If you’re starting a new roleplay (RP) or Tabletop Roleplaying Game (TTRPG), then one of the things you will be expected to provide is a character biography. If you aren’t familiar with writing character bios, then you might be a little stumped on what exactly needs to be included, and what is better left out.
Although there is no perfect, established way of writing a biography for a character, there are a couple of things you could do to make it more effective and useful to your fellow roleplayers and TTRPG players. But first, you should make sure you understand exactly what a character bio entails before writing your own.
This article is specifically about creating character bios for roleplays, tabletop games, and other collaborative writing settings. If you’re looking for how to create a character for a story, try checking out How to Make Characters Interesting, Complex, and Unique instead.
What is a Character Bio?
A character bio, also known as a character profile or character biography, is a brief overview of your character that you can provide to others prior to the start of a game or roleplay. It gives them an introduction to your character before the narrative actually begins, which makes it easier to create plots and interact between characters.
Generally, a character bio includes basic information about the character, such as their name, appearance, and behavior, but it can also include topics such as backstory and motivations. Bios can look different depending on what they are being used for, the genre of the story, and the other players’ preferences.
Why is a Character Bio Important?
Character bios make it much easier for other players or RP partners to get to know your character. By providing information on your character up front, you can allow others to get to know them, build relationships between characters, and come up with ideas for the story based around your character’s information.
In addition to that, having a good character bio can be helpful to reference later, especially if they are part of a long campaign. Bios help keep your characters consistent and true to their original design. Even the best writers forget things about their characters over time, so it’s a good idea to write everything down anyway. When I take notes on my characters, I usually keep the character’s bio at the top of the page and simply add to it as events unfold in the story.
How Long Should a Character Bio Be?
One of the most important things to keep in mind when writing a character bio is that it should be short. You need to keep it clear, concise, and brief. You aren’t trying to give away your character’s life story, after all. You just want to break the ice and introduce them to the other players and characters. After all, if you gave away all their secrets at the beginning, there wouldn’t be any mysteries to uncover over the course of the story.
As a general rule, you should try to keep your character bios shorter than a page (which is typically about 300-500 words). If you make it much shorter than that, you likely wouldn’t be doing your character justice. If you wrote much more than that, however, most people probably wouldn’t get around to reading the whole thing. Character bios aren’t exactly known for being riveting literature.
What to Include in a Character Bio
When you’re writing your character’s bio, you don’t need to create an entire novel about their life and exploits. You only need to include the details that are important for others to know from the beginning. Some things aren’t even important enough to share at all.
Although some people have preferences about the ways they want character bios to be formatted, this is the generally accepted formula for writing a good character bio.
The Most Basic Character Elements
The first thing you should establish in your character’s bio is the most basic elements of who they are. That includes things like their:
- Species (if applicable)
You don’t need to get fancy here. This is the easy part—just give the basic information and move on to the next section.
The Character’s Physical Description
Next, you’ll want to give a basic description of what the character looks like. For this section, you’ll want to consider their:
- Body type
- Skin tone
- Hair color
- Physical details
- Clothing style
You can cover this information in bullet points, but I find that it is much more effective to write this part in paragraph format. That makes the bio feel more like an introduction to the character, and less like some kind of legal document.
If you need some pointers for designing your character, check out Tricks for Describing a Character’s Appearance (With Examples).
Remember to keep this part brief. Physical appearance is only one small part of a character, and you don’t want to waste too much time and energy describing what they look like—especially since you don’t want their bio to be too long.
The Character’s Personality
Obviously, most of the character’s personality should come out as you are playing them, but it’s still a good idea to give your RP partners or TTRPG players an indication of their personality before the game or RP begins.
As with the other sections, this part should be kept brief. You just want to cover the most important aspects of their personality. You know, the traits and behaviors that define who they are. That could be anything from “grumpy” or “hot-headed” to “innocent” or “creepy.” Just give a few adjectives to describe them, and describe some of their dominant behaviors. This section shouldn’t be any longer than a few sentences.
The Character’s Backstory
This section is the tricky part. You want to explain enough of your character’s backstory to explain how they got where they are in the present day, but you don’t want to give away too much and make your character a completely open book. Not only that, you want to make sure the information you are providing is meaningful to the story, and not just useless facts.
When summarizing the character’s backstory for their bio, you should cut out everything except for the bare bones. The details aren’t important now (and you can reveal more over the course of the story anyway). Instead, draw attention to a few milestones in the character’s life, whether that relates to family, education, tragedy, or something else.
What happened in their past to turn them into the person they are at the beginning of the story? Focus on those points, and leave out all the rest.
If your character doesn’t have much of a backstory yet, you might want to check out this article before moving on: How to Create Compelling Character Backstories.
What Motivates the Character
When you’re creating a bio for a character, you’ll want to consider their motivations and goals. A character without a direction is boring, so make sure you have some idea of what your character wants before the story begins. Do they want to start their own business? Hunt ghosts for a living? Avenge their dead brother? What is going to motivate your character to actually do something?
This part of the bio is often labeled as “present day,” or it’s lumped in with the backstory section. Regardless of how you choose to format it, the point is worth drawing attention to by itself. This part is particularly important for RPs and TTRPGs because it gives partners and fellow players the context they need to understand how this character operates.
