Sunday 7 January 2018

Guest Post - Creating Characters by Bells

Following my recent post about connecting your character to the world and our GM's subsequent guest post, I also asked Bells to write something. He's someone I adore playing alongside, building close relationships between the characters by necessity or background. He plays (or has played) Adam to my Chrissie, Kito to my Taji, Sanrin Pavi to my Kally Hopebringer, Howard to my Ragna, Aaron to my Svetlana, Tesla to my Solomon, Tanna to my Jvala

One of the things I really like here is that you get to see some of the recent Exalted events from Kito's point of view - I'm telling the story from Taji's, which means I can't always show this.

Here's what he has to say.
Ok, Creating characters.. Definitely a topic I have a love/hate relationship with. When it comes to creating a character I find it breaks down into the following tasks or steps that need to be decided or overcome, before a character is ready to play.

·         Come up with a primary trait/defining feature for the character to exhibit.

·         Come up with some interesting but realistic negative traits or weaknesses.
·         Stat the character, focusing on the primary, tweaking for the negative.
·         Tweak the character in mind, based on stats.
·         Finalise the stats
·         Come up with the name, description

I am not saying this is the correct way to go about creating a character of course, but this is the way I most feel comfortable. We have all heard stories of mary sue characters who can handle any situation or characters who are some sort of stat or ability with a character tacked on. While often in games it is very easy to do, after a few character I have created myself I find it is simply not fun. (Such as Stronghammer, my hammer throwing solar, or whateverhisnamewas, my warstrider pilot)

I also find having weaknesses is a great opportunity in game for some really interesting scenes. For example with Fern’s recent post about the attack on the self-liberated slave camp where we met Undying Fury for the first time, I found the whole thing exciting and interesting in the way I played Kito. Stat wise he has reasonable compassion and high conviction, meaning he holds his intimacies close. On the flip side, his valor is not huge, and this is why he’s usually the voice of attempted reason. “Maybe we should not go to the poor quarter looking for people kidnapping people” or “Maybe we should not approach a place designed for defence out in the open”.

After the fighting got underway and we found ourselves fighting against ex slaves, farmers, people trying to defend their livelihood and new found freedom, his resolve was shaken as compassion kicked in. After taking a fair bit of damage the lack of valor kicked in and he retreated a little way out of the fight. However hearing Taji in danger prompted him to put aside his fears to step in and protect her, despite being inches from collapse himself. This is something I keep in mind in most major battles, the character is not brave, he is terrified, forcing himself through each battle with conviction and willpower to protect those he cares for. This is also highlighted in other situations where, if caught in a fight alone, he will often run away. (And to be honest now I think about it, I think part of the reason he stood up against Undying Fury was not for bravery, and a touch more selfish than to defend the others. His inner conflict about being Anathema and guilt for the harm inflicted upon innocents likely gave him a touch of a deathwish.)

Tangent aside, this is why I like to start with traits and negatives. While it is fun to be able to handle situations, I enjoy being unable to handle other situations. It's great to see other players being able to shine, and the character interactions and developments that can occur in times of weakness.

Creating the character stats is my least favorite part, even more so when character creation starts without warning so without me having time to come up with a concept. As our primary GM is aware, ‘Character Creation!’ tends to result in a groan from me. It is difficult and time consuming at times to translate a concept into stats and skills. This gets more complicated in some groups where it is important to have a spread of skills among the group or certain concepts are turned down due to being too similar to another. Not unreasonable or insurmountable of course but still not something I overly enjoy. Once the stats are done and relief kicks in, I do enjoy tweaking the concept I have in mind for the character based on the stats. (Most recent example is in mage where my 5 int character ended up with 2 wits. The result? Haaaaates thinking on his feet. And often results in lots of cursing if forced)

Finalising and coming up with names and descriptions I am not great at, mostly I think because I have trouble remembering such when it comes to people in the real world. I have a tendency to just go for ‘average’ for most looks and pull something from a name generator. (Also highlighted by mage where in the first session I think every single time my character had to introduce themself I had to look at my character sheet to remember their name, something the rest of the group picked up on! Thankfully taken in good humor though.)

Of course one part I did not cover above is how the character properly integrates with the world. Backgrounds and connections is something I often come up with almost subconsciously between creation and the first few sessions, and it is something I do enjoy just sitting and thinking about. Often I meet up with our primary GM away from sessions due to our mutual love of food (And I think partly so I actually leave the house sometimes) and during these I tend to toss about ideas. This more often than not ends up with some interesting quirks to the character not immediately apparent, but always fun when they come up in game.

And just because I can, here’s an incomplete list of characters and the main traits or quirks that come to mind, just to give a few examples on the sorts of traits I come up with.
·         Adam - Forced into crime due to weakness, used his strength and charisma to try to better the world. (Somewhat missguided lately, though!)
·         Kito - Compassionate, strong willed but aware of his weaknesses. Finds valor and hope by following his sister’s.
·         Tesla - Driven by delusions of the impossible and the fact each step brings the impossible closer to reality. (Imagine running through fire to reach something that will make you fireproof)
·         Aaron - Guided by a higher calling and purpose behind his actions with little time for others, partly due to others having little time for him in his past.
·         Tanna - Ex slave turned druid, values freedom above all. Clings to and mothers the party after the loss of her closest companion as a coping mechanism. (The latter came up from the first session then loss of the party tank)
·         Howard - Methodical mage with an overinflated ego and a weakening grip of his non-academic life. Believes everything wrong will be fixed by being the best in his specialty.
·         Quiver of Arrows Tipped with the Sun - Insecure young Solar fropped into power and responsibility. Hides from the world both literally and in their portrayal of themself.

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