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ideas to get players to flesh out there characters


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#1 AnthonyVahle

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Posted 19 March 2014 - 06:34 PM

Now I am sure I can't be the only GM with this issue (or faced it in the past), but I am tending to find my group is approaching their characters from a rather one dimensional approach. What I am looking for was ways other GMs have managed to bring players more into the spirit of the game rather than 'I am a big gun, that is all' sort of game.

I came up with the idea of randomly allocated character traits, multiple for each character, representing the characters quirks and tastes,for example, clean freak and eternal optimist and awarding experience points for playing up these qualities in a significant manner.

What do you think? How do you deal with it?

Edited by AnthonyVahle, 19 March 2014 - 06:35 PM.


#2 Traejun

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Posted 20 March 2014 - 01:45 AM

I make all my players - regardless of system - write bios for their characters.  If they don't do it, they don't play.  Don't like it?  Find another campaign.

 

You may think that's just me being an ass.  Maybe you're right.  But I will say that in all my years GMing, I've concluded that when a player takes the time to write up a bio, they tend to both get a better feel for their character and get more attached to it.  It tends to bring out the good RP that fits the character they made.

 

I should also note that I often give bonus xp, skills and/or talents based on the bio/history.  It's not generally much, but its something free... and free is good.


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#3 Visitor Q

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Posted 20 March 2014 - 02:05 AM

You can always use the character motivation ideas in the various WH40K Core rule book i.e 'What do you love?'  'What do you hate?' etc.

 

I played with a GM who once had us fill out three questions

 

1) What is your greatest trait?: Answers were things like loyal, faith, calm etc

2) What's your weakness? Answers were things like cowardly forgetful etc

3) Dark Secret: This could be anything and was kept secret from everyone except the GM but included things like 'dabbled in witchcraft as a teenager' 'murdered a man 10 years ago' false identity' etc.  

 

Writing bios can be a very good and comprehensive way of making sure players engage with the story.  I think with bios it is all about the payoff.  If the GM has the PCs write bios then he should take the time to read them and respect them.  It can be frustrating if you write a bio and then the details never gets referenced even in passing.  Or worse the GM sets missions which would be completly contrary to what a PC or multiple PCs would be likely to do.



#4 venkelos

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Posted 20 March 2014 - 08:10 AM

I wish more people did this. In many games I play, I write way too much back story for my character, sometimes to justify them possessing some ability or position they otherwise might not have, and I feel a bit munchkiny, or because I work characters into stories, on the side, but many of my friends don't, or can't, do that. Whether it's because they don't know the world as well as they might need to, or because they have the attention span of a gnat, it can be a failing of theirs. In OW, I can also see where some might not want too much of a back story; these people in 40K are not important, and they've never done anything special, except go to die, like thousands of nameless others. Their world doesn't really allow for average people to do great things, and being easily killed might make doing the extra work feel wasted; I can see them making aspects of this argument, at least. Of my friends, I only have two who know more about 40K then I do (I might place my knowledge at 7/10), and they don't role-play so much. Even I don't know enough about many of the options available to slap together a good, in-depth background. Are we Cadian? Okay, now I have to research, as I don't know about the Steel Legion, the Longknives, or others nearly as well.

 

Heh, that comment went off in several directions, didn't it? Oh well, if you can get them to do this, it can help immensely. With so many groups saying "we/they don't know much about 40K", it could be a nice chance to sit down with them, and feed them fluff that they should know, so that they don't say/do something dumb, and break the immersion. Best of luck.



#5 AnthonyVahle

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Posted 20 March 2014 - 05:05 PM

Actually I like the short and sweet strength/weakness/ dark secret aproach... might give that a try.

#6 Cogniczar

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 02:40 PM

Create a Regiment History

 

Create Random Background tables with a mix of really innovative, really bad, and really zonky backgrounds.

 

Let them have a choice of creating their background or rolling randomly (and possibly becoming the obscura-addicted twitch whose willing to sell his body for drugs.)



