I approach character generation with the tools of an A-Level drama student, the blueprints of a Narrativist, and the min-maxing skills of the average pot of superglue.
Generally, we start with a few anchor points. In today’s case, the starting point was that I’m playing Empire in the League, because I want an excuse to use some signature kit from a few characters back and that’s the nation it fits best in. Second, I’m playing Politics, because fighty isn’t really in my nature, and I know from experience that Tradey isn’t really my game. Third, I’ve got a group (The volume of “come, join us” when I mentioned I would be playing was gratifying), and it’s not a group of people I’ve played with a lot before. This means I can fall back into comfortable roles, to some extent, because I won’t be bouncing of the same people in the same ways.
So, Nation chosen, and group gives me a guide to which bits of the nation I can fall into. Next up, the name.
Generating Detail Marshall, a character I played at Maelstrom for a long while, started roughly the same way. I was joining an established group as a family member, which gave me a nation and some existing background guidance. I picked out a direction I was interested in – gunsmithing – and a name. For Detail, I picked up his full name first – James Marshall-Frauser – without realising how little the last bit fit the setting, as his “True” name, the one that unlocked his soul if spoken. Then I chopped off the end to make his True Name less discoverable, and gave him a nickname – Detail – then a shortened form – Det – then a backstory as to why he had it (James Marshall was his father, and Det had picked up “Attention to detail” after displaying a lack of it. A series of hilarious adventures exiled him from home and to the New World where Maelstrom took place). I added “Det” as a short form, but that didn’t last very long. It didn’t fit the character very well.
So what I’m looking for a name is three things, a common thing they are called, an optional clue to deep backstory, and a full “Mother shouts that this when angry” full name with as nice as possible flow of syllables.
Once we’ve got a name to hang things off, Drama Student mode kicks in. A few question/answer sessions not a million miles from this meme I did for Detail around 7 years ago give me a few hooks to hang the character off – Who would you never betray, what’s your best memory, who wouldn’t you piss on if they were on fire – to work out the basics of characterisation, level of the Utter Bastard scale, and D&D alignment, and we’re ready for first play. I prefer first play to be as non-canon as possible, since it’s still a rough sketch of character. For this, I may be using him for an upcoming non-mainline player event hosted by my new group, which fits perfectly.
Assuming I get the rest of the costume sorted within a week. Erk.