RPG a Day: A Question of character

25. What makes for a good character?

Katsukawa ShunshôIn your opinion, what do you need for a satisfying character?

Obviously, this will vary tremendously. A player character that is satisfying for me to play has to have enough drive to action, enough personal involvement in the story and with the other PCs to be moved to act. I have to be able to see clearly what she would do, rather than have to evaluate a collection of stats first. Some tensions are great, motivations to act in clear but divergent ways: divided loyalties, relationships, obligations, rivalries, codes of honour, etc.

A non-player character that I find satisfying to interact with has to have hidden depths, complexity, and both good and bad traits. Villains, in particular, are most interesting to me if they can almost convince us that they are the heroes! Almost. A good way to build that in is to use the “passions” (rage, noble, and fear stimuli) from Unknown Armies. In fiction, examples of good villains include Hans Grüber (Die Hard), Mr. Morden and Alfred Bester (Babylon 5), Mags Bennett (Justified), “Nucky” Thompson (Boardwalk Empires), etc.

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