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Article - 'Character Guide for Different Kinds of Characters' by kaykayman

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Aug 8, 2003

Blurb

Running out of some good ideas for the type of character your person should be? Look here.

Body

One of the most important things in an RPG (if not the most important) is the characters. Even if you have a bitchin story amazing chips, and the coolest collecting scheme, your game will pretty much feel empty if your characters are in the slightest bit unrealistic or boring. You need to give them the correct personality in order for your story to unfold smoothly. I’m not saying that the most realistic character will resurrect the old "save the princess from the giant lizard thing with no motive"-story. But if your character can have a genuine response to a plot-twist or traumatic event, then its gonna give the player more incentive to continue playing and if done correctly can even produce the tingly-effect
The tingly-effect is when the player is so deep into a game that emotional parts will cause them to feel all tingly/fuzzy. (Ok so I made it up)

Most characters fall into one of several generic templates:

Generic Hero (Alex) - This is the old cliché which most tutorials will convince you to avoid. He is infallible, every decision he makes will ultimately lead to the best road. His emotions run smoothly and he never over-reacts. He could defuse arguments between whoever because hes perfect. Even when hes saved the world from sinister annialation he still has time to confess his love to the "Healer" and then a short moment of sympathy for the bad guy.
Okay this character is so over done its just not funny anymore. If your gonna use this character then I take my hat off to you, because it’s so hard to pull off without everyone noticing how perfect and boring he actually was. It can be done...nothing springs to mind, but I’m sure I’ve seen it before.

Romantic Interest (Healer) - The healer is an important part of any RPG. But most often than not (a) The healer will be female (b) She will undoubtedly fall for the main character (usually an Alex). As always, you need a healer and its more obvious to make her female because people would relate a woman with healing and a man with injury. I dont think Ive ever seen a male healer in an RPG, but it would be funny if there was, all the other characters could give him a hard time like so many male-nurses get nowadays. Anyway shes usually very feminine and very naive about fighting and all so because you cant avoid having a healer in your party, try to give it a twist. Make her a lesbian or maybe something less controversial depending on what age-group your games aimed at.

Side-kick (funny-guy) - Right, I actually like this guy, unless his material is bad. Hes great for relieving some tension when the player is so hooked on the plot that they havent breathed for a minute. Hes quite realistic too because there are a lot of people who do try and de-tensify (made it up) situations by cracking a joke (i.e. me) and even though its not usually this kind of situation:
Alex - "This cannot be true."
Heather - "Alex, dont heed him!"
Miscellaneous Henchman - "Its true! Young Warrior, Indeed you father was the postmans pet cats offspring!"
Entire party -
Alex - "This is a revelation that will forever change me. But I will avenge his ninth death."
Miscellaneous Henchman - "That is a task for which thou shall die attempting!"
Side-kick "Right so this guy walks into a bar and..."
You see thats a bad implementation of the funny-guy. Hes always got something RELEVANT to the situation to say which is (even if he didnt mean it to be) funny. If you have an immature sense of humour then you may be more suited to having a "promiscuous-male" character (youll see later on).

Grumpy Hero (Mr. Frowns) - Mr. Frowns is the hero who has the most negative outlook on life. He never expresses his feelings and if he does its usually something negative directed at someone else. This character is quite useful for highlighting another characters mood as if a character acts like this one then the player can see them as moody and if you put a happy character next to him then the juxtaposition helps the player to notice a happy person more easily. Squall (FFVIII) is like this and usually by the end of the game, this character will have learned an important lesson, that life isnt as bad as they think. Once again Ill give an over-dramatic, over-done, over-use of the word "over" example of this character.
Mr. Frowns - "Well lets go to Misty Caves, well probably die in there though."
Heather - "Isnt it full of candy-bars and chocolate?"
Side-kick - "Sounds a bit dodgy to me."
Mr. Frowns - "I once had a friend who went into that cave and suffered a horrible fate."
Heather - "The ceiling, walls and floor is made of marshmallows. Its impossible to get hurt in there!"
Mr. Frowns - "Tell that to Mr. Ex-soldier."
Side-kick - "What was he diabetic?"
Mr. Frowns - "Illness? Life itself is a terminal illness, were all doomed."
You see how he sucks in any positive energy and destroys it? Well thats what this characters best at. You can have a side-kick Mr. Frowns who usually, as above, has a new outlook by the end of the game, but he learns it from the Hero sort of like Amarant from FFIX.

Promiscuous Male (Trouser Brain) - This is the guy who literally lives for sex. Hell usually make some advances upon the female healer forcing the Hero to mark some territory (not like that.) Occasionally this character even develops the hots for the baddies and flirts or makes highly suggestive comments. You want another example dont you?
Alex - "Well we finally made it to Mount Entrenched."
Heather - "Yes. Now all we have to do is walk that relatively short distance to the statue."
Alex - "And place this jewel on it. Lets hope we don’t get interrupted."
Twel Finch - "Wow, that statue is hot!"
Heather -
Alex - "Im now going to place the jewel on the statue, without foreseeing any immediate conflict."
Ominous Voice - "GO BACK TRAVELLERS!!!"
Alex - "What was that?"

