Hello there, Girl Scouts!
I absolutely love role playing games, also known as RPGs. I’ve played often and I think it helps girls with teamwork, storytelling, and thinking outside the box as well as overall imagination. Once you find an RPG group (Hot tip: check your local library for groups), you get to make your character.
I absolutely love making RPG characters. I create characters daily, either in my own head or on paper. But as I talk with others, I find that not everyone knows where to start when creating their very own flesh-and-blood (or robotic!) tabletop RPG character.
In this article, I will run you through how I make a character, step- by-step! I’ll even share how I created one of my longest-running “Dungeons and Dragons” characters, Kaitlin, so you can see my thought process when I create a character.
Step 1. Select a basic idea to base your character on first. I like to find a job or an idea from the world of the game to use as my base. If none of the options in your world inspires you, you can think instead about what your group needs. For example, if your group doesn’t have a healer yet, your character could be a healer.
Kaitlin was created because I had already created a character that used spells. I wanted to go in a new direction, so I created a fighter. It made sense for Kaitlin to be in the army, since that’s a common way for fighters to get their training. Her connection to the army also created some important bonds with other characters, which we will be talking about later.
Step 2. Come up with a twist for that character! I find that if you choose a typical job/stereotype, it can seem bland if you don’t add a little variety. Think about a behavior or action that the typical person in that position wouldn’t think of doing, then make it so they had/have to do it.
For instance, Kaitlin wanted to prove herself by becoming a member of the Royal Guard. However, she didn’t have any training and was absolutely terrible at fighting. As a last resort, Kaitlin sold her soul to a demon that granted her strength and an innate knowledge of fighting. She climbed the ranks of the guard very quickly, but they eventually found out what she had done and kicked her out of the military altogether. Now Kailin’s roaming around the land, trying to find a way to salvage her reputation before the demon comes to claim her soul.
Step 3. Let’s get physical! The intricacies of this step can vary greatly, but the main idea is to select your character’s gender, race, and size, choose a name, and figure out what your character looks like. You could draw your character, you could write out a description, or you could even look online for pictures! This order you take these steps and the level of detail you finalize all depend on your personal preference. This step often blends with the character’s backstory, so don’t worry if you start thinking about these two pieces simultaneously.
Kaitlin was a name I loved when I created this character. I originally named her “Katelyn,” but I thought that version wasn’t sharp enough. I wanted her to sound like a normal person, but have her name look abnormal and piercing, like an interesting sword, when it was written. Many other details were tied to her race—Kaitlin is a human but I wanted her to know Dwarves well and understand how strong they are. Her admiration of the strength of Dwarves was the impetus for Kaitlin to want to become strong. I made Kaitlin an Illuskan, a race of humans that lives in the mountains. They have black, red or blonde hair; I wanted Kaitlin to be a “fair maiden” so I gave her blonde hair and pale skin. She’s also 5’11”, since she lived on a farm and ate lots of healthy food as a child.
Step 4. Think about your character’s interesting traits and personality. I like to determine my character’s traits in a specific order. This order works for me - find the order that works best for you! First, I think about my character’s personality, then I detail the reasons why my character has those traits. You can flip this order if it feels more comfortable for you. To flesh out your character, think about how your character would act in different situations. One option to help you consider different facets of your character’s personality is to look up writing prompts and think about how your character would react. Also think of some anecdotes your character would tell others if the conversation lulled (or if they would tell them at all!), and some nervous tics your character has. Make sure to streamline the drama in their backstory—try to stick to just one plotline. Think about the most boring day of your character’s life, or what your character might do in their downtime. Try to create a real person, not just an interesting story.
For instance, Kaitlin doesn’t like nature very much. This is because she grew up on a farm and associates the farm life with not being successful. She has plenty of anecdotes from her time in the army.
Step 5. What is their alignment? Alignment is an important piece of many RPG that classifies the way a character approaches and views the world. I like to turn to this piece after I develop my character’s backstory because what a character has done in the past will reflect how they act in the future. If you write your alignment before your backstory, you might have a great idea, but have to scrap it because a character with a certain alignment would never act that way. If you’re confused about alignments, you could take a quiz as your character and see if you think that alignment makes sense for your character. Make sure to keep in mind what your character themself thinks about what they’re doing. Perspective matters - for example, if your character stole bread in order to eat or feed someone else, they probably don’t consider themselves an evil person.
When I began creating Kaitlin, I thought she would be aligned with Lawful Good. Then I wrote her backstory—she made a deal with a demon to get into the Royal Guard. This isn’t something a Lawful Good would even consider, so I changed her alignment to Lawful Neutral to account for that. I wouldn’t have spent so much time thinking about how a Lawful Good could make a deal with a demon if I had written the alignment after the backstory!
Step 6. Why are they here now? You might need a reason for your character to be where they are. I think that creating a character so it could fit in with any group would work well, but you could also decide about this point with your group. It’s always a good idea for you to have a couple of ideas going into a RPG session, though, so at least give it some thought.
Kaitlin is wandering around, trying to find a way she can prove she is not who she was when she was younger as she now knows better than to make a deal with a demon. Therefore, she’ll leap at the chance to go on any sort of adventure. This makes her flexible for any sort of adventure at all!
Step 7. Bask in the glory of your newly created character! If there are any other tweaks you think are important, make sure you add it now. Create your character sheet and start rolling some d20s!