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MoonHunter Sayeth 20180525


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Character Foundation II - In Your Head

You can’t bring a character to life on the page if you don’t have a clear vision of them in your head.
Sarah Bradley
This quote is for writers. To make it 100% for gamers, you would change "on the page" to "at the table" or the more modern "at the play space".

The concept is still true. After you do the character sheet and maybe a character questionnaire, there are still things you do to create a firm character foundation.

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Now you may be making a character the MoonHunter Way. You may not. It all depends on your GM and Troupe. These Posts will help you set up a solid foundation to play your character off of.

There are three (and a half) ways to create your character foundation.
  • The Questions - (and answers)
    The Questions -Character Sheet​
  • In your Head - "trying the character on for fit"
  • On Stage - Various "soft" scenes before play starts

Each of these ways is a way to riff upon the character.
You can touch upon each of these riffing processes in your own order and time. This is just the order that makes the most sense.
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Character Foundation - In Your Head

The intent behind many of these tactics is meaningful: you can’t really bring a character to life at the play space if you have no clear vision of him or her or it in your head.

The success of your play is riding on the strength of your character. As their player, one needs to know who they are, inside and out. More importantly for ease of play, one needs a character with a strong voice and style. Without strong developed characters that are well played, the chronicle will probably crumble to metaphorical dust. That’s a lot of pressure, for both the players and the characters. A player needs to build up a strong and interesting character for the chronicle.

At this stage of things, you are combining two of my favorite things: Riffing and Immersion. This is one of the best ways for the player to develop the character's foundation and voice.

Be Quiet and Listen: The Character Monologue Method
You are trying on your character the character fully for the first time at this point. You are still getting used to the "fit" and "cut" of the character.

Imagine how the character might look, how they might dress, how their eyes are, how tall, wide, etc, items they carry, any detail that helps define the character, as they are now in your mind. Now imagine yourself that exact same way. This is "using The Method" as discussed in this blog post on immersion and dozens upon dozens of sites and books on acting.

You should try and imagine yourself putting on this character’s persona, the way one might slip into a stranger’s coat or a pair of shoes. Then you need to block out any and all preconceived notions about what the character looked like, how the character behaved, and what the character might want. (That last bit may be hard, especially since we originally told you to do it. It is a skill to learn.)

New things that "feel right" will pop into your mind. Some of them might be the same as what you originally thought, others will surprise you.

You have to be quiet, still in the mind (a state of mindfulness would be helpful). This exercise is about giving the character a voice, an opportunity to be heard. Don’t tell the character who the character is. Let the character tell you.

This is where the riffing comes in. This can be done in any quiet personal space. (MoonHunter tells people to stand in front of a mirror when they do this. Many find it to be helpful. Note: the bathroom near our play area gets a real workout as people riff in the mirror before the game.)

This is roleplaying with yourself... mostly in your own head, but some people speak it out.

Now there are a number of "in your head" riffs you can do. They are not officially roleplaying scenes. These are "working scenes", (a writer's term), where you will work out the character. Find things that work for your play style and do them.

There are a few MoonHunter recommends.

The questioning: Who are you?, What are you really? Someone asks the character who they are and to describe or explain themselves. What does the character want? Why? How does the character plan to get it? Give the character permission to tell you things the character will never tell anyone else.

Any number of Prelude scenes: Best moment in the character's life. Worst Moment in the character's life. Most important Moment (recently). When they left home for the last time (or the first time). When they got their primary weapon or certificate. Anything important in the character's life. Most of these would be when the character is mostly alone, but as the only player present, playing all the PCs and NPCs is your responsibility.

Play Around scenes: Take your character out to lunch! (MoonHunter tends to think of his characters as actors for an old-style movie company... so they spend time in the commissary or the craft table.... sometimes with other characters). Put the character in an unfamiliar location or time period. Gladiator scenes (picked up by aliens, thrown in an alien gladiatorial game. What do they do... how do they cope..) Put her in an unfamiliar location or time period and think about how they react. Have the character to do something normal, like change a tire or going to the market shopping, even though they may never do "normal" things. They are stuck "babysitting" briefly - how do they cope? Play around scenes are ways to push the character in odd directions and see how they go.

Their first "solo adventures: This is often better as a prelude scene with the GM or aGM, but things work out.

Do this for one scene, do it for a dozen. Whenever the character feels "set" and "comfortable", you may need to replay some of the scenes previously played with the updated character.

Oh did you notice that this was the same at the flashback scenes? Good Eye. And thank you for reading my Blog. These will become interesting in the next article.
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A little bit of play-acting goes a long way. Do not hesitate to "put your full roleplay on", with gestures, facial expressions, voice elements, and even props and costuming. The key here is to put yourself in the character’s space. This is not about being perfect, this is uncovering the character’s and its history and personality.

Some people write this out Blue Booking/ Scene Journal. Assume that nothing you write will make it into the game. Just like every other character sketch exercise, this is a chance to write without expectations. Don’t filter, edit, or try to write something useful that you can transpose into play later. Give your character permission to tell you things he never tells anyone.

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Remember: When you give the characters the freedom to speak what they want, you as a player might be surprised at what they reveal about themselves. If given the chance, what would your protagonist decide to tell you?

Advice: Let Them Tell You Who They Are
The key here is to get out of your own way. Force yourself to be quiet and listen to the character. Who is the character? What does the character have to say about themselves? How does the character view the events that had shaped their childhood? How do they sound? What verbal bits define them? Find the pieces that work for you and the character and focus on those... then explore the other things around them.

Remember to Embrace Your Inner Shakespeare. Without realizing it, you have done a character monologue. How literary of you. Back to the days of Shakespeare, they would have a character monologue about who they are at the start of a novel or play. Little things like these in your head scenes this can really sharpen your understanding of the character.

We are doing a lot of remembering in this article. You may need a flash card or an article of learning.

This article is about how to get the character settled in your own mind. It is still not ready for "table time" yet. But it has a very strong foundation to begin with. Now when you move on to the next stage, you will have a lot of material ready to go.

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PRACTICE - in your head
Like any hobby, you want to be good at it. The best way to be good is to practice and learn various aspects of gaming. Consider the character of your current chronicle. Spend a few minutes tuning out distractions and setting aside your preconceived ideas about who this character is. Think about where they are mentally now and where they will be.

Spend a few minutes (five to fifteen) adopting this character’s persona while riffing (live or in a journal). If writing, using a first-person point of view, write as if this character’s voice is funneling through you. Is The Character happy with where the Character is? Why or why not? How did he Character get there? What mistakes has the Character made, what regrets does the Character have? What does the Character wish could be different? What does the Character plan on doing next?

Should you do this as a Shakespearean monologue? Yes of course. Did you expect anything different? Really?

Put the character on, like that old coat or shoes. Get used to them again. Wiggle around in their space. Then do a "head scene" of some kind. This is a great character warm up, especially if you haven't played the character in a while.


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Spelling and links have been updated. I don't know how the unspellchecked/ ungrammarchecked version got posted.
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