Giving Your Character Life
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Giving Your Character Life

Back to Creating Your Character

Now it's time to flesh out your character. Fleshing your character out involves making decisions about personality and history. An interesting character can start with two personality traits. Earthdawn calls these hidden and surface traits; White Wolf calls them Nature and Demeanor. I like White Wolf's terms better, but you can use either. As an example, Arkanabar's Nature is compassionate and his Demeanor is Show-Off. He talks about how doing this or that deed will cover him in fame and glory as a hero, but he is only truly moved by people in trouble. And Galerian is outwardly rational. He always has a good reason for doing what he does. He is secretly vengeful. He always makes sure that he pays back everyone who wrongs him in full.

The rest of fleshing out comes from answering the following questions, from the character's point of view. You can decide your character doesn't know his background, but that's just asking me to decide it for him, and it will eventually show up and make his life interesting.

What is your sex? Trolls have a male dominated society. Windlings and obsidimen think sex roles are pretty silly, though windling men outnumber the women by about two to one, and they mate for life. T'skrang women head the tribes, but the men nurse and raise the young, who do not know what sex they will have until age 13. Everyone else shares power fairly equally.

How big are you? Are you larger or smaller than normal for your race? Decide upon height, weight, and build. A man who is 6'2" and 240 lbs may be thick and brawny with a barrel chest, or fat, or built like Arnold Schwartznegger.

What color eyes, hair, and skin do you have? Does you have any tattoos or scars?

What is your general appearance? Consider posture, walk, attitude, and how you dress. You may dress shabbily, conservatively, stylishly, fashion-forward, or like a rebel. You may slouch, shuffle, swagger, march, glide, stand erect, prance, or mince. You may look grouchy, standoffish, friendly, shy, serene, or hostile.

Where were you born? City, town, village, farm, country, wilderness? Mountains, jungle, forest, riverside, plains, swamps?

The big cities are Throal, Bartertown, Kratas, Travar, Urupa, Jerris, Iopos, Parlainth, and Vivane.

Kratas is in the geographic center of Barsaive. It is the City of Thieves, a Scourge-wrecked citadel with a town's population. The top gang boss there is Garlthik One Eye, the most famous thief in Barsaive. There are a few other gang bosses there with much smaller territories that he does not dominate. Throal gives Garlthik the respect due to a head of state, and Garlthik gives Throal intelligence.

Throal is in mountains east of Kratas. It is ruled by the dwarfs, so it is underground, orderly, safe, law abiding, wealthy, and well taxed. Just outside Throal's gates is Bartertown, which is mainly composed of merchants who want to avoid Throal's taxes. It's a border/frontier town, composed of shops, taverns, bars, inns, and warehouses. It's hard to tell the lawmen from the gangsters, as tax collection is as brutal as collecting protection money, and at least half of all commerce is on the black market. There's a tax on every cash transaction, but there's a lot of heavily punished tax evasion.

Travar is south of Throal, on a tributary of the Serpent River. It came through the Scourge unscathed, and is very beautiful. The three Magistrates that rule Travar get their posts by sponsoring winning contestants in a series of anything goes, one-on-one fights, which end any time one of the fighters gives up. The Magistrates are all wealthy merchants, very good at skimming wealth. They like Throal better as a trading partner than as an ally, and don't want to stir up trouble with Thera.

Urupa is a new city in the SE of Barsaive, built where the Coil River empties into the Aras Sea. It is an ally of Throal. Being both a river city and a sea port, it is devoted to trade. It's fairly orderly, and there's not too much corruption. It was built after the Scourge, and is still very undecorated.

Jerris is literally under a cloud--of dust from the Wastes that mark the western border of Barsaive. Jerris is known for its shipyards, that make most of the airships that don't belong to the sky raiders. It is located near a nexus of air currents that make it easy to fly an airship anywhere in Barsaive.

