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=RPA= The Character Background Guide

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7/27/2015 23:00:51   
Ronin Of Dreams
Still Watching...

~*The Character Background Guide*~

Bios. For some folks, the simple requirement of a biography is sometimes a trial all on its own, because it feels restrictive. Condensing down an intense history to a simple few sentences can be rough. There’s no question that deciding what tidbits are important enough to make their way into a bio is an art of its own that we all must learn in time. Yet while too much detail can be a problem, it is often one a DM is rather forgiving about, as it shows how much thorough thought has been put into a character.

Not all of us find it that easy to create such deep characters with involved pasts. It isn’t always necessary or needful, either. Yet of the extremes of too much or too little, the latter is something which can be easily rectified with a bit of guidance. There have been a plethora of biography centric guides in the past, and this guide draws heavily from them. (Yes, particularly Afina, who also provided some example bios.) Yet I prefer to consider the guidance here an aspect of character development instead, as these questions and aspects are meant to make a writer think about their character more deeply. This guide is a path of discovery to help flesh out and cement a character in their writer’s minds.

While one could answer and address each and every aspect presented below, I do not find it needful to do so for most RolePlays. Helpful, certainly, but not needful and therefore anyone using this guide should not feel pressured towards answering each part when working on their character. Think of them as stepping stones, and go as far along the path as you need.

The Core Basics

Hair Color
Eye Color
Distinguishing Features - examples are scars, tattoos, and birthmarks.
Clothing style
Ethnicity (when applicable)

Physical Abilities:
Physical Limitations:

Background Details - Socioeconomic

Personal Religion:
Place of Birth:
Family Structure:

Parental Details:
Race or Ethnicity
Class of Living
Personal Religion
Personal Habits
Living or Deceased?
Relationship with Character
Relationship with Character’s Siblings

Sibling Details: Profiling each separately is helpful.
Race or Ethnicity - Mostly if different, like in the case of half-breeds having one side more dominant than the other.
Class of Living
Personal Religion
Personal Habits
Living or Deceased?
Relationship with Character
Relationship with Character’s Other Siblings

Significant Other/Spouse Details: Bet you saw this one coming..
Race or Ethnicity
Class of Living: If different from the character. Especially if “holding the fort”.
Personal Religion
Personal Habits
Living or Deceased?
Relationship with Character
Relationship with Character’s Family
Relationship with their own Family

Life Story Aspects

This is where the true meat of history and character starts to come from, and as such, this portion of the guide poses questions rather than listing aspects to address outright. The more questions you can answer with detail, the more detail you have for your character, and the deeper you can portray them with your writing. Richer histories can help guide your character’s actions and add to the evolution of any story they take part within.

How did your character arrive here?

What was their life like before the story began?

How did they grow up?

Was their childhood pleasant? Difficult? Traumatic or uneventful?

Have they gone through struggles or hardships, and were they overcome? Or are their effects lingering even now?

Has their life progressed according to their plans and motives?

Is their current path in life something they chose, or were they forced onto it?

Does your character have any regrets?

Has there been any particularly special circumstances that have shaped your character into who they are today?

Psychological Factors

This is where the idea of digging down deep into the rabbit hole of a character’s being really starts becoming apparent. Possibly uncomfortable, too, but such is the nature of the writer.

Outer Goal: Usually a physical desire - get stronger, get faster, etc.
Inner Goal: Usually based on emotional or psychological desires.
Overriding Objective in Life:
Goals outside the scope of the story:
Defining Characteristics:
Hopes and Desires:
Fears and Phobias:
Dirty little secrets:
Does the character have introverted or extroverted tendencies?
Are they more of a thinker or a feeler?
What do you see as the biggest contradiction, or set of contradictions, your character’s life out?
Are they selfish or selfless? Or totally self-centered?
What are their favorite foods, drinks, activities? Hated ones?
Level of education OR important learning experiences?
Deepest secret:
Wildest Fantasy:
Who do they admire, or used to admire? Why?


This section is mostly concerned with a character’s attitudes towards various aspects and people, and merely has a short list of example aspects to consider attitudes towards. Also politics, when they may be relevant.

