Category: Fictionalysis

Fictionalysis – Roleplaying & My TTRPG Characters

There’s really no benefit to me hiding it so I’m going to admit that I really had no idea what I wanted to write for this post, so I decided to self-indulge and write about this! A history of all the TTRPG characters I’ve played, the ideas behind them and how it all feeds into the creative process. This is going to be something of a self-reflection, iterations of characters that I made to represent me and how that image has changed over the years. This kind of writing is really good for any creative person to do, constructing a path of things you’ve done and seeing how far you’ve actually come. It’s cathartic and helps you to feel more positive about yourself, a refresher of mentality before you go even further.

I’ve been partly into getting into characters and roleplaying for a long time. Since my earliest days of having a computer, over ten years ago now. It was mostly a coincidence that I came across roleplaying, back on the trashy days of YouTube when the memes were… A lot different than they are now. One of the big fads that I came across was IAM accounts, dedicated to particular fictional characters and acting as channels for those characters. The specific group that I ended up a part of all used characters from the Megaman series. We made use of the oldest version of YouTube streams which were just rooms where you could chat and share videos.

The character I chose as my own IAM was Diveman. Not exactly my first choice, especially since I hadn’t actually even played Megaman 4 at that point, but I was drawn to the group and used what I could get. I wasn’t a part of this group for very long but it’s worth noting for one reason. The fact that you don’t have to start out entirely making your own characters and personalities and backstories. Playing a character is a great way to learn more about them, even if it’s not a particularly deep character like a majority of Megaman’s robot masters. It helps you understand how to portray the persona you’re taking, which is important in all writing. You’re not exactly going to get very far if you don’t keep your characters consistent.

I didn’t return to the idea of roleplaying for a long time after that. I spent years in other groups, led where the game Super Smash Bros. Brawl would take me. Then came a time where I started to drift away from the groups I was in and I had to find new ways of keeping myself amused. I remembered the IAM groups and the idea of roleplaying, it was always a thing at the back of my mind but not something I had chosen to pursue. Without much else to do I decided to give it a second shot. Youtube streams weren’t a thing any more at that point so the old IAM group had started to gather in a Xat room instead. To this day I don’t know if any of the people from the original group were there but I joined back in regardless.

The Xat honestly turned out to be a bit of a bust. Despite the origins of it there wasn’t actually a whole lot in terms of roleplay going on at any given time. It was a cesspool of memes and drama, which was amusing to watch but it wasn’t exactly what I was there for. There came a point where several other members of that chat realized this and chose to split off into a new group, one which would actually do roleplaying. I hatched from my Diveman cocoon and claimed the character Golbez from Final Fantasy IV instead. Later I would go on to claim Kefka from Final Fantasy VI. This was the first time I’d really gotten the chance to seriously get into roleplaying so I wasn’t very good at it but again, this is all part of learning how to write and present a character.

I’m still friends with folks from this new group to this day and I appreciate them a lot for giving me the chance to try something that I’d been dancing around the edges of for a long time. It was also through this group that I was introduced to the main attraction of this post; TTRPGs. I believe the first ever TTRPG I ever played in was a superhero-based game where our player characters went to school to learn to be heroes. Just as a note, we’re predating My Hero Academia by a significant amount of time here. I was already writing by this point so I wasn’t unacquainted with the idea of making original characters but this was the birth of my first ever TTRPG character. I don’t actually remember his name, so let’s call him Lucen.

I also don’t remember the system that we played this game on. I’ve been told that it was Big Eyes, Small Mouth but I don’t really remember much about the mechanics of that game at all. Nevertheless, Lucen was a character who perfectly represents the transition between playing preexisting characters and original characters. Though I only actually got to play him for one session, he still acted as a transitional step through his theme and creation. His backstory was that he was raised by a lightning Dragon until one day the Dragon disappeared, leaving behind a set of scale armor that would fit Lucen’s form. He could use lightning magic. He was very much based on the Dragon slayers from Fairy Tail.

