Building a D&D Player Character – 201
Alright, we’re going to take that character creation to the next level. The first level, 101, is the very basic that you need to do. I go into details in the post on what those three things are, but to recap:
1. Make a character that fits the game you’re playing
2. Make a character that doesn’t have to always be in the spotlight/step on the other players toes
3. Make a character that is fun for you and for the table.
Those things can all be purely mechanical at that point, so you might only have an extremely simple backstory created. In 201, we’re going to create the basic backstory or more so, the basic role playing pieces you need to think about.
The fun thing, D&D already has something built in for that. In the backgrounds section, and I’ve talked about this before, they have you roll for four things, personality traits, ideals, flaws, and bonds. These are going to be your building blocks for Character Creation 201.
Probably the easiest section to talk about because we all have an idea of what personality traits are. Someone can be pompous, demeaning, trusting, quick to anger, and so many more things. Pick one or two things that are your characters ticks and put them into personality traits. It can be as simple as your character is trusting and nice. And it really can be as basic as that. However, a lot of the time you’re going to want to provide a bit more context. For example if your character is easily angered, that’s going to be annoying for everyone to play with a character who gets mad at any sort of slight. Instead, you have a character who gets mad when whenever anyone talks about their family, that’s interesting.
Another one that is pretty easy, what is it your character holds sacred. Maybe they firmly believe that all goblins are evil. It could be that an ancient religion must be revered. This is really the pillar of your character. Now, ideals might be fairly easy to come up with a good one as compared to some of the others, but you do have to ask yourself some question. What if something or someone goes against your ideal in your party or you have to ignore your ideal for a little bit in the game for the story? Going back to the goblin example, what if you have to interrogate a goblin and you’ve always just murdered them before? What if you come across a goblin village with goblin children in it who are playing a game? There’s a tendency to use the ideal as a black and white thing where you’ll act one way on one side of it and another way if you cross to the other side. With the goblin example, not a goblin, you’ll give it a chance, is a goblin it deserves to die. What happens instead if you give yourself room to role play in that, and your character struggles with what to do in the goblin village? It doesn’t mean you change your ideal, it means that your character as depth. And the goblin example is a very concrete example, but it generally shows the idea that is being shot for.
This one is a bit trickier, who are you really connected to, or what or where you are connected to in the world. This could also be seen as a “why you are doing this” sort of thing. Maybe you have a baby sibling who you are going to protect by going out into the big world. Maybe you have a village that was kind to your in your time of need, maybe there’s a certain god or a relic. It’s interesting, because this doesn’t have to be something you’ve experienced in your life yet. For example, if you decided there’s a holy relic, it could be long lost, and your bond to the world is that religion and finding that holy relic. Bonds also don’t have to be a good thing, it could be a bond if you’re a rogue where you owe the thieves guild money. I would say out of all of the traits, the bond is what is really going to drive the character into adventuring and keep driving them forward in the campaign.
The best for that, and I’m serious about this. This one should be the best part, like the personality traits, your flaw is going to be something that can really inform your role playing, and can create some very interesting moments. However, a lot of people look at a flaw, and they don’t really want to take one, because they want to be that near perfect hero like Superman who can save the day. You’re not, you’re probably not even the A-Team, you’d be lucky when starting out to be on a team at all. You are a messed up character who has most likely had a hard life, you’re going to have flaws. So make them real and make them something that affects you in a game. If you go with, whenever I see a demon, I curl up into a ball and can’t do anything, that’s not a good flaw. One, you might not be playing a game with demons, so it won’t ever effect your character, or it might be a game about demons and now you’re going to be worthless. Take something that you can role play into in interesting ways, and something that, if you want, your character can overcome. And once they’ve overcome it, put down another flaw, the next in line or maybe something else that has come out with how your character now copes with the previous flaw.
By adding in these four things, you now have gone from a character that is fit for the framework of a game, and is going to mechanically fit in, to a character that is starting to have reasons for doing things, and places for you to role play. And that’s what character creation is, a place for you to set-up how you’re going to role play throughout the campaign.
This is also a good time to mention that the personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws can all change throughout the campaign. I talked about it in the flaws, how you might overcome the flaw, or maybe your bond will shift as you dip for a couple of classes of warlock. So those are very tangible game reasons, but beyond that, the first couple of sessions it might just shift because you find yourself playing your character differently than you thought you were going to. So let these things be able to change those first couple of sessions as you lock them down, and then give yourself character arcs to go through as you complete a bond and form another.
What are your thoughts on Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws? How do you use them in your games?
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