Terrouge E-zine Archives
Wordsmith's Forge: RPG Tips 'n Tricks
By: Sean A.
October. The month of trick-or-treats. The month of dressing up and acting like a lunatic. The month of my birthday. Far more important than all those trivial things, however, is this; October is the month when smart, creative, intelligent people, trapped in school for the majority of each day, all come to the same conclusion at once: they're bored.
Boredom, however, does not have to be terminal- there are many, many ways to come up with excitement. For example, taking up pyrotechnics as a hobby eliminates boredom (and eyebrows). A slightly safer pastime, perhaps, is writing or role-playing. Neither of these activities is difficult, and there's an abundance of places to role-play on the 'net. This column, over the next few months, will provide advice and guidelines on creating and using characters that you can have loads of fun with- hey, you could even have a character who does pyrotechnics!
Okay, enough with the flames. The point is, boredom is an easily-defeated foe, provided you have the right weapons. I'm going to show you how to forge those weapons.
Lesson One: Character Creation
Before you can go out and slice people into little bits (Note: don't try this at home), you're going to need a sword or an axe or some similar weapon. And, before you go out and write or role-play, you're going to need a character. Predictably enough, I'm going to do things starting at the beginning, and teach you how to create a character from scratch. Note that, although the emphasis is on Redwall characters, you can use these guidelines to create a character for any setting, such as Middle-Earth or an original world of your own devising.
There are six basic properties of any character- absolutely any character, and they're listed below. The properties are listed in the order I use, and therefore the order they'll be covered in this article. This month, since I do have a finite amount of space to write in, I'm just going to cover the absolute essentials.
Appearance (& Gender & Species)
Abilities (& Attributes)
History (& Motivation)
Name: There are dozens of ways to come up with a name for your character. If you need help, you have several options. You can check a baby names site, glom together a couple good-sounding words, translate a neat-sounding word into another language, or, if desperate, ask me (Or, if not desperate, just about anyone else on the Terrouge Forums- they're helpful folk). The name should, of course, fit the character- you don't want a hulking body-builder badger lord named Lilysweet Meadowbreeze.
For your aid and my pleasure, there's going to be an example in italics appended to the bottom of each section. In this case, I've decided I like the name Nightroarer Starblade. I'll use that as the sample name.
Appearance (& Gender & Species): If your character is a female red fox, you could just describe her as a red fox vixen. That, however, isn't much of a description. Go into detail: What's she wearing, what's her approximate age, what's she carrying, does her face look happy or sad on a normal day, what color are her eyes, and so on. After you've done this, you can work up a basic 'desc' or description.
Although it's tempting, please don't make your character's fur and eyes odd colors and claim it's their natural state. Dyes are good, if you can provide a reason for them; so are paints and tattoos- but the range of natural coloring for a hare does not include white with purple eyes, and rats don't come in lemon yellow with sable eyes, nor are mice born with green fur.
Example: You see Nightroarer Starblade, a white-cloaked badger youth of fearsome proportions. His black paws, currently clasping a spear of polished oak with a golden head, look strong enough to crush rock. His eyes, which are probably brown on a normal day, cloud with rage as he growls, his usually friendly face twisted into a rictus of fury. The navy blue tunic he wears is, unfortunately, thin enough that you can clearly see the bulging muscles beneath.
An important note: There are a few species which shouldn't be used without careful consideration. Badgers are, in fact, one of them, making this a bad example (Naughty Sean! Tch tch!). There are usually less than three badgers in Mossflower at any time. Species that should pretty well never be used are wildcats and pine martens (Only showed up twice in the series) herons, house cats, horses, kites, whales, dolphins, eagles, and odd half-breeds (once each), owls (Three times- or perhaps it was four, I can't recall) or wolves, pigs, cows, and dogs (only rumored, never actually showed up). If you want a rare species, I suggest the following: Shrews, Sparra, voles, bats, or rabbits if you like goodbeasts, and toads, frogs, snakes (small and non-poisonous, please), gulls, lizards, tree rats (Painted Ones) or crows if you like vermin. A special note goes to pygmy shrews and Gawtrybe squirrels: They appear to have no species loyalty, and can therefore be on either side.