The Character’s Quirks and Flaws
I cannot stress this enough: every character needs to have flaws.
All characters need flaws. No one is perfect, so none of your characters should be either. Even if your character is perfect in one regard, they need to be flawed in some other way. The best sharpshooter in the world might be afraid of snakes. The world’s most mesmerizing dancer might have self-confidence issues.
Quirks are also important! They operate a lot like flaws, though they don’t interfere with the character’s ability to live their life normally. Having a weird sense of humor or a tendency to fidget isn’t necessarily flawed behavior, but it is worth mentioning in this section as well.
Flaws and quirks are indispensable when it comes to creating interesting characters. They create conflict, and make characters more realistic and sympathetic. Without those details, your characters just won’t resonate with other players. Or worse—you’ll get accused of creating a Mary Sue.
If you want more information on creating flaws for characters (and why they’re so important for stories), check out How to Create Complex Flaws for Characters.
Miscellaneous Traits and Abilities
Finally, you’ll probably want to include a miscellaneous category at the end of the bio. Depending on your personal preference and the genre of story you’re creating, this part could also go closer to the top. You could also use a different term, or include this category as part of the character’s basic info.
This is the section in which you include anything important that wasn’t covered in the other sections. This could include things such as the character’s:
- Magical Abilities
- Special Skills
- Languages known
Basically, this section is meant to cover anything else that your RP partners or TTRPG players need to know about your character.
What NOT to include in a Character Bio
That “miscellaneous” category probably has you scratching your head. If that’s supposed to cover the other important parts of your character, how do you know where to stop?
There are many things that you should never include in a character bio, but there are two distinct reasons why things should be left out: either the point is boring and doesn’t matter, or it is much more fun to reveal that particular piece of information over the course of the story instead.
Here are some things that should be left out of character bios because they are uninteresting:
- Their Zodiac sign
- Every single detail of their appearance or personality
- Their entire life story
- Their birthday
- Their entire family tree
- Their favorite food/color/etc
Here are the things that should be left out because they would make good plot points later:
- Their secrets
- Their relationships with other characters
- Their strengths and weaknesses
- Their past trauma or struggles
Character Bio Examples
Character bios don’t have to show off your best writing skills. The point isn’t to impress the pants off the other players, and it’s definitely not to prove you’re a better writer than anyone else. You aren’t showing off, you’re just providing a resource on your character that is necessary for the game or RP.
With that said, here are some examples of character bios to give you a better idea of how to apply all this information.
Sample Character Bio 1
Name: Rory Bannon
Species: Human (Superhero)
Superpower: He can float.
Power Drawbacks: He’s not very good at controlling his ability, and it is dependent on his mood. Sometimes, he will begin to float when he gets excited.
Appearance: Rory is tall and lanky, and his limbs almost look too long for his body. He has brown hair with a stripe of orange in the front. He has a goofy smile, and he holds a lot of childish optimism in his sunny green eyes. He always wears a suit no matter where he goes, believing that dressing for success is the first step to achieving it.
Personality: He’s chipper and optimistic, and all his friends agree that he’s a bit of a hopeless romantic. He’s a dreamer, and his head is often stuck in the clouds.
Backstory: Rory is an only child from a loving home. He decided to attend a school for young heroes to learn how to control his powers, with the full support of his doting parents.
Goals: He wants to learn how to control his powers and use them to help others.
Quirks: He’s gotten pretty good at floating up—just not at coming back down again.
Sample Character Bio 2
Name: Alice Howard
Nicknames: Red, Little Red, Pumpkin (by her father)
Appearance: Alice is the preppy, pretty girl at school, with a figure that makes boys drool. Her long hair is a gorgeous shade of reddish-brown, and delicate freckles dot her petite, pale features. She is careful to keep her makeup perfect, and she is always pushing the limits of what her school’s dress code allows.
Personality: Despite her looks, Alice is remarkably insecure. She thrives off compliments and bases her entire self-worth on what others think of her. One bad pimple is enough to get her to skip school, and she takes even the smallest insults to heart. Despite how she feels about beauty and her own self-image, she always tries to be uplifting and encouraging to other girls, and would never say anything nasty about the way someone looks.
Backstory: Alice lives with her grandparents since both of her parents are deployed Marines. Her grandparents are getting quite old, and they often require her help more often than she needs them. She does her best to be responsible, but she often regrets that she can’t get out as much as other girls her age.
Goals: Alice has a history of bad relationships. All she wants is a good boyfriend and real friends.
Quirks: She has a tendency to be clingy and physically affectionate with her friends.
Misc: Alice’s one true love is food, specifically greasy, tex-mex food.
Sample Character Bio 3
Name: Samson Anders
Species: Half-human, half-demon
Hair: Long, Brown
Eye Color: Hazel
Skin Color: Medium-light
Physical Details: He has a large scar over the left side of his neck and collarbone, and multiple smaller scars all over.
Personality: Harsh, cold, and unapproachable. He has a softer side for those he cares about.
Past: He isn’t one to talk about his past. Most of his friends know that he had a rough childhood, but no one knows the details.
Present: He is living with a friend in a one-bedroom apartment, and the duo are professional ghost hunters.
Goals: Secretly, he hopes to learn more about his demonic side.
Quirks/Flaws: He tends to grow out his facial hair when he is feeling down, simply because he can’t be bothered to shave.