Physical relationships
Home country
Location of the story
The world at large
Religion as a whole
Their own religion
Do they have any superstitions?
Are they actively political, aware of politics, or entirely apathetic to the concept?
What is their political philosophy?
Do they support or protest any public causes?
Do they have a life motto?

Life & Lifestyle

Who are their closest friends?
What is their job, career, or occupation?
How do they feel about their job?
Do they have any noted accomplishments?
Are they famous? Or, perhaps, infamous?
Do they belong to any particular organizations or clubs?
Do they have any favorite forms of entertainment? A bard, or the setting appropriate equivalent, like a specific TV show or band.
What are their hobbies?

From the Book of Questions

Afina originally brought up using this particular outside resource as a wonderful utility for delving even deeper into your character. It may well be worth checking your local library for it, and it isn’t all that expensive to add it to your personal reference library. This guide includes a very small selection of useful questions derived from the book. As for explaining what it is...I shall quote Afina carte blanche because her introduction for it is also rather wonderful.

“A further source of great questions to ask your characters is the brilliant work ‘The Book of Questions’. This is filled with juicy and thought-provoking questions that explore personal philosophy, morality, politics, knee-jerk reactions, secret fantasies, wishes, and much more. It’s also a great party activity to sit around with your friends and pass the book around as you each take turns selecting questions for all to answer.”

A. If your character were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would they most regret not having told someone? Why haven't they told them yet?

B. Would your character accept $1,000,000 to leave the country and never set foot in it again?

C. Your character is given the power to kill people simply by thinking of their deaths and twice repeating the word "good-bye." People would die a natural death and no one would suspect them. Are there any situations in which they would use this power? [If they can imagine themselves killing someone indirectly, could they still see doing it if they had to look into the person's eyes and stab the person to death? Have they ever genuinely wanted to kill someone or wished them dead?]
D. What would constitute a "perfect" evening for your character?

E. Would your character rather be extremely successful professionally and have a tolerable yet unexciting private life, or have an extremely happy private life and only a tolerable and uninspiring professional life? [Since so many people place great emphasis on a happy private life, why do people often wind up putting more energy into their professional lives? If you feel that their private life is more important to your character, do their priorities support this? Are they simply unwilling to admit that work is more important? Do they use work as a substitute? Do they hope professional success will somehow magically lead to personal happiness?]

F. If your character could wake up tomorrow having gained any one ability or quality, what would it be?

G. Your character has the chance to meet someone with whom they can have the most satisfying love imaginable - the stuff of dreams. Sadly, they know that in six months the person will die. Knowing that pain that would follow, would they still want to meet that person and fall in love? What if they knew their lover would not die, but instead would betray them? [In love, is intensity or permanence more important to them? How much do they expect from someone who loves them? What would make them feel betrayed by their mate - indifference? Dishonesty? Infidelity?

H. Does your character prefer being around men or women? Do their closest friends tend to be men or women?

I. Would your character be willing to murder an innocent person if it would end hunger in the world? [Would it torment them more to have the blood of an innocent person on their hands or to know they let millions of people die? What do they think of people who achieve great things by compromising their principles? Many are will to give their own lives but not to take the life of another; is anything so important they would sacrifice their very soul for it?]

J. What is their most treasured memory?

K. If your character knew there would be a nuclear war in one week, what would they do?

L. What is the greatest accomplishment of your character's life? Is there anything they hope to do that is even better?

M. One would be the one material item your character would save during a fire?

N. Your character is offered $1,000,000 for the following act: before them are ten pistols - only one of which is loaded.
They must pick up one of the pistols, point it at their forehead, and pull the trigger. If they can walk away they do so a millionaire. Would they accept the risk?

O. If your character could choose the manner of their death, what would it be? [Would they die a hero's death, die a martyr to some great cause, die in a natural catastrophe, or die peacefully? Why is it so tempting to have death catch us in our sleep?]

