Beginner’s Tips on Roleplaying a Character (By a beginner)

A Whole New World

Roleplaying games are great. They give us the ability to disappear into fantastical worlds of magic and danger, or planets of aliens and, well, more danger. But when you first start off these games it can be overwhelming. Each game system has its own set of rules to learn, spells and abilities to keep track of, and often a multitude of different dice.

With all this to keep track of, sometimes it can be difficult to keep up the Role aspect of roleplaying. So here are my beginner’s tips to create characters that both fit the game archetypes and are easy enough to imagine.

First Games

Plagiarise

I know, dirty dirty word. But we aren’t talking about writing a film or book here.

For your first games I would take an existing character that you love and implant them in the game system. Now it would be tough to have Judge Dredd or Batman in D&D, but not their personality. So you have a character that has a strict sense of right and wrong. One more Lawful than the other in the two examples here, but it is a jump off point.

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Or even PIRATE BATMAN!

You already have seen enough stories and scenes to make a guess on their actions. You even have a cool gravelly voice to put on if you roleplay like that.

I would change up their role however. So imagine, if you could, Batman but as a Wizard. Less hand to hand fighting, but keeping that sense of justice and use of fear. In game it may influence you to use the more psychological spells, or become a spell based bounty hunter. That would be cool.

Of course the next step is to slightly change them. Some platforms make this easier than others. In my Play by Post WFRP game, Lukasz is based on Captain America. This may seem strange at first if you read the game play. He says and tries to do the right thing at all times. But given that I can write out his thoughts, it is all shown to be a charade. Whereas Steve Rogers lives and breathes his actions, Lukasz is doing it all for his selfish glory. He is desperate to be liked. Both he and Captain may save a child from a building, but Lukasz would be upset if he wasn’t praised afterwards.

Before you know it your character will evolve. Even if it isn’t a big in game thing (losing an arm will change up the character whether you like it or not), your character will slowly morph into the PC you want to play.

Building Your Character

Next Steps

Once you have wet your feet, or don’t want to use an existing character, it is time to try and make your first original character.

This will depend a little on your character’s class and race in the game system. You’ll have to tie the class into the background, with some needing a bit more development than others. For example, a wizard class would need the explanation of where his spellcasting ability came from.

A game that has randomised stats/characteristics can spark off some imagination too. All it takes is filling in the gaps and reasoning for the stats. A high weapon skill could mean that the character was a natural fighter in their youth. A high intelligence would be a top of the class student.
Lukasz rolled low on toughness and charisma. So in the background he was injured as a child, and is very vain.

Appearance

What do they look like? How old are they?

After deciding or rolling the race/species, the first place I start is the appearance.

  • How old are they?
  • What is their hair and eye colour?
  • Do they have any scars or tattoos?
  • What are they called?

For our example we will have a character named Jacob.

Jacob is a 23 year old human. He has brown hair and brown eyes, with a scar on his left eyebrow. He is a fighter (DnD class)

Give them a home life

Try not to go for the clichéd dead parents, you are better than this.

  • How is your character’s relationship with their parents
  • Do they have siblings? How do they get on? Sibling rivalry is a great motivator
  • Are they a wealthy family?
  • What do they do for a job?

These are the corner pieces of the character jigsaw. From these simple questions the rest is easily built upon. For each question you answer, ask why.

Example:

How is your character’s relationship with their parents?
Jacob loves his mother but dislikes his Dad
Why? His Dad is violent

Do they have siblings?
Jacob has one brother and two younger sisters. His brother joined the army; his sisters are school age
How do they get on?
Jacob looks up to his brother, but resents him for leaving the family. His sisters are practically raised by Jacob.

Are they a wealthy family?
They aren’t poor, but are comfortable. Dad works as a market trader, Mum is a housewife. Jacob contributes how he can by doing odd jobs.