Vivane, in the southwest corner of Barsaive, is the Theran Capitol. Its river runs almost dry in the summer. The Theran Quarter of Vivane is much wealthier, safer, more attractive, and better kept than the Barsaivian quarter. It is home to the Theran Overgovernor Kypros, and it supports the Theran military base of Sky Point.

Parlainth, in the NE corner of Barsaive, is a monster-infested tomb. A small section has been walled off and named Haven, and it is home to all kinds of treasure hunters, seeking greater wealth than was ever in Egypt's Pyramids or Valley of the Kings, but at far greater risk.

Iopos, in the NW corner of Barsaive, is near the headwaters of the Serpent River that connects nearly all of Barsaive together. It is a totalitarian police state, ruled by Uhl Denairastas and all his nieces, nephews, and cousins. Informers are everywhere, and the police can give summary judgement for many crimes. They can try you, give a verdict, and hand out a sentence varying from a fine to death, right on the spot, for most crimes. Amazingly enough, they are also totally incorruptible. Iopos is attractive, clean, and orderly, with wide, paved boulevards and many lights--it looks like Paris, but it feels like East Berlin before the Wall came down.

Barsaive also has farmers, miners, woodsmen, fishermen, trappers, nomadic herdsmen, and the like, so there are fishing towns, mining towns and camps, farming towns and villages, trading posts, and logging camps scattered everywhere.

How old are you? Minimum age is about 13 for orks and t'skrang, 15 for trolls, 17 for humans, 20 for dwarfs, 25 for elves, 30 for windlings, and 450 for obsidimen. No obsidimen Emerged during the Scourge, and the 90 years that have passed since its end are not enough for any that Emerged afterwards to have come of age.

Do you have a family? If so, what are they like? Wealthy, middle class, poor? Solid Citizens, community leaders, ne'er do wells, outright villains, or Just Plain Folks? How big is your family? How do they feel about you choosing a life of danger, with the constant threat of injury, maiming, dismemberment, and death? If you don't have a family, what happened to them, and who raised you? An obsidiman's family is his Liferock and his Brotherhood. A t'skrang's family is its niall, a clan of about 35-70, and its chaida, the male who nursed and raised it from about a week or two before hatching until it gained gender at 13. A t'skrang's chaida takes the place of both its mother and father.

Have you started a family? If so, what are they like? How big is it? How do they feel about you choosing a life of danger, with the constant threat of injury, maiming, dismemberment, and death? If you haven't started a family, why not? Obsidimen are magically spawned by their Liferock, so they do not have children or parents. T'skrang men hatch the eggs and raise the hatchlings, but they are assigned eggs by the council of women, who choose appropriate men for this task. Few t'skrang know (or care) who laid the egg they hatched from, or what man (or men) she was with when it was fertilized.

Do you have friends? Most friends like to help you and do things for you. The same actually goes for family. And a person who has no friends is a very strange person indeed.

How do you feel about the Passions? Most people just give some sort of honor to the appropriate Passion when they are about to do something related to that Passion, but a few try to live their whole lives as an example of one Passion's ideals. They have powers that do not come from any other source, and everybody knows about somebody who has met at least one of the Passions face to face, so very few are atheists. The passions are:

