"Forked" from the What Race thread - Coming up with characters

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Here's something I posted in the other thread.  It occurred to me that this might be an interesting discussion.

How do you make a personality for your characters?  Do you figure it out ahead of time, or begin as a blank slate and fill it in during play, or it there some other track?

57252508 wrote:

That's how I challenge myself, with my stable of seemingly similar characters.  I strive to make them memorably different from each other (with varied success).  If I sat down at a table without saying which PC I was playing, almost everyone in my local club could tell you if it was the Warlock or the Bard from 3 minutes of RP.

I don't generally pre-define personalities for my characters, though - except maybe in a very vague kind of way (|grossed out by/fascinated by/jealous of/attempts to mimic| biological functions for instance).  I prefer to play with them a couple of times and see what develops.

I'm still trying to hone in on the critical personality elements for a couple of them, but others leapt into my mind fully fleshed from adventure number one.

My own technique leaves me satisfied, but there are still times when it fails.  My level 10 Cleric still hasn't really developed a unique personality of his own - he pretty much has the default "Big Mike" personality (of me, the player).  I also have yet to really come up with anything interesting for my level 5 Warden.  Here is what I've come up with for some of the others though, briefly:

12 - Crazy, WF Barbarian:  Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.  Enamoured with ocean-borne life ever since his run-in with Captain Leadbottom (although still largely ignorant of how sailing and ships actually work), Crazy mixes his nautical metaphors and sayings up, and charges into battle without thinking too far ahead.  This personality developed very much as a response to in-game events, and was not planned ahead at all.

10 - Spanner; Wrench of Gond, WF Cleric: nothing has come up yet   This guy reacts pretty much the way I myself would, were I a battle cleric (which I obviously am not, but you get what I mean lol).

10 - Word, WF Wizard: Fascinated with biological life.  Runs with a Prestidigitation up 24/7 that allows him to smell and taste (no in-game effect of course).  Loves to taste people's hair and fingers.  Wishes desperately to one day become a "real boy".  This personality was roughed out before play, but greatly amplified itself in-game.

7 - Harmonica, WF Bard:  NSFW to the max (I have to be careful about the audience when I play this guy/gal).  Two mouths, and s/he's not afraid to use them.  "Fully functional".  Not too picky about gender.  I always try to work out situationally appropriate insults for Vicious Mockery.  This is another one that developed during play.

7 - Null, WF Warlock:  Very grossed out by all forms of biological life.  Won't let anyone move through his square in combat (unless it is REALLY crucial).  "Don't touch me" is his mantra.  I have this awesome rant that I whip out occasionally, essentially demanding to know why milk is suitable to drink but other various biological fluids are not.  This personality is almost the only one that I fleshed out before playing the character.

5 - Foundation, WF Warden:  Again, nothing of note has really shaped this guy.  He plays pretty much the same as my Cleric, RP-wise.

4 - Blokko, WF Fighter:  Possibly my favourite of the bunch.  He came out of the Candlekeep Creation Forge (all of my WF characters except the Windrise Ports one came out of the same forge in Candlekeep, hence the Baldur's Gate background for all of them) just as it was exploding.  His body was put together incorrectly (torso backwards, arms upside down, face all mangled), and his personality is extremely simple.  He tends to instantly and strongly befriend unsympathetic NPCs (such as the goblin Urk in AGLA1-5 Silver Lining, to whom the name "Orcslayer" was appended).  His tactical sense in unimpaired, however, and he is a very strong Defender.  The bad assembly bit was pre-assigned, but the rest of his personality developed during play again.

It's a process.  I come up with a basic idea, and as I play the background expands and the personality takes shape. Some PCs work better than others. I tend to like to be heroic, which does not always match a PCs persona.

For instance, Tesh, my paladin, was intended to be quite mercenary like. However, as it turns out, she has a soft spot for children and has even acted as a midwife once. She is not as hardboiled as she appears to be. Also, she tends to be dismissive of wixards and other people who don't wear metal armor, but as I played I realized that the reason for that is that she hates it that they are smarter than she is (as she has a low Int). They make her feel insecure. Otoh, her being a half-drow and feared by people is something that turned out to not be troubling at all to her.

