Basic Tips To Make Better & More Appealing Roleplaying Characters
Does nobody seem to want to RP with your characters? Or are you just worried whether or not your characters will go over well? Or are you just trying to figure out how to make your characters a bit more interesting? Here some tips on how to make your characters more likely to attract and hold other roleplayers' attention!
- Remember that first impressions are important! Characters who give off an impression of being overly angry, mean, cold, sullen, gripey, mopey, needy, clingy, desperate, arrogant, bossy, smothering, irritable, touchy, combative, uncooperative, etc. will put a lot of people off, as characters who act like this are rarely much fun to play with for long. Also, characters who look like they're going to shape up to be shallow love interest/two-dimensional sidekick types (IE, have no real interest or curiosity in anything that doesn't relate to the other person's character) can put people off, as such characters end up being boring to play with.
- Another huge put-off is introducing your character with a long-winded, lavishly-detailed, or in-your-face description of how attractive, skilled, cool, badass, caring, kind, etc. the character is - this comes off as very shallow and braggish. Extreme or excessive positive qualities aren't even compelling reasons to interact with a character, anyway. What tends to be a lot more effective is simply looking and behaving like a three-dimensional person that one can potentially have a reasonably interesting, enjoyable, and rewarding time with.
- Always remember that people (and by extension, their characters!) can only know what you show them, and that the only personality traits that matter are the ones your character actually exhibits in the RP itself. If you want people to see and believe that your character isn't just some nasty snipeviper, a useless ball of wangst, or a boring two-dimensional love interest, you need to have your character to do something that shows it. And it has to be ongoing - you can't just have your character do one token act and call it good.
- Smirking every few paragraphs or so will put a lot people off your character. Ease up on the smirks. When you do use them, use them when your character is supposed to look a bit cocky or arrogant, not when your character is supposed to look cool.
- Don't try to rope players into too much commitment/responsibility too early. If they don't know you and/or your characters well, they might balk at the idea of getting into an RP where their character is already in love with, married to, mentors, or looks after your character. Instead, give players freedom of choice - create scenarios where they have no duty or attachment toward your character, are under no serious pressure to end up in that kind of situation, and let them do as they will.
- Similarly, it should never have to be another character's responsibility to fix or heal your character. It's all right if people choose to have their characters help yours with this type of thing, but don't plan it out so that there is absolutely no other possible way for your character to get better. And don't have your character just brush off or ignore anything else that might help, either. (Someone living in the early 21st century US, for example, can most likely search for self-help/coping strategies on the Internet, or borrow self-help books from a library.)
- Whatever personal problems your character has, it's important not to let them encompass and swallow up the entire RP. This isn't to say that you must always shove these things to the background, but do you need to keep them in balance. A good way to do this is to have the problems take up about 1/5th of your character's time, have about twice as much good as bad, and then spend an equal amount of time spent helping or building up another person's character.
- Try not to attach a specific end goal to your character - EG, "fall in love with (insert hawt character)" or "become best friends/teammates with (insert cool character here). Letting whatever happens to your character come as a natural consequence of the roleplay tends to create better and more believable results. For example, in fandom roleplays, the OCs that were created by players who weren't strongly attached to the idea of them ending up hobnobbing with the canon characters tended to become better friends with the canon characters than the ones who were - the reason being that their relationships were allowed to develop naturally and organically, rather than by force.
- Remember that your character's intentions do not automatically justify your character's actions. If other people's characters are bothered or annoyed by what your character is doing, it doesn't matter that your character has "pure" or noble intentions or is "just trying to be nice" - your character should probably knock it off. (Being "nice" in a way that someone doesn't actually like or want isn't being nice at all. Truly nice people are considerate of what other people want!)
- Likewise, when your character does things for others without being asked, don't fall into the trap of thinking that this makes them "owe" your character, or that these characters are required to do something "nice" in return. Nobody wants to be around the kind of person who uses favors as a way to manipulate people thus.
- Never try to pull an "invisible retcon" - IE, where when something doesn't go how you wanted it to, you just play as if something else happened or was going on, but you don't tell anyone that's what you're doing. You run the risk of making your character look like a liar, which won't exactly help your character's image much.
- If your character makes another character angry or upset and you'd really prefer your character isn't viewed negatively, have your character own up to the mistake and apologize. (And remember, sex and expensive gifts are not apologies!) Also, make sure your character puts in an actual effort to do better in the future - apologies are worthless if they aren't followed up by action.
