Mysts of Eyr is absolutely jam-packed with dozens of great playable races for you to build a character on and play in. Additionally, there are races that have a simple and high speed approval process using “Standard” applications that allow you to choose from a pre-set list of strengths and weaknesses. But the door isn’t closed yet. Mysts of Eyr also has a Shapeshifter Application and an NPC Application to allow for even greater freedom and flexibility.
With so many options, it’s easy to get a little lost and overexcited when building your character; and easy to lose the character in all of the options. There are some great simple guidelines that can help you create a character that is not only balanced and fair to other players, but one that is also enjoyable for you play and for other players to play with.
I like using character development guidelines that fiction writers use; as most well known fiction writers have already proven their ability to create engaging characters that can hold our interest as readers through a novel or even an entire series. Taking these guidelines into consideration in your own roleplay character’s development can be a wonderful way to create a character.
1. The more simple the the character concept, the more the character’s personality shines through.
While we all want our characters to have depth and complexity; there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. The rule I tend to like to use for creating the bare bones base of a character is called the “Rule of Paranormal Fiction Characters.”
It can also be phrased as, “Just like every other_______, except ________.”
What this does is it makes you ground your character in a common base that is easy for a lot of people to relate to, and then to craft one unique trait that marks the character as original.
You see this in some of the most popular works of the modern day:
Harry Potter - “Like every other magic student, except he survived an attack from Voldemort.”
Eragon - “Like every other farm boy, except he befriends a dragon.”
Now granted the stories themselves are so much more complex than these statements. But the complexity of the story and the characters is not developed through making them completely developed oddities in their paradigms right out of the gate. The reason we fell in love with Harry Potter was because he was, despite the fantasy nature of the setting, someone we could relate to. He wasn’t terribly complex, and he becomes the vehicle that takes us into this incredibly complex and wonderful world and story.
Your character serves the same function for you. Your character is your vehicle into the world and story of Eyr. The more comfortable and uncomplicated your vehicle, the more of Eyr you will likely get to see.
To continue that analogy, look at your roleplay as taking a trip through Eyr, and your character as the vehicle that you will use. If you create a complex fighter jet of a character with all the bells and whistles and levers and switches; your trip through Eyr is going to be incredibly fast, and incredibly short. You won’t actually see anything, won’t be able to wave to folks in passing, won’t be able to stop and enjoy the scenery and people.
But if you make your character more like a bicycle, simple -- but functional, that makes you work to get to where you want to go, but not so quickly that you miss all the scenery and can’t say hello to folks in passing; then it’s going to be a much more enjoyable trip.
So let’s start by making a character with that Paranormal fiction rule in mind:
“Just like every other jungle elf, except he is an alchemist in pursuit of the Philosopher’s Stone.”
That sentence gives us a familiar and comfortable base, he’s a jungle elf. It gives him a distinctive skill; he’s an alchemist. And it gives him a distinct motivation, he’s in search of the Philosopher's Stone. From that point the character’s personality can develop. He might be greedy; as the Philosopher’s Stone is the legendary element to turn lead into gold. He might be well-educated; having studied alchemy and learned what the Philosopher’s Stone is. It opens up roleplay opportunities, like looking for other characters who might have information, or skills he can share and use. His real complexity comes out in the roleplay; not in the root of what he is.
To show an example of how to fail at this exercise:
“Just like every other Vampire Princess, except she’s been cursed by a demon to love a lycan and must become a demi-goddess to overcome both the demon and the vampirism to be with her true love.”
While technically that follows the rule, read it carefully. It’s incredibly complex and overdeveloped, and uninteresting. Here your vehicle into Eyr is an overly complex fighter jet that has no real core of her own, but who’s development is entirely dependent on other non-involved characters with a motivation toward an unreasonable and unbalanced goal. Frankly, if this were a novel, I wouldn’t bother. She herself might actually be an interesting person; if she weren’t so utterly one-dimensional because she has to be driven and motivated by such a complex goal and history. The real delight of the character, it’s personality, can’t be seen under all the tripe and power. And so this character would jet fighter right through Eyr and never even get to say hello.
2. Bait your character with just enough information to make your scene partner want more.
Every single fiction writer has had to at least at one point compose a “Back Cover Summary” of a novel. That is, the paragraph of text you read on the back cover of a paperback. (Also called the Dust Jacket Summary in terms of hard cover books) The average novel is anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 words in total (About 80,000 at the median). These back cover summaries take all 80,000 words and condense them into a single paragraph statement that covers not only who the story is about, but the why, where and what of the story.The trick they have to use is to do it in such a way as to give enough information to generate interest in actually reading the book.
