View Full Version : The Inspiration for Character Building

2008-06-27, 12:15 PM
As I was sitting down reading the PHB in hopes of coming up with my latest and greatest persona I began looking around for inspiration, a muse to set things in motion and came to a sudden realization...

Most of my characters are based off of songs that I'm listening to. My latest character, an Elven Fighter who was freed from being a slave to the Thay, was mostly inspired while I was listening to Fuel's Wont Back Down (I won't forget the things you did, I've come to bring you H***).

So what inspires you for your character ideas? I'd like to see what some pop culture references shape and mold our fantasy characters... Do people just create "homage" characters ("Uh, my elf ranger is named... um... Begolas.")?


2008-06-27, 12:20 PM
Ha! I am the master of this board for today!

Anyhoo, I got into the habit during 3e to think of neat builds (ex: ooo, can I build a spear monk that has incredible threat range?) which has kind of stuck for me here. But I can't start a character without making up bits of their personality based on how my scores come out.

Honestly, with the 4e skill selection system, it's even worse. I always pick the skills that the person would know, not merely what is "optimal" ... though I often have arranged the stats to this end.

It's how I ended up with a "lazor cleric" who was a kindly, empathic woman (WIS 18) who, as a human, took Jack of All Trades and Skill Focus (Insight) because she knows a little about everything. I envision here wandering into a bar, and acting like a walking confessional for all the people who have trouble (with her Passive Insight of 22 at level 1 :smallamused:).

Gosh, sometimes I can't stop making characters. I'm not even playing a 4e game (I'm running it) and I already have close to 2 dozen characters sitting on my desktop that'll never see the light of day.

2008-06-27, 12:28 PM
So far, I haven't had too many "inspired" builds. But I had one that I've mentioned several times already. In a 2e game, I built a gnome illusionist whose persona was based off of a character in the Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He was based off of the real and confused ruler of the Universe.

Though if I ever decide to play an elven fighter, I'll probably name him Legolamb (in honor of Mad Mag's satire of LOTR)

2008-06-27, 12:36 PM
One of my players is going to be making a character based off the music video for Knights of Cydonia (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jV1bRfLHA3A) :smallamused:.

I usually ask myself "What do I want to be able to do?" and then try to find a class that fits that. Sometimes I pull from music/film, or modify a really good idea I've seen online.

2008-06-27, 02:31 PM
I also quite often pull characters from music that I listen to. However, it's never really a direct literal lyric translation. A melody or line will evoke an image and a stream of conciousness from that image will eventually give me a blurry picture of a character, which I then flesh out and decide what race and class best fits them. My Snow Elf Ranger with the leopard animal companion was made from listening to Rusted Wheel by the Silversun Pickups.

I find artists that are less lyrically focused help me create the best characters. Enya, George Winston, etc....

2008-06-27, 03:00 PM
I try to start with an idea. For example, a dwarven fighter who shuns the company of other dwarves and avoids the dwarven homelands. Coming up with a reason for this behavior gave a backstory and some character quirks. ["Dwarven fighter" was chosen because the party needed a tank.]

Another example: for an upcoming Eberron 3.5 campaign, I had the idea of a character who becomes convinced the Mourning was caused by the stirring of the dragon Eberron, which had become upset by the continuing warfare in Khorvaire. The character had been near Cyre on the day of Mourning -- how about a traveling musician? So a bard he will be, driven by his odd belief to seek knowledge of the Mourning, Eberron, and (by extension) dragonkind. Perhaps he will some day study the Draconic Prophecy.

2008-06-27, 05:30 PM
Most of my characters come from a particular mental image, and something I want to do with them during a story. I've had one who was based around the ability to hear magic, one who was entirely ice-themed, the one who carried the soul of her elder sister around in a bonegraft and still leaned on her for advice most of the time.... and then there was the one whose main inspiration points were the idea of someone successfully impersonating a well-known general for a good decade or so and the image of a Warmace of Subtlety. (Yes, you heard me.)

I don't really touch pop culture near as much. It's far too easy to fall into patterns, and then they don't, well, live as much. During one of my writing classes my last semester of college, it was pointed out that you can't base a character on something that already exists without altering the original or destroying the character in the process; if I'm using someone else's patterns, it's far too much of an overlay, and the character herself doesn't come through.

I've had a few characters that came out of music, though. One of my best last-minute NPCs sprang fully formed into my head after listening to Duo En's "Moonlight Over the Castle Ruins": a four-armed lizard-woman performer with a flair for the philosophical, first seen playing on a koto in the ruins of what was once a favored party-spot. Group loved her.

2008-06-27, 08:17 PM
Music has been my inspiration on several occasions as well. My biggest sources of inspiration usually revolve around "Can I make a character who can do *this*" or "What happens when I put this race and class together."

2008-06-27, 08:43 PM
Most of my characters come from a particular mental image, and something I want to do with them during a story.

Neat! That's pretty much what I do when I make NPCs for my games. A female Blackguard who disguises herself as a man, an Ogre Werewolf Lord, a Wight who plays chess...

Innis Cabal
2008-06-27, 09:01 PM
most of my ideas come as i try to get to sleep or am in the shower, they mostly tend to be influenced by what mythology i am reading at the time and what sort of mood i am in

2008-06-27, 09:17 PM
My favorite type of thread.

I've had a lot of different means of inspirations over the years, naturally.

Music - Be it an interesting title, or a chorus, or any element of the song, music is meant to be inspirational and has spawned quite a few character ideas of mine. The most prominent that jumps to mind is Vol, a human fighter inspired by Disturbed's Down with the Sickness. Vol is a former mercenary of questionable heritage, who went through the motions of his profession because it was what he happened to be good at, but the atrocities he saw in one battle awoke something inside him that probably would have been better left untouched.

Literature - Bevier of the Elenium and Tamuli trilogies inspired Rhys, my paladin. Both are holy knights of the church, eager and naive, with a decided weakness for female companionship, and a taste for polearms.

Free Association - I was lying in the tub, with my head under water, thinking quietly about breathing and stuff like it. Breath is a euphemism for action, and for words. Wind can steal words as in muffling them, but what if someone could run so fast they could be the wind itself, and steal words from their mouth? Could they steal them from memory as they're spoken? Thus came Pelas, my wind-demigod character for a story I'm working on.

2008-06-27, 09:18 PM
Mental image, a particular race/class combo, or an illustration. Rarely or never from music.