Last week I said that your characters should be hungry.
This week I’ll add: be boring.
“Be boring” is for your character’s history, it’s for their personality, it’s for their hopes and dreams. Character creation doesn’t have to be a painstaking chore. You don’t have to create a beautiful new being, perfect and unique.
Be boring. Be average. Be a familiar trope. Use things you’ve seen elsewhere.
If you’re really stuck, take two boring things and be both of them. Identify the personality, history, and desires of several different characters… and then stir until you have something weird. It’s fun to mash together familiar pieces until a character emerges.
When your character wants something, that desire doesn’t have to be big or unique or special. It can be boring too, as long as it drives connection to the story. Being your character, following what they want, will be interesting enough.
Here’s some very normal motivations or desires: you need money to pay a family member’s debt. You want to impress someone you love (or their family). You want to be famous. You want to see an old friend again. You want to see the world outside your podunk home town. You want revenge.
All of those can be tied into your group’s shared story.
Also, your character’s history and personality can come from any tropes you already know. Think about the stories you love—TV, books, movies, plays, whatever you like. I like Die Hard (the first one), so let’s use Bruce Willis’ hardbitten cop. What if I took that hardbitten cop and said that he needed to pay a family member’s debt?
Suddenly we have a story on our hands. Combining those two unoriginal tropes gives me a clear course of action, and several clear sources of conflict. As long as you’re responsive and collaborating with your storyteller, this mix-and-match approach can be extremely productive.
When playing RPGs you need a character, and one that buys into the story you’re making with your friends. You don’t need your character to be unique or original.
If you desperately want your character to feel different and special, let me reassure you: playing your boring character, you’ll eventually find interesting and unique things that make your character their own person. But you’ll never get to play that person—and you’ll never find any of those special truths—if you get stuck on making them unique at the very start.
Don’t sweat it. Be average, boring, and unoriginal. Encourage your fellow players to do the same.
Then go have fun.
And for those of you who love randomness and want other ideas, you can also use “who the fuck is my D&D character.” It just gave me “a spiteful halfling sorcerer from a company of sellswords who always looks their best,” which sounds great. Reload it until something you like appears, or until you get exciting ideas. Change whatever you want. Then make sure you fit with your group’s story.
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