Inspire Confidence – Playing fun PCs

In a world full of dragons, trolls, and faeries the most important creatures are the Player Characters, without PCs we have no reason to play RPGs. How do we help our player create fun to play PCs though? If you’ve been reading this blog, you already know the answer – you talk with them!

Getting started

Before everyone sits down at a table with their dice in hand and dreams of adventure in their hearts, players need to create characters. I personally struggle with making my PCs, because I have to inhabit my PC’s head space before I understand who they are and what their long term trajectory is. The primary reason for this is that my experiences have taught me that whenever I plan for something, the game goes off in some unpredictable direction and being flexible allows me to create PCs that fit into the campaign better. The drawback is that I don’t have a good feel for my PCs in the early sessions, sort of like wearing new shoes.

All that being said, it is best to give some consideration to what your PC was like before the campaign began, how they got to where they are, and why they would be going on an adventure in the first place. Some of the necessary information comes from your GM and asking pertinent questions:

  1. What system are we playing in? If it’s a Pathfinder game, find out where the campaign will begin and where the bulk of the adventure will take place. Playing a Halfling in Varisia is going to be much different than playing a Halfling in Cheliax.
  2. Check for limitations from the GM – classes, races, or other special considerations like alignment or deity restrictions – or anything else the GM may wish to limit.
  3. If you’re playing a published campaign, check out the player’s guide or other player specific resources.
  4. Attend the Session 0 or encourage the GM to have one, making PCs together can help solidify the group before game play begins.

What’s your motivation?

Basic information like alignment, class, deity, and race can fill in a lot of the early questions about who your character is, but individual PCs are more than just the top lines on the character sheet. Where did they grow up? Why are they going on an adventure? Why are they adventuring with the other PCs?

Unlikely Party. Photo by Youtuber TexasGirly1979

This last one is sometimes the biggest hurdle I face – why is my vigilant cleric PC of the adventuring variety travelingwith this wacky crew of circus drop outs (actually happened once)? Why is my stoic elven slayer traveling with a halfling midwife of Pharasma and gnomish travelogue writer oracle (playing this game now)? Why do I always play serious PCs (the real question for anyone who actually knows how unserious I can be)?

Chances are you’ve found yourself in the same situation and the best advice I can provide to you is “go with it or make a new PC who can”. If the other PCs really ruffle your PC’s feathers in the beginning, it’s not going to get any better as you go along. As long as all the other players are following the guidelines you were all given, the only thing you can change is your own outlook on your PC’s life. Try to work with the other players to uncover the redeemable qualities of one another to determine why you stay together. This is why a session 0 is invaluable to a game, it allows everyone to talk about what they are thinking, how they’re planning to role play, and it’s a time when everything is still soft enough to be molded into a better cohesive group. Having a connection and motivation to work together other than “the adventure/GM says we have to” will make all the difference in your gaming experience.

We have recently started 2 new games with 2 new gaming groups, some of whom we have never gamed with before – specifically the halfling midwife and gnome oracle, who have after only one gaming session become 2 of my favorite PCs because while neither is specifically designed for “adventuring” but have found themselves there very quickly, they decided that their PCs met in the washroom, discovered another little person who felt out of place and have become fast BFFs. They are hilarious to watch in action as they try to navigate the parts of the adventure where they’re out of their depth, but they both really shine in their areas of expertise. My PC, an elven slayer, and the human ranger are the closet things to friends the other one has, so our party of 4 – to pairs of friends – were able to gel quickly since we had ties that predate the adventure, even if it was only a minutes in the washroom and a drink at the pub.

Changing along the way

Mouse and Frog, by National Geographic.

It can be frustrating to not get your character to the place you envisioned when you first sat down and worked up your stats, however it’s not uncommon for games and groups to go in surprising and unexpected directions as the game evolves. A good GM, and players for that matter, can take small idiosyncrasies and turn them into game and character hooks. Nebulous ideas that I have early on cement as I get to know my character and revisiting what my PC’s goals and their backgrounds with my GMs to let them know about new development in old “news”.

This technique is especially helpful for established PCs who don’t feel like they “work” in the story or when a PC is lost and a new PC is introduced. Don’t get hung up on your ideal PC, work on getting your best gaming experience with the people at your table, ideal PCs will just follow.


Monica Marlowe

Monica Marlowe is the 2015 Paizo RPG Superstar. Winning the contest launched her freelance game designing career. Her winning adventure, "Down the Blighted Path" and PFS scenario "Captive in Crystal" are available through Paizo. She’s publishing additional gaming materials under Marlowe House and through 3rd party publishers. Monica is also active in the ongoing education in gender, sexual, and racial equality in the gaming community. Driven by a desire to see a more diverse gaming community, Monica has joined the Know Direction network to help and encourage all gamers, veteran and new, to find their voices. Monica lives in southwest Ohio with her husband, Andrew, and 2 children, Kate and Thomas.

1 Comment

  1. Joe Collins

    Millinarsted is an Oracle? Please don’t tell me there are two gnomish travelogue writers out there!