Monday, May 23, 2011

Player Monday: 3 Character Examples Using the 3 Simple Questions

Last Monday I made a little post where I began focusing on providing resources for the other side of the GM screen - the players. I got a great response view-wise, and it seems like a lot of people were happy to see some discussion on how to be a better player. As a result, I'm going to start devoting Mondays to player resources that are going to hopefully help me as well as all the other players out there. I also promise to never write the word "playa" as a part of this new focus, no matter how often I would desire to do so. Consider it a Hopeless Guarantee!

After my post last week where I discussed three questions that can make every character (player or non-player) a more interesting, well-developed individual, I received a couple of requests for examples using these questions. As a reminder, here are the questions:

1. What does your character want?

2. Why does he or she want it?

3. What is he or she willing to get it?

Without further ado, I've decided to take three characters from pop culture that I think we can all appreciate and recognize as quality characters to show that, at their core, these questions are what make the character stand out as someone to remember.

Samwise Gamgee

Sam's one of my all-time favorite characters, and definitely one of Tolkien's most human, realistic creations. He's a fantastic example of how a supporting character can end up being just as useful and entertaining as the main character. To me, while Frodo is an interesting character, Sam is the real reason to keep reading, and because of his free will and the decisions he must make throughout the trilogy, the journey to Mount Doom really feels like it's more his story than Frodo's. So, what would his answers be for the big three?

1. What does your character want?

Sam just wants to be able to return to the Shire knowing that it is safe and that he has done his duty to his master, Mister Frodo Baggins. He'd be content simply gardening away for the rest of his life, but first he must see his mission through and support Frodo as best he can.

2. Why does he want it?

He wants to return home and live a quiet hobbit life because this is how it has always been. He's had a life plan since he was a child to take over the role of the Old Gaffer, raise a large family, and live contently as everyone he's ever known has always done. Sure, he wants to see elves before he dies, but really this "adventuring" stuff is just too loud and too much of a bother for a proper hobbit like Sam.

3. What is he willing to do to get it?

Leave the Shire, for one thing, and that's a big enough commitment all on its own for Sam, who has never done such a thing before. More than that, he is willing to put himself between any dangers that might threaten Frodo. His first instinct is, with sword and cast-iron griddle in hand, to leap in front of Frodo no matter the cost to himself. Beyond this however, he is willing to even sacrifice himself as well as Frodo if need be to be rid of the Ring and complete his quest. If he can't get home to see the Shire saved, at least he'll know that he's made it so as a direct result of his sacrifice.

Bruce Wayne

Though there have been many, many interpretations of Batman over the 60+ years he's been stalking the shadows of Gotham, there are some pervasive qualities that tend to shine through whether he's a vampire, a Green (or Yellow) Lantern, or fighting crime by Gaslight. He's an extremely interesting character as he succeeds in a world of (literal) supermen through his own genius and personal discipline. And yet, he still has an incredibly strict moral code to which he adheres. Let's take a look at what makes Bruce Wayne turn into The Batman.

1. What does your character want?

Bruce Wayne grew up an orphan, and at his core he wants a version of Gotham that maybe only he can envision. His city is unsafe and full of a seemingly endless supply of super criminals. Bruce wants a Gotham that doesn't need The Batman to ensure the safety of its children. Of course his mission has expanded over the years, but primarily he is a protector of the children of Gotham. As for his personal life, he wants a family. He strives to create what he never had growing up. He needs someone he can relate to and remind him that he is Bruce Wayne who disguises himself as Batman, and not the other way around.

2. Why does he want it?

Deep down, Bruce believes that if there was someone like himself patrolling the streets all those nights ago, maybe he wouldn't have grown up with only his loyal butler, Alfred to provide parental care. He knows that he is the exception among children who grow up after they've lost their parents as most orphans turn to the streets and a life of crime when abandoned. It's a systemic problem through out Gotham, and his actions in saving families and keeping them together are going to have wide-reaching positive effects that will help Gotham reach his vision of a safer future.

3. What is he willing to do to get it?

Bruce has one huge advantage over many other superheroes in the DC Universe - he's incredibly rich. He's willing to spend his fortunes to shift the tide of an unjust society in whatever ways he can. In addition, he'll put himself through countless hours of rigorous physical training so that every night he can go out and be capable of saving just one more person. He is also willing to let individuals like himself, orphans and misfits who show a spark of genius and the drive he has at the core of his character, into his life. He will let these individuals go out and put themselves in harm's way as well. The more interesting question is "What is he not willing to do?" In Bruce's case, he will not kill. He considers himself better and smarter than the villains he hunts and so should be cunning enough to figure out a way to defeat them without sinking to their level or mindless murder simply to get what he wants.

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce

I'm obsessed with Wesley. He's my favorite TV character pretty ever, and the reason is that his arc is so well-fleshed out and full that his story is more compelling than anything else I've ever seen. Wes is a force for good in a world dominated by demons and it doesn't know it. I will pretty much take any opportunity I can discuss his character, so here we are!

1. What does your character want?

Wes wants to do anything he can to make his father proud. Having grown up a son of one of the ranking Watchers in the Watcher's Council, Wes yearns to do good in the world's struggle against a literal presence of evil. At the same time, he is pulled away from being altruistic because of an unfulfilled love for his comrade in arms, Winifred (Fred) Burke. He wants to be (and often is) the smartest one in the room, and as a result, he desperately seeks new arcane knowledge to better prepare his team for whatever evil and chaos can throw at them.

2. Why does he want it?

Wes seeks love and approval. Whether it's from his distant, judgmental father or from the certifiably-genius Fred, he needs to know that the people he respects recognize his own value and abilities. He struggles with and often focuses on his weaknesses over his vast array of strengths. He wants to fight the good fight, but ultimately he's so laser-focused because he feels like he needs to prove himself on a regular basis. He's had his own share of personal failures, and rather than give himself credit for his successes, he'll focus on where he could have done better.

3. What is he willing to do to get it?

Like any good Watcher, Wes will do anything to save his friends and teammates. He will step forward to do the job no one wants to do because someone needs to do it. He will become numb to the concerns of those around him and even to his own concerns if it means he's doing the right thing. He will betray his friends if ultimately it will help them in the end. He will kill. He will get over it. He has to.

Alright, that was actually a lot of fun! I may start doing these Q&A posts a little more often as I feel like I've gotten down to some really great brass tacks on character development and player hooks. I actually learned some interesting things about a person's motivations and how they interact with their actions today, and I'm looking forward to next week having an opportunity to go into more depth about that. Let me know what you think now that you've seen the questions in action.

If you've got a character you'd like to see put up against the 3 Questions, feel free to make a suggestion below in the comments or shoot me an email at I can't guarantee I'll take your suggestion since I feel you have to really know a character to answer these questions, but I'll take any suggestions very seriously. Otherwise, if you've got a favorite character, send me the answers and I'd be happy to feature him or her in a future Player Monday post!

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  1. Hmmm... good three questions, even if your answers would only be oneliners.

    Could you also do Warrior Princess Xena, Indiana Jones, Darth Vader or Hannibal Lecter? No, you don't have to...

  2. I... could :D

    Actually, Darth Vader would be a very good character to do as, ignoring all acting aside, Anakin's story from Episode I to Episode VI is another really amazing character arc much like Wes'.

  3. Good stuff- nice to see the ideas put into practice with examples.


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