Oct 282013

As I prepare to start a brand new campaign, one of the things on my mind is how one goes about introducing their character to the rest of the group. I’m not concerned with where and how this meeting happens, as it is up to the GM to decide the specifics. For the record though, I really don’t mind the old faithful meeting in a tavern start to a game, there’s a reason that cliche has survived for so long.

What makes a character introduction important is that rather odd thing called a first impression. There are exceptions to this, but in most games, the time that you describe your character to the other players will be the first time you meet them. You will want to include the obvious physical description, but should you add more? It’s obvious that anyone meeting you will be able to roughly guess at your height and, unless you’re wearing heavy clothing, your build. They’ll know the colour and style of your clothing, and if you are carrying an obvious weapon, they should be able to guess at where your expertise lies should things get a little bit hairy.

Some other questions to ask yourself before starting this process is how well known your character is, and to whom. Are they a famed gladiator who has won their freedom? A safe cracker with a reputation only known to others in the trade, or  underworld gang leader who has managed to achieve a certain notoriety apart from with others who are in “the game”. Lets say for now that you’re playing a fantasy game though.

Your race will almost certainly be obvious, but your class or profession may not be, but would you want to hide it? True, being a thief is best not advertised to the general populace, but to fellow adventurers, it could be useful to let them know just how you’ll be earning your keep, and that there may be times when they have to watch your back more that if you were a straight up fighter. A magic user of any stripe should be noticeable in traditional games, but not always, and some times it’s a trick worth keeping up your sleeve.

What about your personality? Do you have a reputation around town for being a braggart or someone who is quick with their fists. Are you a Lothario or Don Juan, leaving a trail of broken hearts behind you? Are you fixer in town who is always happy to help if the price is right or a favour can be bartered?  Do you have enemies that are more powerful than you, and have they made it known that they’re willing to pay for your head before you get out of town?

So, now you have a good idea about what you’re going to divulge, but how do you do it? Even a game that takes place regularly around a table, with real dice being rolled and character sheets that are pencil on paper, there may be an element of online interaction that takes place. I have played games that have taken advantage of Obsidian Portal, but even without such a resource there are forums and G+ groups that can be used by players to share extra information or keep a track of In Character diaries and the like.

If you have such a resource, then it should be used. You can write up prose descriptions of your character’s physical description going into the kind of detail that would be problematic to do sat around the table. You can also find an appropriate image to use, or maybe even get an artistic friend to whip something up to share with everyone. The only pitfall to watch out for when introducing your character this way is keeping everything accurate when you then have to repeat stuff when you summarise to the players around the table. Don’t ever think that everyone will have read and digested your online introduction, so be prepared to fill everyone in around the table at the start of the first session.

Other than that, just have fun, and be prepared to have your character totally change by the end of the campaign.

Jul 172013
Click to download the free pdf of pre-generated characters for Victoriana 3rd Edition

Click to download the free pdf of pre-generated characters for Victoriana 3rd Edition

As mentioned yesterday, I have been working my way slowly through the latest edition of Cubicle 7‘s excellent work of Steampunk fantasy, Victoriana. This has slowed down a little due to being sent a new novel to read by Gollancz that I’ve been waiting almost seven years for. That being said, I took great pleasure today going through some pre-generated characters for the game in question.

Since I’m not that far through the rule book so far, I can’t go into too much detail, but what I have seen; I like. The little bio style write ups for each character are inventive and interesting, giving a wonderful insight into the world of Victoriana and the type of story that could take place there. Each character has its own hooks that could easily be extrapolated into a full adventure, but for now I’m just looking forward to taking a shot at some Spring Heeled Jack fun! With any luck I should get the chance to run this for a group by the end of summer, so will write up a full actual play report by then.

There’s still a little bit extra to to go, so come back tomorrow for some extra shiny. Until then, don’t forget to head over and grab a copy of the main book, which you’ll need to play with any of the freebies available so far.