P. For what in your character's life do they feel most grateful?

Q. How forgiving is your character?

R. When your character tells a story, do they often exaggerate or embellish it? If so, why?

S. How much does your character feel in control of the course of their life?

T. Is it easy for your character to ask for help when they need it? Will they ask for help?

U. Would your character like to be famous? In what way?

V. What are your character's most compulsive habits? Do they regularly struggle to break those habits?

W. What does your character strive for most in their life: accomplishment, security, love, power, excitement, knowledge, or something else?

X. How easily embarrassed is your character?

Y. Does the fact that your character has never done something before increase or decrease its appeal to them?

Z. How many different relationships has your character had in their life? Would they prefer to have had more or fewer?

< Message edited by Ronin Of Dreams -- 7/28/2015 13:32:55 >
AQ  Post #: 1
7/27/2015 23:01:53   
Ronin Of Dreams
Still Watching...

If you have made it this far to the next post, congratulations! That was quite a number of different aspects, questions, and thought-provoking tidbits to slog on through, but this wouldn’t be a guide unless it had more than just reference materials, now would it? The reason why many of these guides tend to be called Bio Guides is because all of these rich character details can be distilled down into a biography form. Now Afina has provided three different bios for reference, each taking the character bio concept and establishing a baseline level, then building up from that to two different advanced stages.



Name: Lucinda
Race: Phoenix
Gender: Female
Age: 18
Hair : Ash
Eyes : Coal
Skin : Grayish and pale
Clothing : Tattered, slave rags
Powers : Healing and fire, true form - bird of fire
Personality : Shy, timid
History: Slave for an evil king that kept her as a pet. Broke free a weeks ago after killing the king one night. Has just been wandering since.



Character name : Cerawyn
Age: 28 winters
Height: Five Foot Seven Inches
Weight: 128 Pounds
Build: Slender but toned
Instep reach: ( I.e. standing side kick) 33 inches
Race: Mixed breed ( Mother was a spell caster, father was vampyle - long story, history further down)
Hair color: Dark Auburn streaked with silver on the underside
Hair Length: Mid Back - no bangs, keeps pulled back tight in a braid that is sometimes wrapped up into a bun.
Eye Color: Glacier Ice
Skin Tone: Pale - Porcelain
Birth Location: The Inferno - will provide links to lay out and history if needed
Element: Ice primarily, though because of her mixed blood and her homelands she has skill with fire as well - tends to stay away from the rest except wind which is not highly trained but is only used as a defense to help keep her footing in battle.

Profile: Cerawyn has been traveling many realms over the last several years after the war in her home lands ended. The lands known as Serafina's Inferno were her birth place, a realm steeped in history, but torn apart by war for over a thousand years. Her family was part of a deep alliance that protected this realm since its creation, though only a young teenager towards the end of the war she had been brought up in adverse conditions. Having to learn the art of war fare long before other had too. Being the only daughter and the last in the line she was held to high expectations, though frequently let her mind wander from her training. She choose a different fighting style than most relying on her quick wit and personally developed techniques to add her during the war. After the war ended and the lands were once again to the point of restoration she decided to wander to other realms to be on her own and make a name for herself. She knew if she continued to live where she was born she could never live up to the legends of her family and would always be looked at with indignity from those that thought she possessed no power, only a name.

She is an adapt close ranged fighter, having trained most of her life in the ancient martial arts. She prefers to stay away from magic’s but knows a few spells enough that they are 2nd hand to her. When in battle she wears no armor, nothing more than a pair of f1tted soft leather shorts that allow her to move freely, with a tank top that is made of the same material. Other than that, she wears is a belt of leather to hold weapons, knee high soft leather boots, and a sheath on her back. Counting on her speed to keep from being hit, though the scars on her body indicate that she has had her fair share of run in with blades and spells that she was not quick enough to avoid.

Class: No exact class but would fit best into a thief/rogue but is more of an acrobatics artist.
Talents: extremely agile, quick speed, high endurance. Her attack is average, but relies on her other abilities to balance the scales.

2 gauntlets she wears at almost all times. Altered to not cover her wrists, the run from below her elbow to an inch above her wrists as to not inhibit her movement. jagged claw like spikes run the length of the front of the gauntlets.

