Tips for Creating a Character for a Roleplay

This may come as a surprise to many of you, but creating a character for a roleplay (be that text-based, tabletop, LARP, or anything else) requires a different set of rules than other characters. The reason for this is that you have an obligation to make your character a cohesive part of a collaborative story, and if you don’t keep that in mind, you can end up with a character that stalls the plot, creates unnecessary conflict, or even upsets your roleplay partners (perhaps to the degree that they stop playing). 

Of course, you will also need to make sure you have the foundations of a character—backstory, appearance, personality, etc. Be sure to check out How to Make Characters Interesting, Complex, and Unique if you aren’t sure how to get started.

 Aside from that, however, you also need to keep these other points in mind. 

Give Them a Balance of Positive and Negative Traits

Okay, I know I just said that you need to use different rules for creating RP characters, and this is the quintessential rule of writing any character. Bear with me. 

You should give all of your characters flaws. I have another article that talks about why, so I won’t get into it here. (How to Create Complex Flaws for Characters.) However, when creating a character for a roleplay, it’s really important to make sure your character has a balance of good and bad behaviors. 

Positive traits give your RP partner’s character opportunities to connect with your character, which is often necessary to further the plot. It can also lead to important relationship developments, interesting conversations, and more. 

Negative traits create necessary conflict and interest, while also providing opportunities for the character’s personal growth and development. Often, negative traits or mindsets can be the driving force behind a plot, such as a desire for revenge, fleeing from one’s past, or the pursuit of wealth. 

Make Them Possible to Get Along With

This should go without saying, but I have been part of many roleplays where the other person’s character was impossible to get along with, and I had to warp my character’s personality substantially in order to accommodate them. Making your character possible to get along with in some way is absolutely instrumental, and it should be at the front of your mind the entire time you are designing your character. 

Even if your character is supposed to be the cold, calculating asshole archetype, you need to have some sort of obvious way of allowing other characters to interact with them—otherwise, it will be hard to justify having the other characters stick around. Give them a clear soft spot for something, an indication of where their negativity stems from, a common goal with other characters, or some other sense of being a decent (or at least okay) person to be around. If your partner’s character just can’t get along with your character no matter what they try, that isn’t going to be any fun, and having fun is the whole point

Give Them a Goal that Aligns with the Main Plot

Even if your character is hard to get along with, they should have a goal that aligns with the goals of the other character (or characters). Even if that goal is simply “escape alive” or “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Keeping the main plot in mind can make it easier to craft common goals for different characters in a roleplay. If you have a structured plot laid out already, like the characters rising up against a dystopian regime, then you can build your character around their motivations to rebel. If everyone abides by this, then all the characters will be more inclined to work together, even if they don’t like each other (yet). 

However, characters can have different goals that lead them to the same place. Three different characters can all arrive at a historical site for different reasons—one wants to rob the place, another wants to gain insight into their family’s past, and another simply visits as a tourist. Even though they arrive with different objectives, they could all end up getting dragged into the same shenanigans. 

Give Them Secrets

Secrets are so often tragically overlooked in roleplays. Giving other players the opportunity to discover things along the way, instead of telling them everything upfront, can help keep everyone intrigued and inspired to continue the story. 

Having your character keep secrets from other characters is also more realistic. Most people don’t spill their deepest regrets or traumas to strangers they just met, nor do people generally share their hopes and aspirations with people they have to work begrudgingly alongside. 

If the character is keeping something secret, and it is not essential for your RP partners to know right away, then you should keep it a secret from them until you can reveal it in a more meaningful way. 

Don’t Make Them Overpowered

One of the main things that makes roleplay fun is the problem-solving aspect of it. Characters will often have to figure out how to survive a fight, investigate something, or escape various different situations—and you, as the writer, have to determine what reaction would most accurately reflect what your character would do, even if that isn’t the obvious best choice. The characters’ varied limitations and capabilities often result in unique solutions (or additional problems) that can highlight a lot of things about the characters as individuals, their relationship to one another, and what matters to each of them. 

However, there exists a problem in the roleplaying community known as “god modding,” in which one player tries to exert complete control over a scene by allowing their character to act without logical limitations or boundaries—essentially operating with “godlike” powers. Naturally, it’s no fun for other players if your character solves all problems with their mega super-powered black magic. Be courteous, and apply limits to what your character is capable of. 

Communicate With Your Roleplay Partner(s)

No matter what, the most important part of creating a character for a roleplay is communicating with your RP partner/s. You may set certain rules and expectations, communicate about triggering topics, or even share ideas. You could also use this opportunity to establish existing relationships or converse about what the characters already know about one another.

You absolutely never want to give characters backstory that contains triggering topics for your partner. You should also never give your character magical abilities without that being discussed beforehand. You should never make your character a species that hasn’t been confirmed to even exist in the context in which the story takes place. 

With all that said, as long as you and your partner/s agree on what should and shouldn’t be included in the story, nothing is off the table. If you want to have alien superhero characters that hate each other, and you both understand what that entails, then absolutely go for it.