Saturday, March 2, 2013

Being Unique: Creating more character depth

When you join in the roleplaying community in something as large as an online mmorpg, you will quickly find that it is difficult to stand out amongst the crowd. Chances are, if you thought the idea for your character is really cool, someone else is thinking the same thing. So how do you create a memorable character with this flood of creative energies?

Through the years I've roleplayed I've discovered a few tips that I'd like to share with both new and old role-players interested in creating their own exciting characters in the setting of WildStar. (and really they can be used anywhere) Some ideas to help get the creative juices flowing while we wait with bated breath for launch day.

It is inevitable that class and gear sets will make us look similar, such as these Draken women here.So how can you make them unique? (image taken from Muchmoregaming)
  • It is okay to do what you want.
    Do you really want to play a battle hardened soldier but you keep running into others trying to play the gruff, military hero? That's okay. Go for it. It is much more important that you be happy with what you play then you force yourself to try to be something you don't wish to, just to get noticed. This is a game. This is /entertainment/. If you aren't having fun then it's time to step back and re-evaluate what you are doing. Now mind you, if what you want is actively causing people harm or you are only seeking to play something ridiculous for a shock factor, you may need to also re-evaluate what you are actually looking for. As with interactions with other people, be courteous of others.

So now you've picked something you want to be. Maybe a soldier, a tribal warrior, a daring gunslinger or the enigmatic secret agent. Well these all sound interesting, but not terribly unique. Sure one or the other may be role-played less but it will be extremely rare that you never run into another person attempting the same idea. So how do you proceed from here? I invite you to think on this idea:

  • Break your class.
    No I don't mean hack the game or actively seek loopholes or exploits with your class. I mean break the IC (In-character) concepts with the OOC (out of character) concepts. Break the preconceived notions others might have by simply looking at your avatar.
    For example, playing a warrior-like class as something very different, for example, a stealthy rogue. When people first see you, they will create a small idea of who you are based on what you look like, or even what class you are playing. If you show something different, you might surprise them. This alone can make you memorable, even if you share the concept with other people.
    One of the biggest benefits of this concept runs in line with my first pointer: It's okay to do what you want. Some people may want to roleplay something entirely different then the class they most enjoy playing. You shouldn't be punished for this. Most people who do this, typically find a role-play identity that is at least similar to their class. A mage could be a Seer, an elementalist, a powerful wizard, or even a clever magician. The skillsets in-game that the mage class might have would lend credibility to these ideas without forcing them to have to choose only one.

    An example I would use would be my Republic character in Star Wars: The Old Republic. I really loved the Imperial Agent, both class and role-playing concept on the Empire side, but I had little interest in the Smuggler, or mirror class on the Republic side when I joined there in order to play with people I knew. Even though the skillset were ultimately the same, the slight difference and story idea just didn't appeal to me. So instead I picked up a Trooper. Right there started to become more unique. Though many troopers were soldiers, generals, pilots, guards or mercenaries, very few were a stealthy concept like an agent. So right here I became memorable to a few people for this reason alone.

Now you've picked what you want to play and additionally picked an in-game class that you find enjoyable to play while not allowing it to interfere with your role-play ideas. So what next? I was definitely not the only trooper that played an agent in Star Wars: The Old Republic, so how could I take myself one step further?

