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V's guide to making a believable character

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Verannion
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Joined: 29 Dec 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2010 11:59 pm Post subject: V's guide to making a believable character Reply with quote

Disclaimer: This is not, in any way, to be interpreted as my attempt to dictate how anyone should/should not roleplay: it is merely a collection of thoughts which, if adhered to, I consider to be signs of believable characters/plausible backstories.

Part 1: The facepalm heard around the world.

I shouldn't actually have to write this bit, but it seems to me that I should guard myself against any indiscretions. Far too often do I see people who are dragons/demons/vampires/werewolves/Tom Cruise, and it just DOES NOT WORK. First of all, because some of these things don't exists in lore (Tom Cruise, vampires), some would be killed on sight (werewolves, demons) and some are so incredibly easy to fail at (dragons). Also very common are people who claim relationships, both romantic and platonic, to major lore characters, such as being the lovechild of Jaina and Thrall, or the mentor of Varian Wrynn. We play a game within the game, and as with any game, there are rules.

So I begin with this: What are you? If your answer is any of the above stereotypes, read on. If not, skip ahead to part 2.

What you must ask yourself here is, is it plausible for you to be what you are? One famous case deals with an orc who claimed to be a grandchild of Kilrogg Deadeye. This is possible, but for the fact that we know Kilrogg had a small army of descendants, and it's not impossible some have survived. But the more common thing to see is direct connections. This is not, usually, credible: You could not be the child of, say, Tyrande, because she has no children. At all. We know this, and it punches a large hole in your story right there. Another flaw we often see is the time aspect of these stories. Oh, you're the child of Thrall and Jaina? That makes you, let's see, yeah, nine years old, as you would have been concieved after the events of The Frozen Throne.

Second: Who are you? If you're gonna stick to being a dragon (in disguise or not), it is not very likely that you would live out your days drinking at the Pig and Whistle. You probably have more pressing issues than getting wasted with the Old Town lowlives. And if you're adamant about being related to/connected to major lore characters, why is it they don't seem to know who you are? If you're the fruit of a famous persons relationship, why aren't you also famous? Because you would most likely be hailed as the future king of Ironforge/warchief of the Horde/son of the Lich King.

The main point of this part is: Is it plausible for you to be what/who you claim to be? Regardless, move on to step 2.

Part 2: Realism sucks/rocks!

If you've gotten this far you are hopefully no longer the son of Uther. This part of the guide will deal with the world of Azeroth; what it contains, and what people are capable of.

Something that is often forgotten in the roleplay I've come across is that Azeroth is, in fact, a large place. I mean HUGE. Really, it's the whole world. To illustrate my point, consider Goldshire. In-game, we know Goldshire consists of an inn, a blacksmith and a rather large house in the outskirts, as well as a merchants cart. In lore, through Lands of Conflict, we know Goldshire to be the home of 7000 people, mostly farmers, miners and traders. Sounds a bit much to cram into two houses, doesn't it? We have to remember that there are essentially two Azeroths: the in-game one, limited by graphics engines and technical stoofs, and the lore one, limited by nothing. Well, not nothing, but almost. More on this later.

This brings to mind the question of which world is the "proper" one. Of course, there can be definitive answer to this, but in order to make roleplay, and immersion, have any depth, we must accept the more expansive world: the one where there are 7000 people living in the village Goldshire, and not 7000 intellectually challenged people living and cybering in the one building with beds. The result of this is that you have a much wider variety of places to choose as your origins. If there are 7000 people living in Goldshire, then it's likely Miner Joe one day took a swing at those pesky kobolds and found the warriors way. Similarily, Sentinel Jane could have easily been posted in Auberdine and never met the guards that currently patrol the town.

So what about limitations? I always assume regular physics work in Azeroth. What are the implications of this? It means Ex-Minder, now warrior Joe probably can't lift that elekk over there, no matter how strong he is, since he's likely to be crushed under it if he actually manages to lift it above his head. Similarily, this means limitations to what casters can endure. Remember that geek in your high school class? The one everyone bullied because he couldn't defend himself in a fight? Yeah, that guy grew up to become an awesome warlock, who commands the very forces of the nether, tortures souls for his own sick pleasure...

...and still can't defend himself in a fight, because he stayed inside and read grimoires instead of working out. See how that works? While casters of all kinds are incredibly powerful, it's almost all offense, and they still go out like a light if you knock 'em over the head.

