Character

meaning and definition

Jump to section

    What is a character in an RPG?

    A character in the context of roleplaying games (RPGs) refers to a fictional persona that exists within the game’s universe.

    Characters serve as players’ avatars, acquaintances, enemies, and friends within the story and may possess unique backgrounds, skills, and personalities.

    Characters can be broadly categorized into two types: player characters (PCs), which are controlled by the players themselves, and non-player characters (NPCs), which are managed by the game master or narrative framework.

    In text-based games, characters are developed through written descriptions, dialogue, and actions.

    The concept of a character has evolved from simple, one-dimensional figures in early games to complex, multifaceted personalities in modern RPGs. This evolution reflects the increasing emphasis on storytelling and character development in the genre.


    Character FAQs

    How do you create a character in an RPG?

    Creating a character typically involves selecting or inventing a backstory, personality traits, and physical attributes.

    In many RPGs, players also choose a class, race, and alignment that dictate their character’s abilities and moral compass. The process is often guided by the game’s rule set or a character creation tool.

    What is the difference between a PC and an NPC?

    Player characters (PCs) are controlled and roleplayed by the players themselves, making decisions and performing actions within the game’s narrative.

    Non-player characters (NPCs), on the other hand, are controlled by the game master (GM) or the game’s system and are used to populate the game world, provide quests, and support or challenge the PCs.

    How important is a character’s backstory?

    In an RPG, a character’s backstory can be fairly important, as it provides depth and motivation for the character’s actions within the game. The backstory helps players immerse themselves in the RPG world and can guide decision-making and interactions with other characters.

    Can a character evolve over time?

    Yes, characters often evolve over the course of a game and its story, developing skills, forming relationships, and sometimes changing their beliefs or alignment. This growth is a key element of the roleplaying experience, reflecting the character’s experiences and challenges faced within the game.

    Myths about characters

    One myth is that player characters need to be heroic or exceptional. While many characters do fit this mold, there is no requirement for a character to be heroic or even good. Characters with flaws, fears, and ordinary backgrounds can be just as compelling and fun to play.

    Another misconception is that a character’s story is set in stone. However, a character’s journey can change dramatically based on the game’s events and player decisions. Games like this are often tagged with the phrase, “Choices matter.”

    In multiplayer games with a heavy emphasis on roleplaying, characters’ stories are rarely set in stone and are often highly influenced by the actions of other player characters around them.

    Lastly, there is a misconception that GMs are the only ones who can create impactful NPCs. While GMs typically are the ones who create and control NPCs, players can also contribute to NPCs’ development in many cases. This is especially true for NPCs closely tied to their own characters, such as relatives, family friends, employees, and the like.

    Character examples

    • Alice, a determined elf ranger with a mysterious past and a quest for vengeance against the dark sorcerer who destroyed her village.
    • Dr. Julian Bashir, an idealistic yet flawed space station medic, navigating interstellar politics and personal ethics.
    • Marcus, a streetwise human rogue who uses his charm and wit to navigate the criminal underworld, always with an eye on the bigger prize.
    • Lady Evelyn, a noble human paladin, sworn to uphold justice and righteousness, battling internal and external challenges to her faith and authority.

    Related terms

    Related content

    Smiling blonde woman wearing glasses.
    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. "Be excellent to each other."