RPG Characters – How Do You Play?
RPGs through their character progression and choices often allow each player to approach them in very different ways. I know of a few people who like to plan really carefully and make decisions ahead of time like what class they will play, what skills they will work on, what equipment to wear and how their character will behave (sometimes even on their first play through.) I sometimes play games in this way if I’m returning to them, but often I find it breaks my engagement. I prefer to start without any knowledge and to see where my journey takes me naturally. As I discover more of the game I will sometimes research the odd little titbit, but I won’t look for all of the answers beforehand – even if it means not ending up with the best stats or abilities in the game. I have a preference for learning systems through experience rather than guides if I can help it. I also enjoy designing builds and taking on the challenge to find what works and what doesn’t.
When it comes to the choices we make in the story it can sometimes be a good idea to plan so that you get to see every option, but I find that I never become as fond of such characters because they feel a little fake. Often my characters grow in unexpected ways as I progress and I can’t plan for that. On a first play through I like to choose what feels right for me. Usually my characters will turn out to be a more extreme version of myself, but I do also enjoy role play. The type of game effects whether I go for good or bad, for example I enjoy playing the dark side in Knights of the Old Republic because I find the dialogue entertaining and yet in Mass Effect and Dragon Age I felt too fond of my party members to be a jerk to them. I know of some gamers who just cannot control an evil character as if it plays on their conscience; surprisingly some games are so well written they can encourage real feelings of guilt or remorse.
The aesthetics of my characters are really important to me because I use them to show who my character is (plus I’ll be stuck staring at it for the many hours to follow.) I often over think the process and fuss over every little feature until it looks right. Once again though most of my favourite characters are the ones that happened by accident. I once created a jokey character on Mass Effect because I wasn’t intending it to be a serious play through (it was only a few days to go until the release of Dragon Age), but during play I suddenly thought, wow she looks cool. The same happened to me on Guild Wars with my necromancer when I randomly decided to give her blue pigtails; now that hairstyle has become somewhat iconic amongst my friends. Not everybody likes to use aesthetics like scars, make-up, jewellery and tattoos because they’ll be stuck with them forever, but I think they can make a character look more unique and interesting (while also hinting at a possible back story.) Most of my characters are very dark and Gothic looking, but every so often I’ll get bored and break the tradition; My Guild Wars warrior is a blonde chick with pink/silver armour.
Naming characters can also bring about a whole new dilemma. I know of people who re-use the same set of names, but I prefer to make up new ones so that I can talk about each of my characters as individuals (it also allows me to make up new stories for them without the attachment to previous games.) I have a set pool of surnames though. As I like to role play I prefer to have a realistic name that doesn’t contain numbers or any unusual characters. I wish more games would encourage the use of real names (Tibia is one such game) because it aids in the role play.
I have a really strong attachment to each of my game characters, as if they are all a little extension of myself; I put a lot of thought and creativity into each of them. We all have different ways of starting and progressing our characters, some of us more strict than others, focussing on either stats or aesthetics. I know of some people who will restart over and over in the quest to find the right build for them, whereas I like to settle into it and see where it goes. Do you have any routines or preferences when starting an RPG?