February 26, 2004

Game WISH 85: Character Inspirations

Ginger asks us a juicy question that I've given a lot of thought:

What inspires you to create characters? Do you have partially-developed characters in mind for use when you get into a new campaign? Do you shop characters around, or do you come up with new characters when you get into a campaign? Why? If you GM, are you bothered by receiving a solicitation for a �generic� character, or does it enthuse you to get a solid proposal even if it�s not closely tailored to your game?

Oh boy, where to start?

I've said repeatedly that I am a GM more than I am a player, and so I usually create characters from that perspective. Characters come with backgrounds, ideas, concepts and other XML-like objects along with them. Vance (my HOC proposal) came hand in hand with the ideas of bobbles and temporal dislocation. Gaius came with dreams of Venice and Italianate realms. Cadmus entered ROP with the idea of the Local Group.

In a couple of cases, though, I have plugged in characters from my stable into a campaign. I don't do that often, I am far more liable to do that for ACUS games. (The obvious notable exceptions are Marcus, in AOR, and Tynan in Bete Noire).

So where does Gaius, Cadmus and their ilk come from? What inspires their creation?

Media. Usually, books. Sometimes movies, too. With my steady diet of F & SF, I am always coming across ideas to inspire. Characters gain inspiration as much as campaign ideas, since the ideas come together.

Gaius' inspiration came from SHADOW OF THE LION and its magical, alternate Venice. Vance came mainly from Vernor Vinge's "The Peace War" and "Marooned in Realtime", although I've played with the idea of slow time fields for quite a while. Cadmus' playground was inspired by Lawrence Watt-Evans trilogy now collected as "Worlds in Shadow"--the idea of a set of universes ranging from the magical to science fiction, with Earth in between.

It is these sorts of ideas that lurk in the borders of my waking mind, awaiting use in a campaign, or in a game of my own. After reading Sean Russell's THE ONE KINGDOM, I was taken by the milieu and the three antagonists that I turned it into a ACUS 2003 game, Ghosts of the Past. I understand that many of my characters in my stable are not suitable for milieus, even though I love them dearly. I never considered using Hadrian for House of Cards, even as a son of Caine he would have filled that niche nicely. I've done the revamping thing enough and prefer not to do it in a long-term game. This way, instead of always playing the same character, I grow and develop more. I work on, as Deb calls them, the Voices in my Head.

After all, that's how my stable gets to become productive. One day at ACUS I will happily use characters like Gaius in one-shots, or as NPCs in my own ACUS games.

Now, as a GM, I pride myself on flexibility in character concepts. If a player truly wants to import a PC from elsewhere, and it can be worked into the SB universe, I say, in the words of our President "Bring it on". Beastie is an example of this. On the other hand, I *do* personally prefer the character created for my world and my milieu. I want to provide the soil for characters to grow and develop. Characters created for my game usually flourish better, but I think we, the GM and the player can provide a good experience even if "Emaris" has been in previous games.

It tickled me pink last ACUS that Bridgette liked Priya (her secondary SB character) enough to use her in a ACUS con game. I consider that a high compliment. It's proof that Priya has truly become part of Bridgette's mental cast of characters. And that I am doing my part to provide a world for her, enough that Priya has a strong, independent existence. The Olsons, in particular, often talk about their previous characters with strong recollection and thought. Characters which feel and are very much real to them.

That's my wish for every character in SB and other games that I run.

Posted by Jvstin at February 26, 2004 4:15 PM