From The Ground Up (FTGU) is a series of posts based around character creation and roleplay, building from the ground up, obviously. In this post we’re going to talk about your characters story and their development and how to do that. But if you have missed any parts this far you can catch up with them here:
You can also check out our Venerable Villians series starting Here.
Now, if you have read all those links then you likely have a fairly solid character in mind by this point. But as good as that character might be if they stay there and stay static there are swiftly going to be no fun for you to play or for anyone else to play with. So we need to make them non-static, we need to get them moving. We call this movement and progression character development.
There are two parts to this idea. The story and the development. The story is the events, the things that happen within your characters ‘life’ and as such create their story. And that is great that gets your character moving and doing things and having relevancy. Then we dome to development and that is more complex, that is how your character develops because of a story. It is how the events of the story affect their physical, mental and social lives and how they change and grow from that experience. That is what keeps them relevant in the setting and to the other players involved and that is how you generate farther roleplay and interest from those events.
You might wonder why a character arc or plot is important when there is a plot to the game lore and to most guilds within the roleplay setting. And you would be right, those things have plots too and if you get involved with them they will indeed develop your character and that is what a lot of roleplayers DO do. But I’m aiming to help you be a cut above the normal average player with these guides so here is why a personal character story is important.
Depth and reality. Your character exists as a person within the roleplay world, and as a person they have personal goals aims wishes, desires dreams and fears. If your character only exists as part of a guild and the only thing driving them is that guild plot you run into problems. You are reliant and dependent. If your guild is not actively doing a plot-line then that will mean you have nothing to do and no drive to do anything else, if your guild goes dormant, inactive or disbands, you are stuck. It also makes it harder for you to engage in roleplay outside the direct plot-line and involved characters in general. It would be like you only ever getting interested, invested and involved in things going on in your office day-job and having no drive to do anything outside of that except sit around with your co-workers and talk about said job. No great, right?
Having a story and arc for your character personally gives them more depth, it makes them a person first and a participant second. It means that whenever something in the guild is not going on your character will be high-tailing it back to doing whatever it was they were trying to accomplish for themselves which is your story arc. That will mean you never run out of roleplay, it will mean you will nearly always have plenty of reason to engage people in additional roleplay that is drive and with a point to it and it will also make your character vastly more interesting to other players and make them want to get invested.
Character Story is important, mates. So lets get to it!
You don’t have to pre-write or plan your whole story but be aware of the kind of arc you are aiming for. Is it an adventure, an exploration, a redemption or a corruption. What is the overarching theme of this character’s story? There are three different kinds of plot arc’s and your character is not limited to one, you can run one arc and then another. Your character can fall to corruption and then you can play a redemption arc. But for now we are going to pick one of the three types;
Positive: A positive arc includes anything where your character ends up in a better place than they started, such as a redemption plot. Perhaps they are down on their luck, broke and at a loss and perhaps they are set on a plot to better their position, to increase their gains and make something of themselves.
Negative: A negative arc is your corruption arc’s, where your character starts off in one place and by the end of the arc ends up in a more negative one. They can fall to corruption, they could be persuaded into criminal deeds or lured and tempted into devious acts. They could for whatever reasons occur within the plot end up bitter and disillusioned and resentful.
Flat: A flat arc is one where the character is not significantly changed personally but the experience but there are certain obstacles in his way that he has to over come via different means. This can cover Adventure arc’s and stories where the character is not significantly altered by the experienced undertaken.
Think about who your character is at the moment, and how they behave, and then consider which of those arc’s appeal to your the most, and which of them make the most compelling narrative and story. Think about what your character believes today as he is, is it true? Is it a lie? Where could he go with it and what could he do with it? Remember as well that your character can start out on a certain arc and fail to reach the end goal, the arc might alter halfway through such is the fluid nature of the MMO roleplay setting. He could be well on his way to becoming a corrupt criminal and meet someone he falls in love with that redeems him. That’s the unexpected joy in roleplay. But to get there, you first need to be master of your own hand, you need to know where you are going, even if you get diverted on to another road down the line.
Another fact to consider is that these plots do not need to be complex and complicated, in fact, it is likely better if they are not too complex. If you keep the idea simple there is more room to be flexible with it if and when other characters turn up and get involved in your story arc. It allows you more options and the nature of MMORPG is that you are roleplaying with a massive number of unknown elements in the form of other players, nothing is ever going to go to plan so save yourself some stress and keep things flexible.
This is where it gets juicy. First of all you need to know where your character is. What are their aims and goals? Are they good? What makes them unique? All that stuff we talked about in the previous parts, bring that back to mind. So what is your character aiming for? Are they going to achieve it? Are they going to fall short? Are they going to fail entirely and wind up somewhere different altogether? These are the things that make up the basic shape or your character arc and how it is going to develop them and alter them.
What makes a good character arc? An interesting story first and foremost, a compelling narrative. Think about the kinds of books you read and the story-lines within them. Most stories boil down to a kind of self discover, think about that and your character, and how you can have them discover their self, their skills or perhaps something they did not know about themselves. The key to a compelling story is conflict. But be warned, conflict while vital to a good story is also dangerous. We’ll talk about the dangers below. Conflict is the tug of war between one element and another. It can be between your character and another one, a nemesis or rival; your adventure-seeker might have to beat another party to the treasure. He might have to face a monster that is defending it etc. Your criminal might have to tangle with the law enforcement elements or avoid being blackmailed by bigger groups. Conflict does not have to be with another character however it can also be internal. Your Light-bound Knight might be suffering a crisis of faith. Your heartless mercenary might be getting soft with age and fixing himself in trouble for not cleaning up loose ends.
Good character stories will also likely leave your character with a means and reason of contacting other characters and dragging them into things as it develops. Your character might not have the full range of skills they need to over come small objectives within their story all by themselves, they might need help along the way and that gives you drive to go and find those people, and it gives them a vested interest in your character and story-line.
There are things to avoid however. As with everything there are traps and pitfalls that are easy to slip into. The main one being with conflict. Conflict is a spice, if you over do it you are going to ruin your whole story. Keep it interested and invested, rather than just conflict for conflicts sake. And keep it limited and reasonable, massive dramatic showdowns might come across as being over dramatic and Mary-sue, and if they happen too often they will bore people and kill investment in the story-line. Keep it subtle and interesting. Too much looks overblown and heavy handed. You also want to try and make it active. Make it something your character has to do, even with internal conflicts like a faith crisis make it in such a way that your character will seek help or guidance or try to go on a pilgrimage perhaps to reaffirm their faith. When you keep it active you keep it open for other players and relevant to them which will drive interest and keep new things turning up and happening, which will in turn be more interesting for you.
To get you thinking here is an awesome site with a list of 29 plot templates: Darcypattison.Com
Did you find this helpful? Have any questions? Want any help? Get in touch and let me know!