Friday, September 18, 2009

I’m the Dude Playing the Dude Disguised as Another Dude

A hilarious line from the movie ‘Tropic Thunder’, where Robert Downey Jr. is playing an actor playing a black soldier from the Vietnam war. It’s also an oddly relevant line to most of us as roleplayers. I’ve seen a lot of players come to The Sea of Storms over the years, who have started characters only to meander aimlessly, further and further from any semblance of character concept.

The idea of a character concept can be a little tricky for the average gamer. In almost all cases, we never need one for the other games we play. A character concept is who, what and why our character exists. Each of these helps to provide a better foundation for roleplaying our character and having direction. I’m sure you’ve seen it before, people who have characters seemingly driven by metagaming goals such as level 2 channeling, level 7 forms and ultimate power. In most cases, these characters are poorly roleplayed because they have no concept, they’re just vehicles for the player to reach those goals. The biggest pitfall with thinking this way is that the Sea of Storms is centered on roleplay. So, to enjoy the game and fulfill your goals, a player needs to roleplay well and enjoy it!

The first step to creating character concept is to take what you want to achieve as a player and put it into terms your character can understand. I think a good example is someone who wants to be in a lot of events, get forms, skills, and not be restricted to one city. These are pretty common desires from a player prospective. The good news is there are a lot of different character concepts that can attain these things. So to achieve these desires lets take a hunter for the horn, who has lived on the docks of Illian until he was in his early twenties. This gives us nationality, appearance, age, and a possible motivation to rise up out of the hard life of a dock rat. That is who our character is, a young man who worked the docks in Illian. 

Now what is our character? Well, having heard stories of glory and respect for the hunters of the past, he quickly drops his life as a dock hand when the hunt for the horn is called again. This gives us his view on his life. He finds the act of hunting for the horn a way to rise up out of his current life to gain fame and adventure. The character we have so far may have been thought of before, but just because it has been used before doesn’t mean the concept isn’t viable. You don’t need to break the mold every time and have a unique, one of a kind idea. In fact, you’ll probably come up with more bad ideas that way.

With our who and what in place we now need the why. It should be pretty simple with the who and what thought, we can surmise he had a boring life and wanted the piece of the glamour sung of in the stories. Maybe he had friends who joined the hunt and it goaded him into joining. Perhaps he borrowed money to buy gear and a horse to go hunting for the horn and now he has people from Illian looking for him to repay his debt. These are all ideas that give your character the why for his decisions and actions, such as learning forms to defend himself.

The above is a quick and dirty way to figure out a character concept that gives you as a player what you want in your character for roleplay. Another benefit of having a character concept is that Immortals love it. It’s so much easier to design events for people who have an established character concept that an event Imm can look at and understand. Character events also impress older players and make them more likely to give you those forms and skills you want because you’ve thought about roleplay not just code.

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