Text Based RPG: How to Create A Compelling Character

By Lisa Ohanian

Many different kinds of people are attracted to text based RPG games, and this is a great thing because it leads to a variety of interesting characters to interact with. This is what makes the worlds of text adventure games so much more realistic and fun than any other kind of game.

But with so many different characters running around, it can be difficult to “break into” text games with a new character, especially if the game is well-established. Text based RPG games are so much fun because of interaction with others, and so the kind of character you choose to roleplay can dramatically change your experience within the game.

But fear not, players! While there is no strict formula within text adventure games about what kinds of characters will have others lining up to roleplay with you, there are definitely some tried-and-true guidelines that can help make your character fun to play and accessible to other players within the games, and keep your character’s friends, family, and even enemies coming back for more!

1. Define Your Character’s Goals

At the very heart of every entertaining and realistic character are goals and opinions, as these are what meaningfully anchor your character to the online text game world.

Now, in developing these things, it helps to begin by asking yourself some basic questions: What is my character’s ideal world like in this online text game? What means more to her than anything else in the text games? What things does she see as important in the world – as unimportant within the text based RPG? What does she enjoy doing above all else in the text games? Questions like these will help shape your character’s sense of purpose, and give you goals to work towards in text adventure games.

As a side note, make sure to consider what you find fun about the online text game when beginning to develop your character. While roleplaying obviously involves taking on a role that is different from your everyday self, you’re not going to want to stick with a character if you as a player don’t enjoy doing some of the same things that your character would.

2. Get Real

Now that you’ve got an overarching goal and a general concept for your character in the online text game, it’s time to think about her personality.

To begin with, I recommend boiling it down to something like this: One thing she does exceptionally well and one glaring flaw within the online text game. A strength gives your character a sense of worth and helps her to become noticed and valued in organizations, which are often your main source of roleplay and emotional investment in the text games. A glaring flaw creates internal obstacles and makes your character realistic and interesting within the text base RPG. This can lead to developing fun quirks or even more roleplay opportunities (it may be counterintuitive, but roleplaying loss can actually be one of the most fun experiences there is in a text based RPG because it forces your character to face her flaws).

Of course there's more to a character’s personality than a single flaw and a single strength, but I find that clearly determining one of each will give most new characters a good mix of flexibility and direction within the online text game. This allows you to roleplay consistently while still giving you enough wiggle room to find a niche in whatever organizations your character may join.

3. Don’t Be A Narrator

One of the most common mistakes I’ll see in text based RPG games is the over-eager roleplayer who will spout off pages of exposition about his character’s history at the drop of a hat.

Let me be blunt: You don’t need an intricate history. I can guarantee you that the most interesting thing about your character’s history is not the history itself, but how your character feels about it. In the early stages of roleplay in text online games, most players would much rather hear an anecdote, a telling remark, and then move on with the conversation.

If you do choose to create something intricate, however, remember this: other players will often need to be invested in your character before wanting to hear her life story. If you go off on a tangent, it can be very alienating for the other player and his character (unless you are specifically asked; many text based RPG games do have a requirement where you’ll get to share this in the earlier stages of gameplay).

Always keep in mind that your character’s background should never be a substitution for solid goals and an engaging personality in text adventure games. Let that shine through first, and then the background will come out naturally; it should complement your roleplay, not comprise it.

So there you have it! Although there are almost as many ways to go about creating a character as there are characters themselves, this is a solid and reliable method that will give you the perfect mixture of depth and flexibility for a brand new character in a text based RPG – have fun!

If you would like to try out some great online roleplaying games, check out these text based RPG games.

Lisa Ohanian is a text game enthusiast and currently plays games from http://www.IronRealms.com.


#3 rings home true. So many people think roleplaying is about their character's history. They fought this battle or slew this monster or were a member of this organization. But then they act like in a very 'normal' manner, despite the fact that their 'extraordinary' history would probably determine otherwise. And their feelings are all their character's feelings portray.

People are free to define their characters as they please. 

Few things bother me more than some pedant giving me a list of what I can and cannot do. I do however think that this is all more or less all solid advice - and advice is always good!

Having composed a detailed history, naturally I want to communicate it. There are appropriate times for this, but it's important not to get overzealous.


