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The Importance of a Character History in Role Play

Not all players take into account the importance of their own personal history.  How many times have you worked along just the role play events as your history, even if that role play, for one character, happened in many different sources such as MIRC, IRC, MSN Chat, AOL chat, Yahoo chat and other 3D virtual worlds and games.  These are a great base for the history of our characters in worlds we find in SecondLife Sims and other game environments.

When we are engaged in role play, the basic constructs of a scene or setting are already there.  We can gather from other players, from objects in the environment and from the environment itself, but even more powerful is when we can draw on past role play or even events in our own histories.  “What’s my motivation?” We often hear the “joke” about actors saying that a lot but it’s not actually a funny question, it’s very serious.  If they do not know what’s happened in a character’s past that has made that character who and what s/he is, then how would s/he know how and why a character would react?  In role play, we can get this inspiration from our character back-stories!

Ever walked into a role play environment and not had the foggiest idea how to get started? what to do or say first? how to engage someone for the first time?  This is most often because you did not really think through your character’s history!  You can use this history to create role play for yourself and those around you … are you afraid of spiders because of something in the past? Are you hunting the murderer of your father?  Did you suffer a traumatic experience that left you emotionally scarred, and that determines how you react when someone says to you “hey good lookin” ?  It all matters and if you have this well thought out, you will NEVER be at a loss for what to do in RP.  It’s what all the best rp’rs out there do!

A character sheet provides you with the general constructs of your life in this role play and it may be good to stop and remember how to develop your character BEFORE you take that character into role play … it’s like … getting up and going to work only to discover AFTER you get there that you forgot to change out of your jammies.  From this starting point of character development, we can determine the background of our personalities, our style, age, what we look like, if we are good, semi-good, or down right evil and thus, figure out the way we interact with others.

Organizing this history is not always easy for everyone.  How do we do this?  After all some of you may have never stopped to fully think through the character’s history. Let us walk through a simple basic idea of a history:

  • WHO
  • WHAT
  • WHEN
  • WHY
  • HOW

A set of examples are as followed…

  • I am alive
  • I was born in the village of x-x-x and I am ?? years old
  • I am a Mxx or a Wxxxx
  • I have a brother or sister or both and as I grew up I was sent to learn how to xxxx and xxxxx.
  • With these skills I have achieved a start in my life and am now pushing forth to xxx and will one day be what I strive to be xxxxxx and rule my destiny, or at the very least get a decent cup of coffee.

You may think it is silly with all the xxx’s but that’s how you have to fill in the blanks.  After all, it is called creativity.

You may also find that a personal history adds to role play.  By way of example, Jingo is a European on a Japanese sim, thus, he has to have a base for who how where when and why he is in Edo Japan.  This can be simple or complex ranging from; Jingo got washed ashore and now he’s is screwed; OR — Jingo is there because he was sent by the Jesuits.

Here are some other examples —

  • Marcus is in a post apocalyptic urban sim and his history will explain how he survived the great cataclysm and is only half mutant and why he hates them so badly that he hunts them down and slaughters them.
  • Renee is a roman citizen who has three lovers in her history — one she loves, one she hates, and one who is playing her for a fool.  She doesn’t know it yet, but the lover she hates has been murdered by another character giving others in the role play community an opportunity to role play, discover the murder and figure out the mystery of “who done it.”
  • The Jarl of a Gorean sim owns a slave girl (wow now there is a surprise right?) who was once free.  Her personal history is very important to her personality, even if she is a slave.  To not know where is she from, how she got there and how she was enslaved leaves a lot of blanks in her character and thus holes in her ability to role play and the ability of others to role play with her.

But there is something else … a lack of personal history leaves the door wide open for misinterpretation and confusion later on. Personal History also allows you and others to work on powerful back storylines, to continue on role playing together and to develop conflicts or mysteries and intrigue as well as some comical relief.  This also helps YOU to become a power role player to create your own storylines and not be dependent on others for role play. After all just because a person owns the sim they cannot and should not be required nor expected to work up storylines 24/7.

Always remember … in all role play, YOU are the character.  Aid one another and add to and help all the new players and the old by contributing when you can for role play is another word for community interaction and live script writing!

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