Character concepts come from a myriad of sources. Sometimes we take an idea that is tried, tested and true. On other occasions we branch out and try new builds. Of course loading up Character Builder and looking for the optimal combination of class, race and feats can be a lot of fun and very satisfying.
For many character concepts we draw inspiration for a variety of sources. Whether this is fiction, personality quirks, or mastery of a weapon this single concept can lead to a deep and complex character.
Novels, movies, and television are all phenomenal ways of researching a character concept. Use what you find and bring it to life in the form of a new D&D character. The beauty of these mediums is that you do not need to confine yourself only to traditional fantasy sources. While fantasy sources are obviously great and require less work, there is no reason why a modern or futuristic character can’t be used to inspire a D&D hero. Just look at how we used the television show Lost as inspiration to create familiar characters in D&D terms, re-imagining them as D&D racees and classes in Lost in Eberron. One of my previous characters was based on Indiana Jones. He was a Bard who taught at university during down time between adventures. You can always “borrow” a traditional archetype and use that as a character concept as we previously discussed in Playing a Recognizable Archetype.
Often our inspiration for our characters will come from a single personality trait, quirk or distinguishing feature. A character with a pronounced limp or a limb that doesn’t work properly. Maybe the character has a lisp or a physical disability. From this quirk comes a full fledged description of the character. Perhaps a slumped shoulder is from an old war wound or facial scars from a magic experiment gone awry.
Perhaps it’s the desire to be like Drizzt, but more than one character I’ve developed has been inspired by weapon choices. From dual wielding daggers, axes and short swords I’ve used almost every combination I can think of – except scimitars. Other times I want a Fighter who can use an axe like Druss could in Legend. Perhaps it isn’t weapons at all, but physical perfection that you seek making Bruce Lee or Jet Li the inspiration for your character.
When looking at weapons as a source of inspiration you can take two points positions. First is the cool factor where you aren’t concerned with damage output. Instead you want a concept that is interesting. Perhaps a spiked chain, whip or a character who throws daggers. The second concept is damage output, you are looking for the biggest, baddest weapon you can find. With this in mind it’s simply determining what weapon type you are looking for and then taking the necessary weapon proficiency feat.
There are various ways to design a concept for your character. I’ve only touched on three ways to begin designing a character. There are many other options available to use. How do you design the concept for the characters do you play?