Nov 192012

Not in real life, in real life I do kind of frown on evil. In RPGs though, it can be possible to have a great session, or even campaign, while playing a character whose actions are demonstrably evil. We’re not talking about anti-heroes here, or characters that skirt round some of life’s moral grey areas, we’re talking about terrible people and the things they do. I know it might seem counter-intuitive, but I hope that by the end of this article, you’ll see what I mean.

One of my favourite characters from literature is a total bastard. A liar, a thief, an adulterer, a coward and a bully. He mistreats everyone in his life if he can get away with it, and would do pretty much anything if there’s a way he could turn it to his advantage. The person to whom I refer is Harry Paget Flashman. Not everyone will have heard of him, but he is the star of over a dozen novels, and first appeared in the classic ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’. Everything I just attributed to him is true, and he has done a whole lot more besides, but he’s still a great character to read about. On top of his multitude of character flaws, he was also charming and polite, knew how to seduce women, and flatter those who were his social betters. He had a gift for languages, was a skilled horseman and a great cricketer. And from a story point of view, his life was never made that much easier because of his deplorable nature.

True, he rose to lofty heights because he was often the sole survivor of high profile exploits, but he hated every moment of it until then, and suffered greatly at the hands of his enemies. The stories he were part of were filled with him being terrified for his life and in constant danger, but you ended up routing for the swine. So much of what happened was his own fault, and he made it worse with almost every action he took, but you still wanted him to survive, just to see what the hell he’d get himself into – and try and talk his way out of – next. I have read all of the Flashman papers, and if it wasn’t for the fact that the author sadly passed away a few years back, I would be excitedly looking forward to the next installment.

This kind of character can work wonderfully in role playing games too. Just think about being a GM of a game that involved a player whose character was actively antagonising the NPCs they met, always trying to get ahead, or just wanting to enjoy being in a position of power so they could bully those beneath them. As long as they understood that there would be consequences of their actions – if they don’t understand that, you might want to have a word – then you get to keep pushing them deeper into your intrigue and plots as people stronger and more capable then the PC keep getting their revenge on the braggart.

As a player it can also be great fun, and a challenging role playing experience all at the same time. Only once have I played what could be considered a true evil character, and that was mostly due to playing in a game which used alignments  I want to go on record as saying that I’m not usually a fan of this kind of thing, much preferring to play characters that adapt their opinion easily based on a changing world. But my Lawful Evil cleric was a blast to play.

It was a world created by the DM, and all the PCs were playing dwarves. It was an insular monotheistic society, and as a culture we were realising we were not alone for the very first time. If you’re curious, we were being invaded by the elves. I had been wanting to play a cleric for a while, going down a battle preacher kind of route. When I was told it would be a monotheistic culture, I couldn’t resist. A stayed true to the letter of the law in everything I did, but made sure it benefited me without caring at all what it would mean to others. The poor were subjugated under my ministering, and I even took one of the other player characters as a slave because she had acted in an un-Godly fashion and sought redemption from her sins. All in all he was a nasty piece of work, but the other players put up with him, and were happy to have him on side.

There were two reasons for this. First, he was fighting on the side of his God, as were all the other players; if they towed the line, then they avoided my holy wrath. Secondly, I was charming as all hell. Offering praise where I thought it would serve me later on down the line, and making sure I was seen to be generous, as long as it didn’t actually cost me anything to do so. I would buff and heal the rest of the party when needed, just because it meant I had a better chance to survive. Come the final battle however, when all looked very grim indeed, I legged it. Just turned my back on the rest of them, and left them to their fates, cementing my place as the bad guy of the entire plot, as they died to a man dwarf jack of them.

So you see, played right – and neither hammed up or just going for a pure psychopath - it can be great fun playing an evil character. Just be prepared to suffer the consequences of your actions, unless you’re very good indeed at covering your back. Very very good indeed.