LESSON Character Sheet Tips

Discussion in 'DEVELOPING CHARACTERS & CULTURES' started by Zypher, Aug 1, 2011.

  1. This workshop written by Zypher.

    Creating a character sheet is one of the fundamental parts of a good number of roleplays here on Iwaku and can sometimes be a rather daunting experience. Here's a basic breakdown for creating a character that is both fun and well planned!

    BASICS

    "What's in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet."
    Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

    NAME

    As you've probably guessed from that quote, one of the first steps, and quite possibly one of the most important ones is deciding a name for your character. This can come at nearly any stage. Some people start with a name and work their character from there (especially if they pick a name that has a specific meaning!)

    Names can be very difficult because there are so many things to consider! First one should look at the genre of the roleplay. You don't want to end up with a bunch of characters with fancy outlandish names and have your character named "Bob." It will look out of place and can really ruin the suspension of disbelief in the roleplay. This of course, can be acceptable if the game has a cast of diverse backgrounds where a mixture of cultures and names would be acceptable. But in reality nobody wants to have "Bob the Knight" crossing swords with "Elyssia the Elven Goddess"

    AGE
    Age is a very simple act that can help determine a lot about your character. When creating a character age can be important, not only because it tells how much they can do physically but it can also tell how much history you'll have with your character. Age is usually a very simple thing to figure out based on the role of the character. If they're a hardened battle-weary military commander they might not be only eighteen years old, unless the war required them to fight at a young age. Take into account the character's surroundings too. It wouldn't make much sense to have a 23 year old in a high school class unless they're an assistant teacher or something of the sort.

    GENDER
    This one is pretty simple. Boy, Girl, or something inbetween or neither. Depending on what kind of character you are this can mean a little or a lot. Make sure you keep track of your character's gender while you post so you aren't accidentally swapping the gender out every few posts (unless of course you're doing it on purpose!)

    SPECIES/RACE
    This is another important thing to think about. This can effect language barriers, as well as how your character is treated. If it's a modern day roleplay your choices can be pretty simple, if you want to play a European that's come to whichever location make sure you note that. If it's a sci-fi or fantasy roleplay this can be much more important to pick, whether you're a halfling in a fantasy roleplay or some interstellar amorphous blob in a sci-fi game your character will undoubtedly have some problems! Halflings are short so make sure you remember that you might not be able to reach things other players might, or if you're an amorphous blob maybe if someone's character wants to hit you they'll just get sucked in. As always, make sure it's something you think you'll enjoy because nobody wants to make a character that turns into a chore to play as.

    OCCUPATION/SCHOOL/GRADE
    This decision can affect a lot of different things on your character, but again, make sure it makes sense. If the RP is a high-school drama, you've already got the school right there, but if the GM wants everyone to be in the same class make sure that you put them in the same class. If your character is all grown up and is a working man/woman/amorphous blob they probably have a way to support themselves even bums get paid! Again, the theme of the game is a good indicator for what your choices are. It isn't likely that you'll see a knight walking around modern day L.A, unless of course it's a costume for a movie. And it's just as unlikely that you'll find a laser gun shooting alien invader in ancient Greece (unless that's the type of RP you're playing in!)

    PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

    "Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind."
    A Midsummer Night's Dream (I, i, 234)

    GENERAL APPEARANCE
    Ah, appearance. This is one of the more difficult things to write about! Most roleplayers like to rely on pictures to get across what their characters look like, which is perfectly fine, but sometimes you just want to go that extra mile or you can't find that one perfect picture to use for your character. I personally find it useful to find a picture that I want to use for my character and build their looks off of that! However, when writing the general appearance of a character it's useful to keep some things in mind. What color is their hair? Is it long, short, curly, wavy, stick straight? Does it stick up in weird places or is it always perfectly groomed? What color are their eyes? Is that a normal color or is it something funky? Do they wear contacts or glasses? Is their skin healthy looking or does it look pale? Are they beyond skinny to the point they look malnourished or are they a bit round? Basically just think about how you'd describe your character if they were a real person. Another touch can be their wardrobe, do they spend money on the hottest couture or are they never dressed at all?

    Basically toss everything together and you'll have a well fleshed out description for your character and the other players will have a great image of what your character looks like.

    STRENGTHS/WEAKNESSES
    This section is toughest for me personally so don't get discouraged if you don't have a lot to put here. The strengths and weaknesses category (as I understand them) refers to how your character is physically. If they're good at sports, that would be a strength, and if they suck at sports that would be a weakness. Basically it boils down to their skills physically, if they can heft a 200 pound sack of potatoes with ease, put it here under strengths. And if they can hardly hold their hand up because the engagement ring feels too heavy, put that in the weakness area.