#7 Braddoc

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 07:28 PM

I make all my players - regardless of system - write bios for their characters.  If they don't do it, they don't play.  Don't like it?  Find another campaign.

 

You may think that's just me being an ass.  Maybe you're right.  But I will say that in all my years GMing, I've concluded that when a player takes the time to write up a bio, they tend to both get a better feel for their character and get more attached to it.  It tends to bring out the good RP that fits the character they made.

 

I should also note that I often give bonus xp, skills and/or talents based on the bio/history.  It's not generally much, but its something free... and free is good.

 

 

Pretty much this to me; I run a DH game, and I got my players write a backstory (only one, the guardsman, recently joined as well don't have it.) that allows you to play with that and integrate their history into the story or add some elements that's bound to have them react strongly.



#8 Askil

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Posted 25 March 2014 - 02:36 PM

Get them to do a character questionnaire.

 

Full Name?

Age?

Place of birth?

Names of parents and siblings?

Occupation of parents and siblings?

When/how did they become a Guardsman?

How long have they been a Guardsman?

How long have they been with (the regiment)?

When did they learn their skills?


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#9 venkelos

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 07:26 AM

Get them to do a character questionnaire.

 

Full Name?

Age?

Place of birth?

Names of parents and siblings?

Occupation of parents and siblings?

When/how did they become a Guardsman?

How long have they been a Guardsman?

How long have they been with (the regiment)?

When did they learn their skills?

I see where this is, but so many are likely to have much the same answers, being the same regiment. Certainly, you could've been born some strange place, tithed out, and SENT to Cadia, or another world that carbon-copies my favorite regiment, but the training might hammer a lot of your individuality out; you are but one minor piece in the great machine that is the IG. If the game was more like Deathwatch, where YOU chose your regiment, I could see that, but no.

 

As an aside, what's a good way to choose regiment? If I were to get my friends to play, I'd probably get my way, because mist of them know very little about 40K, so I'd say Cadians, explain some of their cool bits, and say unflattering things about some others, but if you were each knowledgeable, what's the good way to circumvent the "I want to be a Cadian. Well, I wanna be the Rambo-gun-**** Catachan!. I like soulless Hellghast Armageddon Steel Legion. Brontian Longknives are at least from around here." that I can imagine happening? If everyone is going to be a Catachan, for instance, how was your decision made? Sry to pirate the thread, but I'd rather not start a new one; figure a few people will say something, and that'll be it.

 

As for fleshing out, maybe give the ILLUSION that these folks might survive, so that any effort on their part to flesh out their creations isn't a waste of time. As an example, I was playing Fire Emblem: Awakening, and leveling Nah as a Myrmidon, to get some useful skills for her. I used an Arms Scroll to get her better with Swords, just to remember I intended to make her a Manakete again; waste of the Arms Scroll. Characters might die in OW, probably will, and that's a lot of wasted inventiveness, but if they THINK they might live, they might rise up to the occasion, and actually pull it off. This investment might get them to further flesh out their grunt. Here's hoping, anyway. ;)



#10 Visitor Q

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 07:57 AM

 

Get them to do a character questionnaire.

 

Full Name?

Age?

Place of birth?

Names of parents and siblings?

Occupation of parents and siblings?

When/how did they become a Guardsman?

How long have they been a Guardsman?

How long have they been with (the regiment)?

When did they learn their skills?

 

As an aside, what's a good way to choose regiment? If I were to get my friends to play, I'd probably get my way, because mist of them know very little about 40K, so I'd say Cadians, explain some of their cool bits, and say unflattering things about some others, but if you were each knowledgeable, what's the good way to circumvent the "I want to be a Cadian. Well, I wanna be the Rambo-gun-**** Catachan!. I like soulless Hellghast Armageddon Steel Legion. Brontian Longknives are at least from around here." that I can imagine happening? If everyone is going to be a Catachan, for instance, how was your decision made? Sry to pirate the thread, but I'd rather not start a new one; figure a few people will say something, and that'll be it.

