Fleshing out your character with even a basic background and personality will make for a much more rounded and realistic persona.
We as individuals are the sum of all our parts, so if you dont know what your characters’ parts are how can you be consistent. Much of what I have discussed should be noted down for your character so that it will not be forgotten. The most important list is probably your moral code. If you have no moral code you can do whatever you want, but it makes you no better than the beasts of the forest. Dont forget that morals, ambitions and personality can and should change throughout your character’s life.
Always remember that the most important aspect to roleplaying is enjoyment. If youre not going to enjoy playing a certain type of character, then dont do it. Youll just make life miserable for all involved.
This codex is still under construction, if you wish to add to it, go ahead. You are more than welcome to do so. For a clean looking codex start the submission title with: PC’s- and follow up with the topic.
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CodexPC's- Childhood By: Michael Jotne Slayer ( Articles ) Humor/ Editorial - Players
An article that debates the matters of childhood in fantasy RPG’s in relation to the Player Characters.
Gertrude slowly trudged across the tavern, bearing a bottle of wine for the customers. The precocious young girl with freckles and pigtails navigated through the crowd. Such a collection of varied persons might shock the uninitiated but for Getrude such strange visitors had become commonplace at her fathers tavern. rnrnMercenaries, dwarfs, wizards, elves, clerics, and halflings all of them have come and stopped for a drink - and most even left on their own volition rather than being hauled out by the bouncers and tossed in a drunken pile in the street outside. For all their talk of gold, blood, and glory they never seemed to pause to notice her, to thank her for her service, or to spare her as much as a simply copper or schilling as a small gesture of gratitude for her prompt delivery. Cheap bastards she thought to herself as she slipped away from their table while the spoke of acts of courage and foolhardiness. They inspired nothing but contempt in the young girl.
Its only appropriate to begin this column with where we most begin: childhood. Childhood, if such a thing can be said to exist in the most fantasy worlds, is either brief or a luxury. For most living in the RPG worlds childhood passes away quickly and is not necessarily something fondly recalled, because life is difficult and everyone in the family is expected to help make ends meet.
Those raised on farms are to assume duties inside the household and outside in the fields as early as possible, for the welfare of the family depends upon the hard work of all. Among the pastoralists children are expected to watch the flocks and carry food, water, and messages from the pastures to the homestead.
The children of artisans or the urban poor are apprenticed and taught a trade at an early age, often laboring in menial chores long hours for no or little pay. Children of domestic servants are brought along to assist their parents with household chores.
Even the poorest families will send their children out to scavenge, beg, or even pickpocket. As would be suggested, most children begin their lives of labor long before they reach the age of ten.
Those families that are well off can afford to give their children a childhood of play and indulgence. Even under such circumstance a happy or prolonged childhood is not guaranteed. The children of nobles are often sent to other families of similar stature to the gentle arts and the ways of war, or like the students of many noble and merchant families they are placed under the guidance of tutors, schools, and collegiums and taught the arts, sciences, and humanities. For the wealthy, childhood may offer little joy for all too often they are cared for by distant and stern nannies or hired help and schooled in the stuffy art of propriety and seemly behavior suitable for little lords and ladies.
For all his greatness he couldnt transcend his haunted and humble beginnings. Five, that is to say all, of his siblings died before they saw their fifth birthdays. His mother died giving birth to him and thereafter was cared for by his deeply saddened father.
And when he turned his back on the farm for a life lived by the sword, his father, it is said, died from grief. And I suppose that it was this sadness from his childhood - that despite his wealth and fame - is why he leapt off that bridge into the waters of the river below.
Would a happy, well adjusted child who received everything that needed in life ever become an adventurer? Possibly one of the rootless adventurers with no ties anywhere, a thirst for fame and fortune, and a propensity for violence? What drives adventurers, or for that matter villains?
A GM should encourage the players to expand their own childhood to help explain in part the way the character is as an adult. Not all of a person’s personality can be directly attributed to a handful of significant events in a childhood, but creating such events can flesh out a character. Let’s look at some of the seedier aspects of adventuring in relation to childhood.
Wanderlust and Rootlessness
Adventurers wander all about the countryside, unable to settle down or engage in meaningful relationships with others. They save a community and move on, forever in search of the next adventure. Why? Was their own childhood turbulent? Are they running from something in the past?
Are they ashamed of their past? Were they lacking significant relationships with others in the community? Were they abused? Have their ties with their own community been severed? Did they commit a crime? Are their parents dead? Did they flee their community in shame? Was their entire community destroyed and they the stereotype lone, haunted survivor? Self Important Adventurers could be perceived as entirely self absorbed and self important.