What job does he have?
Jacob does odd jobs, but is often a rat catcher at the local tavern

So from that we have a frame:

Jacob is a young man living at home with his parents and two younger sisters. He has an older brother that is in the army. Jacob is proud of him, but is also resentful as he believes his brother abandoned the family. Jacob’s Dad is a violent man. Often he beats them when he gets home from working on the market. Jacob often sees his father at the tavern when he helps rat catching in the cellar.

We can deduce that he will look after younger people, has a strong sense of familial duty, can trap, and that he probably hates bullies.

Long and Short term goals

What does your character want in life?
This is split into long and short term goals as they can be massively different.

A short term goal would be earning £100. A long term may be saving £10,000

Examples of short term goals:

  • Buy a new sword
  • Travel to the big city
  • Pass a school test

Example of long term goals:

  • Graduate from a Sword Mastery school
  • Start a new life in a big city
  • Become a teacher

For our sample character, I see his goals being tied into his class as a fighter.

Jacob’s short term ambitions are to train in swordplay, with a long term goal to win a sword fighting competition.

The call to adventure

Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces details the standard cycle of adventure stories. The third section of this is the ‘Call To Adventure’. The Hero learns that they must leave the known world behind and travel into the land of adventure.

The Hero must then decide how to answer the Call:

  • Refusal of the Call: The character refuses it, often to then get forced into it.
    Think Luke Skywalker refusing to go with Obi-Wan, until his Auntie and Uncle are killed
  • Jumped at the Call: The character enthusiastically leaves to go on the adventure.
    The MCU version of Spider-Man is this. He jumps at the chance to be the hero.

Now the majority of RPGs will start after the character jumped at the opportunity.

What would make your character leave the relative comfort of the status quo? What will push them on that first step to adventure?

My DnD gnome, Shia, jumped at the call. It was to prove himself to his family. As the middle child he was often overlooked. Nothing was keeping him from leaving.

From the earlier section, Jacob has both a reason to leave on adventure (his Dad, admiration of brother), but also a reason to stay (his mum and sisters). So what are his goals?

Jacob longs to get away from his abusive Dad, but is torn between leaving and looking after his family.

So what will be the inciting incident to get him to leave?

Escaping a military draft?
Runs away with his family, but is separated?
He is on a job in another town and is arrested? (Forceful call to action)

While on a job in a different town he was arrested in a case of mistaken identity. He ends up in a prison cart on the way to the nearest big City. While he is there, the actual criminal is apprehended. He is released, but penniless and far from home.

Flaws

Flaws are important in your character, and they are great for a DM to add to campaigns. My WFRP character is vain and is scared of bears. I tied both into his background, explaining the bear thing with an incident as a child.

Indiana Jones is afraid of snakes.
Batman is fearful that his family/friends will be killed

Being extremely angry or shy could be a flaw.

Flaws could also be vices. Old standards are drink and drugs, but maybe your wizard is a glutton.

Jacob doesn’t drink; he has seen the damage it has done to his family. However he has become extremely preachy about this. He is known on occasion to lecture people in tavern, much to the chagrin of others.

With this we have a basic overview of our character.

Jacob is a 23 year old human. He has brown hair and brown eyes, with a scar on his left eyebrow. He is a fighter (DnD class). He lives at home with his parents and two younger sisters. He has an older brother that is in the army. Jacob is proud of him, but is also resentful as he believes his brother abandoned the family. Their Dad is a violent man. Often he beats them when he gets home from working on the market. Jacob often sees his father at the tavern when he helps rat catching in the cellar.

Jacob longs to get away from his abusive Dad, but is torn between leaving and looking after his family. Jacob doesn’t drink; he has seen the damage it has done to his family. However he has become extremely preachy about this. He is known on occasion to lecture people in tavern, much to the chagrin of others.

Jacob loves sword fighting. His goal is to train in swordplay and to eventually win a sword fighting competition.

While on a job in a different town he was arrested in a case of mistaken identity. He ends up in a prison cart on the way to the nearest big City. While he is there, the actual criminal is apprehended. He is released, but penniless and far from home.

