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Published by Laura Rajsic-Lanier
Game Master Workshop 03:
I am Not a Number, Breathing Life into RPG Characters

Document created from the workshop I took at GenCon in 1993 on game mastering. It is in eight parts.
Game Master Workshop 03:
I am Not a Number, Breathing Life into RPG Characters

Document created from the workshop I took at GenCon in 1993 on game mastering. It is in eight parts.

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Published by: Laura Rajsic-Lanier on May 27, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Game Master Workshop Series
I am Not a Number: Breathing Life into RPG Characters
Workshop 3
There are two ways to play a character.1. Play by roll / dice.2. Play by role.Dice are a great tool. You are playing a character.There is no creativity in numbers. Any fool can rolldice! Characters are individualized, complex and deep!Characters who live on numbers are B-O-R-I-N-G!Characters who are roleplayed are more interestingand last longer.
Creating a Character
Start by deciding where you, the Game Master, aregoing. This is in contrast with most games of theindustry. Game systems aren’t as important as whatyou do with them. If you don’t know where you aregoing, you won’t be able to
gure out how to get there.Where does the character you / your players arecreating
t into the adventure and the party?Choose skills and abilities based on where you aregoing. The players still have not yet picked up the dice.As the character’s creator, you need to know what he’sable to do. The background will point itself to his“minor” skills. They shouldn’t all be professional skills.All professional skills will lead to a one-dimensionalcharacter.Create the characters background. When done, theplayer should have someone who could be a realperson. Emotions, likes, dislikes, etc. This also helpsthe Game Master
nd out what the players really careabout through the presentation of his characters background. The Game Master should make notes atthis time. Don’t show these notes to the players. Thisgives the Game Master his emotional hooks on hisplayer characters.
Creating a Background
1. Birth Information (culture shapes character)This is an important location hook you can use later.a. Race / Nationality — character may bediscriminated against because of this. b. Environment2. FamilyWhat more important ties can the character have?Parents may play a role in their future. Son doesn’talways follow in his father’s footsteps. Is the familyalive? Where do they live? How our parents feelabout us has more in
uence over us thananything else.Siblings are annoying. Dealing with siblings can bedi
erent than parents. Characters don’t need toknow where family members are. If they do, it ruinsall the Game Masters fun.Siblings / parents view toward the character and viceversa is important because:a. Shape the way the character thinks. b. It provides things you can use against thecharacter. The more complicated their lives, themore they’ll enjoy it.c. Education and training
Who educated them? This is another hook.
How much of the teacher’s status re
ects onthe student?
Apprenticeships. If the character is busy whenhis apprentice shows up, what happens?d. Interests and hobbies
More hooks.
This helps decide the skills the player characterhas. Education, hobbies, etc. should be re
ectedby skills.
e. ExperienceWhat did the player character do before?Successes and failures also mean “friends” and“enemies.” A few more hooks and non-playercharacter contributions.f. Friends, enemies and loversPersonality, physical descriptions, and how theyare associated to the player character should benoted. How did they meet? Get as muchinformation as possible. “The best enemies usedto be your friends.” This works the other wayalso. Where is this person now? (This may besomething the Game Master determines.) Don’tpass up romances. This leads to even moreammunition.g. Life experience shapes what you do (skills).h. Wealth and class
What has the player character done todeserve this?
If money comes from his profession, whatdoes he do?Example: Marvel Superhero doesn’t get moneyfrom being heroic, but because of what he does inthe mundane world. Employers can be a patronor obstacle for adventuring. If freelance, theplayer character is usually poor.
Where does he keep his money?
Does he have items he can sell?This a
ects skills again. A high social class needto know those abilities of belonging to that class.If poor, a player character would have skills tomake money go farther.3. FeaturesIf the player character has money, he could be 
abby from a lack of exercise and have so
hands.Poor might have a broken nose, scars, limp or evenhis speech may be impaired. Physical descriptionsare what people will notice about you
rst. Whenyou introduce your character, you need to presentyour physical characteristics.Certain characteristics build stereotypes (such as blonde). They’re not true, but people may react ifthe player character doesn’t act as the stereotypes.They expect one thing and get another.Distinguishing features can be what people grabto and remember you by. They can also be thesource of nicknames.4. Appearance.How the character a
ects himself! Dress,cleanliness, and accessories. What the characterwears shows you his culture and wealth. A characterdoesn’t have to dress to his own class, however.Let the character playing a knight design his ownCoat-of-Arms to tell of his family’s history. Read book on heraldry for information. This adds
avorthat wouldn’t be there otherwise.Players love things that are
ashy. Jewelry can begood for a
racting thieves, family curses, etc.Transportation can
t into appearance.How does he get around? Does he walk? Does hehave a horse that has ribbons woven in its mane?5. PersonalityAlignment is worthless. It is a crutch for peoplewho can’t create personality and an individual.It’s a great starting point, but not the end all, be all.Alignment languages shouldn’t be used. They arereally useless. Good and evil are not absolutes.They are a function of:a. Background in genre / game. b. Your personal choices as a Game Master. Youshape your world’s mortality. A person does notview himself as evil. Neither will your players.c. Your players choice.6. Recognition HandleOne sentence to describe the entire character.7. Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Rollthe dice. Create the basic stats for your system.a. Random generation. b. Semi-random generation (throw out bad rolls).c. Roll a number and divide between the areas.d. Fudge the rolls.e. Construction
xed number of character pointsand build the character from that.
Character background record for (name of game / campaign world) _____________________________Character name __________________________________________ Aliases _______________________Race / nationality _____________________ Birthplace ________________________________________Height ________ Weight _________ Hair color / style ____________________ Eye color ____________Distinguishing features __________________________________________________________________
Name Relationship Sex Age Occupation Status Feelings
Education level ____________________ Educated by _________________________________________Apprenticeships / schools ________________________________________________________________Hobbies / interests _____________________________________________________________________
Past employment information ____________________________________________________________Major successes / failures ________________________________________________________________
Economic status _____________________ Social class ________________________________________Current profession ________________________ Position ________ Employer _____________________Pay / period _________ $ on hand _________ $ in hoard _________ $ banked __________
Name Relationship Sex Age Occupation Status Feelings

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