Dar’Rakr had his big paw resting on my shoulder, facing me. “Roarhahaha, that’s a joke, Lil’cat. What I mean is, you are now a cub dragon. ROARHAHAHA!”
I stared without expression at my father. I already knew the details; those were given to me by my mother. Through her tears I managed to figure out that my father was sending me to Skyrim. No surprise there. My cousin J’zargo was attending college in Winterhold without any tuition fees plus free room and board, compliments of the Arch Mage. J’zargo was the first Khajiit to attend the College of Winterhold, so special treatment for him, I guess. My fire-red eyes flickered as my whiskers twitched when my father told me a minor detail of the journey. You know, those details that everyone leaves out:
“Dragons have come back to Skyrim. I see in your eyes that you are the real Dragonborn.”
“I’m not sticking around to fight a dragon!” No more! I yield to my father’s craziness. I will now begin to search for jarrin root.
“All you need to do is find that finger-wiggling disgrace of a skeever-mage named J’zargo and watch him crumble when he learns you are a dragon!” My father’s tail was wagging so fast from the sheer joy of beating out his brother that I swear it was about to fly off.
“You want me to go Skyrim, become a dragon and tell J’zargo about it?” Never hurts to get the real details so I asked.
“Powerful idea, isn’t it? Roarhahaha!” My father was shoving a backpack into my arms while my mother was frantically trying to fill it with food and drink. “Time to end this little game with my brother! You are the greatest and most powerful of all. But not as a mage! Go forth, cubbyson and show everyone who the real Dragonborn is! Just make sure you prove it to J’zargo and send that whimpering, weak, milk-drinker home! ROARHAHAHA!”
“I don…” My eyes narrowed at him as he shoved some catnip mixed with moon sugar into my mouth. “Wha…” The last thing I remembered was my father pouring ale down my throat.
The next thing I recalled was smiling up at some Imperial guards on patrol. Apparently it is not legal for Khajiits to cross the border without having a caravan license. Minor detail my father overlooked. Nor is it legal anywhere in Skyrim to pass out while under the influence and not know how you got there. So they put me into a wagon filled with other prisoners until some General saw me.
“Get that thing out of my cart! Stendarr’s Mercy, I’m not running a sideshow here!” The General’s horse paced nervously as the officer glared at his men. “Take him to the regular location.”
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
Have any tips or tricks of your own? Awesome websites? Inspiring books? Leave them in the comments!
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!
Gods don’t mean much until you meet one. Well, I didn’t exactly meet Molag Bal – I met a creature made of bones that was some sort of aspect of him, and heard an appropriately-deep God-like voice a couple of times, but still. Gods aren’t normally part of my life, so it was pretty cool.
Turns out I’m dead, but not. I’ve got no soul, but I’ve still got my body. Strange part is I still feel the same as I always did. Long story short, a batshit sorcerer named Mannimarco needs souls to power his nefarious deeds and mine happened to be one of them. I was walking along the road to Riften and boom—
Mace to the face.
Woke up in Coldharbor, Molag Bal’s realm, and a giant woman with arm muscles the size of my face broke me out immediately. She had extremely perfect timing. Met a creepy old blind man with a hood who wouldn’t call me by my real name no matter how many times I said it, some ugly bitches with horns, and a fabulously eccentric man with a pot on his head. I missed a lot of what they were jabbering on about, concerned as I was with the state of my soul, the wondrousness of being in a God’s realm and the curiosity of having clothes in the afterlife. Plus they kept wanting me to do things, like kill everything with swords, interrupt spells, destroy Sentinels…it was way too much effort for being dead.
Finally we got the old man busted out and he showed me a play with ghosts about the fate of the world and some King’s necklace, but I like to keep my head down and listening to him seems to entail the exact opposite. So I nodded dutifully, followed behind him and wondered if that wonderful man with the tin pot hat would be back.
He never showed by the time I left – and it was just me who left. The giant woman sacrificed herself so the old man, the Prophet – I swear I thought she had been saying “profit” for the longest time – could come back with me. Good on her, I’d never have done it. I mean, think about it. These two were very serious about needing to save the world from the asshole who killed me, and they think leaving the Indestructible Woman behind in favor of the Decrepit Old Blind Man is the way to go? Made me feel better about ditching them, I’ll tell you.
Although I didn’t completely ditch them by choice. I jumped into the Anchor (yes, that’s with a capital A due to its sheer immensity and power), closed my eyes from the blinding light and –
–woke up in Daggerfall.
In a strange house.
Sure, it was an improvement from Coldharbor, but I had been on my way to Riften…and not to be picky since I had just been saved from a terrible and certainly painful afterlife with the God of Butality…but couldn’t I have landed somewhere a bit closer to Riften?
And Daggerfall is so…religious. It’s all temples and priests and those pompous Templars with their condescending righteousness. I wanted Riften – drunken Nords, quaffing beer in a bard-filled hall with enough people to around for no one to notice a few items going missing.
My chosen career path will be slightly more difficult in Daggerfall. And start here I must, since I’m wearing only the stupidly thin clothes from Coldharbor – you can’t even really call them rags – and have a giant great sword that I don’t know how to use and attracts attention faster than a sober Nord.
No, I will not run to Riften – I will make my first steps here, in Daggefall! They must have a Thieves Guild. It’s an international organization, my sister told me so. I’m counting on it. I won’t go back to the Imperial City no matter what. It is not an option.
So with that decided, it’s time to take stock of what I have in this small room into which I was magically – and quite unceremoniously – transported. It’s small but clean, with a fire on one end and a bed on the other. A few bookshelves with, as luck – or fate – would have it, Wulfmare’s Guide to Better Thievery. I read it while munching on the bread and radishes left on the table (To Oblivian with the risks!). The bread is crusty – the resident must have left long ago. It strikes me, as I lean back and put my feet up, that this must be a woman’s room. It’s far too clean to have a male resident, and the bed is too small for more than one person.
The thought of her returning gets me up and about. Two cups of tea sit next to the bread, one Jasmine and the other Rose Herbal tea. I hurriedly down both – neither travels well – and grab a pack left by the bed. Inside I find a rawhide belt. I have a thought – why not start my illustrious career right here, in this very room? I need clothes, and this room has a wardrobe. I yank it open and discover a worn Jack. It has the faint hum of magic about it, as though it has a spell cast upon it. But it’s much more attractive than the tattered Coldharbor shirt, so I swap it out for the midriff-revealing Jack. The rawhide belt goes atop it, and the empty pack over my shoulder. Inside the nightstand I find a small cork-stopped glass vial filled with red liquid. My sister forced me to read more books than I would have liked in the Imperial City, and this liquid I recognized from an introductory Alchemy text – a Health potion. I put it carefully into the pack. Also inside the nightstand was a piece of stone, which was either a rustic paperweight or something involved in blacksmithing. Since the extent of my knowledge on blacksmithing is hitting a piece of something with a hammer, and because of the sheer weight of the damn thing, I left it there. The third prize was a lockpick – which I obviously kept and put in my pocket (Funny, that whoever designed Molag Bal’s afterlife ensemble went with pockets. It seems much too convenient for a freezing hell of a world). Lastly, I “borrowed” the iron sword leaning up against the fireplace. The heavy Great Sword just isn’t my thing, and the smaller blade ties nicely to my new Rawhide belt.
Well! Things are looking up. Now my biggest concern is shoes. For some reason running across rocks and dirt freezing as ice yet hot as coals didn’t bother me, but here, in the wood-floored room, I am distinctly aware of it. Plus, I do not want the people outside thinking me a beggar. Not going down that path again. So where to find shoes…someone’s house, a store perhaps…