 

 

 

I get the impression that FFG intended for the PCs to create their own regiment and only included the famous ones as examples and for quick plug in and play scenarios.


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#11 Traejun

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Posted 27 March 2014 - 10:20 PM

While players are certainly welcome to use the premade regiments, the custom ones seem a lot more interesting and afford the players and GM more room to craft interesting stories

#12 Askil

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Posted 28 March 2014 - 02:32 AM

Venkelos, you havetaken my words but not my point of course lots of answers willl be the same if nobody uses any imagination but it`s a GMs job to juice players for specifics.

 

eg.

Name: Franklin Jennings (any middle of nicknames?) 

Age: 32 (Sidereal or subjective?)

Place of Birth: Cadia (which Kasr?)

names of parents: Frank and Francine (married, alive, seperated. product of adultery?)

occuations of parents: PDF Sergant and PDF Armourer (what regiments? retired?)

how did they become a guardsman: conscripted (Age? any special affinties discovered in training?)

 

you get the idea.

 

we had our penal legionnares do a criminal record style induction record.



#13 venkelos

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Posted 28 March 2014 - 07:30 AM

I got what you meant, and I agree with them. I just, sometimes, fail to have the same imagination for IG as for anyone else. While I very much like IG, they often seem to smack of "gonna die". Their leaders send them off to their deaths if it'll buy some bigger movement two extra minutes, and so much of the fluff seems two steps away from Armageddon Steel Legion in regards to "you are nobody". I'm sorry if I offended you, but that's often how I feel. If everyone is the same regiment, it stands to reason many of those answers will be the same. Most Cadians come from Cadia. I totally think it could work, and well. I just, sometimes, wish that it was a bit more diverse, like DW.

 

I could see trying something like you listed, and yeah, it could help the characters feel more like characters. I am also colored by my own gaming friends. I often write rather elaborate backgrounds, sometimes just because, and sometimes to try and justify some cheese I don't really need, but I want to fell slightly twink-like (many of my D&D characters have been Spellfire-wielders, because it's useful, and because I wrote a great back story to get it), but many of my friends lack the same ability to do so, or to immerse. They just say "my character says_______", and figure out what dice to roll, maybe what to take to make several of those dice rolls cheese. They banter OOC much of the time, and have their characters just do silly crap, when they can get away with it, such as lame names, or really stupid actions. When I imagine them doing some stuff, while I'm posting here, sometimes it colors my responses.

 

I can fully see trying to give your character some back story, maybe explain some events in their past that gravitated them toward their character choice (when did they learn that they loved the autocannon, or that they could bark at men, and actually be heeded?) Why did you make some of the choices in your character that you did, in game? Who is the little Jimmy Olsen following you along? Honestly, I've never really been a fan of the Comrade system, beyond increasing a body count, but they do deserve some attention



#14 Askil

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Posted 28 March 2014 - 04:12 PM

In ourgames we bolster the gonna ddie aspct by giving our (unmodified) TB as extra wounds, it`s not much but it helps buff up the low wound operator enough to withstand the odd glancing shot without losing a limb. 

 

Also if you want a players to make a decent story give them a decent regimental history to borrow from tell them about their homeworld, give them choices.

 

I will use the regiment in my groups campaign for an example.

 

the Luggnum 14th Penal legion

 

Raised from the inmates of the munitorum penal facility on the mining moon of Lugg, in accordance with an ancient compact with the house of Luggn the governors of Luggnum the imperial guard tithe for luggnum may be supplied either in whole or part in the form of "volunteers" from the military prison complex on it`s moon, in return the prison is supplied by the house of Luggn.

 

The 14th are a disparate band of prison gangs, psychopaths and patriots led by Colonel William (Bill) Eous a paranoid and irreverant former gang boss who runs the 14th through a combination of fear, extreme violence and grudging respect.

