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Role PlayMay 2, 2015 2:00 pm CT

Role Play: The basics of story creation

Story creation for a brand new character can be one of the most entertaining parts of roleplaying — deciding what you want to play, and who you want that character to be. It’s also one of the most daunting tasks a roleplayer can undertake, because,  for a new roleplayer, it might not be really clear how to go about the process. When we roleplay, we’re creating a character and pretending to be that character, for better or for worse, playing out their lives in relation to others and the events of the world around them.

When I use the term ‘story’ in reference to a roleplaying character, I’m talking about that character’s history and life. They didn’t simply begin to exist the second you confirmed their existence on the character creation screen. That character you just threw together isn’t a baby, they weren’t just born, they’re however old you’ve decided to make them. You don’t start living your life at age 18-25 — you had plenty of events when you were young that helped shape who you are today. Along the same lines, characters should have at least a vague history that shaped who they are.

To that end, there’s a pretty simple process to figuring out the basics of story creation — asking yourself a series of questions in regards to your character, and coming up with reasonable answers for those questions.

Forsaken_TCGWho/What

Who is your character? Who did they grow up with — siblings, friends, a loving family? Were they an orphan? Who does your character look up to in their life — who are their role models? Did your character grow up in high ranked society, or among the poor? Characters that grew up alone are likely to have a different disposition than characters that grew up surrounded by loved ones. Who a character looks up to or admires shapes how they act in relation to other people, whether in regards to what types of tasks and work they like to do, or just how they hold simple conversations with people. Is your character friendly, outspoken, sullen and quiet?

What is their name, is it an important family name, or did their parents just like the sound of the syllables? What race are they? What were the circumstances when they were growing up — did they have any particular hardships they lived through? Looking back on the roleplaying timelines we’ve gone over will help establish what your character has and hasn’t lived through, what they’ve likely seen so far in their lives. What do they do — what class are they? What do they look forward to, in their lives or on a daily basis? What do they dislike? What do they hold dear? What are they up to — what are they trying to accomplish with their life?

A character is the sum of all their experiences. What do you want your character to ultimately be? Who they are, who they grew up with, who they choose to surround themselves with are all important factors in pinning down just who that character is. What that character is up to in the world is just as important — because who they are, what they have experienced will pave the way for who they are going to be. A loner who grew up with no family and friends isn’t exactly the type of person to seek out a leadership role. A character surrounded by happy people and pleasant circumstances the majority of their life is going to act very differently in matters of conflict and chaos than someone who grew up in a life of constant turmoil.

orcsvshumansWhere/How

Where did your character grow up? Where did they come from? Where do they like to go to unwind after a long day? Where is the last place in the world they’d ever like to go? Where do they see themselves in five years? In ten? Where would they be most comfortable settling down? Where would they like to retire someday? Where do they go if they want to be social — is there a particular inn they like better than any other? Where do they call home, do they have an established home somewhere on Azeroth, or is home wherever they happen to be?

How old is your character? How did they get where they are today? How do they decide what they’re going to do on any given day — do they take orders from someone, or do they make that decision for themselves? How do they get ready for the day — do they have a morning routine that they follow with exact precision, or do they just throw themselves out of bed and out the door? How do they look at the world around them, do they see the world as a place that is mostly good, or mostly bad? How do they handle intense situations? Do they break down under pressure, or thrive under stress?

Your character’s origins are important — where they are from is just as apt to shape them as who they are. A human from Gilneas is going to be very different from a human that grew up in Stormwind, simply due to the history of both areas. An orc from Draenor is going to have a very different mentality than an orc that was born or grew up in internment camps. How they got to where they are today is also a good indicator of the type of personality that character is likely to have. A character that has suffered through hardships is apt to have a very different perspective on the world than one who grew up surrounded by wealth and high society.

draeneiprotector_siakim_devartWhy

This is the big question, and its answer should directly reflect everything else that you’ve come up with so far. Who a person is, what they are, where they grew up, how old they are, how they view the world all leads into why. Why is your character out in the world? Why are they doing errands for random people? Why are they traveling Azeroth, why aren’t they simply taking up residence in a city and calling it good? Why, as they say in Pandaria, do they fight? Or, if they’re a healer, why do they heal? Why did they choose the class you’ve made them — be that a priest, rogue, druid, or any other class?

There are no “right” answers to any of these questions. What you’re looking for here is a past that makes sense, given the character you want to play. If you want to play a sullen loner, then giving them a happy back story isn’t really going to logically lead into the life that they’ve chosen — unless something happened along the way that pushed them to that path. If you want to play a hero, that character should have some kind of reason they chose that heroic path, something that pushed them into wanting to make the world a better and safer place. If you want to play a villain, there’s likely a reason they’ve fallen down that path as well.

Your character’s past isn’t something that is automatically going to come up a lot in roleplay. It’s not something your character really needs to discuss with every person they meet. This exercise isn’t so much for the benefit of other players as it is for yourself — to help you understand who that person you created really is, and how best to going about playing them. What sort of reactions would come naturally to your character, what they would struggle with in terms of making decisions or even social interactions. What they’re comfortable doing, and what lines they’ll never cross.

Now that you’ve got some basics for who your character is, in essence, it’s a good time to go back to those timelines we’ve been discussing, and take a closer look at the history of those particular races and how that relates to your character. Next week, we’ll talk more about pinpointing history, and how to naturally work that history into your character’s life.

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