Sometimes a quadratic alignment just doesn’t go far enough. Without a strong enough understanding of your PC, moral dilemmas and crises provided by your GM can turn into actual role-playing problems for you the player! Here some great questions to ask yourself when designing a character to provide you with a better foundation for your adopted in-game persona!
Why am I adventuring?
This is an essential background question for any PC, and one that I always ask my players when starting a new group. No matter what setting or genre of game you’re running, characters (PCs or NPCs) who spend the majority of their time roaming around rather than holding down a steady job are usually the exception rather than the rule. Consider whether your PC is driven to adventure by fame, riches, righteousness, or some other motivator.
What do my friends say about me?
What things about your PC stand out to friends and loved ones? This should include both positives and negatives – ie. things they admire and respect along with what makes them cringe or worry about you. Keep in mind, these answers can differ a great deal from what your PC thinks his/her friends would say.
What do my enemies say about me?
What things about your PC stand out to enemies or those who dislike you? Just like the previous question, this should include positives and negatives – ie. things they are jealous of or contend with along with weaknesses they could criticize or exploit. Similarly, these answers won’t necessarily be the same as what your PC thinks his/her enemies think of them.
What is one issue I never back down about?
What is one topic or issue that will always cause your PC to react. This could be anything from “My family’s honour” to “Environmentalism” or even simply “Personal freedom,” and can elicit responses ranging from silent frustration to bar-brawling rage. Answering this question with “Nothing” is not only just as valid but equally telling in character terms – it’s only a certain and rare type of person who can maintain such an apathetic nature!
What would I do with 1,000,000 gp/credits/USD?
What are the first or most important three things your PC would purchase if funds were not an issue? Consider sharing these answers openly with your GM as he/she may use this information to cater certain adventure hooks or rewards to your PC’s desires!
PC goals can be usefully distinguished as either discrete (ex. finding a long-lost relative) or ongoing (ex. helping the poor). Come up with one or two discrete and ongoing goals at character creation and be sure to discuss them with your GM so they can be directly incorporated into your sessions. Keep in mind that your goals shift and evolve over time.
How does your character like to spend their free time? Think about both short, medium, and long intervals of time off from adventures and quests – a few hours off between objectives, a 2-3 day holiday, or a 2-3 month respite from adventuring. Understanding down-time is a great way to further develop a PC’s broader priorities and motivations.
How your character envisions their ideal retirement can be very telling as to their personal values and ideals. Think about whether your PC would prefer to make a living in the country or the city, what skills or hobbies would they like to take up or devote more time to, or whether they have any interest in getting involved with politics or other institutions/organizations.
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