7 Questions - Part Three
We return to the #7Questions series, looking at the fifth and sixth questions you should ask when creating your character. While the first two questions looked at your past and aims for the future, and the next two questions looked introspectively at the heart of the character, the next two look at your interpersonal relationships with the other members of the party.
Question 5: What Does the Party Offer You?
Why do you run with these people? It sounds strange to be thinking about this when you build your character, potentially not even knowing what the rest of the party is building for their characters, but it's important to ask because this is what will keep you from ditching them when the going gets tough, and it's what will keep your character engaged when pursuing a plot point from someone else's backstory.
Every character needs a reason to be part of the group. Luke joins the Rebellion because he sees firsthand what evil the Empire is capable of, so his reason for being part of the group is pretty clear: he believes in the cause. Han, on the other hand, is looking for a sense of belonging, and as time passes the pull of love for Leia further hones his desire to be part of the group. Leia, unlike Luke, is the cause: her family has been involved in the fight since before the Galactic Republic was dissolved, and all of her chips have been on the rebels since before her birth.
Expecting something of the party can also be a healthy way to encourage player interaction from other players. If the party knows that your character looks to them for protection because your character is not good at detecting threats, or killing things in combat, or whatever it may be, then if your character seems distant there is a way to work your character into the action. So this question helps to build cohesion between the players around the table, not just the characters, because the players know what is needed of them.
And this is why a Session Zero is so helpful. Ideally you will build your characters in light of a discussion about what kind of campaign is being run, where we want the story to go, what kind of team is being put together, how they know each other (and for how long), and, in light of this question, what expectations the characters (and players) have for each other as part of the group.
This type of character building allows for vulnerability in the characters, which is fertile soil for deep friendships to be made. And where you find deep friendships you will find deep characters.
Question 6: What Personality Would Be Fun to Play?
We spent the entirety of the #CriticalRoles series talking about how to be a player who is useful to the group by playing a character that is useful to the group. Building off of that, though, having a useful character for the group is no good if you don't enjoy playing this character, so find a character concept that is fun to play and useful to the party.
This even means that you could play a mischievous person who pranks other party members/causes trouble, so long as the party is good with it and it's still useful to the party. As an example, let's say that you have a party member who loves to prank people (I've had several of these in my gaming groups over the years). How can we create an outlet for that to happen among the PCs while still being useful? One way (and it met with success) was to give opportunities for the thief to take money from the player character, gamble with it, and make more money for them, returning the cash the next morning with interest. It's exciting, it's high-stakes (especially if the gambling doesn't go very well), and it gives the promise of reward to all parties which eases the potential strain of the prank.
And it should be noted that, should the player character simply wanted to take someone's money, gamble it, and keep all the proceeds, I would not have allowed it, as that is not a prank: that's a poison to party cohesion, as it builds a lack of trust. But if a player character comes to me and says, "I want to prank someone," the first thing I ask is, "Okay: how will this help the party as a whole?" And when they give me a good idea, I run it past the other players and we roll with it.
And naturally some character concepts are easier on the GM than others: if someone finds it fun to sacrifice for everyone else, or to make the hard call in a time of crisis, or whatever it may be, then so much the better. We're glad when that happens. But whatever that thing is for you that makes it fun to play the character - even if it's just an accent or particular class/combat build, find what that is and play it, especially if the campaign goes on for more than a few sessions. Nothing will take the fun out of the experience for you like not enjoying playing a character.
We have only one last question to ask, and that is a question of legacy (which is not the same as a future), but more on that in the next post.
Until next time,