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Creating Personalities for PCs

What methods do you use to create a personality to role-play for your characters?

  • Based on your own personality

    Votes: 108 37.4%
  • Different or opposite of your own personality

    Votes: 66 22.8%
  • Based on a character from literature or film

    Votes: 88 30.4%
  • Based on someone you know in real life

    Votes: 50 17.3%
  • Start with an interesting idea or two, then build a personality from there

    Votes: 243 84.1%
  • Derive a personality from the ability scores you roll

    Votes: 102 35.3%
  • Assigned by your DM

    Votes: 11 3.8%
  • Randomly generated, or made up as you go along

    Votes: 80 27.7%
  • Other

    Votes: 26 9.0%

  • Total voters


Just curious what kinds of methods people use to come up with personalities for the characters they play. For something that seems so central to a role-playing game, there is disturbingly little discussion about this in the core rulebooks.

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I invent my own character personalities, but I'll try to make the stats fit the personality. I really dislike rolling stats, because that prevents me from doing that... any power I have to influence my stats, I will use it to reflect the character's personality.

Vonlok The Bold

First Post
I usually start with an interesting idea, but sometimes that idea will be based on a personality out of history. I will definitely refine the character by what statistics I've rolled. When I play fighters I usually place the lowest stat on wisdeom, and that will affect their personality.

Whether I want to or not, my own personality will find its way in to the character. That usually comes in with what I think is fair regarding our own party.


First Post
I decide on a character class as needed by the party, roll scores, and then dream up the personality from ideas that also fit the scores. But before any of that, I first talk to the GM, no matter what the game, to figure out the type of campaign and the type of characters that would fit into it.

I never come to a campaign with a charcter, I let the character come from the campaign.


Staff member
The only one I haven't done is basing it on someone I know.

As for "other," I have gotten inspiration from music, art, cool minis, interesting equipment, video games, and even random generators.


First Post
Sorry, I've skewed you're result by voting for everything (or should I say failed to skew?). Sufficed to say, I've done everything on that list, often several at once.


First Post
My own experience is that a characters personality often isn't really set in the beginning of a campaign.

I usually have some ideas and the actual stats factor in as well. But the most important influence is the game itself, Making tough choises in game builds the character.

My players are free to develop their character's personalities as they like. However, I like them to have some idea of what they're aiming for prior to the campaign beginning. However, I have found that they lean in one of two directions: either they play a slightly modified version of themselves over and over, or they play the same character (often an extremely self-serving mercenary) over and over.

As an aid to PCs creating character backgrounds, and also for my own use, I offer the following quick method for generating characters. The system tends to produce fairly iconic characters, which is somewhat intentional, and also allows a great deal of room for future development, which was definately intentional.

To create a character's background, write four sentences.

The first sentence is the anecdote. This is any one story, fact or memory from your character's past. "I grew up in Rivendell, for a time.", "I dumped a cargo of smuggled goods when I was about to be boarded.", "There's a 24-hour period in my memories that I can't account for."

The second sentence is the quirk. This is any one fact, mannerism or detail about the character's present. “I'm always investing in dodgy businesses in an attempt to make a quick buck.” “I'm constantly whining about how hopeless the situation is.” “I wander the forests as a crazy old hermit.”

The third sentence is the goal. This is something that the character wishes to achieve in the future (preferably not something that can be achieved too quickly). "I want to become a paladin." "I want to wake everyone up, to free them from the tyranny of the machine." "I want to discharge the life-debt I owe."

The fourth sentence is the mystery. This can either be some fact about the character that he doesn't want others to know, or it could be something that the character does not know, but wants to (in which case, it should be something distinct from the goal, or else it's just repetition). "I killed my best friend in a drunken rage." "I want to learn the identity of my human father." "I woke one day with a strange tattoo on my arm, and want to know what it is and what it means."

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Delericho, that's a very handy shortcut for working up a personality. Consider it *yoinked*.

I tend to pick a trait or two to focus on early, and then let things develop from there. For example, I recently finished playing an elven wizard, and I started him off being fairly serious and curious. Early on he got a magic ring that had been taken from someone else, and that someone else kept sending magical minions after us to get it back. I didn't particularly want to give up the ring, so I started adding an element of daredevil/irresponsibility to his character. Finally, it got to the point where I HAD to give the ring up, or it was going to get very bad for the rest of the party. Soon after that, he got involved with a negotiation with an Infernal, and he tried to trick the Infernal into giving up some information for free - and the Infernal tried to take it out of his and the party's hide. Those two events caused me to decide that my PC needed to get a little more serious about things, and take a less daring view of things.