I know, I know, Fairy Tail is a garbage franchise. It’s completely insubstantial and carries itself entirely on cool factor and fanservice. I was young and simple, if something was hype then I liked it and Fairy Tail hit that exactly one note. Lucen being based on this does take us to the next subject of this post though; originality. I feel that a lot of creative-types are prone to getting caught up with making their creations original or unique. This mentality becomes especially frustrating when you have people going around saying that nothing is original. In this case, both sides are unhealthy ways of thinking about the creative process.

The idea that nothing is original is based on the fact that creators are always deriving inspiration from somewhere. No matter what you make, you’re going to be using parts of things you’ve seen before. Everything is based on something, that’s just how brains work. That does not make creations unoriginal, though. I believe that it’s an insult to the creative process to see someone make something new and immediately dismiss it as unoriginal, regardless of how clear the original inspiration is. Drawing from things and being inspired is how we learn, it’s how we find motivation and improve and find our own defining niches as creators. Trying to reject that will just lead to adding on more and more to your works until they’re little more than overdesigned wrecks.

That’s why I don’t look back and think of Lucen as a bad character, even though he’s such an explicit homage to Fairy Tail. He was an invaluable learning experience who helped me to helped me to develop more self-defining characters later down the line. That’s why you should never go back and be embarrassed about your own works or designs. Without them, you wouldn’t be where you are currently. If you hadn’t made them then, they’re what you’d be making now. You learn and improve by trying, so even if you aren’t confident I believe that everyone should make an attempt at some creative endeavor.

The road map for these first three TTRPGs is a bit hazy due to how brief they ended up running but I believe what came next was my first experience with Dungeons and Dragons. For better or for worse, we played 3.5e. There are several mechanical issues with 3.5e, such as the rate at which characters heal, but that’s not what we’ll be focusing on here. We’re going to be looking at my character for this game, a Shadowcaster named Samarius. This campaign, while still short, did end up going a little longer than Lucen’s. This gave me a little more time to actually play and learn from the character that I’d made. One which I used a pog of literally just post-chrysalis Aizen to represent.

I don’t recall a great amount of Samarius’ backstory other than that he was acting at the behest of his master in magic. Like with Lucen, a lot of what went into Samarius really wasn’t all that original. He had Aizen’s visual design and I wanted him to play something like Mordekaiser from League of Legends. His character was very experimental but I wanted him to be this cunning and controlling mastermind who acted towards his own designs. What separates Lucen and Samarius is, as you should notice, is that Samarius is drawing from several places of inspiration rather than just one. A small step though it may be, it is still clearly a step forward in my creative process.

That campaign ended up coming to an end due to inner-party conflict, surprisingly not incited by Samarius. Thus, he became just another stage in my journey of improvement. Next came another D&D campaign which I believe was also run using 3.5e. In this game I played Daedalus, a pirate sorcerer who once wielded a magic trident that made him way cooler than he had any right to be. I’m uncertain if a visual reference for Daedalus ever existed but I don’t think he was visually based on any preexisting character. The most clearly unoriginal aspect of him that immediately presents itself is the fact that he name is based on the Yugioh card and his water-based theme was also derived from that.

Regardless of name, Daedalus was another step away from my being reliant on things that already existed to make my characters. His backstory and dumbass pirate personality were both completely of my own design and, though I may have been shaky in actually playing him, he provided more practice in presenting a character not based on any kind of source. He was a step outside of my established comfort zone and, because of that, I was excited to see what he could become. Unfortunately, that campaign was taken by the insidious killer known as scheduling issues, so Daedalus’ story came to an abrupt close.

At this point, I want to highlight just how much collaborative storytelling helps with one’s growth. As I mentioned before, I was already writing stories and creating original characters before I’d even played my first TTRPG. I should have been no stranger to making designs that had no obvious inspiration and yet I still leaned on framework set by others. This was because, in my own story writing, I was only interacting with myself. I never gave myself the chance to just sit down and focus on one individual character. To just place them in the world and let them naturally develop and be put into unexpected interactions and scenarios.

Collaborative storytelling, whether it be done on forums or in the form of TTRPGs, is one of the absolute best ways to learn how to do character building. You have a world, you have people to interact with, you just have to focus on making your character yours. You don’t stop designing your character when you start playing them. This rings true even if you’re playing a preexisting character. In fact, when you start playing a character, that’s when you really start learning about them. They go from just being an idea, a concept, to becoming a complete entity. That’s what makes this medium so good, it helps you turn raw inspiration and tropes into something which is creatively yours.

