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C12P40 Sorry published on 10 Comments on C12P40 Sorry

I have been working on a table-top RP.  And by “working on” I mean “completely overhauling an existing RP system because I hate its rules but love its setting.”  (7th Sea, for those of you wondering).  Now that I’ve finally more-or-less finished the essential overhaul, I’m trying to build an adventure for it.  I’ve always made huge, sprawling adventures that take an entire day to get through in an exhaustive session.  But with Cory working on weekends, there’s just not room for that.  I’m going to have to think smaller, tighter, and more contained.

I’ve been watching Matthew Colville‘s series on how to GM, and I’m gleaning a lot of great tips on how to build shorter, self-contained games that still have the character and world depth that I love.  I’m also building characters.

One thing I’ve gotten player critique on in the past is I TELL too much about the character, rather than SHOWING the character.  So I’ve been doing an exercise where I try to focus on purely physical description as a means of implying character personality.  I don’t always succeed in keeping everything strictly show-don’t-tell, but it’s been a fun exercise and I’ve been dying to share them with SOMEONE because I won’t be able to share them with players for at least two more months (scheduling and holidays don’t mix).  So here’s three:

Eva Koehler
Eva is a short, weathered, hardy woman with deep-set wrinkles and salt-and-pepper black hair.  Her arms are muscled and scarred.  They’re also heavily tattooed.  On the right arm, the north star is ringed by alternatively comical, ugly, pitiful, and realistic depictions of chickens and pigs.  It looks as if many of them were done by different artists of varying skill, and this odd menagerie of farm animals is slowly creeping down her arm and up her shoulder.  On the left arm, skeletons intertwined with snakes are ringed by blackthorn plants in various stages of growth, showing the bare branches, flowers, and sloe berries.  She wears protective leather layers, sometimes in the form of vests and chaps and other times as a long work jacket, over simple shirts and trousers.  The leather is scorched and pock-marked in places.  She often absentmindedly leaves dark glass goggles on her head.  She is never seen without a wilted chrysanthemum pinned to her lapel.  Eva is in her early 40s.

The Magnificent Madam Miranda
Miranda loves to wear bright, gaudy colors and lots of cheap jewelry made of glass beads, painted wood, bone, and bronze.  Her gowns tend to be too low in the neckline for good taste.  Her sleeves always go to the wrist, and her hands are neatly covered in gloves at all times.  Over her face she wears veils of cheap lace that are even more obnoxiously colored than her dresses, usually accented with feathers, beads, and baubles.  Her make-up is always a tad over-done.  She is pleasantly plump with a plentiful bosom, wide hips, and lush lips more likely to smile than frown.  Beneath her colorful skirts she wears sensible leather boots with a modest half-inch heels that lace up just past her ankles.  Miranda is rarely seen without her long wooden pipe, which she smokes almost round the clock, or her flask, which is always available for a mid-afternoon (or mid-morning) tipple.  Miranda is just shy of thirty.  Unless you ask, in which case she’s 19.

Aidan Jones
Aidan has a crooked nose and several missing teeth.  His hair is an uneven mess.  He cuts it himself, when he feels like it, and it shows.  For how little care he gives his hair, he makes a point to shave every morning, although a 5-o-clock shadow usually sprouts by about noon anyway.  He has long, graceful fingers, calloused from many years of practice with a bow.  He keeps his nails trimmed and his hands scrubbed.  His clothing is simple, plain, and worn.  Years ago it was no doubt of fair quality, to have lasted this long, and it is patched in many places.  Stitched into most of the lapels are images of bows, arrows, trees, and forest beasts, typically embroidered in fraying and faded strands of green and red.  Often he forgets to take off the apron he puts on for cooking, which is dusted with flour and stained with oil.  He’s lanky and a little too tall to fit into his kitchen comfortably, and has developed a perpetual hunch.  Aidan is nineteen years old.

It’s my hope that I’m painting interesting visual and personal pictures of these characters for my players to engage with.  Whenever I ever get around to using them, that is.

How would you describe your characters and hint at their backstories, when using strictly physical descriptions as your tool?

10 Comments

Children visit this site. Moderate your language accordingly.

Oh! This is a neat little exercise, I’m gonna try with the characters from my NaNo 😀

First, commentary on the page…. poor Mizha, constantly thinking she has to change for others. Seems by his expression that Zhiro is also starting to realize just how much she cares (and how bad she is at being nice to herself hopefully >.>)

Anyway, NaNo characters!