 

On route to thei first deloyment the 14th`s ship was becalmed in the warp and forced to drop out of warpspace. Due the the long jrney ahead and uncertainty of the length of the warp disturbance the 14th and their fellow passengers were put ashore along with elements of the Mordian 12th armoured. The haughty Mordians poured scorn on the Luggite convicts and their dislike was returned is equal measure. as the weeks stranded waiting for the warp currents to return passed tensions built between them. 

 

On the very night the Warp became traversable once more calamity struck the Mordian camp. It`s not known how the fires in the mordians billets started, but what is known is that when they were bought under control the majority of the Mordians vehicles, supplies and equipment had vanished.

 

There a decent history. Are you a guard, are you a prisoner, are you a patriotic volunteer or a psychotic troubemaker who was "volunteered" to make you somone else`s problem?



#15 Annaamarth

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Posted 04 April 2014 - 11:25 PM

Alternatively, remind your players that this is "On War."  Yer all gonna die.  Full stop.

 

There is no background that matters (although if it comes up in roleplay, that's good).  There is only perspective, and the now.  How do characters interact?  Which squadmate gets on your nerves?  Which one saved your butt in a firefight?  Who owes you two packs of lho-sticks?

 

How old you are, which planet or Kasr you come from, who your parents were?  That doesn't matter, because now you're Regiment.  You're part of the Unit, and all that matters is role and functionality within the unit.  That doesn't mean that squad position is all that matters- attitude is part of role.  Reliability, discipline, creativity, or the lack of one or more of those selfsame traits matters.

 

So yeah.  Great strength, great weakness, who you like and why, who you dislike and why.  Dark secret is optional- this ain't Paranoia.


RIP AND TEAR THROUGH THE TIDE OF BLOOD WITH BATTLESUIT PILOT. SUPLEX HIVE TYRANTS. DO WHATEVER, YOU'RE PILOTING A HUGE-ASS MECHA.

 -Errant, on how Rogue Trader ought to be played


#16 Askil

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 12:32 PM

Alternatively, remind your players that this is "On War."  Yer all gonna die.  Full stop.

 

There is no background that matters (although if it comes up in roleplay, that's good).  There is only perspective, and the now.  How do characters interact?  Which squadmate gets on your nerves?  Which one saved your butt in a firefight?  Who owes you two packs of lho-sticks?

 

How old you are, which planet or Kasr you come from, who your parents were?  That doesn't matter, because now you're Regiment.  You're part of the Unit, and all that matters is role and functionality within the unit.  That doesn't mean that squad position is all that matters- attitude is part of role.  Reliability, discipline, creativity, or the lack of one or more of those selfsame traits matters.

 

So yeah.  Great strength, great weakness, who you like and why, who you dislike and why.  Dark secret is optional- this ain't Paranoia.

 

Remind me never to roleplay with you, ever.

 

I'd hate to be in an imaginary foxhole with you and your buddies, they don't know what they're fightng for.

 

This was our solution the rap sheet http://www.mediafire...sheet_(MK3).xls


Edited by Askil, 05 April 2014 - 12:42 PM.

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#17 Annaamarth

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Posted 06 April 2014 - 01:09 AM

Remind me never to roleplay with you, ever.

 

I'd hate to be in an imaginary foxhole with you and your buddies, they don't know what they're fightng for.

They're fighting for each other, of course.  For the Unit.  Or maybe one or more of them are just trying to survive.  My core point is that On War tends to be a fairly fatal game, and building an elaborate backstory for a character may be a waste of time and effort.  If that's what you want to do, fine and grand!  But all I'd require is the stuff I already listed.  If not a specialist, maybe also why you were selected for the duty you have- why a flame-trooper rather than a plasmagunner, for example?  In the meantime, should a character survive for a while, then more and more will happen and attachments will build.  Maybe background comes out retroactively, when I ask "unusual decision- why did you choose to do such-and-such rather than run away screaming," or what-have-you.

