How to build Characters

Here my 2ct to how you should work out a new character for the game.

Archetypes are your friend

The archetype is a storytellers tool. You play positively with knowledge that the reader or player has about something. And it shortens a lot of telling details that can be covered with an archetype. After you used it, you put some love in it for color. Something that makes him special.

“Kowalski is a typical Rent-A-Cop gone bust. He stranded on the street after a streak of bad luck and now tries to get away as a Private Detective. But he has trouble to fit that role. He has naturally a little alcohol problem.”

You serve the archetype without making it a stereotype. It is no fun if you degrade a character to a living stereotype and heap every prejudice on him that you can get hold off. There is a point where you can spoil the archetype and where you start being lazy while you just serve a platitude. The gay coiffeur may still be an archetype, but if you make him a camp, make him to an elf, make him a model as his boy friend and give him combat paralysis and just attitude and nothing else. Really you’ve overdone it.

It’s just a living bias. No character. There is nothing anyone would expect from him anymore. He’s just a comic relief guy. A joke. Not a character.

Rule one: put love in it. Don’t heap everything on it, that you know. This is true for the character as it is true for qualities. Don’t heap them on each other.

This is true for metahuman races too.

These races are actually nothing new for a storyteller. They each represent a special kind of character just giving it some visual and overdrawn aspects. The tough guy is the ork. The tragic guy, the drama queen or just the noble man is the elf. The crafty and sly but a bit helpless in the real world is the dwarf. The obese character, the monstrous thing that comes out of the bad side of the trailer park is the troll.


Respect the races, don’t fuck with the rules.

Don’t make a sneaky troll. I know, the rules allow it. Fuck the rules. Nobody can tell me that a troll can sneak up to you from behind without you noticing. And don’t misuse the game mechanic to make it happen. Just respect the races and their roles in storytelling. If you want to build the sneaky guy, stick to a human or an elf. As well as it is possible to make an intelligent troll. But there is a reason he has malus on it. Understand why. It is the archetype. Don’t break this mighty tool of storytelling by declaring him super intelligent, putting exceptional attribute on logic and fuck him up with cyberware to make him a cyber logician.

It’s not funny. It’s a fucking freak. And nobody will believe it. Because… because if I have to explain this still… So I don’t.

Don’t max out strenght and body on something like an elf. Don’t give your character attributes “just because you can”. Build a character and not a sheet of paper with no meaning.

The race is an additional archetype tool. Respect it as this, don’t fuck with it.

Build characters, not freaks. Use archetypes, don’t misuse them as stereotypes. Put love in it, work out the “but” and the “and”, but don’t overdo it. Make the character work, make them believable. Put him into a situation that is explainable and believable from his background. Make the background fit his set of skills. Give him interests, that tell the reader what this character does if he is not working like mad. What he loves, what he likes. What you would buy him as a present for his birthday. What you would do with him to spend a nice evening.

And finally read How to do Interests.

How to build Characters

Shadowrun - The Rat's Nest Bookscorpion