A character is an entity in a story that is not a legend. This entity is usually played by the storyteller, but can also be played by others. Usually, a character can be summarized in a couple of sentences, but you can also go all-out and explain it in full detail. It all depends on what you have in mind for the character and how the players deal with it. In this section, we’re going to give tips and tricks on how to create a useful and interesting character.
1. What is your goal with the character
The first thing you need to realize is the goal that you want to achieve with the character. This is not the goal in-game, but more the goal you as a storyteller would like to achieve with this character. Is it a happy-go-lucky shop-keeper with not much else than good prices, or is it the mailman disguised as the real antagonist. It’s important to set this goal beforehand because it will help you create and play the character.
Let's take a simple goal, for now, informing the legends about the weakness of great monster that lurks in the forest nearby.
Note: Character goals are not set in stone. It might have started out as an average Joe with not much thought put into it to fill up the townsfolk. But when Joe interacts with the group of legends and becomes close friends, he might up tagging along for a big chunk of the story. In this case, the group of legends clearly showed interest in this character, so it is up to you to make this average Joe the most interesting Joe he can be.
2. Put the character in the story
A good character should have a strong motive to do things. With the storytelling goal in mind, think about how the character is going to achieve this goal. If your goal was to inform the legends, you could make a blank character that simply tells the group of legends exactly what they need to know. Not really interesting right? Instead, you could build the character around the goal, make the character his/her own and envision a cool scenario where the information is given. If it is really important, maybe the legends need to do something in exchange for the information. Finally, you can think of why this character has the information and not just someone else, what makes this character special?
'Wooden Joe' is not only the village elder, but he is also a renowned wood-crafter. His mom was a hunter and his father was a lumberjack, and Joe joined his dad on the trips to the woods since he was 3 years old. One night when Joe was 12, Joe's dad was sick at home. Determined to get work done, Joe went into the forest alone with his axe, despite all the warnings his mom gave him of a terrible Chimera. Joe got caught by the terrible beast and was barely saved by his mom. Joe's legs were badly hurt and had to be amputated. Joe would not go back in the woods for a long time. Joe spent his days at the workshop of his aunt, a wood crafter. Joe's aunt even crafted two prosthesis legs out of wood for Joe. Instead of becoming a lumberjack, Joe spent his days learning how to use the wood his father brought back. He also learned a lot from his mother about wild monsters that lurk in the woods, even though he never returned to that place. Nowadays Joe is still a proud wood-crafter, trying to get the rarest of wood to improve his prosthesis legs. Most of Joe's family is passed away now, but he still hones the wood-crafting skills that he learned so long ago.
In the example above we got to know Wooden Joe. We know what Joe does this day and why he would be the one to know about a terrible beast (a Chimera) in the forest. If a group of travelers (the legends) would ask Joe about a Chimera in the forest it would seem fitting that Joe will be helping them. Along with helping them, he would also request them to bring a precious piece of wood back while they are in the forest.
3. Give the character personality
Now that we know the goal and how to achieve it, let’s try to spice up the character with some unique traits. This allows us to get more into the character so we can role-play them more easily. You can also draw or search an image online of the character to easily show it off.
On a first glance, Wooden Joe is not much of a talker. He usually hides most of his emotions and focuses on his work. Joe does not take apprentices and really loves his 'alone time'. With his enormous skill, he expects people to be amazed by his creations anyway, no matter the actual quality. This is why he sees himself as the only true judge of his work. Joe loves to go out drinking in the inn with both old and new folk. After some drinks, Joe will open up a bit and will talk about the old times. Joe hates rainy days and loves apple pie.
4. Adding the finishing touch
The character is basically ready to play. There are a lot of things unpredictable about Late Legends, but you do know this character will interact with the party. Be sure to be ready for that by asking the following questions:
- What does the character feel about the group of legends?
- Where would you think they will meet (even though it does not have the be there it still helps to think about)
- What if the legends ignore him completely?
Wooden Joe can be found at the workshop. He will be trying to earn money from the legends when they come in, presenting his finest work. Since they are traveling he will try to sell them a cart (and hope they have a mount). If they are not interested and directly want information he will tell them to come to the inn later 'after work is done'. Later on the day, Joe can be found at the inn, he will be playing some cards and drinking a lot. He will be talking about good old times and ask the legends for a favor in return for his information. If the party ignore or refuse his request he will respect it and not force it 'if they think they've got better things to do, then so be it'.
5. Leave room to evolve
It is important to review the character once it has made an appearance in the story. Maybe you’ve added some characteristics while improvising or come up with fresh ideas for the character. The group of legends could have introduced topics that you did not think of before, this would be a great time to tweak the character a bit and keep it believable in the story. The potential is limitless, you can make any ‘ordinary joe’ an interesting character after all.
Ever since the 'accident', Wooden Joe has not been in the forest, he has built up some kind of hatred to the wildlife that lives there and has learned about them as if they are the pure evil of this world. If the group of legends has a pet monster with them (maybe a pseudodragon or something) Wooden Joe would be against the idea of such a monster in his workshop. But along the interactions, he may start to like the fella. Who knows, in the end, he might even open up and join the party when they go into the forest.