How To Make A Playable RP Character Fast


It happens sometimes that you want to make a new character to play, but you don't necessarily have a lot of time to spend on development. Or maybe you just want to start playing as soon as possible. So if you want to make a balanced and fully-playable character in a very short amount of time and your partner, group, or GM/admin is all right with you starting out simple, here's what you need to figure out - and how you can figure it out fast.

Table of Contents



Figure out the Big Fifteen

There are fifteen basic points that will give you enough to have a character who can do things, has a reason to do things, and has just enough personality and flaws to seem believable. Once you have these basics figured out, it's pretty easy to improvise a lot as you go, especially when you consider what the things you've come up with might mean about your character. (For example, anything your character is really good at or knows a lot about, your character would have spent a considerable time learning - possibly with a master/teacher, depending on what it is.)

So here are the big fifteen points to figure out about your new character:

1. One or two things your character is really good at and/or knows a lot about.
2. Two or three things your character is pretty good at and/or knows a little about.

3. Two or three things your character is kinda bad with and/or knows very little about.
4. One or two things your character is really bad with and/or knows almost nothing about.

5. At least one short-term goal for your character.
6. At least one long-term goal for your character.
7. At least one core drive (can be the same as the long-term goal).

8. Your character's basic appearance (excluding clothes and makeup).
9. Your character's tastes and preferences in clothing/wardrobe.

10. What your character does during downtime (can relate to the above skills or knowledge).

11: Your character's age.

12. Your character's parents, and any other caregivers your character had growing up.
13. Where your character grew up.

14. At least two personality traits that will affect how your character behaves on a regular basis.

15: Your character's current or last source of money, if applicable.

You need not figure these out in order. You can skip ahead and fill out what comes to you easily, then go back and work out the other things.

Your character's personal tastes and preferences can often be decided as your character encounters things in the game - EG, different foods and whatnot. (And you might want to take notes for your own personal reference, so you don't end up forgetting.)


How to make Big Fifteen really work for you

There are two things that make this technique really work. The first is being able to come up with good, solid things that help build up a well-rounded, useful roleplaying character. (As the expression goes, "garbage in, garbage out. If what you come up with isn't very good, then your character won't be very good, either.) The second is being able to take what you come up with and use it to make inferences that you can use to fill the gaps with as you go. Here's a breakdown of how to do both.

1. One or two things your character is really good at and/or knows a lot about.
2. Two or three things your character is pretty good at and/or knows a little about.

Lest your character become a millstone, try to come up with at least some skills that are genuinely useful in the setting. A character whose skills comprise of singing, painting, dancing, and flower arranging isn't going to be very useful in a zombie apocalypse. Likewise, a character whose only skills are combat-related is going to be nearly useless in a game focusing on court intrigue.

It's not a bad idea to give your character at least one skill that involves making or fixing things. Things like cooking, sewing, building, and fixing household stuff can turn out to be very useful in almost any game.

Keep the scope and scale of what your character is good at similar to that of other characters/people in the setting. For example, if you're creating a character for a setting where everyone has one special elemental power apiece and each one knows how to use a different weapon at expert level, don't give your character two special elemental powers and make your character a master of three weapons - give your character one elemental power and one weapon. Try to keep your own character's skill and/or power level comparable to the other characters, too - don't make your character so great that everyone else looks like rookies or wimps by comparison. This will prevent your character from becoming OP.

Try to go for at least some skills that others don't have, so your character complements the rest of the party, rather than becoming a redundancy skill-wise.

Don't give your character any skills you can't believably play out. Leadership skills, for example, will be worthless if you know little to nothing about what it takes to be a leader yourself. And if you don't know how science or the scientific process works, then your character's credibility as a scientist will likely suffer. And if you try to play a hacker without knowing a few key details about computer security, anyone who knows anything is probably going to cringe.

3. Two or three things your character is kinda bad with and/or knows very little about.
4. One or two things your character is really bad with and/or knows almost nothing about.

Preferably, at least one of these will be something that's relevant to the setting, or will affect how your character interacts with or is perceived by others. Things like "can't play the xylophone" or "can't tell the difference between alligators and crocodiles" are too inconsequential. "Horrible fashion sense" could be good. So is "has no idea how to use a computer" or "freaks out and cries when feeling put on the spot."

5. At least one short-term goal for your character.
6. At least one long-term goal for your character.
7. At least one core drive (can be the same as the long-term goal).

At least one of these goals or cores should give your character a reason to interact and associate with the others. A character who wants nothing but to start a waffle house in Wisconsin probably isn't going to have any real reason to stick around a bunch of superheroes in Missouri, for example.

8. Your character's basic appearance (excluding clothes and makeup).

Make sure it fits with your character's origins and lifestyle. Someone who lived a poor peasant's life isn't going to have perfect skin. Nobody is going to have smooth, glossy hair without putting some effort into it every day. Anyone who does a lot of physical combat or manual labor is going to have some muscle to show for it.

9. Your character's tastes and preferences in clothing/wardrobe.

Do not describe an exact outfit. What you're aiming for is something along the lines of what you see in the output of the Fashion Style Preference Generator. Presumably your character will not be wearing the same outfit all the time, so it makes little sense to describe just one.

10. What your character does during downtime (can relate to the above skills or knowledge).

What your character does during downtime is another thing that you can use to fill out your character's past with as you go - how did your character end up with this as a hobby?