- Your character should have a balanced skillset. One way that often works is to give your character one or two things to be especially good at, followed by a few other things to be moderately good at. Also, the scope and scale of your character's skills should not greatly exceed that of the other characters in the game/setting. This allows your character to be useful while not overshadowing or displacing everyone else. For more information on picking balanced and believable skills and whatnot, check out Things About Skills, Talents, & Knowledge Writers Need To Know, Tips & Ideas To Make Better & More Interesting Powers, and So You Want To Have A Powerful Or Talented Character Who Probably Won't Be Perceived As A Mary Sue?
- Don't play a character with traits, skills, and whatnot that you can't actually have your character convincingly demonstrate in the actual game. For example, if you know almost nothing about computer security beyond what you've seen in movies, don't play a hacker. If you know nothing about how real-life assassins operate, don't play an assassin. You needn't necessarily be an expert in something yourself, but you should at least know enough about that it looks plausible that your character is what you claim.
- Some people create characters who have magical or psychic abilities to calm others down or similar - the plan often being that that they can use this to soothe whichever "bad"/broken character they want their character to get along with. The trouble with doing this is that it can quickly and easily become a form of powerplaying, and forcefully manipulating people's emotions like that is ethically sketchy. If you want to play a character with the ability to calm people down, consider forgoing the actual powers and instead research how to de-escalate conflicts and how to be a good listener, and put that into practice instead.
- Adding flaws is always good, but don't fall into the trap of thinking of flaws simply as something that gives you license to pile on more skills/power/whatever. Instead, think of them as something that makes your character act and seem more like a real person, and as something that can add elements of conflict and suspense to the plot. Check out On Giving Your Characters Flaws & Weaknesses for more information.
- Don't try to one-up other people's characters. Nobody likes a character (let alone the player of a character!) who always has to be the smartest, strongest, most attractive, highest ranking, oldest, tallest, most tragic, etc.
- If you intend your character to be attractive, check out So You Want To Have An Attractive Character? And if you're hoping to play out a ship, check out Reasons Your RP Characters Might Be Bad Friends Or Love Interests and Reasons Your RP Characters Might Be Creepy (In A Bad Way) to avoid some common mistakes shippers make. And remember, love cannot magically fix a "bad"/broken character (no matter how "pure" one is).
- And if you're hoping for a ship, ask yourself: what does your character have to offer a potential partner besides sex, affection, pep talks, praise, a place to hide, and/or money? These can all be good things, but it does take a bit more than them to make a solid relationship.
- Avoid creating a grail character - for such characters are boringness incarnate! And try to figure out some core drives for your character - they'll help keep your character motivated, which will help prevent boringness.
- Avoid making a shallow love interest/shallow best friend type like the plague - these characters are also incredibly boring. And avoid making your character into a damsel in distress - they get annoying and wear out their welcome very fast.
- Tips To Avoid Killing Your RP Character's Conversations has tips to help you make your character better at socializing, which is necessary if your character is going to form any lasting friendships, romances, or alliances.
- If your character is supposed to come off as mysterious, check out On Writing & Roleplaying Mysterious Characters.
- Your character needs to be reasonably proactive - that is to say, your character needs to be able to personally choose to get up and do something despite facing risk of some kind. Check out Alexis Feynman's Guide To Writing Proactive Characters for more information.
- Take a look at Common Problems In Roleplaying Characters and Common Game-Ruining Mistakes Roleplayers Make for a more in-depth look at frequent problem-causing elements in RP characters.
- Always keep a real perspective on what your character is and isn't at fault for. There's nothing more off-putting than people who insist that their characters are innocent of things that they are very much guilty for. Check out "Is This My Character's Fault?" - A Flowchart for more information.
- If your character is for a fandom RP, check out Basic Tips To Improve Your OCs & Fan Characters.
- Check out The RP Character Playability Test. It'll help you determine whether your character has a lot of potential as roleplay character, or is most likely to end up doing nothing.
- When it comes to actually writing your character's profile, take note of the tips and advice on Common, Yet Terrible Character Descriptors - And How To Fix Them (And Write Better Descriptions In General) and put them into practice.
- Finally, make sure that you create variety in your characters overall. Give them different backgrounds, skills, dreams, goals, personalities, ethics, habits, etc. Variating your characters can help keep things interesting for the people you play with, plus certain character types are sometimes more suited for certain games than others might be.
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