I fell into the hobby of fictional world building while creating characters for online text based free-form role-play games. I enjoy character building. Exploring and discovering how your characters react to their environment adds depth and color to their personality.
Role-playing in your world whether it be on your own, or with a group of friends can stretch your imagination. It can provide you with scenarios you may not have previously considered. It can provide you with plethora of ideas for storytelling. (If you want to use other people’s role-play characters or ideas in your storytelling, especially if you want to publish those stories, always gain written permission from those players first.)
You may decide to create all your denizens from a particular time period in your fictional world, which may further limit your selection of choices.
If you want to create a picture of your world during different time periods, your character selection might focus upon the important figures, such as politicians and leaders, Kings and Queens, wizards who have mastered their magic or even deities. These characters are more likely to have influenced or will influence the changes in your world’s growth, physical landscape, cultures and civilizations on a grand scale.
A different perspective of your fictional world though can be discovered by choosing to develop your fictional world denizes who are observers of change. These characters might play a supporting role to important figures, such as a bar tender, guard, painter or a maid. Often a less important denizen can rise up to become the hero or heroine of your world.
There are many ways to build a character as there are many ways to create a fictional world. Some of the methods are:
Taking an idea for a character from an existing fiction such as a your favorite book or television show, and then molding that character and the character’s story to your own world is not as easy as it appears.
In text based role-play games, I have met many role-players who were enamored by a movie or story and created an exact character from those mediums, based on their perception of the character. The adapted characters will not easily fit with the world around them. The word’s limitations that you have set, may not always agree with the predefined character’s use of magic, beliefs, influence or physical strength. This can lead to incongruities between the character and the fictional world you have created. This type of character building can be very challenging and you may find yourself constantly having to change your world’s limitations to suit the character, ending up with a completely different fictional world then you originally intended.
Plagiarism should be avoided. If you intend to publish your fictional world in any form, you should avoid plagiarizing other people’s ideas especially characters and plots. Plagiarism can lead to costly, time consuming and stressful legal battles.
Being an inspired by another work of fiction can lead to a wonderful unique creation. Don’t fall into the trap of becoming a literary thief, stick to your world’s limitations and make the character your own.
Role-Play Game Character Sheets
Role-play game character sheets sheets are a useful resource for defining the abilities and basic characteristics of a character. Many online text based role-play games offer free downloadable templates that you may find useful for fictional world building.
One of the interesting things I discovered with role-play games were the different methodologies used to create a character.
Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) uses the game of chance by rolling dice to decide the traits of character. Depending on the outcome of the dice, a player may find their hopeful hero can not live the life of a successful warrior because their roll did not have the outcome they desired. Many role-play games have thick manuals or books that provide a decent amount of background for race choices and occupations, also known as classes. The resources found in role-play games provide detailed instructions on what statistics you should roll for your character and other characteristics.
While role-play game sheets can be helpful when building your characters, using the same background as a role-play game to create your denizens could lead to conflicts and incongruities, if they do not fit with your world. Unless you are using the same or very similar races as a role-play game, my suggestion is to choose a character sheet that you fits with your world. Create your own race and occupation manuals. When you begin creating your denizens you will then have as a foundation of common characteristics of your Sentient Lifeforms and the limitations of your world to consider.
Suggested Format for Basic Character Creation of Sentient Lifeforms.
Download: JPWB-Character-Sheet-Simple This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat to view or Cute PDF.
- Using the shared traits of your Sentient Lifeforms begin to complete your character sheet by filling in the known traits.
- You don’t have to choose a name yet for your character. You may decide to leave this to the very last. Don’t get hung up on choosing a name it doesn’t make the character. If you are keen to get started, this article, on Creating Characters and Naming Conventions provides background into naming conventions adopted by our own civilization, in particular the use of a last name and inherited surnames.
- Physical characteristics are usually easy to describe. They include such things as height, weight, color of eyes, hair or flesh, number of teeth, scars, shape of ears.
- Statistics. If you play Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) or a similar role-playing game you will be accustomed to the use of statistics. Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma are all traits that can be described through the use of a number scoring system. Even though it is not necessary I often roll the dice and leave this up to chance for my characters. Alternatively you can use the main scale provided on the character sheet.
- Languages can be useful if you have a world divided by different dialects. Depending on the intellect and education of your character and how well traveled they are, they may know more than one language.
- Combat and weapon skills may also provide your characters with depth. Even if they are a character that does not engage in combat, you should know how well they can defend themselves in a fight.
- Proficient Attributes may include skills such as singing, dancing, cooking, hunting, running, swimming, leaping, economics, space travel, flying aircraft, teaching. Some of these may overlap with racial traits. Consider the different levels of achievement your character may have with these skills and what areas they could improve in.
- Special abilities take into account powers or magic that may exist in your world.
- Weaknesses are characteristics they could turn out to be strengths in some situations. Weaknesses can also give added depth to characterization.
Character Building with Depth
If you enjoy character development, especially if you are a role-player or storyteller then you may want to learn more about your character.
How you develop a character can be very personal. You may decide to develop it through role-play or begin with a very loose history and background that is fleshed out and added to as you weave its story into your fictional world.
A well rounded character will not only have positive characteristics but also negative characteristics. Unless your world and character’s are extremes then Hero’s will have flaws and Villains will have likeable characteristics. Once you have finished completing the first download above, download the second page.
The second page defines relationships. It particularly focuses on relatives and friends. By attaching a family tree you may discover opportunities for creating more denizens in your world and provide a logical reason behind why your character may have developed certain inherited traits or learned values.
The third page looks more at the character history and how it has assisted in developing attributes, knowledge and physical gains through places they have visited.