10 Inspirational Sources for RPG Characters

It happens on a regular basis – you get that feeling, that bubble of energy about to burst through your chest – the need to create a new character or you’ll die.

You just know this one is going to be awesome.  You grab your pen – or laptop – hands poised to craft a deep, complex individual capable of the greatest depravities or heights of heroism –

– and stay there.  For a long time.

It’s hard coming up with backstories, appearances, motivations and personalities for characters, and it OK that it’s hard.  You’re basically creating a being out of thin air using only your imagination.

So I’ve come up with a few methods for melting the creative ices, some typical and some not so typical.  Hopefully one or two will work for you!

  1. Look to your Friends.  They say it’s best to write about what you know, and I believe that holds true for creating believable characters as well.  Here’s another applicable truism – a kernel of truth makes for a believable lie.  Pick a friend, exaggerate some of his/her more apparent characteristics, and place her in the setting of your game.  Ask yourself why your friend is motivated to act the way she does in real life, and tweak it to fit your character’s backstory.

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    So it’s not exactly what point #1 is about, but it’s funny.
  2. Roll a Die.  Tabletops aren’t the only games that benefit from rolling the dice.  One of my absolute favorite ways to get unstuck is to leave it to chance.  For example, I’ll assign each race a number of the die and whatever number I roll, that’s the race of my character.  I do the same for skill set, profession, moral code, etc.  You then fill in the gaps with a backstory to make it all fit together.  It generates some brilliantly unusual characters!

    OK this was too funny a picture not to use.
    OK who else wants this??
  3. Watch a documentary (or read a nonfiction novel).  These are gold mines of inspiration.  Real people, acting in really pure and passionate ways.   Motivations have been thoroughly analyzed and fleshed out.  As the bespectacled academic explains it to you on screen, you can apply it to your character. download
  4. Read a fantasy novel/watch a fantasy series.  This one is pretty self explanatory.  Plenty of inspiration for plot lines, character appearances, relationships, etc.  Plus, the more you read the better you write.                                           images
  5. Speaking of writing, read through a list of descriptive adjectives.  This gets you thinking about characters who embody those adjectives.  They’ve been the springboard for a few of my favorite characters, particularly the word “nefarious“.  Oh, and “machinations,” usually preceded by “evil” (in that case I actually created a character who had accidentally been the cause of the villain’s decent into…well, villainy, and vowed to stop her).table1
  6. Pinterest.  Can’t get enough of it.  Type in a search like, “Character Inspiration”, “Fantasy Character”, “Motivation”, “Emotions”, “Medieval Outfit”…the possibilities are endless.  As is browsing time.  Plus, you can pin all your favorites to boards and come back to them whenever you need an inspiration top-off.

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    It’s also awesome for this kind of stuff.
  7. Visit a Museum or an Art Installation.   The historical outfits, advanced weaponry and futuristic clothing (depending on the type of exhibit) will do wonders for your own character development.  Perhaps it’s a lady’s comb, or the particular texture of leather on a military uniform, or the geometrical shapes on a shoe that sparks your next great idea.  11506657
  8. Check out Character Design Inspiration‘s Tumblr.  It’s fantastic.  Not only do they offer fashion, accessory and historical images, but they also have short, easily digestible character design tips and tricks.  Love it.  (Double Tip – Pin some pictures from the Tumblr to your Pinterest!)

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    A recent post from Character Design
  9. Listen to Music!  Personally I prefer epic soundtracks or trailer music.  Anything by Posthumous, Kerry Muzzey, Hans Zimmerman, Bear McCreary (Battlestar!!), the Inception and Gravity soundtrack’s…oh wait no, my absolute favorite ever is the soundtrack to Mad Max: Fury Road, especially Brothers in Arms.  Can’t get enough of it.mad-max-fury-road-image-charlize-theron-abbey-lee-courtney-eaton-zoe-kravitz-riley-keough
  10. Read the Funnies.  Because sometimes you just need to get out of your own head for a bit, laugh a little, not think about anything character-related.  My favorite right now is the Awkward Yeti.  Liked it so much I bought the book.  0127_BRACES-01

Have any tips or tricks of your own?  Awesome websites?  Inspiring books?  Leave them in the comments!

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Kljindra’s Journal: An Explanation

A couple of people have asked me why I would want to create a website that caters to such a small, close-knit niche group of people when there are already huge sites like Fanfiction.net that provide the same kind of publishing platform.

And I said,

Because I do what I want.

No, I didn’t say that.  I actually said, “Because Fanfiction.net doesn’t go far enough.”

Role-Playing is all about immersion, getting lost in a place that doesn’t exist in reality, stretching the limits of the imagination.  You get to be another person.  Anything is possible.  It’s one of those rare activities that spans the entire range of emotions, forces you to develop new neurons and creates that ridiculously addictive sense of wonder.  That sense of not knowing what is coming next, and then adapting to what ever appears.  As a reader of these stories, the idea of chance playing such a large part in a story heightens the emotions.  You truly never know what is coming around the bend – it’s a story of reaction followed by action.

Continuity.  That’s a large part of this project as well.  Having a dedicated Series that continues each week with the same character creates a bond with readers.  They become invested.  Hence the one rule of Permadeath.  It makes the story that much more real, that much more taunt and tense knowing your favorite character could be dead by chapter’s end.  It makes you want to cheer every time they strike down an enemy.

And Passion.  One of the things I love about the “nerd” and “gaming” communities in general is the incredible passion everyone has for the subject.  The energy is alive and palpable.

Last but hardly at all least – community.  Role players, perhaps by the nature of the activity, are the most friendly, genuine, considerate, welcoming bunch of people I’ve ever met.  Not to mention smart and funny.  Anyone who can write an entire chapter in Khajit-speak deserves a trophy.  And they have wide view of the world.  Probably from inhabiting the minds of dozens of different races, professions and moralities.

Oh, and here’s another reason – I love reading other RPGer’s stories.  I mean, have you ever actually sat down and read some of these posts on forums and such?  They’re insanely talented and engaging!  They demand a platform.

(I probably should’ve just answered my friends’ questions with, “Because Role-Players are AWESOME!” in really high voice with my hands clasped under my chin and one foot off the ground.)

So if it’s such a special thing, this role-playing, shouldn’t the showcase of stories also be special?  Doesn’t it deserve a hallowed hall, a libaray, a Repository?  I know there is certainly enough talent to fill an actual library, possibly two, within Elder Scrolls RPGer’s alone.

Which brings me to a point – I’ll be the first to admit that I am an novice at RPGs.  The only one I have ever properly played is Elder Scrolls Online (and so most of my inside jokes/references are from this franchise, as you’ll quickly discover).  But that single experience has been so exciting and fun that I wanted to expand upon it.  Level up the immersion.  Add a new layer.  Turn that all-night binge of gaming into a creative writing exercise (sweet, 7 chapters done in one hour!).

Well, that’s probably not half of what I meant to say and more than half of what I didn’t, but it’ll do.

Oh, one more thing – while Scrolls Abound! is obviously geared towards medieval/fantasy genres, I haven’t forgotten about you futuristic RPGers!  Forgive the exclusion, it’s a matter of creating an atmosphere to the website.  But if there is enough interest in Scrolls Abound!, then trust me there will be a sci-fi themed sister site.

Now scamper off, me pretties, and go play some games!