This article was inspired by David Louis Edelman’s Building Character(s) post at DeepGenre. Though aimed at creating characters for books, several of the ingredients listed as necessary (by Edelman and by other authors in the comments to the post) are equally so when it comes to creating good, sustainable characters for roleplaying games.
The CharGen on Blood of Dragons is a fairly involved process, where you will end up writing a fair bit about your character. This will probably be much easier if you have prepared yourself by creating a vivid concept. For example, you will probably find it easier to pick out Assets and Flaws for your character, and you may have an idea for what Stats and Skills will suit him or her. Of course, it is also entirely possible to go through CharGen first and then create your concept around the selections you made. But it is important that the end result is one where the choices you have made in CharGen fit with your vision of the character.
Goals & Motivations
Knowing what your character wants, and why your character wants it, is one of the keys to creating a character that you won’t grow tired of within a few weeks of roleplay. Of course, given the collaborative nature of a game, you have to keep in mind that you cannot expect that the goals you give your character will be obtainable. When you write a story, you have full control over what happens (argumentative characters aside), but on a MUSH that is often not the case. But there is nothing wrong with unobtainable goals either, as long as they’re used in the right way. If you build your character too much around a single goal, especially one that turns out to be unobtainable, you will likely end up with a rather one-note character. For example, creating a character who is totally focused on being a Kingsguard is not a good idea. Creating a character who dreams of being a Kingsguard, without it being his sole reason for existing, is a much better idea, especially if the character also has some other goals that are more obtainable.
MUSHers often make one of two mistakes when it comes to a character’s emotional range. Either the character always shows more or less the same emotion, anger, happiness, sadness, etc, or the character shifts too quickly from one to the other. The first is often a sign of a too narrow concept, the second is generally a sign of a lack of concept. The former can plague experienced players as well as inexperienced, though the latter is generally a sign of inexperience. Both can cause problems with the sustainability of the character and with how it interacts with other characters. A realistic emotional range is a key element to consider when constructing your character. While you can certainly make a character who very strongly leans towards a certain set of emotions without that character being one-dimensional, do keep in mind that extremes of anything are harder to work with on a MUSH than in a book where the author controls the events. For example, if you make an anti-social character on a MUSH, you may end up having a very hard time justifying being in most scenes. On the other hand, if you were writing a book, you could force the character into interacting with others by engineering the turn of events that way.
Quirks & Mannerisms
Giving your character an identifiable set of mannerisms is a good way of adding some colour to your poses as well as making that character come to life for the other players. This does not mean you need to pose a short story each time, but if your poses just consist of speech and the occasional nod or shrug, it won’t precisely make your character feel like a real person. On the other hand, don’t overdo the quirks and mannerisms either. In general, they won’t provide much in the way of hooks that other characters can react to, so they should be used as flavouring rather than main ingredients. Just make sure you don’t throw the whole spice rack in there. Aimlessly giving your character too many little things to do does not help paint a realistic picture, which is why it can be a good idea to consider in advance what quirks and mannerisms you want to use. Of course, some may come out of roleplay too as you get more of a handle on the character, but just be careful not to overdo it.
Sense of History
Just like a game (or a book) needs to have a sense of history, a sense that the world didn’t just spring into existence the other week, so does your character. It is perhaps less important on a MUSH, where your character is not the reason someone is reading a story, but you may find yourself more interested in your character (which in turn may make other players more interested in your character) if there’s a history there to be involved in and care about. To some extent, writing your character’s background should take care of this element, but in many cases players treat the background as something you write to get approved and then it doesn’t really do them any good after that. A properly written background should be a resource that you can mine for ideas about how the character will react in roleplay, both based on what it contains and what it doesn’t contain, since an absence of experiences can be quite important too. It is also an opportunity to firmly ground your character in the history of the game; look at the various resources covering past events and work in connections to these for your character.
This does not work quite the same way on a MUSH as when writing a story, but it is nevertheless an important element to consider. Most of the time, you are not creating a character to fulfil a specific purpose in a story. Instead, you have to think about this in terms of your character’s story. Consider what the theme of the game is, as well as the stated purpose of the game (which may be more narrow in scope). For example, on Blood of Dragons the focus lies on the noble houses of the Seven Kingdoms, and the open areas are King’s Landing and Sunspear. Your character needs to fit into this more narrow scope, which is why we do not generally allow common characters or characters who cannot stay in King’s Landing or Sunspear in the long term. If your character’s thematic purpose is at odds with the scope of the game, you are unlikely to have a lot of fun.