That they never end up with the personality that I imagined they would have.
I find the very first session with a new character quite hard. I have to sort of grow into them a little. In some ways I am ultra conservative. I always play humans for example and always male. In other ways I am always pushing limits. I like to define my characters fledgling personality by using two seemingly contradictory thoughts and then see how the character rationalises them.
I have seen some people do very similar things but using random personalities, you roll two traits and see what you come up with. That is not what I do. I was more inspired by the insult “Military Intelligence, there’s an oxymoron!”
I know perfectly well that real people can hold completely contrary view points at the same time and have no problem with that. My wife, if you asked her would proclaim herself a socialist, she reads the Guardian and votes for left of centre parties but at the same time as soon as something annoys her her point of view leaps to quite right of centre. I think you could sum her up in “We need to build more social housing but not for people who are not prepared to help themselves.”
So I like to start with two supposedly contradictory points of view that I have no idea how to rationalise and then let the character evolve. I have had a medic who was surprisingly violent and ended up with a personality that you could describe as “It will be over my dead body that I will let anyone hurt my squad.”
My current PC grew up in abject poverty and is obsessed with earning money, that is his primary motivation in adventuring, but sends everything he earns back to his village because his family is still living in abject poverty. He is a blend of social philanthropist and avarice.
This way requires a lot of effort. You also need to play your character A LOT. I don’t mean frequently but you need to be in the room and engaging with the other characters, the NPCs and the world. It is only by facing challenge after challenge to these conflicting points of view that you get to square the circle or knock of the hard edges (are those metaphors contradictory?).
When you are in that mode of wanting to ‘role play’ your character, not roll play your own personality that you realise how lazy we can be. I have one player who keeps telling the other players how his character appears more educated and sophisticated than his dress and physical appearance implies. He looks like your typical highland warrior or possibly barbarian. The problem is that when he is describing his character’s actions he acts like a barbarian or at least an uneducated thug. There is no hint of this sophisticated and educated man underneath the wode and tartan.
There is a funny digression to this group. A few of the PCs were rolled up in a previous session and then on the day the game was due to start just two PCs need to be created. So eventually we all settled down and we noticed that a few final details were missing off the characters we had made the previous week. So as we had character law there on the table and it happened to be on the page we rolled random height and weight for the two characters. I cannot remember if it was open ended or just extremely high but anyway I jotted down the 6′ 8″ height on my character record. At the first meeting we are told to describe ourselves. Our barbarian friend goes first and describes himself as massive and imposing and 6′ tall. Then the bard, who is slightly shabby and 6’1″, then the knight who is well dressed and 6’3″ and finally me, dressed like a dishevelled apprentice in ill fitting clothes, but that is because he is 6’8″. They simply do not make normal clothes for people that big. You may notice that the massive and imposing barbarian is actually the smallest member of the party. My character is a Lay Healer (mentalist) and I ended up with an 00 in Presence (bumped up using a background option) and I spent two to choose a skill at magic BGO so got a +25 also to my Presence. So I have a +50 presence bonus. We use dice roll + PR bonus as our Appearance stat so my appearance is well over 100 so and with a PR stat like that it was well worth buying a single rank in a basket of social skills. If anyone is ‘imposing’ it is not the barbarian but the rather charming chap looking down on him!
This PC party is quite nice in that as we are all still 1st level there are no really defined rolls. We were fighting skeletons a lot and weapon selection made a big difference so the knight with his sword technically had the bestt OB but was struggling. I was using my spear but at half skill as a quarterstaff. I also have Adrenal Move Strength (with my PR bonus and my SD is not shabby) I have a fair chance of rolling the skill. The +10 OB from Adr. Strength more than wipes out the penalty for using half skill. The crush criticals are much more effective than the slashes and punctures of the knight. So I have the dubious honour of being at the front of the fighting. The magician looks like a barbarian so we were pushing him to the front which is not where he wanted to be. The Bard had a run of open ended rolls and was beheading skeletons so we wanted him up front as well. The only person who was terribly was the knight!
Now the bard has been throwing some magic around when we are not in combat so he is looking rather mystical and although I am the healer when the party was nearly wiped out it was the knight with his herb lore and small stash of herbs that got people back on their feet. Ironically the last person they healed was me and I was the person with the most herbs, Concussion Ways and plenty of power points, but they were not to know.
So we have a scared barbarian, a magical musician, a healing knight and a heroic lay healer. Confused or what?
I am sure when we start to level up that our roles will become more defined. I already have enough EXP for 2nd level but this GM likes you to take a full break from adventuring and get training before leveling up. The way things are going I will be nearly 3rd by the time we reach anywhere safe. I am not complaining. Lay Healers get their first real quantum leap in power at 4th level. The regeneration spell is so much more efficient than heal 1-10 or 3-30 for example. Broken bones stop fighters dead but at 4th level I get major fracture repair. There are also some more useful open and closed lists.
But anyway I have digressed. So what have I learned playing my character? That is really takes effort and engagement if you want to really get into your character and role play like you mean it!