Also, I think that as a newb, generally, with no combat experience, it's best not to make your character into a background-only badass. Give them some frickin' room to grow! :P

I totally agree. If you have done everything there is to do before you finish the trial of rebirth what is there for you to do after.

I would rather it was all about me

In my case it really is.

good for you!

Can I subscribe to your newsletter and read all about you?

you'll have to go through me to subscribe to Karthax's newsletter. He doesn't really like to deal directly with lowly peons like you. And that'll be... 20 credits for the first month.

For some reason, I don't remember seeing anyone break #3 without at least some degree of prompting in Achaea. Maybe I'm just lucky? :x

Also, I feel like people generally emote/RP less liberally in Achaea than in, say, MKO or Aetolia, so they might be a lot more likely to think twice before they break #3.

It may be true that the background should not be a substitute for goals or personality of a character, but I think the two plays a symbiotic relationship with each other. The history provides the explanation of why and how a character got a certain endeavor or attitude. However, this does not mean that the background should be conspicuous. It could be written in a journal or a mental note. On the other hand, goals and attitudes reflect the past, of the things the character experienced in the early days of his/her life. In conclusion, a character is compelling enough for me if both the background and the personality are well-thought and well-played.

I know who you are, sir!

I agree!

This is all head on. But for me, the killer are those who roleplay ridiculous flaws for their character; being blind when you see every sentence spoken verbally as "Name" says, etc, and then declaring constantly, "Who said that?!"
Unrealistic flaws aren't very productive in a roleplaying environment, if they don't mesh with the fundamental mechanics that are already in play.

I can see how they might slow things down. I do think it's important to be mindful of that. In general, it is probably better to pick more subtle flaws of character and perception than obvious LOOKIT-ME stuff.

As long as the player accepts their disadvange properly I don't have a problem. If you take time to communicate, don't get mad when no one waits for your input.

Don't be afraid to change your character's views, goals and even ideology over time. Some of the most fun I've had roleplaying was when my character switched sides from magic (Kinsarmar) to demonic (Stavenn).

Also, the quickest way towards roleplaying in Imperian is combat if you want it. There are some people who won't play along but you'll always have someone willing to interact with you. Roleplaying is on YOU. Not other players.



On my main, I've changed minor details in his background as I've actually RP'd, that don't so much alter the larger arc of it, but that provide more opportunities to generate conflict with other characters and generally thicken the plot.

Sometimes, defining something abotu your character's past can make them incompatible fully with the organizatins they've chosen. It creates conflict and gives them a reason to search for a place they can finally feel at home. I did the same with Ais, and it has ended up very rewarding.


I disagree that the fastest way to roleplay is through combat, though. Yes, as a tool, it can be very helpful. But I was so immersed in roleplay for the first six months after joining the game the first time, that I didn't even have space for combat in her peripheral. If you have a roleplay-centric group around you (Which I was lucky enough to have) you can create the roleplay, and have plenty of folks around you willing to jump in on it. Roleplay is on you to create, but roleplaying in your own little world without anyone answering is boring, discouraging and will lose new players quicker than unpleasant roleplay. It's boring, and no one wants to do it. Personally, I hate combat, and find it more of a neusance than anything else. combat-related roleplay is redundant and often lacks depth and imagination because it's so over-used that there's no line, no definition between combat-roleplay and simple combat for the sake of being an overbearing, entitled douchebag. People jump to combat first without stopping and figuring out WHY. Give me a good, solid reason, and I'm willing to accept it. Otherwise, it's kind of like lag: No one likes it, and plenty of folks just sit there and wait till it passes so they can get on with enjoying themselves. Or else just leave to avoid it.

what he said!


Keep in mind some basic histories of the game.

For example, lets say you want to role-play a race for a guild that hates them. That would not do, unless you can create a convincing back story to it. Coming fresh out of the portals and joining lets say Celest as a Viscanti would not be as credible as a reformed Viscanti coming from Magnagora to Celest.

Viscanti in Serenwilde or Glomdoring. Conflict is the source of good drama, and that could really drive the character's RP. He'd be trying to get back to his roots. Also, playing a character that is just a straight archetype is kinda boring to me.

Not everything should be considered flawless. As Lisa said, a history of a character is not just defined by his or her success's, but how they accomplished it, and the feeling that it provides.