11: Your character's age.

Your character's age is a great way to figure out what your character likes and thinks. People's favorite music is often what was around when they were teens and young adults. Favorite childhood TV shows will depend on what was available when your character was a child, and your character's socio-political views will have likely been influenced by people and events your character was exposed to over time.

Your character's age might also affect which opportunities might be available or what your character might have done in the past. Certain jobs and positions require people to be certain ages, or to have spent a prerequisite number of years working certain positions before advancing further, so deciding on an age can help you figure out how far your character might have gotten in a particular career path.

12: Your character's parents, and any other caregivers your character had growing up.

Remember, parents/caretakers can often explain a lot about your character - perhaps they introduced your character to hobbies, interests, skills, etc. at a relatively young age? Perhaps they signed your character up for classes of some kind? Perhaps they personally taught your character something? Don't overlook these possibilities.

Also, even if your character's biological parents didn't raise your character, figure out who they were, anyway. People don't just pop into existence (unless that's literally what happened to your character), so come up with at least a little something about them - and preferably, make it more substantial than "random couple who died/gave their child up for adoption and disappeared forevermore." (This goes for both parents, too. EG, if your character is the child of a canon character and an OC, make the OC more than "some random one night stand who died after childbirth/gave the child up and vanished." Make the OC parent more than a walking womb/DNA dispenser.)

13. Where your character grew up.

While this part might not seem absolutely essential, it's still good to have figured out in case other characters start asking about your character's history. Plus, this will help you form an idea of what your character might consider nostalgic or homey, as well as what kind of environs your character would have the most experience getting along in (which in turn implies types of places your character is not accustomed to and might have difficulty in), and what kinds of things your character might have seen or experienced growing up. So while you might not necessarily need it immediately, it'll give you a foundation to build up a lot of things. This part should also be congruent with the skills you chose for your character - would this background actually afford your character the time and opportunity to acquire them? For example, where would someone who up until now has lived in an isolated village of pacifists have learned the necessary skills to become an assassin? When would someone who lived on the streets more often than not have had the time to learn to speak three foreign languages fluently? If something doesn't make a lot of sense, then something somewhere has to change.

14. At least two personality traits that will affect how your character behaves on a regular basis.

Try and make sure your character's personality traits don't completely sabotage your character's ability to work with the rest of the party. For example, if your character is constantly insulting everyone and everything they care about, your character is probably going to drive everyone away after awhile. If your character is too shy to actually talk to anyone, your character will probably spend most of the RP sitting off on the sidelines.

15: Your character's current or last source of money, if applicable.

Remember, many jobs and positions require certain degrees or levels of experience doing other jobs first. Many also require licenses to work legally. Also, your character's personality traits shouldn't realistically cause too much trouble while on the clock if you want your character to stay plausibly employed. And if your character is self-employed, remember that people aren't likely to pay for the services of someone who is rude, arrogant, a know-it-all, super-finicky, can't keep appointments or deadlines, or is otherwise unprofessional or difficult to work with.

Likewise, remember where certain jobs and whatnot imply the need for certain skills. For example, being a snake oil salesman requires one to be fairly charismatic, to be able to figure out which dreams and wishes to appeal to, and to be both creative and knowledgeable enough to come up with something that sounds plausible to customers.


What if your creativity is stuck?

Knowing what you need to come up with is all well and good - as long as you can think of things to fill it out with. But what do you do when you can't seem to think of anything?

One thing you might do is check out the random generators, especially the Character Detail Generators. Easy Offline Randomization Ideas and Creating Semi-Randomized Characters have some suggestions you can use to create and customize your own idea-generating systems.

Another thing to do is write down inspiration and ideas that come to you when you're not actively trying to create a character. Maybe you see a personality that interests you somewhere, maybe you see someone using an interesting skill, or maybe it occurs to you that you might like to try playing an alien princess or a chef-turned-mercenary. Take a mental note of it, or better yet write it down somewhere; then when you're trying to make a new character, look through what you've come up with and see if anything fits.

If there's a particular type of character you might like to play, stop and try to think of any characters who are similar to that type of character. Could you perhaps borrow a few traits from them? If so, what opinions, tastes, and skills can you come up with that makes your character a little different from them? (Do be careful that you're not simply giving your character opposite traits from their sources of inspiration, or simply making everything darker, edgier, or more tragic!)



Run your character through quality control

At this point you should be nearly ready - but not quite. There might be a few problems you overlooked somewhere, so you should try and run your character through some quick checks to make sure everything is up to snuff. To do this:

1. Go through questions on "Is This A Good Idea For My Story/Setting/Character?" (The question about simmering excluded, since the idea here is to make an RP character fast.)

2. Run your character through The RP Character Playability Test.

And once your character can pass through both of these, you should be ready to roll! Have fun!


And you might also like:

Building Better Backstories - Tips & Ideas
Core Drives: What They Are, And Why Your Characters Need Them On Giving Your Characters Flaws & Weaknesses
Tips & Ideas To Make Better & More Interesting Powers
Writing Character Profiles & Bios - Tips & Advice

Quick & Dirty Characterization Tips & "Cheats"
Basic Tips To Make Better & More Appealing Roleplaying Characters
Basic Tips To Improve Your OCs & Fan Characters
Tips To Write Better Roleplay Prompts

Simple Ways To Fill Out & Humanize Your Character
Dropping In Characterization Without Dragging The Story



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