If you look at movies, TV shows, and books, you’ll see these short summaries everywhere:
“A successful lawyer and loving mother, Nina Bloom would do anything to protect the life she's built in New York--including lying to everyone, even her daughter, about her past. But when an innocent man is framed for murder, she knows that she can't let him pay for the real killer's crimes.”
That’s the two-sentence dust jacket summary from James Patterson’s Now You See Her.
Look at your character in Mysts of Eyr in terms of a novel. Can you come up with an engaging and interesting dust jacket summary? Okay now look at it again. And ask yourself sincerely, if this character were the main character of a novel; would you really read it?
Let’s take our jungle elf.
“Struggling potions mixer and snake oil salesman, Zin Torrel has been searching for the Philosopher’s Stone in defiance of his people’s nature against greed. But is he searching for it for his own ends? Or is there a higher calling?”
This dust jacket summary of our jungle elf gives a better definition of his past, outlines his goal, and leaves open ended questions about his future. I would probably be interested in reading this book. We get a sense of possible foibles and flaws to make it easier to relate to the character.
Try doing this with your character. And perhaps, include it in your profile for other players to see and get that dust jacket summary that just might generate a little interest.
3. Adapt your character to the setting, not the setting to your character.
Every writer knows it’s a lot easier to change a person than it is to change the world. It’s also better story. It’s the setting that provides the obstacles, antagonists and challenges that make great story. And each of those can impact and alter the character’s perspective and methods and that is how story and characters develop.
Understand the setting of Eyr. Read the articles on the website about the History and Cosmology. Observe the roleplay. Read the forums. Attend the classes. Read the Rules, and the Race Rules. Get a good feel for the environment you’re bringing this character into.
Don’t bring your Bella into Hogwarts, and expect to find Edward.
The roleplayers in Eyr are at a huge advantage over most fantasy writers, the world is already built for them. All they have to do is create a character that fits the setting; and the story comes naturally.
Let’s go back to our Jungle Elf.
Zin Torrel has a ton of opportunities awaiting him. Jungle Elves are a native race to Eyr. So he could easily be native to realm. He’s an Alchemist, so there are opportunities for him to interact both in the Magic Shop in the village, and within the Elven community. He can seek out alchemical ingredients from all the races and peoples already in play. He’s already fit to the world. And the opportunities for him to play abound.
4. Never say never.
No matter how well you may structure a character; if you’re engaged in the story, if it’s having an impact on the character and creating great roleplay, your character can, and very likely will change.
Look at the Harry Potter from The Sorcerer’s Stone and the Harry Potter we see in The Deathly Hallows. They’re two very different people. The story and events over six previous books have impacted the character of Harry Potter so profoundly that by the time we come to the close of the series, he’s almost entirely different from the character we started with. This is what makes great story, this is what makes the vehicle - the character - interesting and engaging. He may have started out a bicycle, but by the time we get to the end of the series, he’s a custom designed sports car made to fit the road he’s traveling on.
Avoid locking your character into a place where he or she or she “would never” do anything. Be open, even inviting to letting the story impact your character and creating the changes and development that are natural and organic.
Perhaps our Elven Alchemist meets with a demon who feeds on avarice (greed). That Demon promises to give him the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone if he’ll just do a little favor. Nothing big. Maybe just pocket a little spell scroll from the Magic Shop. Now, while Zin may be a Jungle Elf and a good person overall, if the object of his desire seems so easily in reach, then perhaps such a trifling thing isn’t that big a deal. Maybe Zin skirts the demand by buying the scroll instead of stealing it. And so the Demon sends him out on other tasks to acquire the “components” for the stone. Tasks that drive Zin darker and deeper and incite his greed and create conflict with everything he does to get that stone. Maybe these things change him. Maybe he becomes corrupted. Maybe the Demon gives him seemingly endless stamina. Except not without a price. Maybe now Zin has to eat twice as much as he used to in order to stay functioning. Maybe he’s aging twice as fast.
And Now we may be at a point with Zin where we need to look at a custom character application (not currently available) to reflect the physical changes the story has had on him.Now we have one hell of a story.
And one hell of a character to show us that story.