They believe that they must get involved and if they don’t, the world will come to an end. The world revolves around them. Just because a bunch of adventurers show up with lurid tales of cults and foul sacrifices (with little evidence to support such outrageous claims)they demand interviews with the towns’ most prominent members, and those that don’t give in to their absurd demands are proclaimed as conspirators or accused of the most heinous crimes. Why are they so self absorbed? So self important? Did they not get enough attention as a child? Were they neglected by their parents? Beaten up by other children or siblings? Shy? Quiet? Ignored by the community?
Perhaps they crave attention and get it now by parading about a small town or village in full armor and heavily armed, carrying with them mementoes and trophies of their various victories. Adding silly nicknames to their names.
Let’s be honest, adventurers are very often self promotingrnpompous asses with little concern about the peacefulness of the community and overly concerned about the reputations as heroes and paragons of virtue.
Accepting of Violence as a Solution
A man runs down the street. The adventurers immediately assume that this man is running from them, one raises a crossbow and fires at the legs, another prepares a spell rapidly. Yet these adventurers truly have no idea why this person is running, they’re just assuming, being as self important as they are, that it must have something to do with the burglary of their room in the inn. Adventurers resort to violence routinely. A man in a mask. Strange sounds at night around the campfire. Someone reticent in revealing details. Adventurers are comfortable with infilcting pain and maiming and killing others. What has made these adventurers so borderline psychotic or sociopathic? They investigate a warehouse of a suspected cult member. The elderly guard catches them and is ran through, for no reason other than he was doing his job.
One can assume that many adventurers had violent childhoods. They were bullies, or they were bullied. Their parents fought and bickered. Maybe the player, at a young age had to resort to violence to save their family. Perhaps little Hans returns to his home from wood cutting in the forest to discover that the front door is burst in and an Orc is hacking up his mother and siblings, and Hans slams the wood axe into the back of this monster.
Whenever Hans, now an adventurer gets angry, something snaps and he intuitively resorts to violence when under any pressure.
The point is, that people who are normally socialized find violence abhorrent. Adventurers, who wallow in this stuff, might be predisposed to violence in a way that many townsfolk and even countryfolk aren’t. So was there a series of events in childhood that made the character different in regards to how they view violence in contrast with the rest of the populace?
The Magistrate glared at the accused before him. The orphan stood there frightened, awaiting the verdict. The magistrate hid behind an expressionless mask that betrayed not the tide of bile rising from within. Not even eight years of age and caught stealing apples from a merchant! Surely it must run in their blood after all! The commoners were like vermin, spreading their contagion of unwanted children, licentiousness, drunkenness, and crime but this rat had not gotten away - and here it was, cowering beneath the cats paw. "You are hereby sentenced to three days in the pillory and ten years in prison. Remove the sentenced from my sight."
The full weight of the law must be used to crush these snot nosed little brats!
Even the players can be victims of crime. A money purse is stolen, some silver coins are taken, and a small child, no more than six years of age is running with it? Are the silvers worth so much to the adventurer? Perhaps the adventurer pursues the child down an alley, into a basement where a group of small, hungry, dirty looking children cower.
People who commit crimes are not necessarily amoral, lazy, or evil, they may simply be needy. And in a world where disease or some other misfortune can result in a child living on the streets, much of the crime may be committed by children who seem to have little future.
Begging: PC’s carrying on about in finery, well armed and equipped with a flair for drawing attention to themselves should be surrounded by beggars constantly, seeking the smallest penny or schilling from such illustrious and generous sorts of themselves.
Yet adventurers, walking moneybags that they often are, sneak about towns and villages without ever being accosted by hordes of needy children, thrusting pitiful dirty hands up at the PC’s beseechingly! Placing the characters’ heroic deeds in contrast to the desperate acts of survival that occur every day in every town and city may make the characters reflect upon the nature of the society and the inherent inequalities that exist in a system that they champion.
Why can’t adventurers spend as much time helping children at orphanages as they do rooting out imaginary cults and the like?
The adventurers were pleased with themselves, and chortling with glee. A mere nights work had allowed them to smuggle in goods to their patron for a very generous fee. The ease of their work and the size of their payment filled them with exuberance, and as the first rays of the sun chased way the bitter chill of the retreating night they jostled each other playfully and bragged of the pleasures and luxuries their new found wealth wouldrnafford them.