For Valencia, I fairly quickly (during the first adventure) realized that she is a softy, who cannot bring herself to kill people. She spares people's lives, is emrciful, and at one point even brought herself in danger to save an enemy (jumping overboard of a ship when an enemy fell unconscious in the water). Still, during a recent adventure, she discovered that there were things that could make her blood boil, and she had a hard time convincing herself not to kill. It was nice to see that she - being a true goodytooshoos -  had a dark streak.

Samantha, my bard, also developed as I played her. Initally confused about, later increasingly more reluctant in a quest bestowed on her to repent for all her previous sins by helping people. Her own history fluctuates, as I fill in the blanks based on what happens in adventures (and what she says: I changed part of her history halfway through when I realized that a lot of the remarks she made could not be true as she is a devious liar). She likely will always be a manipulating seductress, with a penchant for sarcasm and causing trouble, but she (very) slowly learns to regret what she has done.

In the end, for each it matters who I play with. After all, especially through interaction with others is how the characters come to the light and develop.


I tend to choose one "catch phrase," then flush out the character through experiences with other adventurers, and players!  (This also makes them memerable, and helps other players recognize which character from my "stable" has shown up for the day.)

My characters thus started with:

Dragonborn Warlord: INT-dump, calls everyone by a wrong, though similar-sounding, name; begins every combat with "Look out, there's [descriptor] over there!" . . . +2 to initiative everyone!  ;)

Darkpact Drow Warlock: Mutters "delicious" in a creepy voice every time he collects a pact boon. (And took "Your Delicious Weakness" as a 3rd level encounter power . . .)

Elven Avenger of Tempus: INT-dump; valley-girl accent; "O.M.T." - Oh My Tempus!; she tends to like things that "rhyme" with sword, though the doesn't seem to know what the word "rhyme" means; ("Wow, your great bow is really big! I like it because Bow rhymes with Sword.)

Stormsoul Genasi Wizard: Russian Accent. Stranger from a strange land.

Dan Anderson @EpicUthrac
Total Confusion www.totalcon.com
LFR Calimshan Writing Director
LFR Epic Writing Director

LFR Myth Drannor Writing Director

I tend to choose one "catch phrase,"

I'm experimenting with this for my Windrise Ports/MINI campaign guy.  He basically has this simple notion of class stability, and a conservative streak a mile wide.  His catchphrase is "If you weren't born as X, you shouldn't try to become X."  I haven't played him enough yet to decide if this works or not.

I generally start with what I want to play, which is an RP concept (often including either race or class). I add additional crunch with an eye toward being effective, but not necessarily caring much about optimal. I tend to build as I gain levels, instead of designing a PC on day one. I spend a lot of time as I go, which tends to make up for the inefficiencies of this approach, yet still reaps the rewards of the more RP-centric basis.

As the campaign grows and my stable of PCs grow, I often choose a race and class that seem interesting, perhaps to try them out or to understand them. I then immediately work on a character concept that will be compelling. If I don't particularly care about race, I just choose something fairly optimal.

I always aim for as deep a personality as possible, as one that will leave an impression on myself and, hopefully in a fun way, on others.

For example, when I first heard that my region was East Rift, I knew I would have a dwarf. When I read over the classes, Warlord seemed awesome. I had 0 concern over whether they would be effective together. I then worked on the concept. In looking for the deity, and finding a dead god of protection, this fit really well with the cataclysm. I shaped Drom as a spoiled kid, spared by the spellplague, living a wealthy life on the edge of the chasm, until one day the drow place charges along the wall and blow away his home and family. Drom swore on that day to hone his skills and lead heroes to protect the East Rift from the underdark and to avenger and restore that which has been lost. He is a hero, kind, caring, and a leader. He's my hero PC, so he doesn't have to have much of a hook. It's all about leading, having a sense of humor, being kind, etc. I like having a few PCs like that. I work hard on his powers and helping the party. The end result is a surprisingly effective PC.

