I've been playing D&D (that's Dungeons and Dragons, for those of you not into the gaming thing), off and on for, well, years. Right now I'm in an intermittent, extended campaign with a couple of our closest friends. My character is Drian, a second level half-elven cleric. (That's a healer.)
Tonight our party found itself disagreeing over our course of action. As a player, I had certain ideas about the wise thing to do. But I'm not Drian; I'm me. Drian doesn't know what I know about her world.
To figure out her stance on the issue, I had to figure out who she was. That's pretty incredible, because I usually have a full back story and a personality worked out before the first session. Somehow, that didn't happen this time.
Defining a character can be a bit intimidating to a new player. I spent literally weeks agonizing over Xandria the elven cleric-sorceress, my first character. So I thought it might help some new gamer out there if I worked through my process on the web. Here we go.…
Drian is a cleric.
Perhaps nothing else defines Drian so much as her chosen vocation, a cleric. As a cleric, she cares for her party, healing them when they need it, and calling on her god to bless and protect them in difficult situations. As such, she feels very responsible for them. Very, very responsible. In fact, the mental, physical, and spiritual welfare of her allies is second only to her duty to her god, Pelor.
Drian serves Pelor.
Pelor is the god of the sun, and by extension the god of summer, agriculture, and time. His clerics are sworn to uphold the cause of good, and to battle the undead. Such beings are anathema to him, having left behind the natural order of things. They are called to help the helpless wherever they can, and stand vigiliant against evil. Did I mention really, really hates undead?
Drian is good.
Okay, I lied before; this is Drian's most defining characteristic. Everything else plays out around it. Above all else, Drian wants to do what's right; it's why she's a cleric, instead of a merchant or an artisan. It's why she's an adventurer, heading out into every kind of dangerous and unpredictable situation when she could settle down in a nice, safe village or city to serve in Pelor's temple.
Drian is a cultural half-elf.
As a half-elf, Drian has been reconciling two different natures all her life. Half-elves are not elves, and they are not humans, yet they are both. Many half-elves are conflicted, torn between the two societies yet never fully accepted by either. However, Drian was raised in a half-elf community, with a distinctive racial identity. Being raised among people who were comfortable with both races, in a society where each half-elf is encouraged to integrate the aspects of humanity and of elvenkind that best fit them, she's confident and adaptable. She's also more able to relate to someone with a different point of view, making her a natural diplomat and quite insightful. Oh, did I mention that most half-elves dabble in other professions? Well, Drian spent enough time with the warlock down the street to pick up a thing or two.
That's only one part of the picture, though. Drian is also defined by her ability scores and skills. They define her strengths and weaknesses, as well as her areas of interest.
With a strength of 14, Drian's not the greatest fighter. However, she's not especially weak, so she's not helpless; her mace shows enough wear to make that clear. But fighting's definitely not her strongest suit…
Drian's constitution is about average for an adventurer, which is just slightly above average for a regular person. It means she has more than enough endurance to carry a good set of gear (including bearing up under the added weight of a fair amount of armor), and she's not especially fragile. Combine that with strength, and she can stand to put herself in harm's way if necessary to get into position to help a wounded ally or innocent. She'll do it, too, if they need her.
Good thing Drian never wanted to be an archer, because she's not especially dexterous. In fact, she's a bit less so that the typical adventurer. Fortunately, her party members aren't counting on her to pick off distant targets, even if she does carry a crossbow; the party's fighter is much better at that. But she has to hope she doesn't get into a situation where fancy footwork is called for, because she's not cut out for dodging attacks or balancing on a precarious ledge! (She would also make a terrible sneak thief, by the way, if she were the type.)
Drian's book smarts are a bit above the average person's, but dead average for an adventurer. She's certainly not dumb, but she doesn't have an extensive education or a head for obscure facts. The only areas where she shines are the arcane, history and religion, and that's only because of her religious training. But where did she learn to speak and read giant, of all things?
Ah yes, now we're getting to areas where Drian shines! She may not be the most intelligent, but she's got more than her fair share of street smarts. She's also quite empathetic (that's useful in healer), and very self-disciplined. If someone in her party is going to pick up on the subtle clues that indicate danger in the making or get a read on the stranger they encounter on the road, chances are it will be her.
And with a high charisma, she'll probably do well getting that stranger to trust her. She's persuasive, with a strong personality and innate leadership abilities. Combine that with her diplomacy skills, and she's a good choice to represent the party, if the party leader isn't available. In a pinch, she may even be able to intimidate those standing in their way; they're less likely to see through her bluffs.