Character Descriptions

Thursday, 27. May 2010

Any existing character in the storytellers world needs to be described in order for the players to get a feel for them. This includes the storytellers characters and the players characters. There is somewhat of a format to make this process simpler, and it’s based off of what people actually look at. There is a fine line between detail and too detailed for most people, and the tolerance varies depending upon who is reading it. Typically a couple of paragraphs are enough to get most details taken care of.

Typically upon noticing someone for the first time an impression is made of that person. This is made of the characters general composition, so starting there is a good place. A general impression of what the characters is wearing, the characters posture and general demeanor is useful here. General physical characteristics such as height, weight, and hair color and style all fit into this impression. Scent and sound are also important here, assuming the characters are close enough to notice it. A character with a slight scent of fine perfume will be immediately received differently than one that reeks of body odor. The character may creek as they move, or scrap their feet on the ground. All of which are important descriptors.

Immediately after that, one tends to notice a persons face. The eyes are a good place to work from, what color are they? Do they have anything interesting about them, such as bloodshot, or maybe a different iris. From there facial features are important, maybe the character has a double chin, or they gaunt and skeletal. Other distinguishing features should be taken into account from there such as scars, tattoo’s and jewelry. Scars and tattoos may represent experience, while jewelry is obviously tied into wealth or possibly the aristocracy. Perhaps the characters skin has an unhealthy tinge, or glistens.

After all this, a more inclusive look at the character is useful. Examples would be finer details about the characters attire, what they might be carrying that’s not immediately obvious, habits that would be noticeable, but only after a little while. Maybe the character shifts their weight a particular fashion, or perhaps the have a number of hidden weapons that aren’t immediately obvious. Their clothing may shift in color or texture, or be oddly unmoving depending on how it’s affixed.

Using this method, you can produce layers of details about characters depending on how much interaction they have. You can simply read down the character description, with the most obvious features being first, and the others possibly be revealed in time as need be. More importantly, people with a shorter attention span can read just the short notes on the character, and get a good feeling for them.

The goal is to produce living, breathing characters without boring anyone.

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