Personality: Ah, the fun part. For your Personality, you have, well, your character's character; what they think about things, how they react to situations- it's the (hopefully) unique spark that makes your character something special. You could have an agoraphobic mouse. Or a kleptomaniac ferret. This article is quite long already, but I do want to focus on Personality, so we'll cover it in more detail next month.
Example: Nightroarer is, sadly, a coward. Furthermore, he's arrogant, which would get him into a lot of fights if he weren't so huge.
Abilities: Ah, the spice of life- what can your character do? Anything that requires practice (Like fencing or painting) is a skill, and your character may be anywhere from brilliant to hopeless at it. Anything that's part of the character (like their speed or strength) is an attribute. In general, you should pick out a few skills your character is good at and a few skills they're bad at, and some basic attributes. Any situations you run into can be extrapolated from your character's defined abilities. Anything that isn't listed should be assumed to be 'average'.
Your character could be a brilliant warrior but illiterate, or a dancer without equal who happens to be afraid of crowds. You get the idea? Be sure to balance good skills and attributes with bad ones- but, again, we'll get to that next month.
Something I want to focus on this month, though, is Species-to-Ability matching. You'll notice that all of Nightroarer's abilities, listed below, are 'compatible' with badgers; strong and big, not especially fast, a good fighter, etc. If you had a squirrel for a character, it would be far more appropriate to have fast attributes and skills requiring speed. If you had a fox, healing skills and being a good liar is almost a prerequisite. Finally, you may notice that Bloodwrath is listed as one of Nightroarer's skills: This is because all badgers have it. Similarly, all squirrels (unless they're crippled, or afraid of heights, which would be very rare) are very good climbers, all otters are very good swimmers, all moles are very good tunnelers, all hares are good fighters... you get the idea. If you want a generic and customizable character that doesn't have any species traits, I suggest the following: A mouse if you like goodbeasts, and a ferret, weasel, or stoat if you like vermin. None of those species has any particular 'traits'.
Example: Nightroarer's abilities:
Decent spear fighter
Bad social skills
Can read (with difficulty)
Good sense of smell
Bad sense of direction
History: Just one rule here. Please, no more 'Everyone I loved is was killed.' There are dozens of characters (two of mine included) on the ROC whose history could be summed up with that line. That history can be pulled off, but, eh... it's better to come up with something new. Here, unfortunately, you're pretty much on your own, but remember: your History must explain how your character got to be where they are now, and why they don't just go home. Your character could have, oh, some item they need to get. Perhaps they're trying to find a good place to live. Maybe they ran away from home.
Note that History also ties in to Motivation (Why/how your character reacts to situations); their Motivation is dictated by their history, within the limits of personality. If your character was trying to find some rare item, naturally they'd ask anyone they met about its whereabouts- unless, perhaps, your character is a suspicious type, who'd probably just wait for the other person to go to sleep, then pick their pockets or tie them up and force information out of them.
Example: Nightroarer is convinced that the only way he can win the affections of the badgermaid he loves is by going out and having adventures. This results in his trying to attack anyone smaller or less skilled than himself if they act even slightly threatening.
Equipment: There are just a couple things to cover here. First, if your character has a pack, large pockets, or another means of holding items that you can't see, it's a good idea to write down, when the story/game starts, what your character has in their pack/pockets- this way, they aren't always whipping out some gadget that can instantly solve the problem at hand. Also, keep in mind that a pack has limited space- you can't fit three swords, a bottle of wine, four loaves of bread, a change of clothing, and a full suit of armor into a pack. Well, not without a really big pack, anyway. Finally, even if you do have a pack that size, be sure your character could carry it, and be sure to note the effects it would have on them; a squirrel wearing full plate mail can't turn cartwheels!
Once again, the example: Nightroarer is carrying an oaken spear with a spearhead that looks like gold but is actually polished brass. He's also got a pack, which contains three days worth of miscellaneous food, three blankets, a spare tunic, and a handkerchief belonging to the badger maid he loves (he swiped it when she wasn't looking). He's wearing a white cloak, a blue tunic, a black belt, and brown knee-height boots.
Thus endeth the lesson. Try it out! If you want help, feel free to contact me, and, if you've got a character worked up, drop by the Wordsmith's Army in the forums to try roleplaying!