Hello, dear readers! Here’s your friendly blogger and author, Jarred, with another look behind the scenes of this blog’s main story. In the previous Behind the Scenes post, I talked about my choice to turn the sessions of the Dungeons and Dragons campaign I’m currently participating in into a fantasy fiction story. Today, I want to go into the mental processes and discussions I went through while creating my characters, Uri and Graenas. (I should warn you, this post may give you insights into my characters that yet have to be revealed in the story itself. If that kind of information ahead of time bothers you or you think it might ruin your enjoyment of the story, I suggest you skip this post.)
When Joe, my husband, suggested we start a new D&D campaign, I told him that I wanted to focus more on building up the role-playing aspect of the game. I wanted to act out dialogue more and give more character development. I also realized that to do this, I needed to do a better job envisioning my character. So rather than create a character and then try to fill in their backstory after the fact, I decided to build the character up with some sort of backstory from the beginning.
With that in mind, I picked up our print version of the Player’s Handbook and flipped through the classes, trying to decide what kind of character I wanted to play. I’m a fan of spellcasters, so I decided to start looking at the warlock class. I immediately got thinking about my warlock’s patron. What kind of a patron would he have? What kind of relationship would he have with that patron. I knew that i wanted him to have an uneasy relationship and I was leaning towards a fiendish patron. I also decided that I wanted my warlock to be a half-elf. It seemed like a good choice, and gave him some extra characteristics. It also provided me with material for further developing the twins’ backstory, though i would realize that until later.
As I mentioned on the about page of this blog, I thought that we were going to need a tanky character for the campaign. Rather than make Joe create an NPC for the party to take all our hits for us, I offered to play two characters. As a result, I decided that character would be a druid. Yes, poor Uri started out as little more than a utilitarian character and I actually still worry that it shows. I don’t feel she’s quite as fleshed out as a full individual as Graenas is, though I keep trying to think of ways to improve on and more fully develop her character.
At any rate, as I considered my half-formed druid character, I thought it might make for some interesting storytelling and character development if these two characters were siblings, possibly with a competitive rivalry between the two of them. I talked it over with Joe, who agreed it was a good idea and through our conversations, we decided the pair would be twins.
At some point, I had an epiphany. I had already known that my warlock (neither character had been given a name at this point, mind you) would be gay and had considered making the siblings compete over romantic interests. Then I realized that some sort of fight between the twins over a boy would be the reason the brother would become a warlock. I spent twenty minutes writing a quick story about how a broken-hearted teen, Graenas — this is the story that also forced me to go the an online name generator and name the twins — ran off in tears because the boy he was crushing on had kissed Graenas’s own sister, Urizenya. A fey deity (whose name was “XXXXX” in the story, I kid you not) found young Graenas and offered to help him gain his crush’s attention for “the occasional favor.” Out of love-sickness and youthful foolishness, he accepted and the pact was made.
As I wrote that story, I realized I needed to change my plans slightly. While I had originally planned to have Graenas make his pact with a fiend, it seemed to me that an arch-fey patron made more sense for his backstory now. It also got me thinking of how Graenas’s relationship with his patron would cause him to favor illusion, trickery, and persuasion as a means of getting what he wants and getting things accomplished.
I showed this very rough story (which I hope to polish someday and post to the blog as an extra) to Joe, who loved it. We sat down to start doing some research and agreed that Auril would make a great patron for Graenas. She seems to both of us like the type that would latch onto a love-sick youth and give him what (he thinks) he wants in exchange for his servitude. And it gave Joe all kinds of ideas for how that relationship might play out in the campaign. We’ve talked about it at a very abstract level. Let’s just say that we both agree that there will come a point in the campaign where Graenas is going to have to make a Very Big Choice™. I’m honestly not sure what Graenas’s decision will be when we reach that point. It depends on how Graenas’s character develops over the course of the campaign and possibly what decision I think will make for a more interesting story when we reach that point.
At that point, i tried to think a bit more about Urizenya. As I said, it’s been more difficult and tentative with her. At this point, I had decided that the twins would have grown up among the humans. I recalled that both humans and elves are distrustful of half-elves and treat them as “the other,” so I pondered on that for a bit. I realized that humans may distrust and other half-elves, but young human boys might still find a half-elf girl their age very pretty and “exotic.” So, it made sense to me that the human boys in their village would be constantly trying to pursue Urizenya. Uri, who would get the sense that these boys were only interested in her as an “exotic prize” to win, wanted nothing to do with it. She would cope with this by avoiding the village and the boys as much as possible. I realized that this meant that she would spend much of her time with her father, who was now an elven druid and her teacher in my mind. The boys’ treatment of her (and the men who would treat her the same way when she became an adult) gives her an extra reason to be distrustful of humans (especially human men) and much prefer her time among the plants and creatures she loves.
Joe and I are still working on figuring out what Uri’s personal quest in the campaign is or what motivates it. We’ve toyed with the idea of giving her a malady of some sort for which there are rumors of an old druidic remedy that she can seek out, though we haven’t finalized that. For now, she’s just serving to maintain the natural order of things and make sure her brother doesn’t become a total tool for Auril. But like I said, I hope her own voice and life story becomes stronger as we continue.
Anyway, that’s a look at what went into the creation and evolution of the twins before they even started their adventures at the virtual D&D table. It’s not a full picture, mind you. For example, I haven’t even mentioned the significance of the sewing kit that Graenas carries or Uri’s relationship with and affinity for wolves (I haven’t fully figured that one out myself, but know it’s a thing with her).
Now it’s your turn, readers! What are your experiences with character creation? It doesn’t matter if it’s for writing fiction, playing RPG’s, or both. Do you have a preferred process? What are the questions you ask yourself? How important is backstory to you? Do you come up with first or fit it in later around your story and/or character sheet? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments.
May your adventures be epic!