Not a bad little background overall. The next step is to learn how to roleplay as the character.

Roleplaying

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Separating player and character

One thing about roleplaying is separating what you as a player know, against what your character knows. As a character you may know that Orc Warlord Uglud the Masher has an army in the area, but Clarence the Bard wouldn’t. Clarence would have to ask around for information.

Now this separation can be tricky when first starting out, but in time it is easy to “forget” that information. Some DMs will purposely hide this information from one or more players, which may be helpful at your gaming table.

Game System

Another thing to remember is that your character won’t know that he only has a 1 in 3 chance of making the jump to save the burning orphanage. Your hero will attempt that jump, if it is in their nature. This can be where the old DnD alignment chart comes in. I will link it here, but an easy way to look at it is whether your character is selfish or selfless, and if they veer towards good morals or bad. Again, these can be open to interpretation. Stealing a loaf of bread to feed a starving child may not be ‘lawful’, but it can certainly be seen as ‘good’.

Remember your goals

Your character has their needs and wants. What are they doing to work towards them? Jacob helping an Old Man to market won’t directly help him further in his sword fighting, but the two coins he gets as payment could go towards swordplay lessons.

Incorporate the other players in a positive way

If another player is adamant on Greebo the Half-Orc charging headfirst at a dragon, because that seems characterful, don’t discourage it. You character may tell their character not to do it, but you as a player shouldn’t stop any other player from carrying out a characterful act.

Instead, think of what your character would do:

Harkin the Dwarf watches Greebo charging towards the dragon. Shaking his head, he readies his axe, and charges as fast as his stumpy legs will take him. Onwards towards the scaly beast.

Now Harkin and Greebo may die because of this. But would a proud Dwarf really let a half-orc take the glory?

Don’t be too stubborn

So your party has been hired by a corrupt King to take out a troll cave. He has promised you plenty of riches. But your character is anti-establishment. He wouldn’t normally help royalty.

You as a player need to give him a reason.

Your character could agree to help, while secretly planning on using the money to fund a coup.
They could be scouting the castle for weak points.

Find a reason for your character to help further the story.

Do NOT get too hung up on the rules

The Dungeon/Games Master’s word is final. I know the wording there seems stern, it is meant to be. Roleplaying games are first and foremost storytelling games. If the DM decides that it would be cooler if the castle walls are un-scalable, then don’t argue that your massively high dexterity levels would let you do it. Accept the ruling and move on.

If you really want an explanation, ask after the game in a polite manner.

Of course, they aren’t infallible. Perhaps you could suggest that because of your character’s background as a gymnast that you roll an agility based test to avoid an axe strike, instead of some form of weapon skill. But suggest, never demand.

Bringing it all together

To bring it all together, here are some scenarios. Going off your character’s background and nature, how would they deal…

  • …with a thief that has just robbed a wealthy but cruel man?
  • …with being outnumbered by two orcs?
  • …if they were given the task to hunt down an unhappy man that has left his wife?

Run through each of these and other scenarios, and try to get into the mentality of your character.
Why not pick one of your favourite films and honestly decide what your character would do.
Maybe Clarence the Bard couldn’t have stopped the terrorists at Nakatomi Plaza, but he could have distracted them for long enough until the reinforcements arrived.

It will help with your gaming as well as being really fun!

Remember it is a game

Finally, enjoy it. It is a game. The people you play with have given up their time to pay this game with you, respect that.

The story might now go exactly as you thought.
The dice definitely won’t.

Don’t take it so seriously that it is no longer fun. That’s what your job is for!

Visit Element Games here (Use the code DAN2300 at Checkout for double points)

For more WHRP action:

Listen to the Old World Podcast here

Follow our adventures here

WARHAMMER FANTASY ROLEPLAY 4TH EDITION – Character Creation

Adventures in the Old World

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This hefty tome was bought from Element Games

Over 350 pages of Old World action! For me, roleplaying has always taken back seat to wargaming. But between my love of the Old World lore and themed armies, there’s always been that inkling.