Female - "You must leave or suffer my evil, nasty, orphan killing wrath!"
Twel Finch - "Hey Al!" Shes pretty hot aint she!?"
Female - "You dare insult me!!!"
Alex - "We have come far and shall vanquish you if you try to hinder us."
Female - "Then I shall give you no mercy!"
Twel Finch - "All I want is your phone number."
See? I over did it again but thats what this guy does. He can turn anything you say into something sexual and he usually will. This guy is also useful for relieving tension like his friend "funny-guy".

Ex-Soldier (As good as dead) - the ex-soldier usually leads the party until the point where he invariably dies or becomes incapacitated in some way. I suppose its poetic justice that this guy is killed in battle because that is how he lived his life but sometimes the ex-soldier will live on and sort of give the player pieces of vague advice which are never useful; hes also good for getting the player used to the system and giving a world history lesson. Once the player can stand on their own two feet feel free to make him kick the bucket. Something like this:
Ex-soldier - "So do you understand how to fight now?"
Alex - "I guess I do..."
Ex-soldier - "You need to be sure!"
Alex - "Yes! I can fight."
Ex-soldier - "Oh its getting dark, whats this feeling in my chest?
Alex - "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!"
If you want, you can also have the hero avenging the ex-soldiers death until an opportunity to get into a deeper plot surfaces.

Powerful Sidekick (Not for long) - This character is by far the best person to have in you team and for that reason, you dont have then for long. It’s like (and I know I keep referring to FF) Edea or Beatrix. Its a good idea to avoid these characters in your game because it’s aggravating to lose the amazing power just before the next big bad. Also it can sometimes tempt the player into using that character instead of levelling up their originals.

Over-emotional (childhood trauma) - This character is always really happy, or really sad, or really angry, or really confused. Under no circumstances can they be mellow at any time even if you sedated them with 6 elephant dose tranquillisers; they would still have violent dreams or something like that. These are all round great, male or female, drama queens, and can really make a scene come to life.
Alex - "Damn the bridge is out"
Olivia Emotional - "WONT SOMBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!"
Alex - "Calm down Olivia, we can just take a detour through the Freaky Forest."
Olivia – “Do you know what horrible fate lies in our wake?"
Alex - "Um....none?"
Olivia – “I cant wait to see the lovely trees, isnt the sky beautiful today?"
Shes kinda weird isnt she? Well you do get the over-emotional one in every game; they usually make the bad choice because they allow their personal feelings to get in the way of the right choice. Thats a standard RPG-lesson that all characters are supposed to learn. Did you also notice that she was also useful for illustrating the calming influence of the other character? Well she did, shes also good at that.

Baddie gone Goodie (Theres always one) - This character is typically sees "the error of their ways." Unless you actually see this character defy their master then you can bet theyre a spy (you can use this expectation to you advantage, maybe no-one trusts this guy.) A nice scene is where everyone is trapped and someone is told to kill them all. The b2g (baddie to goodie) spontaneously turns on his master and helps them escape. Of course there would be trust issues and you would have to play on them a bit but this kind of character is a really good one to use because of the way you can expand on his character.
Heather - "Back there...Why did you help us?"
Jacob - "I realised that he was evil. It had been in front of me all that time but..."
Heather - "It was really brave."
Jacob - "It just hit me. When I was younger my family brought me up to see him as a god"
Heather "What?"
Jacob - "It wasnt socially acceptable to be against him. Lord Nasty was....perfect."
"He provided for the whole city, outsiders were evil, and tried to steal our food."
"If somebody went missing, we all blamed it on outsiders; no-one has left that country"
"In 30 years. Theyre all afraid of the stories."
Heather - "That must be awful."
See how he actually has a past? You need to delve into this kind of thing. Giving up everything to help others isnt something you would typically do so go into it, find out what made him do it etc. another idea is to have the baddie become a spy but then as he spends more time with the party he decides to be a goodie.

Goodie gone Baddie (Traitor!!!) As above, this is a good one to use, he/she seemed to be a functional member of the team, but they joined forces with the enemy without warning. Its nice to have the person leave when you need them most; it creates a feeling of helplessness and of triumph when the player gets by without him/her. You can also play on past relationships.
Shifty - "Alex, put the sword down, I’m really on your side."
Alex - "How can I be sure of that?"
Shifty - "Why would I join Lord Nasty? What would I stand to gain?"
Alex - "Money? Maybe you think you can steal his power when he gets to the top? I dunno."
Shifty - "This was my plan! Make him think Im on his side! I thought you would figure that out."
Alex - "You abandoned us!"
Shifty - "Not before I told you the way here!"
Alex - "Just tell me where Heather is."
Shifty - "Shes in a cell."
Alex - "Does she know your ‘plan’?”
Shifty - "Um.....yea....no, I thought she would give it away."
He can use his relationship with Alex to avoid death, maybe that was his plan? We dont know because the character is a good actor.

Well I cant think of any more characters so youll have to get along with the ones I’ve done. Remember, characters can bring an okay plot up to a great plot, only if you use them properly. People dont want to see everyone get along and go all "Great idea leader." We want to see internal conflict in our party, make the player have to decide between two different choices, each having different outcomes in the game. But make it a hard decision, give advantages, disadvantages. Bounce personalities off of each other, ones that get on well are Generic Hero and Funny Guy, whereas Healer and Trouser Brain is a match made in hell! So what do you do? Make Healer have to spend a night alone with the creepy sex guy, why? Its funny to see her reaction it gives better character development and makes the game more enjoyable. Just remember a character isnt a character unless you give them...character!