Then there's another favorite character, a British army Major. His initial personality and character concept can be easily summed as "the guy in the Agatha Christie murder mystery who you initially think is the killer, but it turns out he's foolishly covering for someone else out of misplaced honor".


First Post
I've done 1,2,3,5 and 6 at some time or the other. I prefer to do organic characters, so that while the character's personality is in existence at the start of the campaign, it will evolve and be modified by experiences during the campaign. Unfortunately, I've only been in one real campaign when I haven't been DMing, so there's been little such opportunity for development.


First Post
Kid Charlemagne said:
Delericho, that's a very handy shortcut for working up a personality. Consider it *yoinked*.


As for me, I voted 1, 2, 5, & 6. Though, mostly, it's 5. The idea driving my current character, a cleric, is, "All I really wanted to do was play my mandolin in bars and get laid a lot, but God called me to his service."



First Post
I start with a rough idea build up from there. Sometimes those ideas are inspired from a character in whatever book I'm reading at the time or a movie I've recently watched, while others are just something I've wanted to try out in character for a while.



I tend to base the characters on my own personality. There are differences depending on the race and class of the character, given that those differences in my mind might affect the decisions each character makes. I often make the chatacters up as I go along too, reacting to campaign events as they unfold and as I feel like doing so. My characters aren't all carbon copies of my own personality though; many of them have a love for strong drink, where I don't really have much of a taste for alcohol myself.


davidschwartznz said:
Sorry, I've skewed you're result by voting for everything (or should I say failed to skew?). Sufficed to say, I've done everything on that list, often several at once.

Angel Tarragon

Dawn Dragon
I sometimes make characters based on my personality, and sometimes the opposite. More often though, I try to go with something I haven't done before.

Rafael Ceurdepyr

First Post
I usually start out with some flaw or obsession that the character has (I'm a fan of GURPS character generation), and build from there. Sometimes I find out that I have unintentionally based characteristics on myself that I didn't realize were there.

Rafael came to life because I chose "paragoblin" as race in Stormborn's homebrew Leviathan world. Paragoblins are blue-skinned, red-haired (think Mystique) and highly charismatic, so he became a bard and I played up his female-chasing proclivities, which have gotten him into trouble many many times.

Another character, Zachary (non-D&D, late 19th century) was an ex-baseball player/detective whose impulsiveness got him into trouble many many times.

Yet another character, Vaughn (d20 modern), was obsessed with research and had a fiancee named Button (!) whom he was totally unsuited for. Basically he was built around his having a hot, rich girlfriend that he had no idea how to deal with.

Yes, I've played female characters too (and I am a female despite my nom de game), but none quite so messed up as Raef and Zach.

I really love character creation and spend far too much time on backstory.

I almost always take a small aspect of my own personality and magnify/extrapolate from there.

Converse to Rafael, I rarely spend a lot of time on the backstory. I'm playing to forge my character's own story. There's nothing wrong with a well-written backstory, but as a DM, I hate when players give me a giant backstory for their characters that would easily have them at fifth level already.


I have to say I've never been given a personality by the DM, nor have I given one to players when I DM. Also, I've never used ability scores to define a character.

Like dericho, I focus on several key points:

1. Breaking the mold -- I choose some archetype, or some defining quirk or background trait that springs to mind, and then I start playing with it. For example, take Prince Sanjar who was built on the "charismatic fighter" archetype. I decided he practiced barbaric techniques on the battlefield gained from a period of time among a tribe of cannibals; only his closest advisors know of his barbarism, which otherwise remains a secret.

2. Teachers & Training -- How has the character's life changed their baseline personality? What parts of their personality have been supressed or exaggerated over the course of their life? Prince Sanjar was the apple of his father's eye until his younger sister was adopted from a city the king conquered. This event brought out Sanjar's mistrust of his family, and suppressed his desire for his father's love.

3. Motives & Tactics -- What does the character want most? What are they willing to do to acheive those goals? Sanjar wants to take over his father's throne, believing it to be the only way to end the practice of sacrificing to the manticore-on-the-hill. To this end he hopes to win support covertly from key military leaders and politicians. He plans to win the people by conquering their enemies and winning the famous Chariot Races. He is willing to hurt, murder, kidnap, and extort to reach his goals, though he has a strong sense of honor and will never lie about his intentions.

4. Dirty Little Secrets -- What core flaws does the character have? What could others use against the character as leverage? Sanjar used to sleep with prostitutes in his younger years, and has recently learned he had an illegitimate son. Sanjar has recruited a group of rogues to kidnap all the women he slept with and question them about the whereabouts of his son. He both afraid of his son blackmailing him, and afraid for his son being attacked by Sanjar's enemies. He hopes to be the father the king never was for him.

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