MARK DAVID
Mark is a tallish sixteen-year-old boy with his bright red hair tied back in a ponytail to keep it out of his eyes. He has a lean,muscular build, obviously accustomed to years of physical activity; he has a sword on his belt, which he carries with confidence and a stride that has adjusted itself to compensate for its weight. He smiles openly. For clothing, he wears a practical tunic and breeches, though his shoes are a pair of modern tennis shoes and he carries a students’ backpack, artifacts of his trip through the veil. His hands are callused from practice with various weapons. He often has his sleeves rolled up from doing physical work around the group’s camp, which reveals a long, white surgical scar from his right shoulder to right wrist.

ANNA ROSE
Like Mark, Anna’s clothes are practical medieval garments, accented with vestiges of modern life (again, shoes and backpack). Her sleeves show signs of stains around the wrists and the hems of her pants are a bit frayed, as though they’ve been stepped on numerous times. She has darker skin than her friend, as well as wild black hair that has been dyed purple at the tips, which is held back with a headband. She also carries a sword, but much more awkwardly. She has a slim figure, which is just beginning to fill otu with muscle, and her purple eyes twinkle with excitement. Her backpack is literally covered with marker doodles. It’s not polite to ask a lady her age, but Anna will tell you she’s 16.

CAMDACE WILLIAMS
AKA Dace. Like his two friends, Dace wears practical medieval-style clothing. His garments are well-maintained and show little visible sign of wear. His hair is cropped close and neat. His backpack is embroidered with the name “Dace”, done by hand, in elegant block capitals. Slight blisters on his hands are the signs of physical activity, and he walks a bit uncomfortably, as though he’s not used to carrying the weight. He’s more thinly built than Anna, though he is also showing signs of bulking up a bit. Unlike the other two, he doesn’t wear a sword on his waist, though there is a dagger hilt showing from one of the outer pockets of his backpack. His vibrant green eyes dart around, quickly taking in his surroundings. Like his friends, Dace is 16.

MANALA RAMIA
Manala is the only member of the group who is not human. When standing, as he usually does, straight and with excellent posture, he easily passes six feet in height. He has silvery skin with a faint sheen to it, pointed ears, and long, glossy black hair, which he wears tied back. His deep blue-green eyes glow in the dark. He wears a set of simple but elegant white robes, showing signs of travel wear but neatly maintained and kept in good repair, with blue trim at the wrists and hem, and delicate blue embroidery around the collar; on a chain around his neck is a pendant in the shape of a silver crescent moon formed into a basin for blue water, which is one of only two pieces of ornamentation he wears, and seems to be made of real silver with lapis accents. The other is a heavy silver ring on his right hand, set with a blue stone in the shape of a bird. Manala speaks with a cultured voice and precise wording. He wears leather boots of excellent quality, and carries a leather pack with him. He has a slender build, like Dace, but otherwise appears in excellent shape. Manala is eighteen years old.

He’ll look at you with a freezing brittle stare that is at odds with the molten chocolate color if his eyes. The deep lines around his eyes say that he has laughed often and hard, but the scowl lines etched across his forehead would make you doubt that. A straight regal nose and jaw line bring strength to a face becoming gaunt in age. Clean shaven, a slight shadow still waits just under his sunken cheeks then across the harsh slash of his lips. To his waist hangs swathes of hair, now less black than grey, but still so thick that it is hard to keep contained.

O.o o.O I need a hero!

Mizha tried so hard. But you can’t force feelings. And we have this idea, culturally, that romantic love is more important than sibling or friendly love. It’s not. Siblings will be with you your whole life. (I say as a person with no siblings.)

Hmm. I will do it with characters from my NaNo, since I am really bad at adding in description and usually do it incredibly sparingly. So here are my two leads.

Gabriel: Gabriel is a short black man with dreads, which he usually wears pulled back in a ponytail with a flower to hold it in place. He’s most often seen wearing a labcoat, which is usually splattered with something or other, but otherwise he likes wearing short shorts and t-shirts with obscure anime characters. His fingernails are bitten short, and he has laughter lines around his mouth and squint lines around his eyes. On one bicep, he has a tattoo of the trans symbol; on the other, he has the chemical symbol for testosterone.

Whitaker: Whitaker is tall and bony, and his face is usually squinched in a thoughtful frown. He dresses like an Oxford don from the 1920s, complete with Oxfords and waistcoat. All the time. He doesn’t do civilian clothes. His fingernails are clipped short, and his hair is parted in a perfect straight line. He usually smells faintly of clove cigarettes, although he will deny this vehemently if confronted. Although he is very neat, his shirt cuffs are usually marked with chalk, and his fingers are often stained with whiteboard markers.

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