A Razor tipped whip: 15 feet in length from handle to tip, where a fixed to it razor shards at the tip that measure 2 inches. Designed to slice flesh or leather as a scalpel would.

2 Throwing daggers: Kept in her boots. One on each side, usually only uses as a last resort. Nothing fancy, just tipped in silver.

1 Half Sword: Crafted by a family member, extremely light, blades length from the hilt is 36 inches, hilt is about 12 inches. A smaller sword to say the least but fitting for her build.

Abilities: Speed from her father’s blood, marital arts, throwing accuracy, ambidextrous ( both hands work equally, she is neither left nor right handed), Agile ( she tends to move like a cat), acrobatic

Edges: ( I do not know if you would classify these as abilities here or inherent traits ) - Double skill ( the ability to execute one move while planning out the next move or defense, does not make her immune to oncoming attacks but does give her a slight advantage to help minimize damage)

Ice Call - can be manipulated to form either walls of ice for protection or shards that can be sent towards an enemy.
Inferno: Named after her home land - last resort spell to engulf a set area in flames, 10 feet by 10 feet, can be set off 50 feet from eye line to eye line, 25 feet behind her.
Gust: As name says, a gust of wind she uses to help keep her footing during battle.

Possessions: Priestess kit : Contains herb and bandages. Herbs that help reduce pain and keep infection from setting in. Nothing special about the herbs, can be gained most likely at any herb shop.



Name: Celandia - The Greek word meaning a swallow, given to her by her nursemaid after her birth. Since her parents has been expecting a boy, they were not sure as to what to name the child. They sat there pondering and a small swallow landed on the window sill. Her nursemaid smiled gently and called her Celandia.

Gender: Female, though her parents were hoping for and expecting a male child to carry on the family name and heritage.

Age: 23 seasons of blooms for the Cherry Blossom.

Eye look, shape & color: Golden Hued, her eyes have extremely small pupils, thus they look like nothing more than a gemstone of amber. Doe eyes with a slight slant to them, this gives her a mystical appearance when one gazes at them.

Hair color, texture, length, style: Long masses of silken fine hair that fall well passed the arch of her lower back. Her color is that of burnt ashes, dark with traces of gray. Some ruby high lights can be seen with the sun hits her form just right. She wears her hair in a simple enough style, parted down the center and keeping some of it pulled back with oak and jade sticks, as well as a small turquoise clasp.

Skin Tone: Cream with hints of dusty rose around her eyes, cheeks, the tip of her nose and over her shoulders. Her skin is extremely smooth and unflawed, looking as if she has no pores. The only distinguishing marks she has is a tattoo in a deep rouge. It starts at her mid upper arm and travels over her shoulder. Beginning in the shape of a silhouetted swallow and coming up into wisps. Chinese clouds in an art form from the Ming dynasty.

Height, weight body and structure: She is small, 4 foot 10 inches. Weighting no more than 85 pounds. Slender form but toned legs, from walking great distances.

Natural Features Not previously described : A delicate creature, with a soft oval shaped face. Her nose is small, almost anime like. Tiny ruby lips that pout even when her expression is neutral. Pearl white teeth that seem perfect, though she does have a slight over bite. Her form is slender with slight curves, a tiny waist that sets off an hourglass figure. Her hands are small with longer thin fingers, her nails carry no decorations. She wears no decorations except on her eyes and ears. She wears thick eye liner, a deep ash shade over her top lashes. This shade matches the streaks in her hair. On her ears she wears a pair of hooped silver earring’s that have four small pearls on each one for accents.

Voice: She possesses a sing song voice that is light and airy. Calm even when in battle or danger, never wavering. Because of her up bringing she carries an almost Siberian accent. ( A cross between what one would hear as Russian and Chinese )

Clothing: She wears exotic clothing from her homelands that shows her stature in society and her occupation. Though she is by no means royalty or related to that blood line in any way, she has a standing in her village because of her occupation. Her clothing is the shade of ripe plums, a tight vest like top that comes up from her chest and around the back of her neck into a high collar. It slopes under her arms, leaving her shoulders, arms and upper back bare. The vest comes down over her waist and then splits on either side of her hips to drape loosely to her knees. This top is etched in intricate golden, silver, and blue trim that follows each edge of the fabric. Her skirt is loose fitting under the folds of the vest, in a constant pattern that matches the tattoo on her shoulder in the same hues as her vest to the ground. She wears a pair of leather boots that, if could be fully seen, come up to under her knees. The boots are healed to add height, making this slender figure look even thinner.