Astendar, the Passion of art, love, and music. The usual questor is an artist or performer. She favors beauty and love.
Chorrolis, the Passion of Greed, Wealth, Trade, Envy, and Desire. His typical questor is a chiseling merchant. He favors wealth, and loves the struggle in acquiring precious things--often more than the things themselves.
Dis, the Mad Passion of Confusion, Makework, Bureaucracy, and Slavery. Dis alone seeks to leech the passions and emotions out of people. Before the Scourge, she was Erendis, the Passion for order and organization. Her usual questor is either a slaver or a paper shuffling bureaucrat, like Dilbert's boss or your least favorite DMV time-server.
Floranuus, the Passion of victory, energy, revelry, and motion. His usual questor is either a party animal or a wandering cheerleader, in either case looking for people to cheer up and absolutely unable to be down for any length of time about anything.
Garlen, the Passion of Hearth, Home, and Healing. She is Barsaive's favorite Passion. Her questors are usually women. They don't go looking for fights, but anyone who attacks somebody in their care will pull back a bloody stump.
Jaspree, Passion of Growth, Love of the Land, and Care for Wilderness. His questors vary from people-hating eco nuts to curious naturalists and botanists to organic farmers trying to increase yeilds so they can feed more people while clearing less wilderness for their crops.
Lochost, Passion of Rebellion, Change, and Freedom. Lochost's questors include every kind of person in the Abolitionist movement, as well as rebels and politicians trying to keep people free--everyone from Frederick Douglass to Johnny Rotten to drug and war protestors. Dis wants to kill Lochost, and they've actually done battle. Her questors always seek to stymie or kill his.
Mynbruje, Passion of justice, empathy, compassion, & truth. His questors are always advocates for victims, the innocent, and the wrongfully accused. They try to convince criminals to make restitution if they can. They are universally accepted as judges. They are also fond of scholarship.
Raggok, the Mad Passion of Vengeance, Bitterness, and Jealousy. Before the Scourge, he was Rashomon, the Passion of leadership, rulership, and authority. Now he is in league with the Horrors, makes the undead walk, evokes painful memories, and inspires hatred. Some of his questors become wealthy, decadent, sybarites, to cause others the pain of envy. Others are shabby ascetics, spending all their money to cause pain, fear, and suffering.
Thystonius, Passion of valor and physical conflict. His questors are usually fighters and athletes. Sometimes they bring physical conflict to people who would rather avoid it, and they see this as a gift. They also aid those daunted by physical challenges, such as fording dangerous rivers, pulling tree stumps, or even surviving the elements. "You have a broken leg, we have no shelter, and there's a blizzard coming on. This is gonna be FUN!"
Upandal, Passion of building, planning, and construction. His questors are usually craftsmen, architects, and the like. They are only happy when they are either making something, or planning to make something. King Varulus III of Throal is a questor of Upandal, trying to build an ideal society.
Vestrial, Mad Passion of manipulation and deceit. Before the Scourge, he was the Passion of pranks, tricks, and humor, deflating egotists, windbags, and stuffed shirts. Now he is so arrogant himself that he thinks he is the only Passion who deserves attention, and he constantly schemes to take over all the other Passions's followers. His questors plot and scheme like soap opera villains under his direction, often seemingly at cross purposes. They sow mistrust and suspicion, and for every ten that seem like idiots, there is one hidden one carrying out brilliant plans.

What is your moral code? Will you lie? steal? kill? When and why? What behavior is too vile for you to do? For you to let others do? Nearly all Barsaivians have hangups about people who deal with Horrors and/or Mad Passions.

What do you like? Groo likes a good feed and a good fray, and he's not picky about who he fights or what he eats. Romeo and Juliet love each other. Tim Taylor likes power tools--the more power, the better. Arkanabar is a connesieur of v'tathit, t'skrang spiced vodka made from river reed tubers and bottled in woven reed flagons. Dr. Evil likes his clone, Mini-Me, and his cat, Mr. Bigglesworth.

What do you hate? I hate hostility rap. Dennis the Menace hates carrots. Indiana Jones hates snakes and people who hoard historical treasures. PETA members hate fur, meat, and milk. Carry Nation hated alcohol. Bugs Moran and Al Capone hated each other.

What is your Name? Names are central to who you are. Many people in Barsaive get nicknames, like Boot-Tough, the Contemplative, Half-Smile, Gems-Dripping, and Icethought. One fellow who ran out of rocks to put in his sling loaded it with silver nuggets in desperation, and his friends now call him Silvershot. Pecos Bill and the Sundance Kid were named for places where they were known. And there's nothing wrong with nicknames like the Bold, the Fair, the Pious, the Terrible, the Wise, the Great, the Fat, the Bald, the Red, or Blackbeard--if they're earned.

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