|Persona Lite II
When I first started in Amtgard, I was busy getting a brand new shire off the ground. I didn’t have the time to devout to developing an intricate, in depth persona. I did, however, decide on a few essentials.
First of all, for the purpose of suspension of belief, I wanted someone similar to myself in appearance – i.e. male, thin, red hair, 5’6’’ tall. While it may be fun to play something completely different (female, and ogre, whatever) on occasion, this is much easier in table top RPGs than in live action, and in live action, you can always do this occasionally with a monster class (no reason for 50 different personas). The purpose here is to be believable to yourself and to others and also to come up with something that won’t get in the way in quests and such. A persona needs to fit physically as well as when acting, otherwise it will be too confusing to those who don’t know you. (I know the hard core actors are saying, “If I’m convincing enough in my role, I can be anything”. Sure, but if you’re 7 ft tall and weigh 130lbs, maybe a dwarf isn’t for you.)
The next thing was a name. This was the easiest part for me. I have written hundreds of pages in the last decade or so on my own original settings for roleplaying, so had a wealth of fantasy resources that could never be construed as “ripping off” someone else’s character from a book or movie. I just took the name from one of my few male elven NPCs and stuck with it. You may be thinking, “How flurby is THAT?” Well it is, but the roundabout point is just pick something original that you won’t mind using for a long time and sounds like it could go with your persona.
After that, I still had to develop a character. Or did I? I realized immediately two important things: First of all, Amtgard has no real back story or campaign setting to base a character off of. Unless you’re an Amtgard veteran designing a new persona, chances are you know nothing of internal group and inter kingdom politics, so you can’t go off that (and even if you did, those people don’t know your new persona, so how do you explain that credibly?). Second, I was NEW! I didn’t need an intricate history about how I was the half dragon son of Odin and the deposed prince of a far off land hunted by dark elves. Roleplaying is about character development, so why over plan things? I was a first level character who was new to all that the world of Amtgard had to offer. Like any RPG, a new character is weak and inexperienced. Most 1st level D&D characters have just completed their training – why should Amtgard be any different? So I made some quick decisions based on the class I was going to play and my knowledge of the greater Amtgard world. I started out as a monk – so I had just left my monastery with the intent of honing my training in the “real” world. I didn’t know much of the world because, well, I was in a monastery. Simple, and it worked.
The next required element of a persona is personality. How is my persona different from me in the real world? The obvious is that my persona is from a medieval fantasy setting whereas I am from a modern, non-fantasy setting. Without changing anything else, I already have to roleplay a lot. I have to ignore all knowledge of computers, automobiles, and modern society. I have to assume I know about feudalism, nobility, middle age weaponry, and magic. While, personally, I think just that much is enough for Amtgard – people know what to expect so it doesn’t get confusing – I want something a little different just to be more fun.
Here’s what I settled on: With an elven name, I had to be either an elf, raised by elves, trained by elves, or some combination. I wanted to just stick with a human background for simplicity. Since I had red hair, I finally went with my persona as a half elf. (I read a book once where all the half elves had red hair.) This way, I could justify an elven name but still have an entirely human background. An easy character to get into, and one that I could see playing for years. A simple persona with little defined history and who was essentially me, but still a fleshed out persona. While not so great for tabletop gaming, it is ideal for a LARP.
To flesh out a character beyond something like this, you can use real life occurrences and Amtgard experiences to expand the persona. Real life stuff is put through a sort of “Amtgard Filter” to apply.
Real: My first land was the Shire of Cloud’s Edge, which I helped found.
RP: Drilillithon encounters a lawless land of savages shortly after leaving the monastery and aids them in establishing a civilized government. He even serves them as Sheriff for a time. The newly established Shire swears fealty to the nearby Kingdom of Dragonspine. King Randall II grants him the title of Lord in appreciation for this work.
Real: After switching to Wizard and earning second level in Monk and Wizard, I left Silver City, NM to join the Army, going to basic training and AIT.
RP: Having helped end the anarchy in Cloud’s Edge, and having discovered in himself a potential for magic use, Drilillithon continues his wanderings, traveling to the east on a quest for self discovery and training in the mystic arts.
Real: I am stationed at Ft Lewis in Washington.
RP: Drilillithon emerges from the wilderness near the Duchy of the Shrouding Mists. Having become more comfortable with the use of magic, he continues his practice of wizardry, even attempting to become the local master of the Wizard’s Guild. Unfamiliar with the strange elven dialect used to compose his name, locals begin to call Drilillithon “Bumblebee” after his black and yellow garb. Much later, Drilillithon joins the fighting company Draconis Mortis, and changes his colors to black and green to declare his allegiance to that company.
As you can see, most character development has taken place after I joined Amtgard, not in a prewritten history about what came before. While this article probably looks by now like an excuse for me to force my persona history on the reader (it is, in fact, the most in depth writing I’ve ever done on my persona), the purpose here is to illustrate a philosophy for persona development and in character play.
For those out their who are really into in game RP or have many years in the game, this approach shapes up to a pretty decent ongoing storyline. For those anti-RP stick jocks, take a close look above and you’ll see very little in the way of hard core roleplaying. This “Persona Lite” approach to roleplaying can enhance the game without overburdening it with multiple personas and too complex characters. It can add a bit more flavor to battlegames without drowning them in flurbiness and can allow the roleplayers to get back into those battlegames without abandoning their personas or downgrading to a mere pseudonym. It’s not hard to be in character if the character is simple but still believable. A little can go a long way. This is what I consider the middle ground between the sport only players and the true LARPers and, I feel, would be the best way to bring the RP back to the game for the betterment of all.
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