Tools for Creating Characters

I’ve been giving some thought to tools and techniques for creating characters over the last few weeks.  I’m going to record a few quick notes on these musings here.

Firstly the technique of asking leading questions to draw out character ideas.

Secondly, possibilities for representing personality traits by reflecting them in the mechanics of a game.

Thirdly, some party composition ideas.

Leading Questions

The technique of asking evocative leading question to draw out ideas of characters (and also the game world) is simple but under-used, in my experience.
Interesting questions can flesh out a character in ways that may not have otherwise been illuminated in the game.  Furthermore, they may provide a great opportunity to increase player buy-in.
The kind of thing that I mean is:

In your backstory, you escaped from imprisonment.  How did you escape; and what (or who) did you have to leave behind?

[As a call to adventure] – Why do you need five hundred gold pieces in a hurry?

When travelling between locations, rather than rolling a random encounter simply ask a player to describe a problem that they encountered along the way; and then ask another how they solved or bypassed the problem.

[Upon reaching a spooky mausoleum] – Is anyone in this tomb a relative?

 

Paired Stats

Inspired by games such as Pendragon, Smallville, FAE (Fate Accelerated Edition), and most especially by A Dirty World (a noir game), I’ve been thinking about character attributes that are closer to personality traits than to traditional attributes.

I’ve been considering pairs of stats that trade off against each other (thus providing an interesting decision, and a possible source of dramatic tension within characters).
You could have pairs of stats ranked 1 to 5 or d4 to d12, but with a degree of interference with each other (for example, if your Deceit reaches d12, it pushes your Honesty down to d4).

Anyhow, the product of my noodling is this:

Mental
Patience vs Cunning (Caution/Deliberation vs Quick Wits; Intellect vs Guile) [Mental/Intellectual]
Demonstration vs Observation (Knowledge vs Awareness) [Info: Notice/Investigate]
Generosity vs Greed (Resources vs Theft/Burglary) [Resources, Property]
Composure vs Defiance (Endurance vs Evasion) [Stress, Damage]
Patience = Analysis?

Social
Empathy vs Persuasion (Understanding vs Manipulation) [Social/Information]
Purity vs Corruption (Inspiration vs Seduction) [Decency/Vice]
Honesty vs Deceit (Integrity/Honour vs Guile) [Truth & Lies]
Rapport vs Provoke (Charm vs Intimidate) [General Persuasion]

Action
Vigour vs Grace (Might/Force vs Agility/Quick; Physique vs Athletics) [Action/Physical]
Courage vs Wrath (Valour vs Cruelty) [Violence, Combat]
Fortitude vs Evasion (Endurance vs Defiance) [Stress, Damage]
Infiltration vs Surveillance (Sneaking vs Seeing) [Stealth, Espionage]

Arcane
Discipline vs Conviction (Composure vs Defiance; Defend vs Attack) [Arcane]
Lore vs Learning [Scholarship vs Research]
Sense vs Alter [Intellego vs Muto/Rego]
Creation vs Destruction [Creo vs Perdo]

Sci-Fi/Tech
Craft vs Wreck (Engineering vs Sabotage) [Engineering/Technology]
Hack/Firewall (Digital Intrusion/Defence)
Target/Evade (Gunnery/Helm)
Shield/Cloak

Tradecraft
Craft vs Wreck (Engineering vs Sabotage) [Engineering/Technology]
Infiltration vs Surveillance (Sneaking vs Seeing) [Stealth, Espionage]
Generosity vs Greed (Resources vs Theft/Burglary) [Resources, Property]

Overt vs Covert (Flashy vs Sneaky; Flair vs Guile; Bold vs Subtle) [Presence/Stealth]
Fight vs Flight?
Conceal/Disguise (Camouflage)

 

Cast Calculus

I’ve also been spending too much time on TV Tropes looking at pages like these:
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CastCalculus
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PowerTrio
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FreudianTrio
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FourPhilosophyEnsemble
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FourTemperamentEnsemble
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FiveManBand

As a result, that following table has taken shape in my head. Perhaps I’ll use it to create some pre-gen characters one day.

Fighter/Paladin/Cavalier Rouge/Ranger/Ninja Bard/Sorcerer/Swashbuckler Wizard/Cleric/Arcanist
Combat Stealth Diplomacy Magic
Hitter Thief Grifter Hacker/Mastermind
Mighty “Glacier” Fragile
 Speedster
Jack
 of all Stats
Glass
 Cannon
Choleric Phlegmatic Sanguine Melancholic
Red/Yang/Red Blue/Yin/Blue Red/Yang/White Blue/Yin/Black
Cynic Apathetic Optimist Realist
Ego Foil? Id Superego
Kirk McCoy Spock
Big Guy/Leader Lancer Heart Smart
 Guy
Fire/Lightning Water/Shadow Air/Fire Earth/Ice
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