When I saw the bard preview, I was still on a dwarf kick. I though through how to make a good anti-hero dwarven bard. Ale seemed a good idea. I pretty quickly came up with the idea of this low-down thug that is rolling a gypsy into a ditch, having stolen her stuff, when she suddenly opens here evil eye and curses him. And what curse is more fitting for a dwarf than to never taste ale again? Now, when Drihn Foolmaker drinks ale, he tastes none of it and all the effects go to everyone around him (explaining his bard powers). People trip, they slide, their vision goes blurry, they gain false courage, they shrug off wounds that should kill them... and through all of it, Drihn's thirst is never quenched. When he does great things he gets to taste a single glass of ale... and then the curse kicks back in, forcing him to do good once more.

Back before AdvCo rules were out (and the limit on one PC per player sadly came out), my buddies and I thought we should have a rogue. I gladly jumped in with a Dwarven Rogue. I looked across crunch, knowing I needed to make some good choices to have this PC work well. Dwarven Rogue makes Dwarven Warlord look like a cheese monkey... until I saw the Superior Crossbow and worked out how to make a nice build. Then I needed a hook to counter that massive damage. Thus was born Keldra Chainbreaker, a cherubic plump dwarven lass who would like nothing but to settle down, but swore to her dying dad, as he helped her escape Durpar, to take up his weapon and be a hero. She is afraid of everything, apologizes when she crits, and when she second wind it generally is, in RP terms, because she just broke a nail. If she action points, you had it coming, Mister! She's cute and endearing, which is nice because her personality downplays her damage output and lets others shine, while still being interesting.

Things don't always come out fantastically. My drow warlock was basically an attempt to play a strong striker (darn warlock class denied me that plan!) and to be a dark hero. He is fun and fine, but he's one of those enigmatic dark RP types that seldom works out well. He is more of a scenic piece, heavily into speaking with shadows and walking the line between "maybe he is evil" and charming everyone with his dangerous beauty and eloquence. I say scenic piece because there isn't much of a reason for people to interact with him. His darkness isn't comical and just really is a bit weird, vs. compelling. A smart PC will not really interact with him. I've done better in LG, such as my arcane trickster who RP-wise empowered his magic solely through artifacts. He came off as insane, and players enjoyed seeing me dream up how the dying breath of a faerie dragon caused a glitterdust spell. Players interacted them even though they suspected he would one day like to enslave them (which is exactly what he wanted to do).

When I saw the Psion rules, I wasn't in much of a hurry to play one, but the opportunity arose. I chose that and gnome, thinking through the idea of a little pipsqueak that could fire off mind bullets (that's telekinesis, Kyle!). As I thought about the little guy and vacillated between male and female, I decided on both. Phinneas Pebblebottom looks like a female, but is actually a male. He is quick to vaguely mention that there was a horrible accident, and that he really is a male gnome, all while rattling off parts of the brain and just how uneducated everyone is. He is a Tarmalune gambler, and owes a lot of money, unable to accept that he isn't good at the games despite understanding the odds. His attacks are all about his intellect ("That kit like a knife through the butter that is your mind") and he periodically hints at many mishaps in his past "This isn't trouble, friends. When you see your brother and a badger exchange brains... that's trouble!". Phin is an opportunity to just be as funny as can be, while RPing a very fragile personality (huge ego, clear personality issues, clearly afraid of losing his friends).

When I realized I hadn't played a controller, before my psion, I decided on Deva Invoker, basically to learn about both bits of rules. I wanted a CoW invoker, but I went with the race-class combo and make him a protector, which is actually just fine. Solieth is a deva invoker, a bit of a black man street preacher mixed with the concept of his god actually letting him see the end of the world. I play him mostly online, but the hook is best when I can do his voice and make it sing-songy and weave in how we must do this and that so the world will be scoured by the Burning Sands.

Ulna Thos was just an attempt to provide a leader for my GenCon group. I knew she would be a female artificer. I then played with concepts and really liked a spiked-chain shadar-kai who lives to experience pain. When she heals, it is by giving a bit of herself. When she strikes, her chain digs into her own palm. And so on, and so forth, that every experience might help her forget that which she dares not reveal. She is, nonetheless, a leader, in part to punish herself, both by forcing herself to relate to others and to punish herself because she knows she desperately wants the love and friendship she is never confident having.