Time and time again, I read public posts where people to go off about what they did, and how they did it. It doesn't matter. If, say an election for Vizier in Shallam would be adamant, why describe all that you did in your history? It bores that people. Instead, describe what you would do, and the history will continue to create itself over time.

That's just my 2 cents worth.

Does adamant mean something in achaea in elections, or did maybe you meant something else?

To clarify; I didn't say that histories were bad, or irrelevant! I just believe that they should be secondary and/or 'in the background' when interacting with other characters a majority of the time. Of course backgrounds shape and inform characters, but it's only the shape that we should directly experience, more often than not.

And again, just my two cents on the matter.


is that you shouldn't force background exposition but wait for it to naturally occur in the course of RP, I agree. Otherwise, it's still a useful tool to shape your character's personality, as you say.

I agree with the basic tenets of Lisa's article. However, I don't think it applies when it's your very first character in the text world. It would be like expecting a newborn to set his life goals 5 minutes after the birth. I think, one who is trying the text game for the first time, should read the basics and just make a general decision regarding the race, the class and the City. That's all.

For someone just emerging from the pool in Achaea, all confused, trying to figure out his left leg from his right, bumping into the walls and closed doors and learning to use his voice, immediate 'goal' should be to immerse himself into the community of his initial choice.

Walk the streets of your new city, take in its sounds and smells, learn to breath through the red fog if you live in Mhaldor. Listen to people at the crossroads. Then and only then try to figure out who -you- are, how you'll 'fit' in your new world, try to remember your past and start setting your goals for the future and the direction you would like to go. I think that's the only way to create a 'real' living, breathing character and not just a likeable or disliked fake.

Just my 2 golds worth

You're absolutely right. But if you keep it vague enough, you should be able to figure something out. Instead of saying, for instance, "My character wants to bring all three factions of the world under one united banner, sueing for peace amongst the city-states and hopes to achieve some semblance of order and drive back the horde." I could say that her overarching goal is "To spread peace." When I created Ais, her overarching goal was to prove that real strength has nothing to do with combat. It doesn't have to be so specific as to define every aspect of the world, just something that motivates the character.

That being said, you shouldn't get too defined, because like you rightly pointed out, you have no idea what's going to be waiting for you. A few basic personality quirks aren't a bad idea, though. Are they going to be friendly? Grumpy? Isolationist? Snobbish? All of these can be loosely defined without endangering your roleplay too much, regardless where you're going in the game.

Maybe they'll end up moving, maybe they'll end up changing. I don't know. But wouldn't it make for some good drama?

Yeah, but within reason. Don't make it extreme, or it just seems stupid.

It has to be plausible that they would exist in the place where they're struggling to fit to begin with.

Whether it's good or not is up to how you execute it.

But I personally think we ought to be inclusive of people's RP, so long as they don't get obnoxious, whether they execute it skillfully or not. It's a game, after all - everyone should be able to have fun!

It's hard to be inclusive if there's no hook to latch onto.

Exactly.  It would, if the character is well immersed.

2 golds. haha.




one of the things I get the most enjoyment out of Rohn with is how is discovering that he actually likes some of the people of a race he very much doesn't like.  It has led to some great RP with several others in his house.

 The history is just the starting point, the richer it is the better. But the RP that happens from that history should lead to characters discovering more about each other.  That is where the fun is. 

It's best not to pre-define your character unless you are really certain you want to play a particular way for the lulz. Let the world your new character encounters shape the person they become.


This is very true.

no one can deny, yes.

even a character with some kind of background will grow with more experience.

Good advice, but it's not wrong to to guide your RP a bit either, I think! :D

But this doesn't mean that they haven't come from somewhere to begin with. Also, there are different ways to react/grow from any given event.

I'd agree with Naia. I do think it's a good idea to have a rough idea of a character and have a mindset as to how it thinks and acts, but especially if it's your first character, you just have no idea how things will pan out in terms of the org you're in, or the people you meet. Of course, one could argue that's okay, the character will change over time with these interactions...but then you're not really sticking to this pre-defined character concept anyhow.

Characters should always be changing based on their experiences. But they've gotta start somewhere.

Where was this article when I first began playing? All very good advice.


I just role myself with powers, you know, different history but same personality.