  • Motivation
    Everyone has motivations. Even if it is as simple as “I am hungry, therefore I will eat.” we will still act and develop based on these motivations. This is a powerful tool at the hands of the roleplayer that allows them to add a unique twist to set them apart from others. Here is a twofold reward: your motivation itself and then how you act upon it. Used together you can spin a twist that shines even when others share similar sentiments.
    To start with, let's talk briefly about motivations. Why does your character do what they do? What drives them? This can be overarching concepts, such as helping the weak, fighting strong enemies to prove one's strength, attempting to learn the secrets of the world or perhaps vanquishing all evil and injustice. These concepts could also be faction-based for instance, supporting the Exiles or the Dominion, or perhaps loyalty to serve a particular group within these. Or perhaps your character is motivated by concepts important to their race, such as Aurin caring about nature.
    I return to my trooper-turned agent I referenced earlier. Not only did I want him to be an agent, I wanted him to be an Imperial from Imperial Intelligence itself. So how could I explain that he was deep within Republic territory in a way that would not instantly net him a swift death? Well, since I did not want him to have some deep betrayal story, I made him a defector. To lend credibility to that story, he defected in order to save his previous Imperial unit from the wrath of an evil Sith when a job turned sour. Now that I have established who he is and why he is in the Republic, how can I further expand on this? As I started role-playing I noticed there were actually quite a few people playing Imperial defectors finding their way in the Republic. So how to be unique? Well, I called upon a deeper level of motivation for my agent. He was still loyal to the Empire and wanted desperately to continue to serve his people. Unlike many of the other defectors I had met he /didn't/ want to be in the Republic. He hadn't left for some higher moral concept or because he was sick of the way things were run, he left as an emergency reaction to protect the lives of other loyal Imperials. At this point, I was satisfactorily unique. Were there other defectors still eager to return home? Perhaps. But at this point they would be rare enough, if I ever found them, to not drown my character in the masses.

Now we have chosen our character without excluding what we wish to play and given them a motivation to lend reason to their character. At this point you have plenty of opportunity for a unique character, but you don't have to stop there! There are so many more concepts you could delve into to further your creation, including:
  • Personality: Is your character happy-go-lucky, cranky,wise,calm or maybe even insane?
  • Realistic details: Lots of people like to play healers, but perhaps rather then magic your character uses herbal remedies. Look these up online to lend yourself a basic knowledge to play pretend. Or perhaps brush up on your military lingo to better act within a militaristic setting.
  • Hobbies: People like to laugh about the massive warrior who secretly likes to grow flowers, but it really can be interesting, especially if you combine it with a bit of research to lend credibility to your actions. Or perhaps your rogue is a talented cook, whipping up delicious feasts out of the boring trail rations, much to the delight of her companions. Maybe your character is fascinated by bones or rocks or gems and enjoys learning about these when they have an opportunity to do so.
  • Flaws: Heroes can be....well heroic, but someone who is always perfect very quickly becomes boring. What if they have a short fuse or a tendency to become irritated by small talk? Perhaps they are very awkward socially and have a hard time associating with people, especially in large groups. Or maybe they are too helpful and annoy people as they constantly slow down to lend aid to every possible person or creature in need. Though flaws are associated with negative ideas, they can be some of the richest tools in character creation.

Or of course, you could always pretend to be one the glorious Cassian, mandated by the Elden themselves to bring enlightenment to the galaxy. But I expect it would be difficult for those people, to understand the concept of such elegance and greatness”

Now Hawkens, there is a flaw right there; an arrogant self-inflated sense of importance. And there's another one there! Irritation at being corrected, if I can judge anything by that ferocious glare you are sending my way.


Ah right, another good idea for characterization: Quirks. For instance, I always know I've won an argument with Agent Hawkens here when he “hmphs” It is his way of conceding victory without having to actually admit to it.

“You are beginning to try my patience.”

Right well, I think I've said enough anyway, so on to the conclusion.

Creating a new character can be very enjoyable. You start with a blank slate of limitless potential (see my article on “why roleplay”) and build from it a living breathing creation with their own motivations, goals, hobbies and emotions. Sometimes they are a pleasant way to pass the time and sometimes they are an entity that follows you for years to come. I could go on about more ways to develop a character for hours and hours but I think I would rather create a better way to get you, dear reader, to begin your own brainstorms and find what is important to you.

Until then, what do you think? Do you have more to add to these suggestions? Did any of them speak to you? Do you have other ideas that you find important? Even though we have a little ways to go yet before WildStar is released, there's no reason why we cannot start our brainstorming now!

Edit: I'd like to add a mention here thanks to a comment from Arlas on WildStar Roleplay:
" Make a character that is unique enough that it appeals to you, but don't be unique for the sake of being unique. It's ok to be like other people--it makes for good RP!"

They make a wonderful point here in that finding similarities can also be wonderful and help bring characters together. You never have to try to be special just because. Do what you wish for your own sake!

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