Weapon: A Staff made from the trunk of a cherry blossom tree, wrapped in the weeping tendrils of the willow, with feathers from the swallow laced into it. It stands about one foot taller than her own height. Though it is not a source of her power, which comes form her soul and heart, she uses it to aid her travels and in close combat fighting if needed, in conjunction with an ancient form of defense arts she learned from the temple.

Armors: None but the clothing on her back and her magic. She is far to thin to wear anything else, having never trained in physical strength but mental. She wears nothing to weigh her down, because this would take away from her endurance.

Birthplace: Chang'an, a city which was named for the word meaning peace. Located in an ancient country that was at one time ruled by people that believed in traditions. They wanted nothing to do with anything that was not given to them by the gods centuries ago. A beautiful place that was covered with high rolling mountains, weeping willows and cherry blossoms. Crystal clear waters flowed through small babbling brooks through out the country side. The weather was sheer perfection, never cold nor hot. A society blessed to never worry if there was enough food for the winter or water in the summer.

Race and Class: Though truly nothing more than a human, she was looked at by her people as a Tunguso-Mandchurian Saman ( Or Shaman )

Profile on her Profession: Skilled in the art of witch craft, medium ship and healing powers. Samans possess an awareness of the spiritual nature within all things, and use it to serve others to whom they bring balance, wisdom, inspiration, education, enlightenment, and healing. Saman were the medicine women to some, while to others she was the priest or priestess. It is not so much the role, task, or job that distinguishes the Saman from other people, but rather it is the motivation behind their role. Saman are ordinary people with extraordinary wisdom and insight. All of us have some of these characteristics within us, but the Saman are only those people who are able, through training and will power, to harness that inner wisdom and make it grow. The Saman are the wise women, mystics, healers, seers, teachers, and the peacemakers. Some people are born Saman and even as children their wisdom is obvious. Other Saman develop their power over a period of time, their wisdom and their unique gifts awakening with age. Many Saman become aware of their wisdom during periods of challenge, upheaval, or rapid change in their life.

Discovery of her talents, slight history on her past: While Celandia was young she was always look at as a bright child but, due to the fact she was a young girl instead of the strapping young boy her parents had hoped for, she was taught nothing more than basic future wife skills. How to tend to the garden, make the meals, serve people, clean, when to speak, when to hold her tongue. She was told to always look down in a man presence. This all changed one day when a cruel man that had been under her fathers employment for sometime, took out his anger on a gardener. He had denied courtship of Celandia because her father thought his daughter was far to young to be made a bride at twelve years of age. Celandia watched this man beat the family gardener and she could not hold her tongue anymore. Throwing herself over the poor beaten mans body, pleading for the man to stop. The disgruntled man continued to snap his whip over Celandia in his anger. Celandia remained there, taking each hit. She began to weep and scream out from the pain that was scorching into her flesh. The wounds began to glow with a bright light that soon blinded the man, stopping his attack. Her father came dashing outside from the house when he heard his daughters screams and had the man thrown off his property, banished forever. As he helped his daughter to her feet, the light faded and the wounds healed, as if her flesh had never been touch.

She was taken from her home and from that moment on she was trained in the arts of the Saman. Those in which she would have been trained from birth had she been born male. After the emperor heard of her natural talents, she was given the finest training by the Elder Saman of the Nation. When she was 18 years of age, Celandia was sent off on a 6 month excursion for her right of passage. If she returned successful she would be made the Emperors Priestess officially, though she had been living the roll for the past 3 years. When she returned successful, her joy and elation ended abruptly. The land had fallen to a race she had never seen before. During the day the towns were empty, nothing but bodies lay bloody in the roads. She rushed to her families home and found they too had been slaughtered. After placing her parents to rest, she made her way sadly to the Emperors Castle. She wanted to see if she could find any answers. Celandia found nothing more than all the members of the castle slain.

