Traveling the stars and exploring new worlds is more thrilling with characters you care about. Learn the essential elements of creating character depth and details for your Traveller RPG experience.
(Part 5 of the 11-part series, "The Ultimate Guide to Playing Mongoose Traveller RPG")
Mongoose Traveller- Character Details
You’ve rolled up Characteristics, figured out Modifiers, chosen your Skills, and pursued Careers.
You now have a character with a backstory, something Mongoose Traveller is good at. However, your character can be so much more.
Creating a character with depth can help make your Traveller games more engaging and immersive. With just a little bit of work, you can have a well-rounded Traveller character with motivations, emotions, and relationships of their own.
Follow these tips to create a memorable, multi-dimensional character that will help bring your Traveller game to life.
Give Your Character A Unique Backstory
When your character has a rich and detailed backstory, it can help inform their motivations, personality, and beliefs. It can also help you make decisions in the game when you’re not sure what to do.
Every Mongoose Traveller character already has the skeleton of a backstory; all you have to do is expand it a bit with some memorable details.
Look at your character sheet and review all your character has been through, from their early life experiences on their homeworld to their Background Skills, their Career choices, and Events.
Taking your Career Events one at a time, jot down how the Event made your character feel and what their friends and family thought or felt about the Event. How did they react? Did you even tell them? Was your character treated like a hero or a pariah? How did that make your character feel? Do they have any regrets or would they do it all over again?
Think about what shaped your character into the person they are today. The more interesting and unique you can make your Character’s backstory, the more memorable it will be for you and the other players at your table.
Establish Their Goals and Motivations
Traveller characters with clear and compelling goals are more interesting to play. Think about what your character wants, why they want it, and what drives them forward in the pursuit of their goals. The character goals should be meaningful and relevant to their established backstory.
Think about what your character will do if they accomplish their goals. Do they want to be rich? OK. Why do they want to be rich? What would they buy if money wasn’t a concern? How would achieving their goal change their life? After achieving that goal, what would the next goal be, why, and what is the motivation to achieve it? What are your character’s long-term plans?
Develop Your Character’s Personality
Think about your character’s personality. Has their life experience caused them to have an optimistic outlook or a cynical one? Are they cheerful or gruff? Are they full of energy or lazy? Do they demand the finer things in life or are they just happy with practical comforts? Are they hoarders or do they prefer a simple lifestyle with few possessions?
Strengths And Weaknesses
What are some of your character’s strengths and weaknesses? What are they good at, and what could they improve on?
Values And Beliefs
Think about your character’s values and beliefs. Are they fundamentally more conservative, more liberal, or a mixture of both? Are they religious? Do they have strong political opinions? Are they virtuous? Do they hate injustice? Does your character depend on scientific explanations to cope or do they rely on superstition? Do they gossip or are they private? Do they do anything sneaky or dishonorable? Do they give to charity or tip well? Maybe they are miserly and frugal.
Character Quirks And Mannerisms
Think about any personality quirks and particular mannerisms your character might have. Do they have a habit of smoking or chewing gum? Do they like to whistle a tune while they work? Do they like to leave little origami animals wherever they go? Are they afraid of clowns? Do they respect authority figures no matter what?
Maybe they have a facial tick, a twitchy eyelid when they get angry, or maybe they have a limp from an old injury. Do they like to daydream, play video games, or read the news? Are they generally on time or are they known for being late? Do they look for get-rich-quick schemes or do they prefer to go slow and steady toward their goal? What do they get excited and passionate about and what boors them?
All these little imperfections and signature mannerisms add depth and life to your Traveller character.
Keep in mind that most characters in epic stories change over time. Think about ways you might want your character to change over time as well.
Create Conflict and Tension
Think about creating conflict and tension in your character’s life. This will normally come naturally during play, but you can find ways to integrate the external conflict going on in the game with internal conflicts your character might be experiencing.
For instance, maybe your character is a strict non-drinker but finds out they can make some extra money running cargoes of Rigelian whiskey to a nearby mining colony.
Maybe your character hates authority but works as a security guard or mercenary. How do they come to terms with contradictions?
Maybe your character used to be a drug addict and is tempted to take some recreational drugs they find or can get from the streets. Maybe they go to a party where everybody is doing it. Do they succumb to peer pressure or stand their ground or leave?
When building conflict and tension, it should be within the context of the games and the antagonists presented. Having conflict and tension with other players or their characters can cause problems at the gaming table. It’s OK to have minor conflicts as friends sometimes do, but do not let them grow into something game-changing or alienating your players or their characters.
When dealing with conflict and tension, fall back on your character’s history to make informed choices. How will your character’s background, experiences, and motivations affect the way they handle the situation at hand? Conflicts push your character to grow and evolve and bring out your character’s strengths and weaknesses in interesting ways. Keep in mind that in novels, the character changes through the course of the story; yours will change too.
Building relationships between player characters is something that Mongoose Traveller tries to accomplish during the character creation process. Characters usually start the game already knowing each other and sometimes even sharing common Life Events or Career Events.
Try building better relationships between your characters and the other player’s characters. If they are adventuring together because they are business partners they might be more loyal to each other than if they are just two people who happen to be working together at the same factory. In what ways can you build synergistic connections with the other characters? Maybe there is something you can teach another character, or a cool trade you can make with them that benefits both characters. Maybe one of you can be the brains and the other could be the brawn and you’d be unstoppable in your ventures.
Another cool option is to build relationships in the game with important NPCs in the setting. Maybe develop Allies from your character sheet in more detail and think of ways you could develop that relationship over time. These efforts could be source materials for adventures.
The last thing to think about is your character’s looks. You can use your character’s Characteristics, background, and Career choices to help influence your character’s appearance and style.
You might think of detailing the following:
- How tall is your character? Does their height ever interfere with anything? Are they tall enough to bang their head on every doorway, or are they short enough that they can enter small spaces?
- How much does your character weigh? Do they have to watch their diet or are they just naturally at that weight?
- What color is their hair? What kind of hairstyle do they wear? If they are male, do they have a beard or are they normally clean-shaven? Do they have a lot of hair or is it thinning?
- What about their eyes? What color are they? Does your character glare at everybody or maybe have a hint of mischief in their eyes?
- Think about their skin tone. Is their complexion smooth or ruddy? Do they get sunburned easily or maybe blush a lot? Do they have rosacea? Any facial scars? Why?
- What kinds of clothes does your character like to wear? A uniform or a jumpsuit? Maybe just jeans and a leather jacket with the ship or company insignia on it? Does your character like to wear hats? What kind? What kinds of shirts, pants, and shoes do they like? Do they wear sneakers or boots? What colors do they like? Do they dress in bright colors or do they prefer drab tones? Do they use a belt or prefer suspenders?
Taking some time to daydream about your character and fill in these details can go a long way toward enhancing your enjoyment of the game and bringing your character to life.
Think about how you might identify your character in a large group of people. What differentiates them from others? What information would you tell somebody to help them accurately pick your character out of a crowd?
Think About It
By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to bringing your character to vivid life. Your characters will have depth and nuance.
A unique and interesting character is a benefit not only to the owning player but to all the players at the gaming table.
Consider that your characters are the heart and soul and your Traveller game. Investing a little time and effort into their development can have big payoffs in terms of engagement and enjoyment.
You now have a character with a unique background, style, history, mannerisms, and belief system. Your character is no longer a cardboard cutout archetype, but a well-rounded person with goals, motivations, and relationships.
Your Turn. What Do You Do?
What are some of your favorite character mannerisms, goals, and outlooks on life? What do you do to bring more life to your characters?
Please share with us in the Comments section below.
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