Online Text Games: Creating a Personality in 3 Steps
Having trouble creating a believable personality for your character? Then this article is for you!
By Zhade Barnet
Text-based RPGs are all about creating unique characters and immersing yourself in a fictitious setting. Conversely, storytelling is all about the clever fusion of a number of tropes, elements and story arcs. That's fine in a book with, say, twenty characters, but in an online environment with upwards of a hundred people running around at any one time, like in a text-based RPG, how can you make your digital alter ego really jump of the page- I mean, screen?
This article will show you the three helpful steps in keeping a consistent and interesting character going in a text game.
One: Create a 'Paper Doll'
Don't bother googling that term; I just made it up. Essentially, what you need to do is make a really broad framework for your character. If you've read my article on creating backstories then you'll already have a brilliant background and know what it is your character wants to do. What we're here to do today is to nail down just how he does it. Your paper doll is going to follow the syntax of (Adjective) (Archetype), but counter-intuitively, we're going to fill in those blanks in reverse order.
The archetype comes first, but again, don't bother googling it. In (good) stories, characters fulfill a specific role within the plot, and at its broadest resolution that role is their archetype. The Oracle in The Matrix, the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland and Rafiki in The Lion King may seem like very different characters, but they all share the Mentor archetype and fulfil the same plot function. Think about what 'function' your character plays in the world, and if you can sum it up in one word. If you can imagine your character saying "My name's (name) and I'm a (Archetype)" every morning when he looks in the mirror, then you're probably onto a good thing.
Two points to bear in mind: First, not all archetypes make good protagonists, or acceptable protagonists in a given setting. 'Mentor' is a great example of this. Secondly, your character's archetype does not have to be the same as his profession; your Warrior archetype could be an arena champion or a social reformist.
Next we need an adjective to qualify the archetype, which will add a finer definition to the character. The Oracle is a Mentor, but what kind of Mentor? Motherly Mentor or Spiritual Mentor? And what about Cheshire Cat? Enigmatic Mentor, Ambiguous Mentor or Mischievous Mentor? There's no right answer, but can you see how important the qualifying adjective is when you're pinning down a personality?
Carefully create your (Adjective) (Archetype) paper doll, then think how it might colour your character's reaction to the following situations:
- Losing an important competition
- Meeting somebody that s/he is attracted to
- Seeing his rival at a party
A good paper doll is invaluable, because when events in game hit you with a total curve ball you can simply ask yourself 'What would an Eloquent Rogue do in this situation?' This step shouldn't be difficult or take incredibly long, but equally you may wish to experiment with a few different paper dolls until you find one you're really excited about playing. Knock yourself out!
Two: Choose Some Descriptors
Now that you have your character's personality nailed in the broadest sense, choose a handful of adjectives that generally describe how she does things. Is your Fickle Fool carefree, happy and energetic, or is she cruel, deadpan and meticulous? Think carefully, because these descriptors should pervade every action and word. As an aside, it's worth noting that, whilst people in real life do not always do things in a certain way, good fictional characters do. You're not trying to make a real character, but a believable one. In real life, if you ask your loving, tactile, generous husband for something simple and he yells at you, you'll likely find it strange. If the same thing happens to you in-game, you're likely to think that that scenario didn't feel real and that the character's poorly played.
Back to the topic - choose at least three descriptors now, and think about how they might influence the way your character would do the following:
- Tell somebody that his fly is undone
- Tell the mayor that her second in command is a traitor
- Encourage a friend to run for a seat on the council
Again, this shouldn't be an arduous task because you now have your paper doll to inform your character's general outlook on the situation, and a small arsenal of descriptors to tell you just how she would address it. If you're feeling lazy, you can simply tack one of your descriptors onto everything customisable about your character. Feeling a little more adventurous? Search for synonyms and really go nuts with your descriptions of appearance, action, accent, EVERYTHING.
Three: Get Emoting
Yeah that's right; I said it. I want you to come up with three emotes that utterly sum up your character. Keep it simple to start with. Maybe a unique smile, or a habit. What does a Pompous Leader's grin look like? What does your character do with his hands when he's nervous or bored? Make just a few unique emotes and fire them off every now and then when you're in company, and you'll really be adding the icing to what is already an exceptionally colourful and coherent character.
We've covered a lot of ground, but that's personalities in three simple steps! Create a paper doll, choose some descriptors, make some custom emotes and you'll soon have a character that stands out in a crowd and adds to the wonderful, immersive quality that is only found in text-based RPG games.
Create your very own personality in some of these online text games today!
Zhade Barnet is a text game enthusiast and currently plays games from http://www.IronRealms.com.
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