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Writing and Playing an Interesting Character

Don't Panic!I've been roleplaying for a very long time and one thing that has always interested me is how people come up with the backstories for their characters. A lot of it is based on personal experiences - the things we go through in our lives influence our characters.. When I look back and see how my own characters have progressed, it’s very clear to me where events in my life have influenced my character's direction. Our own experiences help us to build a believable character, one that you can enjoy playing and others can enjoy playing with. There’s a little of ourselves in every character we portray.

An interesting backstory is the cornerstone of every interesting character. Think about the events in your character’s life that have led up to this point, and, more importantly, the events in the wider universe that would have influenced them. Where does your character fit?

For example; in Star Trek: Engage's main timeline, the Dominion War was over a decade ago. You should keep this in mind if you’re creating your character as a war veteran to avoid ending up with a rosy-cheeked 18 year old who would have been very young while the war was going on. Obviously this discrepancy could draw the other players out of the story you're building, and detract from the experience you're trying to create. We’re planning special events that take place during the period in the Star Trek universe - consider joining one of these events when they are held. Look at the universe your character is inhabiting and calculate when and where certain things have happened and how his or her experiences would have been changed by those events.

One of the basic building blocks of storytelling is a character’s inner struggle. Flaws give a character depth, they give you something to build from when roleplaying with other people, a stepping stone for interesting experiences or situations. While it might be tempting to play as Q, a hyper-intelligent Borg survivor, or a 9 foot tall telekinetic Betazoid with the strength of ten Klingons, it soon gets old not only for you but also your fellow players and your Game Director. When all you have is a hammer, suddenly the entire world begins to look like a nail and problems start to have one solution. Give your character strengths, but temper them with vulnerability. Weaknesses endear us to others and your fellow crewmembers will grow fonder of your character.

Your fresh-faced 18-year old Academy graduate may be one of the most brilliant Neurochemists that has ever been known, but you don’t want to end up being the next Wesley Crusher. Give her some obstacles to overcome, or situations presented by your Game Director to react to: perhaps she has a fear of blood, or sensor systems are completely beyond her and anything technical goes straight over her head. Maybe she doesn't like violence and is a staunch pacifist (not that it’s a weakness!), or she finds it a challenge to pass the Starfleet fitness test. Don't be afraid to fall back on the old tropes like being an orphan, issues with parents or siblings, etc., but don't solely rely on them for character building. Struggle is what builds experience and generates the depth of character that will carry her through the years she might be played.

However, don’t take it too far - just as a flawless character can be tiring, a hopeless one can be difficult to find an effective place for - you need to make sure your character has a good balance between the two. Data was an Android, strong and smart, but he also struggled struggled with emotions and had trouble dealing with social situations and his fellow crew. The challenges he faced and overcame are the main reasons he is still such a fan favourite with viewers of the show. Your Game Director will always work with you to make sure that your character feels like a vital and useful part of the story arc while staying true to who your character is and the issues they have to overcome.

Remember that Star Trek: Engage is a community game. You are playing with other people and building off of each other's experiences. Talk with your fellow players, discuss directions for your character's own personal story with your new friends and grow together as your characters share the same experiences. Does he fall in love and start a family? Has his child been captured by slavers or pirates and Starfleet are unable or unwilling to help? What lengths will your character go to to save the person they love? Will they risk court martial, demotion, or even death? Challenge your character and challenge yourself and your fellow players, build stories together through logs and collaborative works and you'll find that the experience is greatly increased for the whole community. Remember that above all this is a creative outlet, a writing group, and we can’t wait to see what you come up with as you join us in building the Star Trek: Engage universe one character at a time.


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