Friday, March 5, 2010

Free Download Friday: Complete Characters

Even the best Game Masters appreciate a little bit of help every now and then, if only for some inspiration. I'm pleased to provide that in a number of ways, today's being the introduction of the free-to-download gaming source: Complete Characters. Get your own copies of the two examples available in the Downloads section, then read on to see how it all works; it's free, after all:

Charles Temple, humble leader of survivors
Livingston of Birkenshor, Goblin prince of a Human house

UPDATE: These characters have been pulled for the time being, but will soon return as part of the new series of Complete Characters now available at DriveThruRPG. Give them a look.
Complete Character Basics
Complete Characters are 50% NPC, 50% adventure hook, and 50% world information. That's as high-quality a resource as you'll find on these blessed Interwebs. Each character comes complete with a description befitting a recurring character or plot point in your game. All have a basic background, something resembling a personality, and a physical description.

You need more than a simple character description to work an NPC into your game, so each is given a simple stat block in a sidebar that lists the Four Ss: Setting, Strengths, Setbacks, and Skills. These detail the type of setting for which they are intended, particular character strengths and flaws, and a list of their best and most applicable skills. These stats don't conform to any given RPG system, but are generic and easily adapted to pretty much any game. With these stats and the basic writeup, you can give your players an actual character to interact with, rather than just your generic, two-dimensional throw-away standards such as the gruff barkeep, sleazy weapons dealer, or cocky starship captain. What's more, they provide you a record of such characters so that when your players encounter them a second time, you have the particulars of the character right there in front of you without scrambling for notes or trying to recall that the name of a particular enchanting sorceress. Or, if you like, these Complete Characters provide a good foundation to build on if you want to do more.

Want to dig a little deeper? Each Complete Character also comes with some Extras, set apart in a sidebar. This mini-feature varies from character to character, but is intended to somehow provide a little bit of extra information, a bit of detail, or some extra nuance to the character for use in your game. It might give a little bit of information about a secondary character, the character's hometown, a list of people that owe the character money, or other tidbit that can be used or discarded at your discretion.

Tweaks are slight modifications to the character that might help him or her fit better into your campaign, or two your group's particular gaming style. It could be an extra little bit of optional background information, a slightly modified personality, or some other different slant to the same basic character.

Twists are extra bits of extra insight or development, but differ from Tweaks in that they involve moving forward in some way instead of providing extra, optional background. These are your most direct avenues to adventure, intrigue, mayhem, or all of the above.

And More
My wish is to be able to provide Complete Characters on one side of a single sheet of paper for easy reference. Since I hope to eventually include character art along with the descriptions, that might turn into two-page handouts. As it is, I'm still playing with the formatting and trying to get down exactly what works and what doesn't. In the end the character description and portrait may well end up on the front of the sheet, with more Game Master-centered information such as the Stats, Extras, Tweaks, and Twists on the back. However it finally ends up, all Complete Characters will share the format so you don't have to go scrambling every time you want to utilize an Extra or a Twist.

Help Wanted
Feel like you can provide art for one or more of these bad boys? Have you used one and hated it or loved it? Have suggestions on how formatting should go? Let me know. You're just not allowed to complain, seeing as they're free and all.

Happy Friday!


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