The point of this part, then, is to point out the difference between what we call "game mechanics", which allow warrior Joes armor to not melt when hit by a fireball, and mage Johann to take a stab through the heart, and "lore mechanics", in which warrior Joe is a pile of ash and mage Johann has a headache beause he spent all his energy casting a fireball. And dead, because he didn't see that orc that crept up behind him and flicked him on the back of the head so hard it flew off. (Orcs are freakishly strong). While I realize it's a fantasy game we play, please take some care to not give your characters powers they could not possibly have. Too many mages that get stabbed are agile and quick enough to dodge the blade in the last second, and too many warriors think they can take a small sun to the chest without getting hurt as it is.

Part 3: Wherein we meet Bob.

But enough about what you can and cannot do.What -will- you do? Often when I recite my characters stories people tell me they could never come up with something like that. Well, it's actually a lot easier than it looks. To demonstrate, I've brought in my friend Bob.

Derp.

...as you can see, Bob isn't a very interesting character. But that's because you don't know Bob yet. In fact, you don't even know what he looks like... Hmm. Bob sounds like a human name, so lets make him a human.

Derp.

Unfortunately, being human didn't do much to help his conversational skills. This is becasue Bob, as yet, have nothing to talk about. Mostly this is because he's an idiot, but also, because he currently has no background or personality. In an effort to remedy this, we will start building the character Bob. The first thing we'll do, since he already has a name and appearance, is to give him what we call "defining traits".

Defining traits are divided into two categories: Physical and Mental. Physical traits are often overused to the point of absurdity in an effort to make characters special. (raise your hand if you've never seen a flagRSP description without a scar). These traits often include scars, eyecolour, haircolour, voice, and other things that may or may not be absolutely obvious from looking at your toon. Let's give Bob some scars.

Ouch!

Now Bob has a scar - or will have, at least, when the wound heals. What we don't know, however, is where he got the scar. This is, again, something often overlooked. The colour of your eyes and hair may not need further explanation, but some things, like scars, missing body parts and odd jewelry may. So who hurt Bob? I think it was an orc.

Stupid greenskin!

As you can see, Bob is no longer a fan of orcs. In fact, he now HATES orcs!

Bob smash green people!

But surely one little wound doesn't warrant such burning hatred? No, you're right, it doesn't. But this isn't the first time orcs have hurt Bob in some way. In fact, Bob is an orphan because he grew up during the second war and some pillaging orcs killed his parents. This instilled in Bob a distaste for the green savages that he clings to to this day. This is called a BACKGROUND. backgrounds are essentially what happened to your character prior to your popping up in Northshire/Aldrassil/Anvilmar/whatever on that fateful day when he/she took his first steps into the bigger world. This far too often inludes your family being murdered. There are a number of questions to ask yourself when writing background. Chief of these if "when?"; make sure your background fits the timeline, or you might end up with a five year-old night elf or angsty teen draenei. It's not pretty. But you will also need to ask yourself questions like "how did it impact him", which will give you answers that correlate to your MENTAL traits, such as Bobs hatred for orcs.

But what exactly is a mental trait? You might, somewhat simplified, say that these are the things that directly influence your characters dialouge ( for example stuttering, accents), personality (cheerful, makes friends easily) and general disposition (grumpy bastard hates everyone) against the world. But even here we see the need for explanations, even more so than with the physical traits. If there is only one lesson you want to take with you from this guide, it's this one: Always ask yourself WHY you character has/does what he does. As we know, Bob hates orcs because they killed his family and gave him that hideous scar. That's what has happened thus far. Where people go wrong with these things is that they stagnate. They stop developing their character. This is, again, easy to fix. What we want to do now is give Bob some GOALS.

I'm gonna go kill greenskins in Arathi!

Now Bob has a goal. This goal, killing orcs, is directly tied to Bob's mental traits (he hates orcs)m and his background (he wants revenge for his family). What we now have, is a STORYLINE. So far we don't know if Bob will succeed in killing orcs, or even getting to Arathi.

Oooh, shiny butterfly!