Yokai is a kenku assassin. I knew I had to have a kenku assassin. Turns out, pretty good build. I went with the idea of him being a marked man, a once kenku commando that now has had to flee. He knows things, but must fit in. Thus, he joins adventurers, gathers power, and bides his time. Though his foolish friends do not know this, many of their adventures are filled with the efforts of his former comrades who are now his enemies. Those hired thugs? Yes, that is Sodai, the changeling that he once worked with... they never forget.

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Hmm...character personalities...

Well, when I first started out in LFR I really didn't give much thought to personalities.  I made a Tiefling Warlock, managed to get him to level 4, and haven't played him in over a year 'cause he's so incredibly boring (both play-wise and personality-wise).  OTOH, I slowly started to come out w/ ideas for character personalities after that.

One of my favorite is Nyssa, a Gnome Sorcerer from Thay.  She's always trying to prove that she's bigger than life -- for obvious reasons -- but has some things in her background in Thay that she just won't talk about because they're pretty nasty.  (I originally chose Thay as her background so I could use Int for her hp instead of Con, but quickly came up with this concept to explain that background.)  Whenever she has to fight undead, she gets really, REALLY vicious and a bit freaked out.  Of course, she's normally a bit on the manic side anyway.  Charming and diplomatic one moment, sarcastic and demeaning (to enemies or people she doesn't like) the next, she enjoys being underestimated.  Considering that I'm planning on making her a Daggermaster and giving her a Wraithblade so she can do massive crit damage w/ repeated Burning Spray close blasts, she looks forward to being REALLY underestimated.  *evil grin*

After that, it's probably my Dragonborn Bard that was the most interesting to develop.  She started out as just a desire to play a Bard, 'cause the preview looked so incredibly cool when it first came out.  Then I got the idea to create a build that would eventually have the Spellscarred feat and take Burning the Plagued Bellows at 10th level.  After I played her for a few mods, I started to get a better feel for what her personality should be.  Adventurous, gallant, maybe a little boisterous, and very proud to be a Dragonborn.

Then someone told me that Dragonborn don't have tails.

I was devastated.  She couldn't get excited and wag her tail, or get mad and lash her tail from side to side.  (She has a very high intimidate!)  So...when I played a certain mod -- which shall for the moment remain nameless -- and ran into a Spellscarred dwarf with tentacles instead of arms, I realized that I could RP her spellscar as giving her a physical "deformity" like a tail.  So in a recent mod, I had her accidentally sit on a plague-infected shard that would temporarily give spellscar-like abilities to Fey creatures.  Instead of doing nothing (since she wasn't Fey), I had it cause a synergistic effect with her existing, latent spellscar, and give her a tail.

Fun quote when she realized this was happening.  "Sh*t, I have a log growing out of my ass!  WTF!??"

When the PHB2 came out, the other character I decided to make was a Deva Dark Pact Warlock.  He had decided to "explore" the powers of darkness, more out of curiosity than any desire for evil ends.  But in doing so, it's definitely shaped his personality to be quite "bent."  In fact, his first mod was IMPI1-1.  While the angry mob was accusing the woman of summoning demons and threatening to kill her, this character did his best to diplo the mob out of their evil intentions all the while *he* was actually more the servant of darkness than she was!  Much fun.  :-)

I decided to name him Ohm after a character in Philip Jose Farmer's Dayworld series.  Going with the reincarnation theme, Ohm's approach to life is very "balance" oriented.  On the other hand, he has a habit of chanting "Ohm-mani-padme-hum!" as he goes into combat.  Most disturbing. 

Oh, and did I mention he's also from Thay?



I generally concentrate on the following:
What's the quick hook that everyone can get at a convention table in a minute? Examples:
Beldan the Paladin 10 claims everyone has been paid by him to be his henchman. He doesn't order people around or do any other actions that would cause player trouble. But he does this in every mod. Quite a few characters who have worked with him before know exactly what's coming and prepare all kinds of statements, which he somehow dodges around(at least in his own head)

Kelnat the Tiefling Bard 10 thinks he's a human under a curse to be a Tiefling(because he messed with the powers that be in Thay - I was quite happy to get a 'Szass Tam is paying attention to you' story award as it works in perfectly.

