The history of your character is often just as important as their personality, especially considering the two directly influence each other. The more memories you can call up for your character, the better! A character with a brutal, abusive past could end up brutal and abusive as well, or he could strive to be the exact opposite of his past oppressors. A character with a loving, sheltered past probably wouldn’t be all that street smart and would likely be amazed and mystified with much of the world. An interesting and rich history will help create an character that is fun to play!
“Allyn was born to a pack. His parents were killed in a pack war along with his brothers and sisters. He is sad because of this and ran away. He has lived a year on his own.”
This is a pretty poor example of a proper history for a few reasons. First of all, “pack wars”, if common, would virtually wipe out the wolf population. Not good, right? If you still want to go the war route though, it’s great to include how it got started, how long it lasted, what the character’s thoughts on the situation were, whether he fought, etc.
Second of all, the rest is equally bland and not detailed at all. Who were the brothers and sisters and mother and father? How important were they to him? What about the other pack members? How did he survive the year on his own? Who did he meet and see in that time?
Details are important when writing a character history!
“Allyn was born to a tiny pack just in western Montana. His once-powerful pack had control of the best hunting grounds for hundreds of miles; unfortunately, some generations ago the packs’ power had begun to dwindle. Allyn’s pack was slow to take up more Luperci traits, and as their neighbors became avid shifters, Allyn’s ancestors remained true to their birth forms, even if infected with the Luperci virus.
Of course, this didn’t work out so well. By the time Allyn was born, the pack had been run almost out of their original territory by their competitive neighbors. Only his parents and two drifters remained. Allyn had two sisters and one brother, and he was quite close with them. Unfortunately for his family, when Allyn was five months old, the drifters ended up turning on Allyn’s parents, betraying them to a neighboring pack during an attack, Allyn’s parents and siblings were killed. Allyn managed to escape, though he was obviously traumatized, having witnessed the slaughter of his family.
Allyn spent the next several months of his life wandering, eventually hooking up with a band of travelers. Though he befriended a few of them, he found it difficult to adopt their jovial and carefree lifestyle, and when this pack neared ‘Souls, he split off from them, heading off to make his destiny elsewhere.”
This history example allows the player to establish a deeper connection with the events that shaped the character’s life. In the family section of the character’s profile, one can even write out short paragraphs of information for the character’s relationship with each of his family members, and it could make for interesting conflict if you were to post the drifting characters to the Open Characters thread for them to be adopted.
Above all, remember how your character’s history and past experiences will shape their personality. While it is not impossible to be oblivious, carefree, and fun-loving after a violent start such as Allyn’s, such a state of being may require work on the player’s part to make it believable.
- It might help you to write out your character’s history in a simple list or timeline format first, and later expand upon those bullet points. While expanding, think about how your character reacted to a certain situation, and why they reacted that way.
- Want to pick up a character from a pre-existing culture on ‘Souls? See the World Territories on the Wiki. Some player-created spaces are “open” — meaning you can create a character from that particular area! Other spaces are open for anyone in the game (e.g., major European cities). You can avoid coming up with a whole background culture if any of the pre-existing ones interest you.
- Think about your character’s relationships with other characters mentioned in their history. How did your character feel about their siblings, parents, guardians, alphas? How did that relationship change over time?
Another thing to consider when developing your characters history is whether or not the things you have in mind are clichés. There are a lot of interesting ways to give your character a unique backstory, but many popular tropes end up becoming overdone.
- While territory scuffles are common, a mass slaughter of your character’s entire family/pack/etc. is much less likely and a tired trope to boot — (TVTROPES WARNING) see The Last of His Kind.
- Not everyone out there is going to abuse their child/ward/random stranger they just met! Try and balance out your evil history influences with good ones. If you do intend to include abuse in your characters life, don’t forget that it will have consequences on their long-term emotional development and behavior.
- Consider not killing off your characters’ parents right away. Playing with parental relationships can be fun! Maybe your character isn’t orphaned, but estranged from their guardians? Maybe they got along very well, and your character misses them?
- If your character is an orphan, make sure they could have realistically survived! A yearling may be able to survive on their own, but a small puppy would need a new guardian, and newborns would need milk and warmth.
- Even “evil” characters need motivation. Rather than defaulting on a mental illness, give your character a good reason to be a troublemaker!
Here are three important things to remember when writing a character’s history:
- Why did they leave their first pack, and why are they now seeking a new pack?
- Who were their parents and other close relatives, and what was the relationship between them?
- Where was their former pack? How far away was it? How long have they traveled?
The first one is very important, as it is the defining reason why your character has come to seek a new life. The second may shape future relationships with others. The third is important for traveling distance: it’s important that your character originates from an area that is sensible for its age. If you’re not certain you’ve picked the right age for the traveling distance of your character, the Travel Guide should be able to help you. Check the Travel Guide, too!
Also remember, humans cannot be included in your character’s history!
Making Your Character Unique
Having a unique character makes it fun for you to play and for others to read about. A little twist is all it really takes; think about all the things that set different people apart in real life!
A trend in the roleplay community has been to give characters psychological disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. However, too many completely crazy characters running around doesn’t make for interesting or varied roleplaying — and mental disorders are not as cut and dried as some may believe! There are many different symptoms that play into every condition, and you might have more fun being subtle than being over-the-top.
You can also consider religion, prejudice, or even just a funny way of speaking to set your character apart. Your character also can adopt a wide variety of religions and belief systems, whether it’s as simple as respecting nature, belief in a moon or sun god/dess, or something more complex and based on human beliefs. How do these beliefs affect your character? Do they participate in any rituals? Do any of their beliefs put them at odds with others?
Prejudices can also help define and set apart your character as well. Traditionally at ‘Souls, there has been a divide between the wolf majority and the coyote minority. Where does your character stand on this issue? Are they indifferent? In more recent years, there have been more dog and jackal characters — what does your character think about that?
Though ‘Souls takes place in Eastern Canada, not all characters have to be local. Characters from the rest of North America are common, but we’ve also had a number of characters from various parts of the world. For more information on various parts of the world in the ‘Soulsverse, see Worldwide or the World Territories on the Wiki. Playing a foreign character can add an exotic touch to your roleplaying. Your character’s primary language may not be English. Your character may have different customs or traditions from their homeland. The possibilities are endless!
Last updated: February 9, 2014