Have you been having trouble coming up with an interesting character for a story you’ve been meaning to write or for your player character in TTRPGS (Table-Top Role-playing Games) like Dungeons and Dragons? Well this is the article for you! Here you’ll find some advices and suggestions on what to do and what to avoid to ultimately write a unique and interesting character.
First of all it’s important to take into consideration the setting of your story or campaign as that has a very important influence on your character’s backstory and characteristics as you can’t play a cyberpunk themed outlaw in a high fantasy setting such as “The Lord of the Rings” universe. One thing i always try to do with my characters is to have their origins rooted inside the world thus making them revolve around the world and not the opposite creating a more fluid and normal dynamic between your character and the other characters, factions and countries of the world. Giving your character clear motivations and ideals is very important to make them more believable and human and to make their struggles relatable to reader of your book or other players in your campaign (campaign is a term used to indicate adventures of TTRPGS like Dungeons and Dragons or Call of Cthulhu). A good example is Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings, his set goal is to defeat Sauron and become the king of Gondor, this long term goal led to his character growing through a series of short term objectives like uniting all the kingdoms of humans, reforging Anduril and defeating Sauron, all culminating in his end goal of becoming king being accomplished. Another thing I always do with my character is giving them unique traits or items that are embedded in their backstory: for example a magical for a mage used to cast spells isn’t just some random item they found, it has a very high importance as without it they’d just be a normal person, that’s why i tend to give those items an interesting spin like i did with one of my characters “Ariwin”: he’s a magical cleric who worships the gods of life and death and as such his job is guide people to the afterlife, so the item he uses for his spells is a lantern with a light only visible to the undead as it’s the light guiding their souls to the afterlife. Even an item as normal and plain as a sword can be made into a important object : maybe it was a family heirloom inherited from generation to generation, or perhaps a weapon given to them by their master in completion of their training. Simple things like these can make them much more interesting, unique and compelling.
Here are instead the things I try to avoid when coming up with a new character. First of all I completely avoid copying from other sources as it may irritate your reader or your fellow players, and even if I take inspiration from someone’s work I try to give my own spin on it to the point where the only thing resembling my inspiration is only the basic idea. For example Batman and Iron Man, to the core they’re the exact same; both are billionaires who are super smart, super charismatic and are a superhero, but in action the two are completely different : one is a dark hero who acts in the night to run away from his own past and make sure what happened to him never happens to anyone else while protecting his identity with a mask; the other is instead a flashy superstar who is a superhero to atone for his past mistakes and whose identity is public information. Another thing I suggest you avoid is the cliche “dark” backstories, the usual “my family is dead“ which often time serves nothing to the plot of your character’s growth as a person and is just an excuse for them being mean and hostile to everyone. But in case you want to use this trope I’d suggest focusing a lot on the side effects and repercussions it might have on their psyche; this could be in the form of visions of their deceased loved ones in their sleep, a certain moral code they’ve given themselves or a difficulty with expressing their feelings. A great example for this is Geralt of Rivia, who after his mutations to become a witcher, lost almost all ways of expressing his emotions, so we, the readers, get to see him develop during his many adventures slowly learning how to show his feelings and be human again.
I hope these advices and tips will help you when creating your next character, and always remember it’s not important to make a great character but to make one you like and enjoy playing or writing about.
Davide Giuseppe Guida 2Q Classico Cambridge 2.0 – liceo Vico Napoli