Mirakkah the Deva Shaman(retired so I can run her in a home game) - anytime some historical event happens or another character acts rude to her, she mentions some horribly evil thing she did in a past life. She'll apologize for having killed the other character's great-grandparent in a grisly fashion and note how the action the other character took reminded her of how the great-grandparent acted.

Then I look for events that happen in a mod that can be adopted to what might have happened in the past.
Beldan the Paladin is an inveterate liar. It wouldn't surprise me if he claimed his name wasn't actually Beldan at some point. Not only that, but he believes all his own lies. In one mod, we were supposed to play a boardgame that involved lots of Int skills and checks and the high Int was I think a 10. So Beldan claimed that the guy wasn't playing by the set of rules that he played the game by(Sava vs Baldur's Gate Backroom Sava). End of game: Opponent "Checkmate!" Beldan "I won!" - then I rolled a 26 for the Bluff check and the opponent reluctantly agreed with me that I won.

So I'm thinking there is a game of Sava played in Baldur's Gate that doesn't quite follow the normal rules. Maybe it is all about moving pieces around when people aren't looking, bluffing people into thinking that you didn't already move, etc...and Beldan is now an expert Sava player. At least that's what I'll claim. Who knows if it is true or not?

Or the Adventuring Company mods - I came up with an AdCo called Beldan's Irregulars - basically, the entry requirements are as follows:
Be Beldan
Have adventured with Beldan before
Claim to have adventured with Beldan before

Any of those will get you in(as no one in the AdCo would quite understand who would have claimed to worked with Beldan and not actually have done so. Or for that matter, care.) 

Lessee ...

Take the character's party role and run with it: my Paladin is selfless to a fault, the ultimate defender, but I haven't really built much a personality on him. I imagine him being a lot more conflicted than I end up playing him, especially after QUES 1-1. Woops.

Done the catch-phrase schtick: my Avenger has a catch-phrase ... "You can run, but you'll only die tired" or some play on it depending on the circumstances. Full of life, gregarious, boisterous and a legend in his own mind. He's all about beating things over the head with a greataxe, which he often points out at the least opportune moment for the diplomatic characters in the party.

Reverse another character: my other Avenger is the brother to the first, and he hates his brother. Hates. He will do everything exactly the opposite of him if at all possible. He's all about the quiet and stealth, and sneaking up on your prey. Until he's not, and then he's about the beating things over the head with a greataxe. Yes, this is irony being played out.

Pick a fictional character and re-work it: my Revenant monk is based on Gomez Addams ... there's a whole adventuring party actually that is all of them. Only played him once, but it was a blast.

Amnesia and ...: and my Ranger has amnesia. He really doesn't know who he is,  even though I do. Mostly he fights the good fight against the undead and shades. For now he's a blank slate. He may stay that way, but we'll see.

A character based on Gomez Aadams?  Bah.  And here I was, thinking I could build a hybrid Kenku Bard/Rogue named Gomez (once hybrids are legal in LFR, that is) with a disembodied hand familiar named Thing, and that that was an original idea...



Rather than talk about my PCs, I'll just provide some info on how I develop personalities:

- Sometimes, when I see a movie that features an interesting character, I begin to brainstorm ideas about a PC based on that character, or with similar features. Movie characters that have inspired me: Sam Elliot in the Golden Compass, Orlando Bloom in Kingdom of Heaven, Mr. Miyagi (RIP) from the Karate Kid, etc.

- Characters in books often inspire me to build a PC with a certain type of personality. An example is Thoros of Myr from the series "A Song of Ice and Fire" by George R.R. Martin. Someday, I'll build a PC based on Strong Belwas.

- If I see a cool picture or miniature of a fantasy character, it sometimes inspires me to build a PC based on the picture or miniature. I'll develop his personality based on what I can imagine from the picture or miniature. The Reaper Warlord line makes a lot of great miniatures that inspire me.

So there's this one PC I have...

Dave Kay LFR Writing Director Retiree dkay807 [at] yahoo [dot] com

How do you make a personality for your characters?  Do you figure it out ahead of time, or begin as a blank slate and fill it in during play, or it there some other track?

Short answer: Yes.