Their merriment ended as they were startled out of their revelry.
Lying in the street were the still bodies of three small children, cold and blue, still vainly clinging to each other for warmth. The sight of the frail small corpses sobered them up and they continued along their way, each lost in their own melancholy thoughts.
The necessity of crime, and the poverty that drives to children to these acts can illustrate the hostility and grim nature of the world.
Yet adventurers deal in death and misery to their enemies and foes. Yet death, and suffering, can be employed in a different manner by a GM. In truth, the players would be more likely to witness funerals of small children, or dead children frozen to death than they would bodies of orcs and goblins, when in truth the reverse is more likely. Players, sadly, should equate childhood not with happiness, but mortality. Funerals of children, grieving mothers should all reflect a high mortality rate that exists in medieval society, even one with clerics who can heal.
Poor children dying or being murdered, with none caring about their demise, since they are viewed by many as vermin, or a problem to be ignored.
Andrea was lost in the Black Forest; her fear turned to gratitude as she saw a faint pillar of smoke ahead through the tops of the trees. She hurriedly entered the clearing, shaking away the cold and exhaustion from her long flight.
She stepped forward and was immediately greeted by the barking of a half dozen of the ugliest dogs she ever saw, wild and mangy looking. Moments later, a dozen or so small faces appeared from windows and doorways, children who looked even more feral in appearance than the dogs. Dirty, unkempt, and by the looks of them bruised and beaten as well. Andrea looked at their bare feet, matted hair, and threadbare clothes and pitied their poor little lives. Aghast, she turned away from their fearful, pleading eyes, and entered into the deep forests again.
It is not just children in urban areas that suffer, but children in rural areas as well. They often have little to look forward to then slaving away on land that they’ll never own, or squatting on property on the dangerous fringes of civilization. For them, even their childhood is short, dangerous, and harsh.
The children are quite likely ignorant, being illiterate, and their minds full of nonsense and superstition. While they may be full of critical knowledge of their area outside that domain they are ignrorant and this ignorance can be dangerous. For them, there is little access to knowledge to improve their lives or become anything other than their parents are.
Marcus waited patiently there, suppressing the frustration within. The long trip, on such a delicate yet important matter of diplomacy, and he was kept waiting! Waiting! The gall! A young page walked in, bearing ink, quill and parchment. As he approached, the young lad misstepped, and lurched forward a bit, and a single drop of black ink landed upon Lord Marcus’s sleeve. He exploded, he rose above the frightened lad, holding his cane high, and brought it down upon the youthful crown! The boy crumpled, but Lord Marcus did not stop until the child was a mangled heap and his cane had split in two from the beating.
Power in the medieval fantasy world affects all, and its distribution is unequal and the source of hardship for the many and luxury for the few.
Just as children live in poverty, all to often they are the victims of people seeking power. Children are vulnerable than most to the abuses of power, and those with great power can use their power against them with little resistance. Wealthy merchants can have child beggars beaten to keep them away from their estates and places of business, while nobles can ride over children with impunity, or incarcerate them for crimes real or imagined.
Those with little power are able to take out their frustrations on those with less power: children.
There’s no need to go into great detail on child abuse and violence against children, other than to note that the inclusion of such material into a campaign must take into account the sensibilities of the group and what exactly they are comfortable with.
The adventurers were bursting with energy! They were alive! They were paid! And they’d done much to help the people of the area! Here, they were relaxing in a local inn, sitting by the warm fire to chill their bones. the Orc Warlord, that had hunted down and slain so many and terrorized the people of the land was defeated, its foul, hairy corpse pierced by a dozen arrows. A hard pursuit and fight, but victory was theirs! Rolf, raised his tankard in celebration, the others grinning followed. Rolf started "Today, we made the lives of the local people better, and for that…", and then paused dramatically before continuing.
Suddenly the sound of a dish crashed from the inn’s kitchen. The landlord burst through the door into the kitchen, its door swinging wildly, and a small child stood there amidst broken dishware. As the door swung shut the landlord was seen looming over the child and his screams could be heard. "You oaf! You clumsy cursed brat! You know how much that cost me!" The door swung open again and a glimpse of the innkeeper could be seen, his hand raised above his head. Violent smacking sounds, strangled sobs. A woman’s voice interceding, and soon her yelps were heard as well, and the door swung to and fro, giving the horrified patrons snapshots of the resulting beatings. The heroes, defeaters of orcs, monsters, and even darker evils sat there, unable or unwilling to face the beast that lurked in the human heart.
