Looking for that hook to make your character “come alive” at the game table?
Players and Game Masters can lift what they need to portray a PC or NPC straight off their character sheets. Yes, the cues you need are right there in that stat sheet of words and numbers.
Writing up back stories or using detailed character generators can be useful approaches. But when time doesn’t allow for that, don’t fret. The character sheet should already have sufficient material that you can use to roleplay something memorable.
You are your weapon
Make a big deal about your character’s weapon (or in the case of a magical character, their spellbook or holy symbol). Give your beloved weapon a name (who knows, maybe in the future, it could develop its own personality). During roleplaying opportunities, talk up your weapon, demonstrate the special care you give it, decorate it with sashes or hash marks or jewels as a coup counter. Or maybe, what you carry isn’t the weapon you truly desire. Talk up the fact you are looking for the weapon of your ancestors, that special blade that matches your desire (and need for a +2 bonus) or something exotic from your homeland. In the latter, you’ve got a quest and a personality trait all rolled up into one.
You are your class / best ability
Play up the fact you are good at something. It’s not bragging or boasting — and even if it is, a little — in a roleplaying session, it’s a forgivable sin because you are trying to demonstrate the character’s personality. A trained fighter might say: “I’m a warrior, when the kill is there, I take it.” A healer, used to laying on hands, might be a hugger, a gregarious personality who doesn’t recognize personal space. A thief, who also may not recognize boundaries for different reasons entirely, could be a charmer or flatterer. Maybe the magic user is a mystic, cold and aloof, having seen the mysteries of the universe in a full spectrum of color and wonder, now considers our mortal existence mundane. Think about how the various classes see the world and their best ability score, and put the two together to come up with a working personality.
You are what you wear
Actors know this to be true: Put on a hat, wig or glasses and suddenly you are a new character entirely. (Johnny Depp might be the most prominent example of this in film today; think about his signature characters, most wear hats). Most character sheets have a place to draw a picture of the character. If you can draw, go to town. Even if your art skills aren’t up to it, use the space to write down the components of their costume. Better yet, do an Internet search and get an image close to what you envision the character to be or use a character creator in a computer game to generate an image of the character, print those out and paste it on the sheet. Use a minifig to represent the character. (Dress up a Barbie doll or GI Joe, if that works for you.) The idea is to figure out what the character is wearing, and get in that character’s headspace a little. Now, maybe the first time you do this you’ll be inexperienced, and after a few sessions, an “Extreme Makeover” is in order. Don’t fret it. People change clothes all the time, and your favorite TV and film characters go through costume changes too. There’s no reason why your PC or NPC can’t do the same, and change their personality along with it. The key is to think “costume” and then portray an extension of it. Dress like a princess, be a princess. Wear black, be a goth. Adorned with tattoos of skulls and crossbones, be intimidating.
If you’ve had success finding your NPC or PC in the character sheet, share the experience in the space below. Everyone loves to tell stories about their characters, here’s a chance to share in how their personality came to be.