It's great fun.

a character that's a lot like you, if that's what you're comfortable with. I personally like to pick a few traits of my own to give them and have some of their problems mirror ones that I deal with in real life, even if they're usually a bit different when you get down to specifics (and also frequently more fantastical.) I never roleplay myself exactly, but I do like to have some basis on which to identify with my creation.

Having played a character I started with a background already written and a character from the beginning with no idea of self - each way can have its benefits and downsides.

Pre-written things makes it kinda.. static.

in giving you a more consistent RP character. Not that room for improvisation isn't nice as well. I like this character well enough, for example, but without a background, personally, he never really got my RP juices flowing. As a conduit to enjoy the game he worked, but I never really knew who he was. I think that's sorta why I stopped playing Lusternia.

Your character can still change from there! Their history will continue to develop as you play the game. :)

Background is important, but it's not the end all and be all of the character.  It's a starting point.  If you want your character to be believable, you've got to let them grow.  Each experience, each friend gained or lost..all add up.  Those will shape the character..just as your real world experiences shape you.

Yeah I've seen my fair share of people going completely wild with their backgrounds and it gets on my nerves sometimes.

Do they force background info on you?

good article. Worthwhile for all, from beginner to seasoned veteran.

It would be a better article if it said: "One way to make a compelling character" though. Some good hints nevertheless.

There a different ways to go about it, and some work better for some people than others. So let's all just RP together and have fun!

I think the best way to make a compelling character is to just go the opposite way of what your actual behavior and attitude is. It will require you to invest effort, which is always a good thing.

I prefer to take several issues/strengths/tendencies of my own, then add, change, and embellish

Compelling, and rich!

Credit comment.

I really enjoyed reading this article. It gave me a few things to think about. :)


I agree. It will broaden your horizons, and It will probably make you just a touch meaner.

I've played my a number of evil characters in RP games over the years. But I generally prefer to play at least a somewhat reasonable guy if there's no permadeath and I have to invest $$$.

I mostly agree with everything here.  One thing I like to point out is that unless I've played this particular game before, I don't know much about it.  I find that I like to develop my history as I play the game and learn more about the world.  I have felt that just coming up with a history that doesn't feel natural or feels made up doesn't help much.

yes exactly. There are things about my character's past that I am just discovering after 200 years.

That's really cool!

I hope I'll be able to do just some of this stuff

very good advice

nice article

I'm terrible at so much of this stuff

Try to improve for sure, but it's just a game in the end

good advice, thanks Lisa

Also, I would suggest getting to know the world you're playing in before putting too much detail into your backstory. I've seen people adamantly insist on playing a particular type of character with a particular series of background experiences that either don't exist in the world, or are so Mary Sue'd that they just don't seem like anything more than bragging. Taking on challenges designed for those WAY beyond heir strength, apprenticed to NPC's that simply don't exist, wielding powers that just don't fit with the world. I fell into the same trap, a little, myself. The only way I was able to salvage it was through a series of vague explanations that made it plausible. I learned from that to always make double-sure of the world I'm playing in before revealing too much about the character's background. Keep it simple. You're not Naruto.

Credit comment.

Me too!

act like yourself.

I don't think you can create a compelling character but you can become one.  to create one, you would have drama qqueen written all over you.  to become one, you have to immerse yourself more fully (I wish I had the time, but at only an hour a day and with plenty to do in that and few people about, its never as deep as I would hope)

I think you can have either relationship to your character and still make it work.

Very interesting


it is also important to define everything from the beginning  and stay loyal to that definition, so it only may be afected by IC events, or you will end up switch race, class, house, city, order, tc more than you should

I am still learning about the game.. not the easiest around.

As I get ready to write my own background, reading this article and some of the comments is very helpful.

a good place to look for tips!

Though what comes to mind most of all is 'Dont be a narrorator'. I see this all too often, and sometimes even within myself.

That can be offputting. I've been guilty too, and I guess the best advice I can give is to be willing to improvise when someone does something that screws up whatever it is you want to happen.

I should take some notes from this, as none of my characters are remotely compelling.

If they are not compelling , become really good at PvP - you'll be better known and people will gloss over your flaws.

become a Demigod, check.

I wanna be dragon mah ass around.

goals are great.




being yourself works

None of my characters are compelling at all!

Yes, read scrolls! I don't want to hear any of this, "I don't like to read" business. You're playing a TEXT game!!!