For some of us out there, playing D&D is all about the role-playing. But for some reason or another, it can be hard to get “in-character”, especially when playing a race or class you’ve never played before. Here are some tips that I have learned to help me get inspired.
Get Inspired By Characters You Love
The easiest way to get inspired about your character is to choose a lovable (or loathsome, if that is the direction you want to go) character from a story you enjoy and use them as a basis for designing your RPG avatar. Treat this person as a role-model for your game character, as if your character had read stories of that person themselves and seek to live up to their glory.
The key isn’t to make an RPG version of the character you’ve chosen, but rather to give yourself a vivid identity that you can role-play as. Basing this identity off something that already exists let’s you outsource a lot of the character development necessary to make a fleshed out person.
I’ve made characters based on literature heroes like Kaladin Stormblessed from The Stormlight Archives and Lord Asriel from His Dark Materials. Altair from Assassin’s Creed and Garrus Vakarian from Mass Effect have certainly lent some attitude and flavor to a few of my characters as well.
Copying a character too much can quell your creativity, so consider blending two or more characters to create something more unique.
Make Your Character Relatable
The easiest way to struggle with role-playing your character is to make them something so different from yourself that you have nothing in common.
My occupation and backstory is wildly different than Drog Toorkur Vahlok (aka Frostblood), my Dragornborn Paladin. While I was playing with Legos at the age of 5, he was a refugee with his family escaping the oppression of the Dragon slavers. And while he chose a path of virtue and crusades, I went to college to study graphic design and go to the beach a lot.
But we do have a few things in common: our loyalty to our friends and family that comes from our love. The lessons I’ve learned about relationships are easily transferable to Frostblood, and it makes it easy to role-play as a character who shares my values even if we don’t share the same experiences.
Having childhood friends and family members for your character also allows your GM to incorporate them into the story. Effects may vary. In one game I played a great story arch in which I befriended a childhood rival, and in another game my character’s closest friend spontaneously appeared in the campaign as an enemy that betrayed me. Talk to your GM about concerns like this. Remember, you have a stake in the story of your character and their allies, and you should have limits set with the GM on what is acceptable and what doesn’t make sense for the characters you’ve created.
Lastly, people change. Events can alter view points and relationships can influence decisions. People are not static, so your character shouldn’t be, either. If you’re struggling relating to your character, develop them some more and change them up a bit.
Own A Part of the World’s Lore
The best way that I can get inspired about my new character is to embed them in the game world. This is also the best piece of advice I can give. Choose a defining aspect of your character’s history – whether it is their race, religion, or a faction they belong to. Work with your GM to collaborate on how that character aspect came to form in the game world and how your character fits in the lore of the world.
For Frostblood, I wrote up a page about three things: the history of the Dragonborn in the game world, the history of my paladin’s faction, and the history of Frostblood’s family and life. I gave it to my GM and together we put my material into the actual lore of the game world.
Suddenly my character was a part of my campaign’s history, I had helped forge my corner of the game world, and had a stake in what would happen to it. That lore was mine and it inspired my character’s decisions for the entirety of the campaign because I knew exactly what motivated him, what struggles he had to endure socially and racially, and I also knew what his family and friends where doing in the game.
This collaboration with your GM will be worth it, as it also shows them that you have a vested interest in the world they built and will familiarize them with your character.
If you enjoyed this article or have any other tips to get inspired for character building, leave a comment below.