearing a mask with a human-made crossbow on my back! My character has hidden his Elvishness very thoroughly!"
"But I know that you're an Elf!"
"Because I do!"
"GM, can I kill him?"
Gm - "Sure, he's being stupid about what his character should and shouldn't know, we'd be better off without him."
*Crossbow bolt between the eyes*
Not fun. Yes, all these results are unlikely, but these are a few ways that a character can be overpowered. The character can do everything and has a weapon for every occasion, even though the RPG is about an intrigue in a court where weapons are strictly forbidden, or in a stealth mission some pillbox decided to bring a loud and messy chainsaw and started killing innocent people with it (while this isn't classed as powergaming, it is infact extremely annoying if someone ruins a good plot line because someone decided that he was bored and went on a mass rampage with a chainsaw. NOT FUN).
I suppose here that I should also mention that players should have only access to their own characters in most cases. Unless you have the player direct consent, or your characters in a duel with each other, you shouldn't control another person's character without their express permission. The only reason you control another player's character in a duel is that it's easier than a lot of one liner posts of;
"I swing my sword at your ugly head."
"I parry and press forwards to attempt to knock you backwards."
"I move aside in a hope of sending you to the floor instead."
Not only is that long and tedious, but it could also result in eventual powergaming in its own sense. "I dodged, you dodge, I dodge, you dodge..."
Instead, when one player does the first part of the fight, the second player does the second part, as follows;
"I swung my sword upwards, attempting to take my opponent's guts out. He parried, and then he pressed forwards, his blade locked against mine, I threw myself aside in a hope of sending him to the floor. It partially worked, as both of us tumbled into the dust..."
"...As I hit the dust I rolled away from my opponent. I hadn't expected him to throw me to the ground, but luckily he'd lost his balance as well. Both on our feet in a few second, we started to circle each other, blades batting each other in an attempt to find a weakness in the other..."
Et cetera, et cetera...
Metagaming should also be avoided at all costs. Metagaming is when a character acts against another character, such as hitting him/her over the head when he's right infront of him/her, without giving the other character a chance to react.
"I suddenly and spontaneously hit you over the head. You fall over."
"What, don't I get to react?"
"No, I hit you over the head already!"
"But that's not fair!"
"Tough **** Sherlock."
Yeah, I've worbled on for a bit now. Hopefully Nagathi can pin and lock this topic soon. Until then, enjoy your roleplaying experiences fellow Forumeers, and may you never get RSI...
There's 10 kinds of people in the world; those that understand binary, and those that don't understand binary.
Why can people never understand the brilliance of my genius? *Sigh*