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Role Play 101: Character Building Part 1 – Personality

By: Qai

These were originally written while role playing in WoW, but all of the general concepts and advice still very much apply. Even if you've been role playing for years, there are some things in here will likely help you develop even further.

There are a total of thirteen topics that will be covered in this guide, discusses in the following order:

Role Play 101: Character Building Part 1 – Personality

Role Play 101: Character Building Part 2 – Background

Role Play 101: Character Building Part 3 – Appearance

Role Play 101: Character Building Part 4 – Weaknesses

Role Play 101: Character Building Part 5 – Believability & Summary

Role Play 101: Role Play Etiquette

Tips and Tricks for More Specialized Role Play

Role Play 101: Emote Crafting

Role Play 101: The Difference Between “Looking For Contact” And “Waiting For Contact”

Drama in RP: How much is too much?

Romance in RP: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Role Play 101: The Power of Denial

Role Play 101: How to Shake the Role Play Blahs


While I take no credit for writing this guide, I cannot actually name the person who wrote it. It is a handbook that has been passed around for a little over 9 years now, the authors have changed (or at least user names) many times over. Though I thought it would be good to share for those who do actively or are interested in role playing.

Role Play 101: Character Building Part 1 – Personality

So you want to create a role play character. You want this character to be interesting, be attractive, be loved by those around, have others to interact with regularly, etc. How do you go about it?

Because building a good character is such a far reaching topic, I will break it down into a series of articles to make for easier reading.

Fun

Everyone wants their character to be fun to play. If the character isn’t fun then what is the point in logging in and slogging through the levels? I’m sure we’ve all created a number of alts then abandoned them for various reasons simply because they were not fun.

First thing you need to look at is what do you find fun? Do you like being by yourself or being in large groups? Do you like one on one interaction? Do you like funny, light-hearted RP or do you like more serious and dramatic? All of these must be considered when building a character.

Interest

Everyone wants to have an interesting character. After all, if the character isn’t interesting then what is the point in having him or her around? There are several factors that play into whether a character is interesting or not; Personality, Appearance, Believability, Weaknesses, and Background. These are just boiled down because sometimes factors overlap but this is a good starting point.

Let’s Talk About Personality

Try to create a personality that not only you can enjoy playing but one that others enjoy interacting with. That is if you want interaction with others. If the character bites, insults, or otherwise abuses others about them for no apparent reason and with great frequency, you’ll soon find yourself without anyone to interact with. This goes for drama llamas too. (See definition below). Now I’m not saying every character has to be Polly Pureheart, but they should have enough redeeming qualities that there is something to bring others back to play.

First generalization you need to consider is do you want to play a good guy or a bad guy? This may seem like a silly thing to consider, but it is the beginning point of your personality. Don’t worry, there are bad guy characters that are cool beyond belief and others certainly do want to interact with them.

Good Guys: First off, not all good guys are of the Polly Pureheart variety. By being a “good” guy, that could be as simple as someone who works hard, helps others, brings food to their sick aunt Patty. Then there are the extreme good guys. The paladins devoted to the Light that sacrifice themselves on a weekly basis to save that kitten trapped in Stratholme. If you’re going to play a good guy, you need to think about the level of the character’s goodness.

Now, as with many things, there are areas of gray. Not everything is black and white. Perhaps the character is mostly good in that they do not try to actively harm innocents. They try to be good but sometimes what may seem good to them is not so good to others. During the course of play, these types of situations will also help shape the character.

Here is an example from in-game lore. Illidan. Is he good or is he bad? Does he believe what he is doing in right? Does his belief in the rightness of it make it right or is it still wrong? Kael’thas is another example.

Bad Guys: Not all bad guys have to be of the kitten-eating demon variety. Someone who is greedy or a bit of a megalomaniac can be considered a bad guy. Perhaps it is someone who feels they have no choice in what they do. It doesn’t mean they are not a fun character just because they are a bad guy.

Some bad guys are obviously bad, but they are so cool and suave about it we continue to be drawn to them. I use Dr. Doom from Marvel Comics as an example of a cool bad guy. He’s bad, he’s a megalomaniac, and he wants to kill the Fantastic Four… a lot. But he’s cool. If you can create a bad guy with the element that leaves others saying “Wow. That character is bad… but cool!” you’ve created a good bad guy.

Common Personality Traps: When creating your character, there are a few common personality traps that you should try to avoid, otherwise you may have others rolling their eyes at your character or just avoiding it all together.

Mr. /Ms. Perfect: The character that is so pure, so heroic, so sweet, so loving and so GORGEOUS that everyone should lust after them and want to be their friend/lover/pet/champion.

Nobody is that perfect. Others like to interact with characters they can in some way identify with. Why do they roll their eyes at Mr. Perfect? Because he is not believable. Disbelief cannot be suspended with this type of character because they do not exist in life.

Superbad: Superbad is a character so evil they eat kittens on their Cheerios, happily slaughter their way through Stormwind on a daily basis and steal Ol’ Emma’s water bucket just for laughs. In general, they treat everyone around them like crap.

This one should be self-explanatory. Who wants to interact with someone that treats everyone around them so badly? Where’s the fun in that? If people enjoyed being treated like crap they’d go back to High School! Even bad guys need some redeeming qualities.

Drama Llama: “Oh my life is so tragic! It is more tragic than yours could ever be! There is nothing that could ever be done to make my life less tragic! And nobody else cares!”

/eyeroll Yep. Nobody else cares. You know why? Because the drama llama seeks only for everyone else to fawn over her while she whines and wallows in misery. How is that fun for anyone but the llama? Others expending their energy trying to make someone feel better or help them out and that person continues to wallow. Eventually people run out of energy to expend and go off to do something fun.

The one factor these types have in common is extremes. Anything taken to extremes gets real old, real fast. A good character has a balanced personality. A good character is not only fun for the player, but fun for those around as well.



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