Now this book is stunning. Great artwork is liberally sprinkled throughout, most with that early edition feel to it.

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My favourite piece

By Sigmar!

Now this isn’t a full review. Better reviews exist on the web.

All I will say is that I immediately looked online for a Play By Post game. From this searching I found the Discord channel The Rat Catcher’s Guild as well as the website Tavern Keeper. Both of these proved amazing for my first forays into WHRP.

With book ready and messages sent I was accepted into my first campaign: The Doom of Grafsburg!

Creating my Character

One of my favourite aspects of the book is the character creation. Specifically the randomisation. Being a big fan of the old Realm of Chaos charts this shouted out to my very soul. After all, leaving everything to fate seems a very Warhammery thing to do!

Step 1 – Species

Warhammer Roleplay gives you a choice of 5 races:

  • Human
  • Halfling
  • Dwarf
  • High Elf
  • Wood Elf

As the game is set in The Empire, the random chart is skewed in an Imperial fashion.

RANDOM SPECIES TABLE
1d100s Species
01-90 Human
91-95 Halfling
95-98 Dwarf
99 High Elf
00 Wood Elf

So with the first roll……my character will be a Human!

No real surprise

NEXT!

Step 2 – Class and Career

Next up is Class and Career.

Class is set up into 8 different sections, with each of those having 8 Career paths. Each Career has advantages and disadvantages, as well as setting a Character’s social Status. Marked Brass, Silver and Gold, these will impact how NPCs portray the Character.

With the second roll our becomes a Cavalryman!

By now the Character’s background has began to come into my head. Ideas flitting about before we start the next section.

Step 3 – Attributes

The statline of the character is next to take shape. Familiar to those that played Warhammer Fantasy or the older versions of 40K. With DEX, INT, WP and FEL being different. As Cubicle 7 describe it:

“Weapon Skill (WS) – close-quarters fighting ability

Ballistic Skill (BS) – ranged fighting ability

Strength (S) – physical strength

Toughness (T) – hardiness and healthiness

Initiative (I) – speed of thought, reaction, and awareness

Agility (Agi) – coordination and natural athleticism

Dexterity (Dex) – ability to perform delicate manual tasks

Intelligence (Int) – powers of thought, analysis, and understanding

Willpower (WP) – strength of mind and determination

Fellowship (Fel) – ability to influence and befriend others”

Each of the Races gains different pluses and minuses in these characteristics. Humans are the standard, Dwarfs get a big boost to their Willpower but lose out in Agility. Halflings are lower in WS and Strength but have advantages in the non-combat stats. Elves, however, have the best stats across the board, but lose out in some of the roleplaying aspects, being less trustworthy to certain NPCs.

Stats are randomised with a 2D10 roll with which ever bonus.

Example:

Humans roll 2D10 + 20 for Strength
Halflings roll 2D10 +10 for Strength

With this next batch of rolls the unnamed character now has a statline of:

WS

32

BS

27

S

32

T

22

I

34

Agi

33

Dex

33

Int

31

WP

32

Fel

24

Toughness and Fellowship are both low here. Perhaps a new money noble that isn’t as tough as he thinks.

Here your career gives you 5 points towards characteristic advances. In the Horseman’s case these are allocated between WS, S and AGI.

I’ll stick 1 in WS, 2 in S, and 2 in AGI

Step 4 – Skills and Talents

Here you pick your skills depending on Racial species. 3 of those Skills gain a +5 Bonus, 3 Gain a +3 Bonus. You also roll on the Random Talents chart if eligible. My picks are:

Animal Training: +5
Charm: +5
Gossip: +3
Leadership: +3
Lore (Reikland): +5
Ranged (Bow): +3
The Talent rolls here have given me: Suave, Sixth Sense and Very Resilient.
For my chosen talent I have chosen Savvy. Human characters also gain the talent of Doomed.

Doomed is a rule that gives the player’s Next character an XP boost on creation IF the first character does in a specific way.

