Saturday, November 14, 2009

Character Archetypes (Or What You Require in a Character)

Some of the people i play lots of games with tend to play similar characters.  Some always want to be the pretty, smart girl, for example, or the biggest-toughest tank.  Still others might have characters that seem to have nothing in common at all, except that they all have extensive backstories rooted in a dark past or a volatile home life.

A lot of people will say 'i never play the same type of character twice' and be very wrong and/or lying about it, but i've probably played 50 different characters in less than three years, and i do think i've done pretty well at keeping them all new and fun. Of course there are some recurring patterns, but i like to think that even within the same archetype, they're each different enough to at least show i've made an effort.

 My personal requirements for any character, for any game, with any group of people are as follows: he or she must be able to survive the setting alone (through skills and/or fighting ability), but have a reason to work with the group anyway--and it can't just be something like 'they asked me to' or 'the same guy hired us.' There has to be some inner drive to work with someone else, even if there is reluctance involved. I don't think a GM should ever have to beg or coerce people to go along with a group--that's up to the players.

The male characters i play have the most in common: they are all tall, dark, and stoic. It doesn't matter if he's a werewolf, a ninja, a gunslinger, or a gigolo: he's going to be tough, confident, and to-the-point.  I surmise that this is probably because i'm a chick, and i want to play my ideal or whatever.  There might be some deeper psychological issues at work, but i think this theory is direct and logical enough, so let's move on.

The only thing my female characters seem to really share is a very deep, extreme, stubbornness. My women are definitely more varied than the men; they range from a 15-year-old Buffy-style Slayer who just-wants-to-kill-stuff-and-to-hell-with-the-consequences, to an immortal Japanese Samurai who feels she must atone for past indiscretions, as well as prepare her younger teammates for battles yet to come. I play women that are big, small, tough, meek, muscled, and deceptively frail. They're outspoken, shy, vengeful, peaceful, and everything in-between. I don't even mind playing ugly and/or fat chicks--i mention this only because it seems to be such a rare position on the matter.  I've seen people (men and women alike) cheat just to boost their attractiveness scores, and calling them out on it tends to be very...well...ugly.

So how about you?  Do you favor any particular archetype in your games?  What qualities do the majority of your characters have in common?


Jennifer said...

I play a bunch of different kinds of characters, male, female, young and old. I do have to say I tend to make mine pretty or at least average. I think that comes from not thinking I'm attractive in real life so I want at least my characters to be. I wouldn't cheat just to be attractive though. Most of my characters are made with house rules where we can put our dice rolls on whatever attributes we want so I tend to stick one of the average to higher scores on PB since I can boost the others with skills.

I have characters that come from good families, bad families, no families. I do have to say a lot of my characters are bitches, at least the ones I play on a regular basis. I do try to give my character skills that I think would be useful for the setting we're in, but also try to give them something that makes them unique. I have friends that make characters and give them no useful skills for the setting. When asked why, they tell me "I wanted to round out the character, make him seem like a real person." That's the whole point of RPing to me is to be somebody I'm not, and the characters like that, that have a bunch of useless skills find themselves in bad situations more often then not. Or the player doesn't have any fun because there is nothing he can do, or he's useless to the team.

So yeah I like to play pretty characters, but that doesn't mean I won't play one that isn't what most would call attractive.

NulSyn said...

I like to think I don't stick to the same concept over and over again. But I know I have a soft spot for playing the large "Brick" type character.
I've played so many things over the years that I think I've ran the gamut. The one exception is cross-gender characters. I just have no want to rp a female PC, it doesn't bother me if others do, its just not for me. Well, it can bother me if others do, there have been real life games where people have gotten really into their cross-gender PC and started RPing way to intimately and lost in character for my tastes.

Yeah but as a whole I like to think a setting inspires a different concept in me at different times.

Starmage21 said...

I like to vary a little bit, but after years of gaming, I always tend to fall back on the studious types, which are often casters. I do know that I play RPGs for escapist ideals. When I create a character, I put a little of myself in it, and make the rest as unlike myself as possible, often leading to evilly aligned characters, who commonly share borderline sociopathic or psychopathic tendancies, but I try to vary based on motivation.