That's great Bob. Of course, the story can develop even after Bob has left. He might get sidetracked, or after meeting an orc on the battlefield, may find out they're not so different as he thought. The point to make is that a character doesn't have to stop because a plot does. The question to ask yourself here is "Then what?" Theoretically, this can be done in absurdum, but I advise to ending storylines in due time and start others. Of course if you've got a good one, keep it going, but make sure it doesn't also stagnate or blow out of proportion. No one likes the guy who just got stabbed by his evil twin to go around the world looking for his father.

Da Rules!

I started this guide by mentioning rules. The enlightened among you will know that no rule is derived from divine authority: rules work because we want them to. But you may also work with the rules to get what you want. But what are the rules?

What we essentially do when we RP in a preset world is write very elaborate fanfiction. You can do practically anything with your characters as long as it doesn't go against the original storyline. If it does, then you have stopped writing fanfiction/roleplaying, and started yor own book.

Of course, this is something you might do out of ignorance or by accident. But there are also lesser rules, local to societies of RPers, that you may want to know about. For example many roleplayers frown on such things as relationships to lore characters, even if they might be plausible, and outright refuses to RP with people claiming to be a dragon/demon/werewolf/vampire/Tom Cruise in disguise. Now I'm not saying that you should rewrite your entire background to fit other peoples tastes, but keep in mind that a backstory that is too extravagant, or doesn't have enough "quality" RP to make up for it may make RPers you wish to have contact with shun you.

As always, I welcome comments and questions. If you have any, please send a PM and I will try to answer/reply.

V out.
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Any man's death diminishes me, because I am invested in humanity, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee - John Donne


Last edited by Verannion on Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:30 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Kailania
Vaelastrasz


Joined: 20 Nov 2009
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:48 am Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
some would be killed on sight (werewolves)


Well, for the time being, anyway. Razz
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Thalos
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 1:44 am Post subject: Re: V's guide to making a believable character Reply with quote

Verannion wrote:

The main point of this part is: Is it plausible for you to be what/who you claim to be?


If everyone talking in /g lived by this we'd have far more enjoyable rp and less god mode power emoting, for sure...
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Shiila
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:19 am Post subject: Reply with quote

Lovely so far :D
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pryscilla
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 1:08 pm Post subject: Reply with quote

ah, tom cruise, that legendary boss. a veritable cocktail of controvesy, but i reckon with a few good men we can take him down. it's not exactly a mission: impossible, but it is a risky business, although i reckon we've got enough young guns capable of doing all the right moves to take him down. i hear he drops the BiS hunter weapon, the top gun, and if it's collateral you're after then i reckon he drops enough for you to see the colour of money. this is it, flames, we'll travel far and away and fight the war of the worlds, and these... will be our days of thunder.

but if the weather's bad, we'll call it off due to rain, man.
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Sejavictrix
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 1:14 pm Post subject: Reply with quote

pryscilla wrote:
ah, tom cruise, that legendary boss. a veritable cocktail of controvesy, but i reckon with a few good men we can take him down. it's not exactly a mission: impossible, but it is a risky business, although i reckon we've got enough young guns capable of doing all the right moves to take him down. i hear he drops the BiS hunter weapon, the top gun, and if it's collateral you're after then i reckon he drops enough for you to see the colour of money. this is it, flames, we'll travel far and away and fight the war of the worlds, and these... will be our days of thunder.

but if the weather's bad, we'll call it off due to rain, man.


Win.
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Perlin
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:43 pm Post subject: Reply with quote

pryscilla wrote:
ah, tom cruise, that legendary boss. a veritable cocktail of controvesy, but i reckon with a few good men we can take him down. it's not exactly a mission: impossible, but it is a risky business, although i reckon we've got enough young guns capable of doing all the right moves to take him down. i hear he drops the BiS hunter weapon, the top gun, and if it's collateral you're after then i reckon he drops enough for you to see the colour of money. this is it, flames, we'll travel far and away and fight the war of the worlds, and these... will be our days of thunder.

but if the weather's bad, we'll call it off due to rain, man.


You win the internetz!
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Verannion
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:30 pm Post subject: Reply with quote

Final parts are up. Enjoy!
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Any man's death diminishes me, because I am invested in humanity, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee - John Donne
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Kailania
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 9:07 pm Post subject: Reply with quote

One thing about realism and the scope of the RP world versus the game world that I found many people ignored. As V said, Azeroth is HUGE. It may only take 10 or so minutes to fly from Booty Bay in Stranglethorn to Light's Hope Chapel in the Eastern Plaguelands, but IC, such a trek would take several days on Gryphon-back, and several months on foot. Likewise, a ship journey can also take several weeks to a month or two-three. Especially if you travel from continent to continent and have to navigate around that gaping maw of death that's known as the Maelstrom.