In conclusion, childhood is a topic that should be explored by GM and player alike, but not our own childhood with myths of innocence and care-free pleasures, but rather a childhood colored by the grim desperation of the medievil fantasy world. Childhood can be used as a source of character development as well as a means of bringing home to characters a sense of what they are fighting for, and against, in their daily struggles in the RPG fantasy games.
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PC's- Family and Friends By: Michael Jotne Slayer ( Articles ) Campaign - Players
An article for GM’s and players alike upon the matter of the family and friends of the players.
Someone once said that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. This is a concept I believe is often lost in the creation of Player Characters. Its so much easier to say "My whole family died in a Orc raid!" than to have a living and thriving family somewhere just waiting to cause you grief. There is danger that PCs can be very much one dimensional. This applies to most areas of a character, from friends and family, to enemies, and even morals. This is not to say that we, as potential PCs, don’t give any thought to these areas.
Sometimes it is so much easier to ignore or gloss over them especially when you generate a character to quickly slot into an ongoing campaign. A little time spent in fleshing out a character can go along way towards making them more interesting, and more importantly, fun to play.
Of course you can build the details of your character as you campaign but it is good to have a solid base to work from. The following ideas are intended to help you on the way towards creating a more fully rounded character.
On the Matter of Family
A prime and often under used resource is the family. If your entire family is dead you can go through life with no worries, hell! you might as well just stay and work the farm if thats what you want. Roleplaying a farmer, whose biggest hurdle in life is whether the cow produces milk, does not make for enjoyable gaming.
Many players believe that relatives can only be a hindrance, with the GM using them as a stranglehold over a player to make them do things they normally would not do. Well, they’re right! Helping to carry out the evil machinations of a necromancer, in order to save your family, can prove a great source of roleplaying and can help to blur the everchanging definitions of right and wrong.
A family will allow the GM to have something to use against you, but the consequences of having a family should not always negative. When necromantic antics abound, imagine how useful it is to have uncle Jarm as a prominent priest of the Church, or having cousin Tom the Physician nearby when you’re in need of surgery. How comforting it is to know that you always have somewhere to go where people will look after and care for you without the need to pay them. What about a spouse?
Most people marry young, especially in rural areas. This of course leads to another complication. Do you have children and if so how many? With little birth control available your family is likely to be large. A desirable option with such high infant mortality. Having dependants can put a completely new slant on your characters’ priorities and goals.
Why have you left your family behind? Do you still intend to support them and how will they survive whilst you’re away? This may well lead to further complications down the line with your bitter children blaming you for their impoverished upbringing.
You don’t need to spend hours creating a family tree or writing biographies for each of your relatives. A simple list of your immediate family will do. Name them all and note down each of their professions and where they live. Make a special note of any family members who might be of more use or importance than the average farmer, and include any other more distant relatives who may be useful or interesting. Remember of course, that although cousin Anthar went to the big city to become a Mage’s apprentice, it doesn’t mean he did!
The final thing to consider here, is that it doesn’t have to end with death. Why throw away a perfectly good family just because your PC has died. With the GMs agreement you could play any one of the host of characters you have weaved into your late PCs family. With a bit of thought and imagination the world you play in will begin to seem that much more real.
Friends and Enemies
Before you start to roleplay your new PC they will have lived real lives. Along the way they will have made friends and even enemies.
Along the way they will have made friends and even enemies. It is unlikely that your character will have wandered through their formative years not talking or interacting with anyone. Again you could say that they had all died after you befriended them, but even in the dangerous fantasy world, this is unlikely (or even suspicious).
If you have created a friend or enemy, and the GM knows about it, they could turn up at the most opportune or inopportune time to help or hinder you in completing your task. This will be much more interesting than if the GM just informs you that you have one! You don’t have to be in constant communication with all those who have crossed your path. You may well have lost touch with them, but as long as they exist the GM and player will always have them available as an additional tool. Note down how you became friends or enemies. This can be as little as "adventured together until Jorn lost his right leg" or as long as you are inspired to write for.
Try not to make it so long that the GM wont read it! Also, make it clear whether it is a friend or an enemy. The above note about Jorn could mean that Jorn blames you for the loss of his leg! Most importantly on creating friends, family and enemies discuss them with your GM so that both of you are happy with them.
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PC's- Goals and Morals By: Michael Jotne Slayer ( Articles ) Character - Players
Different aspects of forging your Player Character- Geography and Goals. Enjoyable for Players and Gamemasters alike.
