seaQuest: The Dawning
We can't take credit for this one, it is taken from the RPG Guide, whose link can be found on this site.
Used without permission.
Writing a Good Character Bio
A step-by-step guide to starting your character off right.
RPG play involves using a character or person that is created by you. This person is, in essence, a living, breathing person in the world of the RPG. Creating an original character gives you, as player, a chance to expand your horizons and explore new ways of seeing things. It's really a way of putting yourself "In the Other Person's Shoes" and gives you a place were you aren't expected to be yourself and act as you always do.
This is a place were you can let go of the trappings of your real-world "role" and pick up one that you normally wouldn't have. It gives quiet people a place to be loud and obnoxious, tactful people a place to be blunt and tactless, and emotionally stable people to have dark, moody personas. Some say playing yourself is actually harder in these games than a polar opposite would be, while others say that until you've learned the etiquette and developed a style you should pick a character that you're going to be able to flow with naturally rather than one you need to think about all the time.
This guide will work with the impression that playing yourself will be easier. If you believe that you fall into the other half where playing yourself is harder, this will still work but some of the suggestions are non-applicable.
The name is often the hardest part of any Bio. Not only does it set a tone for your character but it has to be something you like as well. Pick a name that you like but is also appropriate for the character's gender. Middle names are allowed but are completely optional, we'll put them in your bio but they aren't required and many characters will not have them.
Now, if you're looking to join the ship as an Ensign you probably would have gone through 4 years of Schooling at least. There are other special cases but most characters should assume this and and if you have another idea work it out one-on-one with the GM.
With that in mind please assume you are NOT a genius. The falls in with keeping your character real. You would most likely have gone to school somewhere between 17 and 20. Which means you would graduate at the age of approximately 21 to 24.
For a more highly educated character (GMs like these :), especially in the sciences and medical), you can assume the following. It takes 2 years for an Associates Degree, 4 years will get you a Bachelor's, 6 years earns a Master's, and 8 years will earn you a PhD (Doctorate). Medical Doctors will add another couple of years for their Residency (although you may join the ship to serve your Residency in our Medbay).
Other cases where your character would be older.
- If they went to school for one thing, quit partway through, and went back for a different specialty.
- If they have picked up degrees in more than one subject.
- If they have additional training (if you look at some of the Project: Minotaur bios you'll see evidence of this).
- If they've had postings prior to this (another very common circumstance, especially for those above Ensign).
- If they took years off before they went to school.
Sound Confusing? It's really not. The youngest your character would be (unless it is a special case, approved by the GM, of course) is 21.
PLACE OF BIRTH:
This can really be anywhere you want and is usually included in the Background or History section of a Bio. Yet it is important. Knowing where you grew up will change a great deal about your character. Characters from southern states may have an accent, ones from other countries may be bi-lingual, and where you come from will determine your race to some extent.
Lots of different areas are affected by where you're born. The place of birth may determine what schooling you recieve, or where you recieve it. It also may determine what you're interested in, some interests are more common in some areas than they are in others (although the effects of birth place on interests is very minimal).
It helps to choose an area you are at least slightly familiar with. Far off places might be nice but if you have no clue about customs or even the basics of climate and geography then it can make it very hard to write about home in your posts.
In most cases this will be given to you by the GM and is based on experience, your writing sample, and character information. Yet most new players will come in with the rank of Ensign. Please do not write your bio in such a way that the GM is forced to give you a higher rank. Most do not like that and some may reject your application on that basis.
Once given a rank, *do not whine*, deal with it. There was a reason you were given that rank and you *will* have chances at promotions. GMs hate people that whine and most will probably kick you right out of the game if you complain because you were not given the rank you wanted.
Don't be a stick in the mud. You will not spend the entire RPG on duty so give yourself something to do in your free time. It's advised that you give your character interests that you know at least a little about. For example, if you've never ridden a horse and you know nothing about them, then making your character an expert horseback riding is probably not very good. Whenever you write about that hobby any other player that actually does know about horses may be annoyed because you fall for sterotypes and/or simply mis-represent the hobby in a way that is not entirely flattering.
Interests are bound to overlap and by choosing ones that you know nothing about you run the risk of offending someone by mis-representing something they hold near and dear to their heart (especially in cases where the hobby is not always held in an entirely good light to begin with, you are simply furthering those sterotypes and promoting the mis-informed image).
Ok, there are a million and one languages on this planet and if your character can speak more than one, that's great. We may sometimes need help with translations and things.
Actually knowing and being fluent in these languages in real life is not necessary. Knowing a few fun phrases that you can throw in your everyday language can be fun but even that is not required. If it comes down to needing to translate we usually gloss over the actual foreign language and simply cut to the translation. That way your character can have languages that you really don't.