Cities are also much smaller in-game than they are IC. For Stormwind, I take about the size of Bruges, my home town, which was quite a large city back in ye olde medieval times. The walls are now gone, but their foundations are preserved, giving me an exact idea how large the city was (and is at the time). Now, on foot, it takes me roughly 40 minutes to cross the city in a straight line (as straight as the street pattern allows, that is) from north to south. I suggest we take this as the same distance as from the SI:7 HQ to the moonwell in the park.

I write this because I always get peeved at how people underestimate distances and the time it takes to cross them. If you leave in Stormwind for Darnassus because there's a Horde raid going on, chances are real that raid will be over by the time your ship leaves the continent.

Only exceptions is teleportation and portals, which are instant. This should increase the value of mage and warlock characters when you include long-distant travel in your stories.

[/rant]
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Vanderwilde
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2010 12:40 pm Post subject: Reply with quote

This is neat, V. Helps alot. Now if there would be more guildRP it would be even more awesome.
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Kili
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2010 1:43 pm Post subject: Reply with quote

Kailania wrote:

I write this because I always get peeved at how people underestimate distances and the time it takes to cross them. If you leave in Stormwind for Darnassus because there's a Horde raid going on, chances are real that raid will be over by the time your ship leaves the continent.

Only exceptions is teleportation and portals, which are instant. This should increase the value of mage and warlock characters when you include long-distant travel in your stories.


I would add an advisory note here. Check the Lord of the Rings and how long it took them to travel from place to place. Specificly take a look at how long it took Aragorn to go from Rohan to Minas Tirith during which time the battle had already started. also look at the comparative speeds of the Riders of Rohan. i.e. it takes longer than you think to lay siege to Minas Tirith (Stormwind) and Horses can move quite quickly at need.

The other thing that concerns me is comparative power roleplay. On the one hand many role players play to take the part of Aragorn or Wolverine and in a long pen & paper RPG campaign I'd encourage it. At level 11 in D&D I'd be looking to fighters to be around the level of experience and ability of Boromir and Faramir. It's the story that makes them look epic (and the contrast between men and hobbits). On the other hand these things shouldn't happen all the time. They should happen at a climax in an event. As a raiding guild we have natural lulls when we start a new raid instance but when we get to the end boss then there should be an appropriate climax and yes when 10 people defeat the Lich King then it should feel suitably epic.

Like it or not our characters exist in a world of supernatural powers. Shadow Priests change form and Kili can turn his skin to stone and then there are the druids. However writing yourself into a corner with cosmic powers is something that even the best writers have problems with. That's why Marvel comic's Jean Grey (the Pheonix) has died so many times; her powers are so unwieldy that in practical terms she should be invincible and so she has to be written out regularly. While there are often plot devices that involve a special weapon or ability that can kill Wolverine.

If you want to see how messed up it can get I strongly reccomend the Planet Hulk and World War Hulk Comics. It delt with how the Hulk (who is the strongest thing in the Marvel Universe) was sent away from Earth and then came back and how he couldn't be defeated. What it shows for role-players is that there never is an end to the cycle of conflict no matter where you are in the scale. This is handled well by the raid cyle so that even after defeating one of the Old Gods -Yogg Saron- we will still have a challenge to defeat Lord Marrowgar.

This then leads to asking "in what capacity are you rolepalying?" Is it in a raid cycle or just talking in Stormwind? So my question for Verannion would be:

"what are the usual settings for player driven RP arcs in MMOs?"

And for the larger RP team:

"what elements of the game would you incorporate into guild RP?"

For myself I have greatly enjoyed the cycles of raid RP involving Thalos and Dorgan and Solath and the Ebon Flame as a "mystery cult", and then I have loved some of Fen's in chat guild hall dramas which hinted at gmae mechanics but weren't explicit.

((sorry for the wall of text))
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Verannion
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2016 8:21 pm Post subject: Reply with quote

*Casts resurrect thread* Lel.
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Materalus
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2016 8:40 pm Post subject: Reply with quote

Good read!
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