Character Creation Guide
There are a vastly wide variety of characters a person can play. There are even a lot of non-standard characters that people can play, races other than the primary found in a given setting (usually humanoid in some way). However, when considering what kind of character to create, it is important to understand the setting itself. This is a science fiction setting based in a space station primarily made for humans and very similar races (similar height, similar size, 2 arms, 2 legs, 1 head, etc..). This means that Doors are going to max out at like 8' tall, size is going to be roughly human size. Corridors, consoles, tables, and chairs are all about the size range for humans.
Ideas for Characters
Most of our games are firmly set in specific genre breaking down to Science Fiction, Modern / Fantasy, and Fantasy. We do break the walls between these on occasion, but if someone needs to come up with a character, I encourage people to check out the various character classes and archetypes present in most role play settings. All these resources are to be seen as sources for inspiration and not as directed as one must use one of these.
- GURPS (Generic Universal Role Play System)
- Contains almost everything one can imagine to role play in various books and resources.
- d20 SRD (System Reference Document)
- The System Reference Document is a vast collection of the standard concepts for the d20 system.
- d20 Fantasy / D&D for Embers of Soteria
- d20 Modern, Future, and Arcana for Angelic Sins and even Blazing Umbra
- These are character types from TV and movies, they don't always fit in perfectly with a role playing game but a lot fit very nicely.
- Real Life Inspiration
- There are also archetypes from the real world. There are gamblers, fighters, statesmen, spies, soldiers, and anything else one can think of in the real world. I would never suggest playing a person that exists, but perhaps a characterization of a person that exists or a specific kind of person, the know-it-all, the geek, the debater, etc..
Size of Character
Characters can rather easily be smaller than humans due to the application of anti-gravitational technologies to allow a person to float around. Of course, the problem comes with characters that are substantially larger than the human norm. Either in width or height, giving issues fitting through doors. This should all be considered and while such forms are not disallowed, the player should be aware of the in-play issues which could company them.
Body Type of Character
A characters body is normally humanoid (as previously stated). This isn't the only kind of character that is allowed, but a character covered in slime that drips trails everywhere is going to be difficult to play and connect with other characters during the game. Similarly, a character without arms or legs would require some method to interact with the world at large, it is difficult to consider a sentient race not having hands (although it is possible to consider). Players should be aware that having a tentacle monster sounds really awesome but could be functionally difficult. Having a character who is a snake with no arms/hands also presents problems, how will the character interact with the consoles, food in the tavern, and other characters comes into play.
Again such characters are permitted, but the player should be aware and have a plan for how to deal with such options.
There are a lot of really amazing ideas that are potential issues. Having a character that maintains itself at sub-zero temperatures or at extreme high temperatures would cause issues of being able to touch or in extreme cases even being around people without some way to protect them from those extremes. In the Babylon 5 franchise one race (Vorlons) would appear as a race's deity if seen without their encounter suits. Characters that are covered in razor sharp scales or spikes would have to have considerations for how these interact with the people around them.
Let me reiterate, these are just things someone should consider before they decide on a form. If you want a character covered in razor sharp scales that leaves a trail of green ooze and has tentacles for hands, you can have that. But you'd better have a plan in place for how to deal with the obvious issues of interacting with the other characters when you do.
Language and Communication
It is advisable to have your character able to communicate complex thoughts with those around them. This means a character should be smart enough to grasp language and be able to use language. Speaking a different language isn't a huge deal due to the science fiction setting and application of the universal translator. However, a character who cannot speak or cannot hear, might have issues - these are solvable issues of course (with the exception of a player character that cannot grasp the concept of language). Players should be aware of the issues and solutions to those problems.
Overall, a lot of people are introduced to the free form coming away from a more formal setting like D&D, Rifts, or even one of the computer-based settings like World of Warcraft, tend to want to go all out on things for a character in a setting like this (with very little structure). Please keep in mind that even above the lack of wanting a completely overpowered character, you're not going to want to remember and deal with hugely complicated in-game mechanics and the staff are going to have issues keeping up.
It is advisable to remember a cardinal rule of character creation Keep it Simple Stupid.
Personality and Depth
Any character requires some amount of depth to them, playing a mono-dmensional and shallow character will not give rise to good role play. People are a ball of emotional contradictions, rules and exceptions that prove the rules. Now characters are, of course, not going to hatch from our minds as completely flushed out entities. A perfect example of this is one of the very early episodes of Star Trek, where at the end Spock can be seen laughing with Kirk and McCoy on the bridge of the Enterprise. Now we all know today that Spock is half human / half vulcan and should not be laughing. Even Leonard Nimoy said that he knew it was a mistake at the time to have the character laugh. However, it was so early that all this lore about the character, his race, and the universe was just unwritten.
Spock gains depth by explaining this internal conflict of emotions and suppression of them. We see this conflict throughout several episodes overtly but we also see it in more subtle ways throughout the show. When Spock comes to his first command in The Galileo Seven and at every turn cannot understand why the logical course is not the correct one, or why his crew-mates argue with him. In other scenes where he raises an eyebrow (which is now iconic) to non-verbally show his interest or disdain in something playing out before him. Even more, he does show emotions in a number of ways that are small throughout the show.
It is undoubtedly a credit to good acting but this conflict drives the character. Such conflicts drive everyone!
- I want to stay at home today, but I need money so I have to go to work.
- I'm at work and I want to do a good job and make my boss happy but I also want to tell him where he can stick it.
- I'm really upset at what my dad said to me last night but I really hope he's not mad at me.
- I want to hang out with my friends, but if I do I'm going to see Lucy and I don't wan to see Lucy.
- I really want my girlfriend to stay my girlfriend but I don't want to see weak in front of my friends.
- I want to ask Bobby to the Prom and it's not like it's the 1950's any more but people might think I'm a slut if I'm too forward.
This goes on and on. Character depth is added mostly through understanding the driving conflicts of their life, even if they change throughout game-play, and integrating those in subtle ways to the play. Most of us even these conflicts out very easily over time, balancing out various psychological and physical needs but this balancing act comes out and adds complexity to interactions.
Conflict is essential to role play, conflict can be internal (as seen above) or external (dislike or hate for another character, an idea, organization, or even a food). Now 9 times out of 10, hating something or someone isn't going to result in open fighting. I may want to punch someone who calls me an asshole, but I'm not going to do it. Expressing displeasure without resorting to violence can be difficult in character, because we don't have the social constraints and we want something to happen now. However, conflict rarely comes to a head quickly, so when designing a character with conflict in mind, it is also good to keep in mind the reasons for such conflicts and some idea of how the character will handle them over time, what his or her breaking point is, what will he or she do if they hit their breaking point and then wrap that into what social constraints the character might feel that will hamper such choices of what they want to do about a problem and lead them to what they will do about said problem.
Backstory is incredibly important. However, it is also important to not use the character as a vehicle to tell everyone to go read your backstory. A lot of people have characters from custom settings, that's fine. But keep in mind those around you don't know that setting and often times don't really want to know it, at least at first. Their only contact is going to be what they need to know to interact with your character. Shoving a decade's worth of lore on someone or expecting them to go read 10,000 words on your custom universe will not go well. Come into a role play expecting that no one is going to know the background, they aren't going to want to know it until you give them a reason over time via character-to-character conversations. If you want people to know more about the story, give them a reason to ask about it or give your character a reason to tell them about their history in-game.
In short, have a background, but keep an idea that others need to understand that background through play and not by being told that you've been writing it for the last 3 or 4 years and just expecting them to offer to read it and be a big fan. That's probably not going to happen.