Wednesday 30 April 2014

Creating Characters

I will soon be starting in a new Aberrant campaign, run by my Pathfinder GM. Very excited, because I’m very much enjoying what he’s doing there and, from what little I’ve gleaned of Aberrant, I think this will be something he can excel in. I also don’t know much about Aberrant so am looking forward to it unfolding around me.

I thought I’d use this to show the flitty way I build a character.

The brief:

The year is 1998, January. In recent history, Tony Blair’s Labour won ‘an historic’ General Election against John Major’s Tories the previous summer. The first sheep was cloned successfully in 1996. Hong Kong has transferred back to China. Princess Diana has died. Basically, it’s the world we know and (to greater or lesser extent) remember.

Players are normal, everyday folk as found on the streets of London at that time. We need to consider relationships and aspirations as part of who the person is.

My initial thoughts were a policeman or an A&E nurse, but the comment about aspirations tempted me towards a call centre monkey – someone in a soul-destroying job, dreaming of miracles. I think most people have been there. I quickly dismissed the policeman – it didn’t maintain its appeal and also I’ve got a Cyberpunk character who’s a copper who interests me a lot more than my as-yet-unnamed Aberrant copper. I will be studying an Open University Human Biology course starting in September and this is ultimately what swung the decision for me: I’ll be able to make use of (some of) what I’m learning if I play the nurse.

So, a bit more flavour needed.

I like a lot of different styles of music, but my heart lies in metal and punk. Unfortunately, Husbit and I have had to compromise between that and his preference for dance (hardcore, house, anything that gives me a headache), which means I periodically go into a metal-deprived misery. What better way to cure that than to play a metalhead? Husbit is not in this game, so won’t have to put up with the music and the other players don’t have to live with me. Perfect.

Now, nursing is stressful so I need to give my character a way to de-stress. Cigarettes, drugs and alcohol don’t seem to suit – she takes health seriously and in A&E has seen too often where excess leads. Exercise, on the other hand, makes a lot of sense: she needs the strength and stamina for her job and the endorphin rush is just the thing to ease the stresses of the shift. It also works well with the ‘dancing-like-a-maniac’ aspect of her metalness. I figure she probably jogs and gyms… only I’ve never been to the gym and am not sure what that’s all about. So maybe she uses the children’s play equipment at the park instead – that would certainly work with being on a budget and I have in my mind that she is (well, a young nurse living in London is not going to be rolling in it).

She also likes the thrill of extreme sports like hand-gliding and climbing, but can’t afford to do them often enough to be good. It’s more an experience than a lifestyle but she won’t turn down an opportunity to do something exciting.

She probably needs a name. Qualified for a year or two probably makes her 22/23 and it being 1998 means she was born around 1975/76. Being an ordinary person from the streets of London, I did a quick search for popular names of that era and after much deliberation settled on Christina Walker – ‘Chrissie’ to her friends.

Family… I don’t want to be worrying too much about family. I’ve got some ideas for colleagues and friends but family hasn’t really come into my mind. Probably one sibling – maybe more money-obsessed, less ‘alternative’ than she to explain why they aren’t close (Peter, 6 years older. Successful in business or banking). And then a lack of time resulting in a drifting apart from her parents.

Friends – well, she’s got some drinking buddies and some nursing buddies, gets on well with some of the doctors and other staff at the hospital. She’s a good nurse, particularly under pressure so one of the more senior sisters has taken her under her wing but one of the GPs is threatened by her and as her confidence improves this situation is going to worsen (I once heard someone say “beware the person telling you they have 30 years’ experience. They probably mean they have 30 lots of one year’s experience”. That’s how I picture this GP – he’s been practicing for many years but hasn’t kept up his CPD and cannot admit to being behind the times).

‘Mentors’ is something the GM asked us to consider. The Matron who looks after Chrissie is an obvious one, but maybe she has a friend who runs a bar. Maybe they’re friends because he runs a bar, or maybe they were friends first and she owes her music taste to him… Perhaps he was friends with her brother originally but ended up closer to her and now she sees him more as a brother than she sees Peter.

‘Enemies’ is another… well, there’s the GP above and maybe she stole someone’s boyfriend (or someone stole hers – or maybe she’s gay and they just thought she was stealing him) and whilst they don’t actively seek her out any more, there is still antagonism between the two. They tend to ignore each other, but are quite happy to spoil the other’s reputation given a chance. It’s petty, but so are many people.

She lives in a small one-bed flat that is messy as anything – she’s so neat and exact at work that she doesn’t have any neatness left by the time she gets home! She uses public transport to get around and most money that isn’t going on rent/bills goes on gigs and adventure holidays. She does have some savings against a future she’s unsure of.

‘Motivations/Aspirations’ is another key feature the GM wants us to consider. The ‘where do you see yourself in 10 years’ question doesn’t entirely help: Chrissie is doing a job she loves and has a busy social life so she’s pretty content with her lot. She kinda figures she’ll probably be married with children because that’s what people do, but it’s not something she’s actively seeking. For now, she’s living for the now (this is not unusual for my characters. I imagine it’s because it’s very opposite to me and I’m a little jealous of people who can do this. I’m always making plans and being frustrated when they haven’t come through. Some of my characters do have epic goals, though, so it’s not restrictively defining of how I play).

And that’s the basis from which I built the background I posted to my GM this morning. He will see several differences, no doubt (most notably that I’ve named most of the people mentioned above), but this is the thought process that lead to Nurse Chrissie Walker’s arrival in the world of Aberrant.

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