There was a stretch of time between the campaign with Daedalus and the next. However, when my next D&D experience finally did come, I produced one of my favorite OCs to date. One who I already made blog readers acquainted with; Circe Nazar. Circe spent a lot of time as a concept, to the point that she wasn’t even originally called Circe. This was a 4th edition campaign set in Eberron and I knew from the set-out that I wanted to play a Deva. I’m all about Angel/Demon stuff and I didn’t want to play a Tiefling when I knew that Devas were unique to this edition. I also thought the concept of them constantly reincarnating instead of permanently dying was very interesting.

Eileifr (Circe’s original name) was based around this concept. All Devas are meant to have a kinship with a certain deity, whose teachings they represent and follow to the best of their ability. Eileifr was a Deva who, at some point during his string of reincarnations, had forgotten which deity he was meant to devote himself to. I wanted the point of this character to be that he seeks out memories of his past lives in an attempt to recall the one who created him. Of course, being one of my characters, I wanted to put a dark spin on things. Eileifr would act as Devas normally do a majority of the time, as a figure of justice and guidance, but would have a darker and more manipulative aspect to his personality to hint that innate origin may not be a figure of good.

My worry with Eileifr was that I might not get to really explore the story that I was outlining. We were going to do a pre-written campaign called Keep on the Shadowfell and I didn’t think there’d be much room to flesh out Eilefr’s memory recollection plot. It felt like something made for a story rather than for a TTRPG campaign. Because of this, I took aspects of the background I’d made for Eileifr and used them to make Circe. In essence she had Eileifr’s story taken a step further in that she had found the deity who created her, it just turned out that deity was an evil one known as the Mockery.

This broke Circe as, in all her previous lives before this revelation, she was a holy warrior who dedicated herself to justice just like the other Devas. She dedicated herself to good so she could fit in with her kin only to find that she was nothing more than a vile mockery of them. She no longer felt herself worthy to wield the powers granted by gods and took a form much smaller and weaker than any previous. Consigned to an eternal existence with the knowledge that she is just the toy of an evil deity. Her motive at that point was just to try and find a way to escape that fate. A sad and spiteful girl with a heart that was forged over many lives with a passion for false justice.

I felt that the more vague ‘trying to escape her fate’ motive worked a lot better for a campaign I couldn’t predict the direction of. The takeaway from this process for me was that it is possible to make up too much backstory for a character going into a TTRPG campaign. While playing in TTRPGs does improve your ability to write characters in stories, story characters don’t necessarily translate back quite as well. That’s the limitation of a collaborative medium, you can’t just take the reins and make everything about the character you already made. Not only is it good to make simpler characters, I think it’s better to do so in this scenario. As I said, you’ll have plenty of time to build on them while you’re playing.

This is a mentality I’ve retained for the creation of every TTRPG player character I’ve made since. Safe, a Tiefling fighter who despises the ancestral Demons who subjugate and harass he and his clan. Hoard Knight, an anthropomorphic Dragon who is driven entirely by their need to add things to their hoard. Labra, a Merfolk who hates royalty because she wants the power that they have. They don’t have to be complicated to be good characters. Deepness and complexity is something that should come naturally rather than trying to stuff it all in from the get-go. Don’t dismiss an idea just because you worry that it might not be original. Your ideas are unique to you, it’s just a case of building them up to something you can call your own.

That about does it for my roleplaying history. Looking back, it’s a shame that I never really got a chance to get to grips with my earlier ideas, but it’s not like they’re gone forever. That’s the great thing about having original characters, you can build upon them and repurpose them. In fact, I already have an idea of what I want to do with Lucen, Samarius and Daedalus. They’ll each play a part in a world that I hope I can introduce to you to some day. I only have a few Tertia posts left and once they’re done I’ll have to find another place to focus my efforts on. Thankfully, I’ve no shortage of worlds and realms to explore, so expect this blog to go on for a long, long time. Thanks for reading!