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Kismet's Character Palette

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201409292320"201409292320" by yokofakun is licensed under CC BY-NC 3.0

Kit: They weren't human. They were monsters.
Sister Jude: All monsters are human. You're a monster.
-- American Horror Story: Asylum

 

Download Kismet's Character Palette in Google Sheets

Back to WoD Character Index


Roleplaying characters are more than just statistics - they are made up of all the reasons why the points are placed just so, and encompass elements that never quite make it onto a character sheet. They start out with the very basics, like a name, a class, and a function in the story, but with further development, they start to feel like people you could actually meet. When characters take on defined personalities, a sense of history, and internal consistency, they enrich the whole experience. Fantasy worlds seem brighter when the people inside them are more believable. Quests feel vital when the NPCs you're trying to save have personalities worth fighting for.

The character palette is a tool I have developed to aid in detailing characters of all kinds, which means that players and Sts can benefit from using it. The palette can be used at any point in a game, from character creation onward, to inspire and organize your thoughts. It can help with generating a backstory, memorable points, and ties to the world. It can also develop a character layer by layer, in a process that doesn't have to be overwhelming or rushed. You can come back to the palette to put a new twist on an old favorite and to update NPCs so it feels like the world is moving around the player characters.

The palette is a form that you fill in based on your preferences and needs. It is not specific to any system or type (or even to roleplaying, so you could use it for fiction, as well). At the top is space for the character's name and setting. Along the lefthand side are sixteen categories of information that are important to know about a person. Right next to those categories are examples. The 'Physical' category, for instance, pertains to things like the character's coloring, bearing, and clothing.

The first blank column is 'Description,' and this is where you can provide information at the most basic level. You don't have to fill out all or even most of the categories to get a good view of a character. You will decide which categories are most important and which ones can wait for later. I suggest you fill out at least four to make the character distinct, but that's just a rule of thumb.

You will most likely start in the 'Description' column and you might end your inquiry there. If you would like to add depth and facets to a character, you can move over to the next column, which is 'Opinions.' Ask yourself: what is your character's opinion about their political office? If you want to go deeper, ask yourself if your character gives people one impression, while keeping their true opinions to themself. Just thinking about your character's reactions to the different aspects of their life can draw up a lot of information.

If you'd like to go even deeper, head to the 'Motivations' category. Ask yourself what your character thinks their motivation is for something, like pursuing their reputation. The character might think they're keeping up appearances out of genuine pride, and that is their conscious motivation. But subconsciously, the character is desperate to fit in with their new social class and is terrified of losing their standing.

The 'Past' is the last category and furthest to the right, and in a way it can lead to the deepest insights about a character because a person's history can help to explain their current condition, their opinions, and their motivations. History is not destiny but it is powerful; it echoes across our lives in ways we don't even realize. By figuring out what happened to make a character choose their skills, you might uncover their reasons for many other decisions. A perfect example is Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride. Instead of becoming a sword maker like his father, Inigo pushed himself to become a swordmaster so that he might one day avenge his father's murder. He is always on the lookout for the six-fingered man and is willing to recklessly risk life and limb to get his hands on the villain.

The Blank Palette

Name:

 

Setting:

 

Categories

 

Description

Opinions

Motivations

Past

 

Directions

give details about the character in at least 4 categories

what the character thinks about the issue, publicly & privately

what drives the character, consciously or subconsciously

what the character has endured publicly or privately

Physical

coloring, bearing, disabilities, style, clothing

 

 

 

 

Possesions

gear, cash, land, magical and mundane items, vehicles

 

 

 

 

Encountering

locations, conditions, and reactions to other characters

 

 

 

 

Residence

living arrangements, common locations

 

 

 

 

Skills & Function

profession, craft, specialties, powers

 

 

 

 

Hobbies & Interests

outside of work, apart from earning a living

 

 

 

 

Plans & Plots

goals, hopes, dreams, schemes

 

 

 

 

Secrets & Mysteries

things hidden by or from the character

 

 

 

 

Obstacles

enemies, deadlines, conflicts, impairments

 

 

 

 

Reputation

type, reach, impact

 

 

 

 

Politics

party, activities, standing, office

 

 

 

 

Culture

original, current, apparel, symbols, accent, folkways

 

 

 

 

Temperament

natural inclinations, basic personality

 

 

 

 

Morality

beliefs, virtues, vices, religious affiliation

 

 

 

 

Irrationality

superstitions, obsessions, phobias, prejudices

 

 

 

 

Relationships

family, friends, academic, romantic, business

 

 

 

 

Sample Character Palette

I filled out the palette below using information for a character I played in a Changeling: the Lost game. Even though it's been some years since I last played him, the palette helped me to remember many things. And since I know the character so well, I was able to fill in many of the categories without too much work.

