When I used the word "you" in the title, of course, I meant the character you play, rather than the person you are in real life. When you're roleplaying you are taking on the part of someone who lives in a fantasy world, who may well have a very different life story and personality to the real you. That means you need to take time out to think about how they would act. For a newcomer to RP, this can be quite a daunting prospect, so feel free to start out with quite a sketchy character concept and refine it as time goes on.
To start off with, you need to have a general idea of what your character is like and what part they play in the world. A good way to kick this off is to start with a role model, either from fiction or real life and then tweak that character to make it your own. When doing this it's best to avoid major characters (such as Darth Vader or the eternally-irritating Legolas). Instead, base them on someone you know well or a supporting character from fiction.
Mary Sue. It's that kind of super-powered wish-fulfillment character that Thellus was mocking in the description I quoted in Part 1.
Another thing to watch out for is creating characters that only work if they are the main hero. This might be fine for a book or a single player game, but the nature of MMOs is that you are one player amongst thousands, and the central roles are already taken by the likes of Thrall.
What you're looking for is a real person: someone who is interesting enough for other players to want to speak to, but not so domineering that they demand to be the centre of attention all the time. Questions you may wish to ask yourself include:
- How do they see the world? Is it a wonderful exciting place fully of opportunities or a dark place that can only get worse. Maybe it's just sort-of-ok.
- How do they react to that world-view? Eternally optimistic despite all odds, bitter and cynical, lazy and apathetic, or full of practical ideas for making the world better?
- If you knew them in real-life, what would you find intriguing or irritating about them?
- What is it about them that others would find memorable?
Next you need to think about the character's past and how they fit into the world:
- What kind of family are they from and how important are they in their life? Try to avoid the lazy option of making your character an orphan - I know there have been a lot of conflicts in WOW, but the orphanages are full! It's perfectly OK to put this one in the "I haven't decided yet" bin if no good ideas spring immediately to mind.
- Who are their friends and enemies? By enemies I don't just mean "Arthas destroyed everything I love and now he must die" - how about the handsome drifter who stole the heart of your childhood sweetheart or that bitch who won the Silvermoon poetry competition with her awful whining dirges?
- Why are they doing what they are now? Is your warrior someone from a military family that felt obliged to join up even when they'd really rather have become a carpenter, or a philosopher and poet who sees the martial arts as a means of perfecting themselves?
Right - that's enough guidelines. Let's try to put together a practical example to show how it all works. We'll start off with our role-model: in this case I've chosen the glorious Huggy Bear from the 70s cop show Starsky & Hutch. Now at first sight Huggy doesn't seem like a good place to start for a fantasy game, but that's what makes him interesting.
The obvious choice of class for Huggy would be rogue, so naturally I won't be using that! Let's make things a bit trickier and call him a troll priest.
Our fantasy version of Huggy (I'll call him Farjin) needs to be similar to the role model, but changed enough to not be a direct clone. Let's start with the questions I asked above, with some comments in italics:
- Farjin sees the world as full of hope and opportunity, where the light can offer salvation. This makes him a pretty nice guy to have around, although he may frustrate his more jaded friends.
- He's continuously looking out for new ways of raising funds for the needy, although he doesn't always think them through properly. This is a great roleplaying opportunity - it allows us to go up and speak to strangers to try to get them to help the church. It also offers the opportunity for some light-hearted moments as another plan goes wrong in ways that were entirely predictable to everyone except Farjin.
- If I knew him in real life, I'd probably find him charming, but feel slightly annoyed that I kept agreeing to help out with his crazy schemes. I have a sneaking suspicion that I'd pretend to be out if Farjin came to call early on a Sunday morning. Hangovers & building a new play area for the orphans don't mix.
- Farjin has an extremely loud taste in clothing and favours bright colours that hurt the eyes. He's also very friendly, chatty and enthusiastic. You don't forget him, but even if you do, he remembers you! Whilst you don't want to be over the top, the best RP characters are memorable in some way. Not everybody is paying as much attention to your character as you are, so some interesting quirks help them place you when you meet again.
- Like many Darkspear trolls, Farjin and his family were forced to flee the Echo Isles, and they arrived penniless in Orgrimmar. His parents were street-traders and soon started a new business - a knack Farjin has picked up. He's extremely protective of his younger sister, who is continuously attempting to escape his watchful eye & go off & have fun! Another roleplaying opportunity: "'ave ya seen ma sista? She be 'bout dis 'igh."
- Farjin tries to be friends with everybody, but is nervous around the more traditional trollish shadow-priests. Not very good, so I'll leave this for now - some better ideas may come to me later on.
- Farjin became a priest because he loves helping people - he's a sucker for a good cause. This means that more scheming players may be able to manipulate him, which is another great opportunity to set up interesting RP situations.