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Nanja's Classroom: Designing RP Characters

Njalm2 December 10, 2016 User blog:Njalm2

Alright, I've been meaning to write about this issue for a while now, which issue is that you might ask? Well, the issue of Character Design in regards to creating characters with engaging abilities, talents and a role in roleplays. It is my desire to see a wealth of great characters on this wiki, and for every user to have at least one character of good design which they can be proud of and eager to employ in roleplays.

But before we begin, what exactly do I mean when I mention Character Design? Well, I'm primarily talking about Powers & Abilities, as that is the part of the character that is most essential for the purpose of roleplay: given how personalities tend to come by themselves as the character interacts with others.

Now you may be thinking, why assist with Powers & Abilities? That is the easiest part by far, and how might I be of assistance with that. Well, I'm glad you asked, my conveniently convenient straw man.

Making Powers & Abilities sections takes quite a bit more than what is commonly done, most seem content to just write up articles in a similar vein to Bleach Wiki; creating characters with shallow focuses dictated by which and which area they "Master".

While such an approach is good for sidekicks, story characters and minor characters all; it is far from optimal in regards to dedicated Roleplaying characters meant for interaction in site-wide projects and roleplays. Below I'll talk about several concepts and advices, which includes Power Budget, Personal Reference, Consistency, and lastly, the duality of Medium & Expression; before I conclude the guide. Lets get started!

Power Budget

Some of you have heard how I've thrown around this phrase in the past, and while most people already seem to grasp it, this is after all a Guide so I won't be making assumptions.

Put simply, a Power Budget is the amount of power you can realistically impart upon your character without adversely affecting their intended role and balance. Its used to maintain a characters place, and is the main difference between "weak" and "powerful" characters.

Now, how would you go about understanding the power budget of your characters exactly? Well, the best bet is to set yourself an upper limit and stop when you feel that limit is about to be breached. Alternatively, you can use the PL system to make for a targeted number, like 50,000 and stop once that number is reached.

While it would be possible for me to go even further in detail on this matter, I won't say more than this last piece. Some abilities and skillsets are inherently more expensive when it comes to the power budget than others. Kidō for instance, and magical abilities in general offer a tremendous amount of utility, power and flexibility, consequently, if your character is intended to be really good at Kidō, chances are they wouldn't be that good at anything else.

Those of you who have read my guide on Weaknesses know that in the grand scheme of a power budget, weaknesses, limitations and drawbacks are all tools used to buy additional power and skills for your character.

Personal Reference

Curious name for a section, wouldn't you say? Any idea what it means, if not, allow me to explain what I mean. Personal Reference is an essential part of designing a character for roleplay, and its one that's rarely if ever explored to its fullest potential by fanoneers like ourselves.

Essentially, its another way to describe inspiration -- although a rather particular way of it. Applied more or less entirely for combat encounters, Personal Reference is what actually breathes movement and individuality into your characters actions in combat; it is what separates your traditional spiky-haired protagonist from the countless other spiky-haired protagonists.

Characters without a Personal Reference are pretty easy to spot in roleplays, their movements are bland, uninspired and have all the panache of an office worker going through his daily routines.

So, how do we get ourselves a Personal Reference for how we want our character to play like? Well, my personal favorite would be to study the movements of characters in various fighting games with high-fantasy elements like Dissidia Final Fantasy, Naruto or even Dragonball, but also looking at characters from RPGs and MOBA games, observe how they move, how their attacks are emphasized and study their personal flow, the way it all goes together.

Visual representation is good in order to get a deeper understanding of how you want your character to move or act in roleplays.

Consistency

One of the most important tenets of Character Design is to stick by it until the end, I've seen a variety of users constantly reworking their characters over and over to keep up with their latest hype, this is a mistake, because it muddles the characters purpose and doesn't necessarily fix any underlying issue.

Indeed, most of you who do this (you know who you are), don't seem to ever settle on a concept and keep reworking your characters endlessly as a result. To this end, one rarely gets anything done and ends up with an eternal stub.

My advice is to stick by your original concept, and rather than doing large scale reworks, you refine what is already there and instead create new characters to satisfy your other fansqueals.

Persisting with this bad habit usually leads to vicious cycles, as you don't permit the character to grow on you; develop no feelings of attachment to your work, and therefore you eventually want to rework them again. The chain goes on and on.

Medium & Expression

At this point we've reached the final two points I want to discuss with you, the matters of Medium & Expression; which are essentially the core abilities of your character, typically viewed through the lens of their release such as a Zanpakutō or Ressurecciòn, among other things. Although this applies to virtually any technique or power in their arsenal. I'll go over them separately in some detail.

Medium is first, and its best described as the way you attack, such as the element, weapon or spell of your choice. Its the core that defines everything that comes after it, for the purpose of this guide I'll make an example using Hitsugaya's Hyourinmaru, whose basic Mediums are simply Ice and Water. They're basic elements known to everyone, used in countless techniques, spells and attacks from all of multimedia. However, what makes Hyourinmaru so unique, how does it differ from Sode no Shirayuki aside from its power?

The answer to this lies in how its power is expressed; not in how its more powerful than Rukia's Zanpakutō. When Toshiro summons the power of his sword it is expressed as a serpentine dragon of snow and ice that flash freezes whatever it touches. Whereas Sode no Shirayuki is expressed through small 'rites', perhaps mirroring those of a Shrine Maiden; with each rite culminating in a different technique.

So, just how important is this distinction? Well, crucial, I'd say, for any technique or ability, but ESPECIALLY for Zanpakutō and other releases; because in the grand scheme of Bleach these are entirely unique to your character, and represent not only their special abilities, but also important aspects about their personality, history and ideals. Don't just make generic Zanpakutō who can simply manipulate an element, make it happen in an unique and interesting way!

Conclusion

So, I realize this is a slightly different type of guide, but I hope its useful to someone all the same. I'll probably post a follow-up guide to this eventually, where I'll go in-depth about the thoughts that went behind one of my characters, as well as the steps I took to make them like that. If you're interested in that idea, make sure to mention a character of mine you'd like to see my explain in this manner.

Please comment and share with your friend if this was at all useful, feedback is HIGHLY appreciated.

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