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.