While character creation and character development cross over, they aren’t the same thing. Think of character development as character growth. You start with something (a story, an idea, etc) and grow that throughout the life of the character. Character creation ties in at the beginning, but the paths diverge from there.
There are a couple of ways to develop a character both before play and during play. Let’s take a look at a couple of these options.
Before You Play
Think about the type of character you want to play. Try to think outside of creating yourself as a character. While there’s nothing wrong with putting yourself in the game, it does have the potential to cause issues later. (We’ll cover that further down in the post.)
There are a couple of ways to develop a character before you sit down to play.
Option 1: Come up with a general concept. What kind of character are you playing? What general ideas do you have about where the character has been, and where the character wants to go? You’re just creating basic concepts here. You can do this based on the stats you’ve chosen, or you can create the character’s general background and then choose stats based on that information.
As the game goes on, you will add more information to your character’s story. Maybe the GM or another player tosses something out during play, and you realize your character connects with that in some way. Jot down a note, and work with the GM to add it to your character’s story. This option seems backward to me, but I know several players that create their favorite characters using this method.
Example: I create Geraldine, a feisty, tall girl with brown hair. She’s sarcastic, but not mean. Her family moved away, and she’s looking for some adventure. She’s not sure what she wants specifically, so she’s willing to try anything once. She meets a group that invites her to hunt down bad guys, and she accepts. Her first goal is to protect innocent people from the bad guys she’s now hunting.
(Now she’s involved in the story, and her character will continue to develop from here.)
If you get an idea during game-play that you think would fit the character’s background, mention it to the GM to see if it can be worked in. A lot of times, once you start playing, the ideas start flowing a little easier.
Option 2: Decide what character type you want to play. Then, create an in-depth background for the character. This is my preferred method. Not only does this give your character some life, but it helps bring excitement to the gameplay. The GM can also take snippets from your background for various uses. Maybe a storyline or an NPC can be plucked from the depths of your character’s story. You never know, and that’s exciting!
When I create my character using this option, I do all the heavy lifting first. I create the character type, the history of the character, character personality, and the character’s goals. Once those things are done, then I choose stats that make sense for what I’ve already created.
A note on stats: Don’t stress about this too much. Stats guide the character’s abilities, but you’re never going to cover all aspects of your character. That’s okay. Choose the ones you feel are most important, and move on.
The internet is filled with questionnaires that will help you achieve a well-developed character. Usually these cover goals, important people (enemies, family, and friends), motivations, and goals. So if you’re stuck, Google something like, ‘character creation questionnaire’ and start answering those questions. You can answer all the questions, or you can use it as a way to jump-start your creative process.
Character Development During Game Play
The growth of your character is also a part of character development. The idea is that as the story moves forward, your character continues to grow and change. Maybe they learn a new skill, or a new enemy comes along. Whatever it is, your character’s story is still moving forward. Make notes, and add these new pieces to the character puzzle.
If you have an idea that pops up during play, talk to your GM about adding it to your character’s story. On that note, make sure to keep your GM informed as your character continues to change. Like I mentioned before, you just might see some of these things come to life in the story in some fashion. This is part of the shared narrative between player and GM, and it makes the game more enjoyable for everyone when you’re creating together.
Can I Create Myself As a Character?
You can create yourself in character form if you really want to. It’s more challenging, and I’d argue more fun to create something new, though.
It’s easy to play yourself. It’s also easy to take what happens in the story a little too personal.
If you really want to play yourself in some fashion, try digging into aspects of yourself that you don’t show to the world.
I’ve had some characters that took on what I call my negative traits, dialed up several notches. I’ve also created characters that are versions of myself that exist in my head but don’t translate to real life. (Ie: Extroverted instead of shy, or bold instead of reserved, etc.)
It can be fun to explore aspects of yourself that wouldn’t be socially acceptable in real life. It can also be fun to play opposite to your everyday existence.
Whatever character you decide to play, remember that character development is important. As you tell the story with your GM and other players, let the story move your character forward. The stories you tell together will be better for it.