Monday, January 01, 1990

Storymap Preparation--Create the Major Roles

Once the central conflict is in place, the major roles should be created. These will be all the primary characters involved in the central conflict. No game stats are needed at this point. Instead, focus on describing the characters’ personalities and goals. Do not try to create a complete picture of each character at this point. Rather, get a sense of the place of each role within the established conflicts. More details may develop during the rest of the storymap creation process, which is perfectly acceptable.

This is a critical stage in the creation of a storymap. Characters are the building blocks of the storymap and the main actors in the story itself. Therefore, in order to have a quality storymap, you need to have interesting characters.

What is an interesting character? The ultimate answer is that an interesting character is one that speaks to you in some way, moving you to connect with him emotionally. This connection can be positive or negative, but it must occur in order for the character to be considered “interesting” in any way. As you can see, this identification will vary from one person to the next. However, here are some tips on creating characters that provoke a strong reaction.

Make a character that is interesting to the other players, not just you. Remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This applies in a couple of ways. First, you may not end up playing the character that you are creating. Therefore, if you are crafting a character that is not gripping, you may be making the game more difficult for another player. Second, your fellow players are your audience, and you are supposed to be working to entertain them. As such, you have a responsibility to create characters that will engage them.

Make the character a real person. Do not settle for clichés. Rather, ask yourself questions about your characters. Why is your hero pursuing goodness? “Because he’s the good guy” is not a sufficient answer. Everyone makes choices about life for reasons that seem good to them. What are your hero’s reasons for making the choices that he has made? What would it take to change his mind? What has he gained as a result of his choices? What has he lost? Ask yourself questions like these about your characters.

Make the character capable of making real choices. All characters make choices. From a certain perspective, that is their primary function. In order to create an interesting character, you must allow for this character to make real choices. Saying that a character will always choose the path of evil is removing the interest from the character. You have limited his choices and made him much less interesting. (If you don’t believe me, ask yourself this question: Who is more interesting, Darth Vader or the Emperor?) Limiting a character’s choices also makes him less real. Every person in the world is capable of doing both terrible and glorious deeds when presented with the right set of circumstances. Why should your characters be any different?

Make an intense character. There should be at least one trait that sits at the core of the character. This trait should be gripped with intensity. It is the intensity of this trait that will give the character much of his interest. Even a wishy-washy fence-sitting character can be made to be intense, if his indecision is intense enough. (Thomas Covenant from The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever is an excellent example of this.)

Make a character capable of real relationships. These relationships do not need to be positive, but they need to exist. John Donne wrote, “No man is an island.” The same is true of your characters as well. A character with no relationships is a lifeless character. (For more details, see Relationships below.)

Obviously, this isn’t a magic formula for creating the perfect characters. However, following this advice will assist you in producing interesting characters.


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