The only thing that helped her were in the Emperors fingers. Grasped there she found a scroll. She came to find out that some creatures that looked like a nightmare had invaded during the night. Slaughtering and drinking the blood of all that did not run for their lives. That night she slept in hiding under a spell of protection and when dawn came she exited the castle in hopes to find these creatures. An army came over the horizon, hearing that something had attacked the nation, they had come to help. Apon seeing Celandia, they assumed she had been the one to lead the attack and slaughter of her own nation. She ran, though she was strong enough to fight. She wouldn't engage in battle, they did not know what happened and were innocents. Her life had been dedicated to defending those that had done nothing wrong. She could not strike out at them, only protect herself.

Mission at this time: Since that time 5 years ago, she has wandered the lands gaining insight from libraries, elders, and rumors, through out other nations, about these creatures that destroyed her home. Though she has found them to be called Ubo's in her native tongue, they are more commonly referred to as vamypres. She has had a few encounters with them, but only in small numbers. None seemed to have a clue about her nation or what happened there. They also did not look exactly like the ones that attacked her home. These could turn into bats, while the Ubo of her home land could only change into white butterflies. She has spent these past 5 years learning about these creatures and protecting innocents against them. Celandia will continue this until any threat of these devil men is wiped from the face of the earth. Though these creatures wiped out her entire nation she holds no ill feeling towards them. Only wanting to protect others from harm and is in hopes that one day differences can be set aside. Praying they and humans can live in peace with out fear. She knows this is an almost hopeless cause, she feels that it would be vain of her to not try. She was taught that all things are possible if one believes deeply in them enough and this is the only belief that she holds on too.

Elemental Basis: Because of whom she is, her primary element is light or heavenly powers. She has 2 secondary elements, which she is almost as equally skilled in, wind and water. These were the elements of her family and her name. She has the ability to use fire and ice but prefers not to. Using Dark powers can be done but, this takes great preparation and harms her as she casts. This is because of her innocence.

Creature Control: Having spent many days out in the fields alone as a child, she became interested in her name sake, the swallow and due to her gentle nature was soon able to form a bond with creatures of flight. The Elder Saman took note of this and trained this natural ability even more. She can communicate with creatures of flight and though she does not command them, they will come to her side and aid her if needed. She does not speak to them but has an almost emotional telepathic ability to communicate with them.

Talents: Being a friendly and trusting woman, she has the ability to calm people with out the use of magic. Her ability to stay calm and rational in almost any occasion has been trained extensively. After years of study this is reflected when she tends to an inured person that is in hysterics because of loss and/or pain. She was trained in the art of self defense and achieved enlightenment in this practice, as well as in the art of staff fighting. She was told she must learn this to help protect herself when magic could not be used. Either because it wasn't something she would be looked at well for or there was not enough time to cast. She knows basic cooking skills but has a vast knowledge of herbs, roots, and flowers. This coincides with her ability to create herbal remedies to aid in healing, deal with illness and helping to reduce pain. She will try to keep from using magic at all costs, knowing that each person reacts differently to spells and that some, in time, will develop an immunity to magic healing. She figures it is best to play it safe and tries not to risk anymore harm to her patients than has already been inflicted. She is not be any means a skilled horse rider, but is skilled enough for fast and long travels.

Spells: Her spell list is extremely extensive but when asked she usually just sums up as follows instead of giving away all she knows.

When it comes to the heavens and light, I create brightness in the darkest hour.
When the wind blows, I hear the song of the swallow and command it to sooth.
When the earth becomes unfit to walk apon, I teach it to let life sprout forth again.
When the fires comes, I will send them back to where they came.
When the freeze of ice takes over, I will warm thee.
Yet when darkness comes I fright, though I will fight.
Please flee, for that is one I cannot control with safety.

AQ  Post #: 2
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