    MENTAL CHARACTERISTICS
    β€œTo be or not to be that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them.”
    Hamlet (III, i, 3-1)

    CURRENT GOAL/PURPOSE
    This is a pretty straightforward section. Basically put what your character wishes to accomplish here. This can change many times throughout the roleplay so sometimes it's just fine to put what they want out of life before the RP even starts or what they want at the beginning of the RP.

    TALENTS/INABILITIES/FEARS
    I packaged all three of these together because they all relate to one another. Talents and Inabilities are the mental counterparts to strengths and weaknesses. Basically anything internalized can be put here. If your character has an encyclopedic knowledge on rare herbs in the game world that would be put into the talent area here. If your character frequently mixes up poisons and medicinal herbs that would be an inability. Fears can also play a part here, if your character is claustrophobic you'd not only add that to the fears list but under inabilities you could make note that they can't be put into tight confined spaces without freaking out.

    Some fears however are separate, such as the fear of being alone for the rest of their life, or if they're afraid that the king might find out they are an assassin out to get them. These fears are more realistic and don't really have an effect on talents or inabilities.

    GENERAL PERSONALITY
    This is another really tricky area. The divide between "General" and "Inner" personality isn't all that clear. The way I tend to approach this is to look at it in a certain way. The General personality is what other people get to see, if your character is an ornery old coot, that would be part of their general personality. This section also covers what their day-to-day personality is. If they tend to be an upbeat and chipper character, that is put here. If they appear to be a bit on the stupid side that would also go here. The general personality can also change depending on who the character is interacting with. If your character has blatant disrespect for the captain of the starship, the others will see when he refuses orders or storms off after a shouting match. The key to this part is remembering "How will the others see my character's personality."

    INNER PERSONALITY
    This is where you put your character's inner feelings. Let's use the examples from the last section. Maybe your character appears to hate the starship captain, but maybe they were lifetime pals and now your character is bitter that their friend is the captain and they're just second in command, that personality trait would go here. If your old coot is rough and tumble on the outside but really has a heart of gold and cares deeply for everyone around him this would be the section to make note of that. This is where the character's thoughts and motivations can really come into play and be written out. Sometimes it's difficult because your character won't know the others and their personality (both general and inner) will change throughout the RP, and that's okay. This is just the starting point for your character!

    SECRET
    This is really simple. Your character has a secret that you want the GM and other players to know but the character will have it. It can be something simple like "Refuses to eat anything with a face" to something like "Has an ex-fiance that is out to kill her". Some GMs will actually bring this secret out as a part of the plot but for the most part it's not needed. You can also say that they have a secret but you'd rather keep it to yourself so that you can bring it out in the plot later if it fits in. (Or you just want to make one up on the fly later)


    HISTORY
    There is a tide in the affairs of men.
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
    On such a full sea are we now afloat,
    And we must take the current when it serves,
    Or lose our ventures.
    Julius Caesar IV, iii, 218–224

    GENERAL HISTORY
    Phew! This has been a long sheet but don't fret! We're almost done! This section is pretty straightforward. This is where your character's past is written out. There's a lot of questions that you can answer to put in here. How was their home life growing up? Were they raised by their parents or were they in an orphanage? Did they attend a school or were they raised on the streets? Basically this whole section is leading up to where they have been in the past year or so. This is where you can explain their fears in detail or maybe you want to show how their secret came to be. This section should be one of the longer ones depending on your character's age.

    PRESENT LIFE
    This is what your character has been up to in the last year or so of their life leading up until the start of the roleplay. Here you can give details on their living situation, what's going on at school or at work, if they've been married recently or if they just moved to a new city. It's also easy to add what their family is doing or if they even keep in contact with characters you've established in their history. It can also be simple to say what they're doing literally seconds before jumping into the action of the roleplay, but that's not needed.

    SPECIAL HISTORIC NOTES
    This tends to be an optional area. I've mostly seen it used to highlight the major points of the character's history and at what age it happened. That is mainly useful for establishing a timeline in your character's past.

    WRAPPING UP

    So here we are at the end of it all! Congrats, you've made your character but that's not the end of it! Make sure you go back and read over everything that you put down, check for spelling errors and it sometimes helps to read everything out loud to make sure that it sounds okay.

    If you're happy with your character all that's left is to make sure it's cleared with the GM and start playing! So take extra love and care of your character because you never know when you'll see another roleplay that your character is just dying to join because it's very easy to get attached to your characters when you give them enough life!

    Note: This is only for the standard bio format, other GMs may add other areas to fill out, but if you really think about how it fits in with your character and the setting it shouldn't be a problem!

    Thanks for reading!
    -From the desk of the Roleplay Global Mod and Morning Musume Guru: Zypher-
     
    #1 Zypher, Aug 1, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 30, 2013
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