So if the portents of fate predicted death by weeping sores, and this happens, then the next character benefits!

However, this is kept a secret between you and the GM.

Following this, based on your character’s career, you allocate 40 points to any of the 8 skills listed, as well as gaining a single talent.

For my character this will be:

Animal Care: +7
Charm Animal: +2
Endurance: +5
Language (Battle): +3
Melee (Basic): +5
Outdoor Survival: +6
Perception: +5
Ride (Horse): +7

I will also pick the Talent of Lightning Reflexes

You may have noticed so far that I have picked Talents that increase stats. This is simply as it is my first WHRP campaign and I want to reduce the amount of bookkeeping needed.


Step 5 – Trappings

Trappings are the equipment associated with your class.

Additionally you get monetary wealth based on your status tier and level

The money roll gave me a purse of 13 Silver Shillings, with trappings of Clothing, Hand Weapon (Hammer), Dagger, Pouch, Leather Jack, Riding Horse with Saddle and Tack.

I shall name my horse Starwood.

Step 6 – Adding Details

Now for the proper Character building part. And Yes, I am randomising this. Except the name

▪ Character Name: Lukasz Erkunden
▪ Physical Details:

  • Age: 23
  • Eye Colour: Blue
  • Hair Colour: Dark Brown
  • Height: 5ft7

▪ Ambitions:

  • Short-Term: To slay a beast
  • Long-Term: Become a hero

Step 7 – Party

Well this part is tough as I am unsure so far. So I shall leave this blank

Step 8 – Bringing Your Character To Life

This section gives you 10 Questions to flesh out the character a bit more:

Ten Questions

▪ Where are you from?

Lukasz was raised in Braunlet, 12 miles east of Fleckeby, Ostland.

▪ What is your family like?

Father became a grifter shortly after Lukasz’s mother died. Travelling around local towns selling wares, doing oddjobs and gambling. One day he developed the plans for a long con, one that gained him lots of money through trading gold with Dwarves. Unfortunately this gold was fake through the spells of an apprentice Aethyric wizard. They killed his father in vengeance, but not before Lukasz had grabbed a bag of the money and fled.

▪ What was your childhood like?

Lukasz was raised believing that his father was a noble merchant. His father used to dress in furs and often spent beyond his means. While Lukasz’s mother was alive she regaled him with tales of the great heroes of the Empire, heroes that Lukasz grew up wishing to emulate.

When Lukasz was three he was knocked over by a bear that had escaped a travelling Kislev circus, he has feared Bears ever since. This caused him to grow up sicklier than other children, but he persevered through his own determination.

▪ Why did you leave home?

Lukasz left home to escape the wrath of the Dwarves. He now sees this as his first step to become a hero of the Empire.

▪ Who are your friends?

Being of a bumptious nature, Lukasz rarely keeps friends for long. His hardly earned sense of self is grating in the long term.

▪ What is your greatest desire?

Lukasz aspires to be sung of in the great tales of heroes.

▪ What are your best and worst memories?

Best memory would be saving a towns girl from a wild dog.

Worst memory would be the bear attack

▪ What are your religious beliefs?

Worship of Signature and only his light

▪ To whom, or what, are you loyal?

To the people, as long as they adore and/or pay

▪ Why are you adventuring?

Money, fame, adoration


Step 9 – Advancement

Here I can spend the experience accumulated during character generation. This is used to increase the 3 Characteristics, 8 Skills and/or 4 Talents available to your career.

As I have randomised everything, this is a hefty 120XP boost.

100XP will be used adding the Roughrider talent go Lukasz, with the remaining 20XP boosting Charm Animal two more times.

And with that it is time to fill out the sheet, which hopefully looks like this:

 

AND with that it is time to begin the adventure into the grim Old World!

 

Visit Element Games here (Use the code DAN2300 at Checkout for double points)

For more WHRP action:

Listen to the Old World Podcast here

Follow our adventures here