The Chicken Or The Egg

7 posts / 0 new
Last post
MinusInnocence
MinusInnocence's picture
The Chicken Or The Egg

When developing a character concept, what is your process like? Do you imagine a person with a background and personality and then ascribe game stats to that model? Do you start with a race, class and crunchy concept ("A dwarven barbarian/rogue with an urgrosh and all the Two Weapon Fighting feats." for example) and try to figure out what he/she/it is like as a person after the character sheet is complete? What other factors might influence the design of your ultimate product? Do you care at all what everyone else is playing?

For DMs, is that process different at all when designing an NPC or monster?

Talanall
Talanall's picture

I've been playing so long that when I'm a player, the character usually just comes to me in one big chunk that I then write down and tune to fit the campaign. Usually I want to know what everyone else is playing, especially if I am a latecomer and am in a position to plug up a gap, but if I'm first in line, I take that as an excuse to play whatever I feel like.

As a DM, it's about the same when I am preparing an NPC. There is almost always a plot thread that I think out in some detail, usually in the form of a decision tree or flowchart. A particular NPC normally comes out of my effort to find a cog in the machine that will process some part of that chart, and then make that cog into a person.

Monsters almost always rise out of a decision along the lines of, "You know what this setting needs? A troll crossbred with an octopus and a frog! Tentacles, hurrah!"

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Fixxxer
Fixxxer's picture

Usually I try to decide first what archetype I'd like to play. If I'm in the mood to play a warrior or a spellslinger or a sneak, etc. Once I figure out what the general type of play will be, I then move on to mental method acting, trying to get into the character's head a bit. It's less about who he is and what he's done as it is how he fights, how he might react to certain situations, that sort of thing. With the mechanics finished, I write out the history, which informs me of the remaining bits of personality that I haven't already committed to.

MinusInnocence
MinusInnocence's picture

I think I have a catalogue of archetypes in the back of my head ready to pick from, because I play so infrequently. Because I'm flexible I prefer to consult with the other players, or pick last, if it's at the beginning of the game; and if not, I still try to accomodate what everyone else is doing or thinking about doing in the future. For me, the background and all of that stuff definitely comes last, unless it's not just an archetype but a revision of an old character as a whole that I'm working with.

In the first 3E campaign I ever ran, the villain, Valthorn, was a half-dragon warlord with a warhammer. I have played multiple versions of him in the past: usually a paladin who would eventually fall to temptation and become a Blackguard, if at all possible. He's the kind of guy that sort of thing happens to. Rust Cohle from True Detective would say it will continue happening to him over and over again, because time is a flat circle.

Fixxxer
Fixxxer's picture

MinusInnocence wrote:
Rust Cohle from True Detective would say it will continue happening to him over and over again, because time is a flat circle.

I actually thought about you a bit while watching season 1.

MinusInnocence
MinusInnocence's picture

The dialogue in that first season, particularly the exchanges between Rust and Marty and Rust's monologues in the interrogation room, is probably some of the best I have ever seen or heard. It's definitely the strongest writing for a character (not necessarily the plot, which is also quite good, but that's a separate skillset altogether) on television.

Fixxxer
Fixxxer's picture

His portrayal of that character was enough to get him hired -without a reading- to play the part of Randall Flagg in the Dark Tower film adaptation.