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One of the most important things about creating a real and believable character, is fleshing them out with strengths and weaknesses. Regardless of numbers, these need to be thought out. Strengths and weaknesses provide that 3rd dimension to roleplaying, actions being the first and reactions being the 2nd. I don't mean strengths and weaknesses with regard to combat, but rather in life. Things the character does well, and things that the character can't do well, or is hurt by. This isn't to say that the strengths and weaknesses need to be on the surface, coming out on a daily basis, but they are something that needs to be thought about when considering the character's background. Taking a pad of paper and writing down a list of strengths and weaknesses helps to provide an outline for what your character can do, cannot do, and can be hurt by. Listing of strengths also helps eliminate the "I can do that." phenomenon where a player sees someone else's character's actions and decides their character can do it as well.
Weaknesses are things that I've seen forgotten many times whether table-top roleplaying or mudding. A character without weaknesses just isn't believable, no one is that all-encompasing. Another problem with a character not having weaknesses, is that you become perfect, and unable to roleplay with. How can even the above average character like a prince hope to have any conversation at all with one who has no problems? Mr. Paladin runs around solving others problems, but has none of his own? I've run into a couple of these characters, and they usually just end up frustrating me. It becomes difficult to have a conversation with them. They're either trying to solve your problems, or are bragging about their abilities. Most characters, as with people in real life, get fed up with braggarts. Another problems is that ooc you don't want your problems solved yet(see below about hanging plots). Thus the need for weaknesses.
Even as humans in real life we're not consistent,
and we have parts of our personalities that conflict with each other.
For example, the Orc warrior who's a gardener, might also have an allergy
to pollen, not only creating another ironic twist, but giving him some
substance. Personally, I find that my character's weaknesses offer
better roleplaying devices than her strengths do. After all a good
roleplaying session is like a good movie, it's about creating tension and
resolving it. A few people sitting around talking about their day
doesn't usually provide this. (although I have seen exceptions.)
Being able to respond to situations without overbearing
other characters is important as Jarok mentioned in his section entitled
Playing well with others. Expanding on what he wrote, I'll bring
up the process of being suggestive, not assumptive. Being suggestive
is saying what your character does, being assumptive is saying what your
character does, and how it affects others, take the following examples:
> Josinie runs across the room and plants her dagger in Ystefeld's back.
or even something as subtle as,
> Ristan takes your hand in his.
Those two are assumptive. The first, albeit more dramatic and character destructive, leaves no response as to what Ystefeld would have done. The second, although slightly vague (what if there were more than one person in the room, they'd all think Ristan took their hand.), isn't usually something that most people would think about before doing. But it is up to both players what actions fall in what order.
>Josinie runs across the room, raising her dagger to strike at Ystefeld.
>Ystefeld holds his arms up in defense, his eyes locked in terror.
>Josinie swings the dagger down in a smooth graceful arc at Ystefeld's back...
>Ystefeld screams as the dagger plunges through his back.
Now although the ending result was the same, the process was much different.
Not only is suggestive roleplaying more entertaining to watch, it allows
suspense to build, and allows both players to make decisions for their
characters. One of the most important things to remember is to avoid
stepping on the egos or toes of the other player. They created
their character and have the right to proceed with him/her in the direction
of their choosing.
Another excellent way to progress plots and to create exciting moments is to create hanging plots. These can be personal or group hanging plots, but the personal variety are easier to orchestrate. Basically what the hanging plot entails, is the setup of some event planned for the future, the dropping of clues to other characters. Things like leaving an love letter in a public place (accidentally ic, but very on purpose ooc), purchasing a dagger when your character is a well known pacifist, and even the setup of such events are considered hanging plots. The plots should last for a while, triggering your plot too soon, looks like a rushed attempt to have something happen. Think about how a movie foreshadows the inevitable, and how it leads up to that with minor confrontations. This is how hanging plots work, they provide a background for some event, so that when the actual confrontation or event arrives several days to weeks later, you've hopefully provided enough suspense or mystery that you have everyone enraptured in your story.
December 1998 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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