Everyone has aspirations, dreams and ambitions, and they’re not usually static. The more you achieve, experience, and see, the more your goals will change. After all, you became an adventurer for a reason.
As a farmer leaving the family home looking for adventure your goal may be to one day return to the farm a rich man. But as you adventure your goals may change perhaps to dedicating your life to the will of your favoured Deity. Finally, the wholesale slaughter of your family and friends may send you off on a crusade for vengeance.
A character is unlikely to have only one goal (e.g. to get rich), unless it is all consuming, such as revenge. Marriage, children, wealth, power, happiness, selfulfilment and a glorious death are all valid goals albeit a bit vague. Elaborate on some of these or create
some more tangible goals. Aspiring to a position in life, i.e. Captain of the army, or towards an ideal such as a Rich Merchant will give you a more visual goalpost with which to measure your achievements.
Goals will affect the way you approach life and adventuring, as two characters with different goals in the same situation will probably act completely differently.
When choosing goals for your character you should bear in mind that their initial goals in life are likely to be less grand than those they have after three years of the adventuring high life (unless you begin life as a noble).
Additionally, it is important that you know why you have chosen the adventuring life. Are you aspiring to the giddy heights of nobility, have you become so bored with life at sea that you’d risk life and limb to relieve the boredom, have you become entangled in a web of intrigue and mystery which fuels your convictions of right and wrong, or are you
atoning for some real or imagined misdeed or dishonour? The real enjoyment is deciding what motivates you. It is up to you to find your character’s motivation and make them
real. Try not to make it wholly monetary, after all, it is what you want to do with the money that is important.
Arguably the most important feature of your character is their morality. What one person allows within their moral strictures will be seen as immoral by another. If you intend to play a character consistently, especially if they are significantly different from you, it is essential to know what they will and will not do. Possibly the most important of all the moral guidelines is that of personal safety.
Although you may class this as a goal, it is important to realise that it will fundamentally affect your moral decisions. If you hold your personal safety as a high priority but are in a position where it will compromise a moral decision then you must be clear which will hold strongest. Included in this will be your characters level of greed. Do you have an avaricious nature, or do you believe that money is the root of all evil? What are you prepared to do to satisfy this greed?
Would you commit what you consider an evil act to save yourself? Perhaps, throwing a baby to a hungry pack of wolfs whilst you make a hasty retreat or murdering someone in cold blood? What about torturing a suspected cultist to discover the truth (or some twisted version of it)? And what do you consider to be a Good act? Sparing someones life by endangering your own, killing an Orc quickly to end their suffering, or agreeing to save a village from a cow that produces yellow milk, for legal rights to the ownership and servitude of its inhabitants and land?
Many groups have disregarded alignment but there is a danger of all characters just becoming selfpreservationist neutrals. Characters whose every decision is completely mercenary are in danger of becoming boring. I never use alignements in my games and find them rather unpractical. But avoid the Player Character that is ever selfpreservant and dull at all costs!
Depending on your religious persuasion you may believe that it a sin to take a life. Just because you follow some pacifist or healer go does not mean that you cannot be an adventurer. You can stun, knock-out and disarm your enemies. On the other hand, you may agree with the philosophy of Lestat in Anne Rices Interview with a Vampire "God kills indiscriminately, and so shall we!". A disregard for the sanctity of life may be your way, but may also prove hazardous to your freedom, your sanity and your life. Your motivations may not be clear cut but the actions will generally be seen as such. Of course, even for those who choose to follow a certain "Good" or "Lawful" path, questions that impinge on these beliefs will constantly arise. Would you kill a baby if you believed it would become a Black Mage?
Your loyalty family, friends, countrymen, guild, fellow adventurers are all likely to have an impact on your actions. It is important to know what general order they come in. If an enemy threatens your family, to try and persuade you to betray your friends, which loyalty is stronger family or comrades? Remember, just because you are a Player Character does not mean you have to be good, pure and sickly sweet.
Playing a character with different moral guidelines than others in your party can cause interparty conflict, but in my experience this only heightens the enjoyment! (Of course you must be careful not to ruin anyone elses fun) If, for instance, you fully believe that you should not break (or bend) the law, then why would you do it.
Breaking into a suspected villains house to find evidence of their guilt is going against your moral code. If you do so, you have ignored your moral makeup and you will need to reassess your morality. Perhaps you were just weak and easily influenced. Just the right type for certain illegal organizations!
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