Name:

Scott Morgan, Changeling

Setting:

Long Beach, CA

Categories

Description

Opinions

Motivations

Past

Physical

slender white male without much to distinguish his looks for good or ill

knows he's not a stud and doesn't like it, but clothes only fix so much

makes up for the outside by being brilliant

knew that being a doctor would earn him respect and attention

Possesions

items he's enchanted, part of a hollow, an apartment, a car, and a heavy truck

he's only just begun to gather things to study and enjoy

wants a place to experiment and to hole up, and he enjoys the Hedge

used to live alone, but prefers sharing space with his few trusted friends

Encountering

travels to investigate for the Autumn Court

wants to be able to deal with others

thirsts for knowledge about the WoD and the Keepers

used to be much more of a single-minded loner

Residence

stays often with his girl-friend at her place, and shares a hollow with her and their friend Matt

his apartment is for crashing, but isn't really his home anymore

keeping more than one location means he'll have somewhere to go if need be

was raised middle-upper class, but lived hard in Arcadia

Skills & Function

doctor who works at a clinic and offers services to the freehold

likes having yet another use for the freehold

wants to keep changelings alive and well

likes to heal, but also to study and sometimes to torment

Hobbies & Interests

the Hedge, goblins, plants, the supernatural

everything is so damned fascinating

anything could turn out to be beneficial

didn't used to care so much about hobbies

Plans & Plots

create a group to share information about the Fae

needs to find a way for the freehold to get along

wants to take the fight to the Fae some day

used to think he was busy, but he had no idea

Secrets & Mysteries

is in contact and studies with his fetch, Stan

Stan's a bit bloodthirsty, but amazing

Stan is a part of Scott, in some ways closer than a brother

he never had such a weird relationship with family

Obstacles

freehold tensions, Tosk the Jack Ketch, his Keeper Salmissra

these fuckers get in the way of the real things he came back to do

takes threats very seriously and plans against them all

 

Reputation

useful but sometimes an asshole

cares what people think of his trustworthiness and abilities, but little about what people think of his personal life

wants to cultivate connections so he can learn more and trade easier

makes more of an impact now than he ever did before

Politics

prefers the Summer Court faction that is more strategic and careful

charging into the Hedge will kill us all

maintaining a safe freehold means we can get to other things

never gave a shit about politics before

Temperament

in his hedge-spun lab coat, he becomes the emotionless doctor and experimenter

went out of his way to recreate the experience once he got back

the control and distance soothes him

he develop-ed the persona in Arcadia

Morality

there is stranger shit in Heaven and Earth than he ever dreamed

hurt the deserving and the willing, but try not to lose control

when you're in the same boat, you might as well paddle together

used to be an atheist

Irrationality

came back from his Durance a sadist

reigns bloody urges in by finding a willing partner

needs control, and to hurt females (who stand in for his Keeper)

would never have dreamed he would like hurting others

Relationships

keeps in light contact with his family

they feel normal, sane

knows he'll have to give them up for their own safety

appreciates them more now

 

has a girlfriend in Desiree, which is a very lucky thing

likes the vulnerability that she tries to cover up, needs to connect with people to remain balanced

knows she will likely move on, and their history won't prevent it

used to be very jealous but now just accepts the time he has with her

 

has a friend and traveling companion in Matt

feels glad to have a big walking carpet at his back

knows he needs multiple friends and can't put all his eggs in one basket

knows he wouldn't have had a friend like Matt if it weren't for being a changeling

 

has a boss in the Autumn Court seneschal, Anthony Breer

feels Anthony is also a colleague who understands what they're up against

wants to help Breer get the work done and knows that Breer will support him later

thinks that he and Breer would have gotten along as regular mortals

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