Alternate languages are not really necessary. They would be listed in the Education section of your bio and are merely a novelty. The only time they may be required is for a communications officer. If you look to seaQuest you'll remember that O'Neill had a large list of languages that he could translate. If you're the comm officer you would be the most likely choice for having a mile-long list of fluent languages.
Most will include at least through high school and then 4 years of some type of higher education (most choose the Academy for this). Medical will usually require education past that, especially for Doctors, you can assume that they aren't simply the CMO because they took a few biology courses in high school.
Science is another area were you will find characters with large amounts of higher education and often PhDs in their specialty. Command officers may have taken a couple of extra years of command school especially if they're transferring from the sciences or medical. Marines and the like may also have additional training time to hone fighting skills and Pilots may also have recieved additional flight school time.
Included in the history section this delves into where your character has been before. Is this their first posting? Did they spend a couple of years at a reasearch facility? Where did they take their residency if they're a doctor? Give your character a past of some type so that other characters know where they've been and what they've done. If you want to put them on other ships, don't worry about the names, just make up a couple or possibly use some from another character's bio (if the situation warrants it). Some ships are fairly large and you can both be on them without having to be close buddies while you were there or you could have been on that ship at different times.
Give your character a history. It will make them easier to write and for others to identify with. Include parents, old romances, awards and recognition, and life changing events.
Your history should not be along the lines of the ones that follow (these are generally frowned upon by GMs):
- You were found abandoned on the steps of a church without any data on who you were.
- You were found abandoned with no clue who you were, but with indications that you might not be a plain ordinary human.
- Strange events indicating you are not who you seem to be.
- You were raised by a pack of wolves.
- Anything else that's far from the human norm.
This does not mean you can't be an orphan, that happens all the time, just don't fall for the far-fetched romantic notions that are fed to us in movies. These situations are also too open ended for most GMs to accept.
Also a background that ranges too far from what you know can be hard to write and may hinder character development. For new characters I would stick with something close to who you are. Exploring exotic backgrounds should be left to the experienced players as they won't also be learning the basics and will be able to concentrate on the difference in background.
This is a detailed listing of the personality traits for your character. Again, first characters are easier to write if they are close to your own personality and once you have some experience you can go for characters who differ from you by greater extents.
This will give others insight into your characters possible reactions and will affect how they deal with your character in conversation. Please make it as detailed as possible.
What do others see? Again this may affect how you're character is viewed by others. Nervous habits, identifying marks, and old injuries can all fall under here. This will be our first impression of your character so make it good.
This is where you list allergies, phobias, physical handicaps (be they major or minor), and old injuries and illnesses that may be of interest to whoever plays the Doctor in the RPG. Be thorough and careful. The only place that you'll see absolutely nothing in this area would be in the Bios for some NPCs. As these are group works and developed slowly, through conversation with PCs, these items may not have been established yet.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Study other bios in the RPG to see what the GM is looking for. Each application will be a bit different and require different items. How an application is set up is the decision of the GM and depends on what is needed or wanted for that particular game.
Don't fall for the God Complex where your character has powers that are above and beyond the human norm. In seaQuest you can have the possibility of a telepath but if there is already one in the RPG you're applying for please don't add that. Most games will not allow more than one telepath on board. This timeframe also allows for the GELF and again more than one is generally not allowed. These are rarities, possible but not in large numbers.
It's generally bad form to have a character that is a secret agent. There are times and places for this but it is not generally accepted *unless* the current mission needs it. If you're interested in going this route with your character a private letter to the GM may be in order. They may have a special mission they'd like to bring that character on board for, yet they probably won't want it to be your permanent character. Ask before you head this direction with your bio. There is nothing bad about these characters but they are not always appropriate.
Don't make your character overly talented. They could be a super-star athlete at one or two sports but please don't make them unbeatable at anything they try. They may have a high IQ buy there will always be some subject they have trouble in. In real life people tend to fall into the following catagories:
- Very good in one area and fair to bad in the rest (these are the mission specialists, usually brought in for only one mission, not your everday characters).
- Fairly good at a couple of things and okay everywhere else (this is where most people fall, their specialty would be their strong points).
- Average in a whole lot of different things (your jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none persona, again, common for lower ranking characters who are still picking up experience, also found frequently in the Engineering section).
The most important thing to remember is that you should like your character. Once the character has been introduced you won't be able to make large revisions to the bio (some GMs will not allow any, some may allow small details to be changed) so you'll have to like who this person is before you start.
Keeping these things in mind while writing a bio should lead to a well-written, realistic character that any GM would be proud to accept into their RPG.