Long Answer: I love tooling around with character builds, and the character builder was a great enabler of my little addiction. Give me the hint of an excuse and I'll start popping out a character. So I make a lot of builds, lots of them. But getting made isn't enough to get a character played, I need to get some spark of life for the character, and these sparks come in varying levels for different characters.

So here are thoughts from some of my current characters:

Sharavil Stormchilde - Windsoul Genasi Cleric of Tempus. Built to be the leader of a party of three, so it didn't matter what anyone else brought to the table we had Defender, Leader, Striker covered. Her personality etc has grown up through her play at the table until she is now a pretty distinct character in my mind.

Faustine - Human Assassin. This character is in her third incarnation (Vampire, NWN, 4E) and over time she has evolved while keeping certain core ideas true. She has so many hundreds of hours invested in her RP it is kind of odd to remember that her initial inspiration was a mix of a power (the ability to grow swords from her arms), fluff (the Zantosa Revenant family) and an alignment (or what passes for one in V:tM - Cathari). In bringing her to LFR she is a bit more moderate to suit the rating of the campaign, but otherwise the Assassin class perfectly fit her, and the Shadowblade PP even lets me cheat the old swords from her arms trick.

"Brutal" Beren Bear - Dwarf Fighter (made before Martial) - Inspired directly by "Terrible" Terry Tate Office Linebacker. "I am an enforcer man!" "Cu'z when its game time, it's pain time!" "You did it, so I had to hit it" Ok the hardest part of this character is actually the volume he should be played at and the fact it should really be done while standing up.

Hmm thinking about this has also reminded me of Gavin, my wannabe artiste who's only "artistic" talent is ventriliquisim... (notable for a particularly athletic dive from a 2nd story to escape the watch, and the shortly after dominating (due to readied action) a key plot element, instead of being killed by it...)

What is the legality status of Vampire background characters currently in LFR? I'm at work and thinking of resurrecting an old Living City Character :P
What is the legality status of Vampire background characters currently in LFR? I'm at work and thinking of resurrecting an old Living City Character :P

Which rules items are you using for "Vampire background"?  If the rules items are listed as legal player resources in the CCG, you're fine.  If not, you're not.
"Of course [Richard] has a knife. He always has a knife. We all have knives. It's 1183, and we're barbarians!" - Eleanor of Aquitaine, "The Lion in Winter"
Sorry, I'm at work and ill-prepared.

I remember seeing the the Character Generator an option for "Vampire" character with a drain blood encounter power. (?)

I'm pretty sure I had teh LFR campaign restrictions loaded when i saw this feat.

I thought it was listed under the "racial feats" section of the feats list.

My question: will it be a legal LFR Character to have this feat that allows a drow vampire?

Its not a min-max concept, purely a RP concept, if that means anything.
I remember seeing the the Character Generator an option for "Vampire" character with a drain blood encounter power. (?)

I'm pretty sure I had teh LFR campaign restrictions loaded when i saw this feat.

I thought it was listed under the "racial feats" section of the feats list.

Are you talking about the "Vampiric Heritage" feat?  As it came from Dragon Magazine, I believe it's thus legal for LFR.  I don't recall there being anything mentioned about it as being flagged as "not LFR legal' when it came out (the way certain other Dragon articles were, such as the original hybrid builds).  But, I could be mistaken.

You should note that the "LFR Camapign Legal" setting on CB is notoriously inaccurate, and outside of the control of the LFR campaign staff.  Don't rely on it for determining whether or not a character option is legal for LFR play.
"Of course [Richard] has a knife. He always has a knife. We all have knives. It's 1183, and we're barbarians!" - Eleanor of Aquitaine, "The Lion in Winter"
You are correct, I am 99% sure it was in the "Heritage" feat section, not racial (couldnt find heritage in my mind)

And, since its in the Magazine, it should be LFR legal. I was just afraid it was in a sourcebook not listed in the CCG, and therefore need a cert or a card to "unlock" it.

I'll confirm tonight, and thanks again for all of your help Kenobi65!
I checked the CG v 1.99 and its allowed in LFR play

Its the Vampiric Heritage feat in Dragon Magazine # 371 and again, in the 2009 annual.

Since its from those sources, it is allowed in LFR as per page # 2 of the 1.99 CCG.

Thanks again! :D
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