 

Not that I'm trying to invalidate your opinion- feel free to pidgeonhole me as you desire- I have no shame for my methods, and they work quite well for my group historically.  Rest assured that my RT, BC and DW games tend to desire rather more details and background than OW.  Heck, I expect more background for a D&D game!

 

Cool rap sheet.  Great for a penal legion, but Rap Sheets don't do any good for other regiments, and an enlistment form rarely includes a 'prior occupation' block.

 

edit: fixed nested quotes.


Edited by Annaamarth, 06 April 2014 - 01:09 AM.

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RIP AND TEAR THROUGH THE TIDE OF BLOOD WITH BATTLESUIT PILOT. SUPLEX HIVE TYRANTS. DO WHATEVER, YOU'RE PILOTING A HUGE-ASS MECHA.

 -Errant, on how Rogue Trader ought to be played


#18 Askil

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Posted 07 April 2014 - 01:58 AM

Edit them then, enlistment/service record.

 

You put in an account of their key events and can reveal specifics later this way your characters have a past (which people in command can read up on before hand) which they (or you) can elaborate on without using the old bugaboo of players establishing fluff breaking backgrounds by saying "Yeah I know how to [out of character thing] because I used to be a [highly unlikely thing] before I joined up." This is particularly nasty because once stated in character it becomes part of the ongoing in-game canon and only heavy handed use of GM powers can reverse it. 

 

Also often prior occupaion often affects assigned roles in the guard. Look at the ghosts wrn they were raised for example the scouts were all hunters, trappers and woodsmen, many of the special weapon troopers were former firemen, almost all the COs and NCOs were former militia members or mill foremen.



#19 Annaamarth

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Posted 07 April 2014 - 04:25 PM

Prior occupation occasionally affects where you go.  There are other cases where the bureaucracy sends people to jobs they are less suited for.  The sniper who used to be a baker was my favorite, and lead to some entertaining interaction.  "Where'd you learn to shoot like that, Guardsman?"  "Um.  Training, sir?"  He also made pizza on an acquired piece of sheet metal that he stuck in the chimeras engine compartment.

 

I give everyone a Trade skill- that's how I determine background.  It doesn't need to be on the official paperwork, and that way I can account for secrets kept from the Imperium.  That's whatever they used to do.  Trade (Fireman) has helped before.  Trade (Baker) has had a notable affect on morale.  Our ex-Chymist may have a habit of scrounging for local pharmaceuticals, but nobody has twigged to that.  His squadmates just know that he gets the best deals on barter.  The farmboy hasn't gotten to use his Trade skill yet, but it might come up.


RIP AND TEAR THROUGH THE TIDE OF BLOOD WITH BATTLESUIT PILOT. SUPLEX HIVE TYRANTS. DO WHATEVER, YOU'RE PILOTING A HUGE-ASS MECHA.

 -Errant, on how Rogue Trader ought to be played


#20 Euthan

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Posted 14 April 2014 - 06:36 PM

I asked a number of questions of my players when they started, but I'd wish they gave me more details.  My regiment isn't involved in a real war per se, they are fighting guerilla style heretics on their homeworld-shrine world.  As a result, elements of their past are present and easily used as plot hooks.

 

One thing I've done recently is ask a vague question like "how does your character feel right now?  What does your character think about this?"  Specifically this is in regards to various Imperial Creed/religious services that they have been ordered to attend as all but one of my players has a character who isn't particularly pious (which, being on a shrineworld, can be problematic).  This has allowed me to amp-up inter-platoon rivalries between the religious and the not-so-much.

 

Going forward, I'm planning on just crafting some player's backgrounds with more detail on my own.  Example: The medic used to be in a black market organ running gang.  That's all the data he gave me, so I'm going to give it a name, some links it had, and introduce a character trying to black mail the medic so not to report his ignoble past to the very pious chief medicae officer.


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