Creating your characters….

The world of streaming and gaming is full of acronyms and abbreviations that I constantly have to work on in order to understand what people are talking about. When I was growing up a ‘GG’ was a horse with an ‘MT-GG’ being a hungry horse! I’m sure the latter is not really an abbreviation within the gaming world, but it did take me some time to understand what GG (good game – I hope) meant and even now, terms like ‘lul’ baffle me. But one term which I have been very familiar with for some time is the term ‘cookie cutter’. What does this mean and what are my thoughts about it, well this is what this waffle/post is about.

What was your first ever character in a RPG? Please add it to the forum post and share it with the community.

When ever I am writing up research for work, it is always necessary to provide definitions at the start of the report and so here is what I am meaning when I use the term ‘cookie cutter’. Initially, and I apologise if you have been lured into the blog post under false pretenses, I have to state that I will not be referring to the small metal or plastic cutter used to create biscuit shaped pieces of dough before baking. The definition I would like to use for the term ‘cookie cutter’ is that of ‘denoting something mass-produced or lacking any distinguishing characteristics.’ When playing MMOs (massively multiplayer online games) people quickly consider the racial bonuses and resistances for any race and then match these to the requirements of a class/role. You only need to do a quick search on Google to see that there is much discussion relating to the ‘best race for a ‘xxx”for almost all games. But does this actually apply to role playing games when people are making up their characters?

Knowing the rules: Whenever I start to create a character, I must admit that I look at the race options and decide which one I really like. There are some races that I have never gelled to at all – sorry if you are an ‘elf lover’ but they’ve never done it for me, although extremes do – for examples trolls in Shadowrun and Gnomes in D&D. One think which I try not to do is to look specifically at the race with respect to their modifiers. Once the game characteristics of a race is known, I find that I want to follow the creation route into a certain class, rather than just choosing a class because of simply liking it. Yes gnomes might make better ‘xxx’ and elves (in Shadowrun), due to their naturally high charisma, make good face characters, but I’m sure that there are some ugly elves or even gnomes who can’t hide that well – oooo to play a clumsy gnomish rogue! – or even a troll who is able to convince people through dulcet tones rather than their big fists and fierce looking tusks. This, I think, comes down to taking risks. I can often do this as a GM since I know the NPC/Mob will not be required to ‘live long’ if I have made the wrong choice. I suppose Troll Faces are not in abundance due to their lack of prowess in the charismatic department and, because of this, would provide a challenge for any player to carry off and could, if the party got sick of the failed rolls, lead to a request being put in for a new face…

Stereotyping Races: This brings me onto the next area of cookie cutting which I find most interesting and that is the depiction of race through role playing. Whether races appear to be graceful, charismatic, sturdy or even stupid, there is a habit of slipping into the stereotypical depiction of a race while role playing. Don’t get me wrong, I love gnomes who speak with silly voices or halflings with names which include some aspect of garden flowers, but I also like it when someone manages to pull off, through excellent role playing, playing a race which is obviously the race, but doesn’t actually fit the stereotype. When playing World of Warcraft, I always wanted to make an undead warrior, mainly because they didn’t seem to be physically constructed to be a tank. I was watching a one shot game on Scratticus’ D&D channel the other evening when someone introduced their bard who couldn’t actually play an instrument well – they could sing, but it was refreshing to see that their ‘instrument’ was a cow bell! Of course, within some games (RPG or MMOs) certain races can not be certain classes which is a great shame and, in my opinion even worse than this, is when gender is the deciding factor – one of the reasons I don’t play Black Desert Online is that all the classes I want to play have to be female. It is not that they are necessarily female, it is because I can’t have the choice!

One extreme to another: It is interesting that although I have been in the role playing arena since I was 14 (please do not start calculating how many years that is!) I have not actually had the opportunity to play or create many characters. Initially I think everyone creates a stereotyped character. My first was Thorin Ironbear – you don’t get a prize for guessing which race and/or class he was – and how many Legolas elven rangers exist or Gandalf type magic users? I understand that when anyone starts role playing, they reach into what they have known and seen in order to create their first character in that attempt to actually ‘be’ and ‘play’ that hero from the films. However, once I got this out of my system I start to try and go completely the other way trying to match completely unusual combinations in order to create a ‘unique’ character. Before you all start to type, I know that it is not your race and/or class which makes your character but its personality – but as you develop your characters I think that race and class are definitely the starting point. I was just wondering then whether anyone has played a fighter who was a coward running away rather than into combat? Interesting concept but whether it would be practical I’m not sure. I do, as a GM, try not to make too many extremes since players often like to meet familiar stereotypes. Luckily, when I create a NPC, I don’t need to think too much about bonuses or skills which makes the creation of characters a lot easier. My current favourites have to be the elven talismonger in Shadowrun called Mistletoe and Sylvester McHoon – the ex-adventuring cartographer from the Mythras campaign.

One of the aims of any player/GM is to make a character (or NPC) who is memorable and, in doing this, we constantly consider what makes that character. Race, class and personality all contribute to this and considering how these variables come together in the final ‘person’ is essential to achieve memorable status. Coupled with this is how they actually engage with other characters within the game. Creation/generation is just the starting point of the character and it is only through actually playing them that we develop them as a ‘real person’ within the campaign. This is something which it often hard to actually engage with within character generation no matter how many different situations you consider. I guess in summary, it is probably better to take the high ground with this discussion and say – play what you like to play in the style which you enjoy whether this be a cookie cutter or not and let personality and how the character engages with the campaign to be the defining characteristics rather than dice rolls and skills on their sheet.

I would love to hear all about your first or favourite characters so please do add them in the comments below, or head over the forum post and share them with the rest of the community.

So, until next time, remember to be who you are and say what you feel because the people who mind don’t matter and the people who matter don’t mind. Have fun and I’ll catch you all later and, until then, consider yourself waffled!

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