15 Years of RPG Characters

Like many a life-long nerd, I have played several roleplaying games over the years and have built up quite the collection of characters in the process. In addition to being a garden-variety nerd, I also happen to be a drama nerd, so bringing a character to life is what really draws me to table-top RPGs. As a result of this, I have several characters that I’ve grown really attached to over the years and, reminiscing about them recently, I decided to document them here for posterity.

As you’ll soon see, they start out pretty simple and grow more complex over time. I often start with a basic character idea and then work from there, filling out details as the campaign continues. I also lean towards characters which are charismatic and competent, although I also enjoy playing meat-headed idiots for a laugh. Hopefully you find these characters interesting or inspirational!

Before we get into the TTRPG characters proper, I need to lay a little bit of groundwork. Many of my characters had their basis in one of two sources. The first is Warhammer, where I came up with the names for many of my heroic characters, which would later be repurposed for my own story or RPG characters. The second source of inspiration was a series of unstructured, narrative RPGs I took part in from 2005 to around 2010. These RPGs might be more accurately described as cooperative storytelling, but many of my characters were introduced and developed here and then later readapted or repurposed elsewhere.

Barloq (DND 3.5E)

My very first TTRPG character was back when I was in high school in a very basic and very short-lived campaign with a couple friends. It was a wild and messy time for several reasons. First off, I had to keep this campaign very much on the downlow because my parents still believed the Satanic Panic was real and that Dungeons and Dragons was a gateway to the occult and I didn’t need them getting on my case about it. To try to compensate for that, I tried to play a melee class and gravitated to Paladin, the perfect class for a conservative youth. To no one’s surprise, I was also kind of an idiot – somehow I didn’t understand relative heights and weights at this point in my life. My only real reference point was the character creators in NHL video games, where I’d max height and minimize weight, my dumb brain thinking that I didn’t want to look “fat”. This would result in 6’10”, 130lbs monstrosities and, being a moron, I applied this to my Paladin as well.

Anyway, I called the gangly knight “Barloq”, the name of my Saurus Oldblood general in Warhammer, and jumped into our first session where he was joined by a spell-caster named Atlas. It was as basic as could be – two adventurers at a tavern, when the bartender asks them to deal with some rats in the basement. Unfortunately, this is where the next big mess came in – the DM accidentally made these rats several levels higher than us and they mangled the spellcaster, nearly killing him. I landed a critical hit with my longsword and, feeling sorry for his mistake, the DM allowed it to kill both rats to get us out of the situation alive. It was incredibly messy and, while we had fun, the game died out right there. It was an early taste of fun for me, but I was disappointed by just how short-lived it was and really had no time to develop any sort of character for Barloq. The basis of the character still lives on within me though, with the name “Barloq” being one I reserve for noble, chivalrous, good-natured knight characters ever since. Perhaps one day he will come back and get a full reimagining…

COMMANDO, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1985, TM and Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

Bruce Phipps (GURPS)

My first real, long-running RPG experience, Bruce is the character that inspired me to write this whole list in the first place because there’s no way that I’m ever going to get to revisit him. He came about as a result of a perfect storm when I was in university. My friend who had played Atlas in the previous entry joined me in a GURPS campaign that was being run on a forum we were part of. My character was motherfuckin’ Bruce Phipps, a chain-smoking, heavy drinking, meathead, body-building bruiser who had a heart of gold, dedicating his life to protecting his young daughter. It wasn’t unusual for me to play a bruiser, especially at this time, but playing a full-on 80s action hero was totally different and something I could only really pull off in an RPG system as flexible as GURPS.

Unfortunately, the campaign itself became a bit of a shitshow. It started well enough, taking part in mob hits and the like, and the game lasted several months. However, the GM started to get a bad habit of introducing characters from movies and TV shows into the story like a bad fanfic. Soon enough, shoehorning Agent 47 and Dexter into the story became more of the driving motivation of the story rather than the characters’ actions and effectively made us unable to deal with a swathe of unkillable, overpowered enemy NPCs.

During one particularly memorable session, one of these cameo characters was trying to get us to all surrender our weapons to them. Everyone else in the party did, except Bruce. I saw absolutely no reason why Bruce would do this and so I stood my ground and kept passing persuasion checks, halting the game for a good half hour due to Bruce’s stubbornness. Eventually I relented just to let the story continue, only for the character to immediately reveal that this was a trap and that we were all now captured. Everyone else let out an audible “WHAT THE FUCK” but I just shrugged and was like “Told ya so…”

The actual mini I made for Andilus Gallich!

Andilus Gallich (Deathwatch)

After the GURPS campaign crashed and burned, I was still itching to play a TTRPG, but this time I wanted to be the GM to avoid any of the issues I’d experienced in my games thus far. I was mulling all this over when I discovered that Fantasy Flight Games had a Warhammer 40,000 RPG that let you play as a space marine called Deathwatch. My nerdy heart went aflutter and soon I had a whole campaign set up and an avatar to use in game, Andilus Gallich. He was initially named after the Wolf Lord of my Space Wolves army, Andilus Greatsword, but over time I started to develop him more as his own character and appended the “Gallich” to differentiate them.

Andilus Gallich was a Space Wolves Assault Marine seconded to the xenos-hunting Deathwatch and put under the command of a mysterious Inquisitor. Along with a Librarian, Apothecary and a squad of tactical marines, they went on a number of action-packed adventures, purging the foes of the Emperor across the galaxy.

Being Space Marines, I was kind of limited in how I could differentiate Andilus Gallich and give him a personality, but he was a mentor figure for his squad, a factor which I would eventually use to allow him to be promoted to the venerable office of Wolf Priest. The Deathwatch campaign went on for quite a while, but scheduling issues caused it to end prematurely on two separate occasions before I finally decided to pull the plug on it for good. The ruleset of Deathwatch itself was also an issue, being very combat-heavy was fairly boring to me, especially because the game was wildly imbalanced – the standard bolter was capable of slaying any enemy with ease, let alone that one of our squad members was armed with a heavy bolter that could liquefy tanks in a volley! I had to introduce rule changes several times to even have a chance of balancing things and while I had a better handle on what worked by the end of the campaign, it was routinely a curb-stomping for the players.

Ellri Hraustr (DND 5E)

After Deathwatch I was out of the TTRPG scene for several years until one of my friends invited me to play a DND 5E campaign he was organizing. While I was tempted to reimagine Barloq again, I decided that I wanted to play a character who was the polar opposite of what I usually play in RPGs (heavy armoured, giant sword-wielding, lawful good fighters). This gave me the basis for the character, a morally-shady spellcaster. I was initially going to make this character a sorceress, even more outside my usual comfort zone, based on Tharja from Fire Emblem: Awakening, but when I found out that there were going to be female characters played by actual women in this campaign I decided to just go with a male sorcerer. For his name, I went back to the well of my WH40k characters for inspiration, taking the name of my Rune Priest (aka, Space Wolves mage), Ellri Hraustr. Little did I know that this character I made to get me out of my comfort zone would end up becoming by far my favourite character I’ve ever created.

In my friend’s campaign, Ellri believed that he was destined to bring about the downfall of the gods. Unfortunately for him, he was also a socially-stunted hermit who caused several of his companions to hate him and who planned on murdering them all on several occasions. That said, given his high Charisma stat, he also ended up being secretly super hot and was seduced by a pirate party member in a hilariously awkward encounter. The group went on several adventures but, just as the story was getting interesting and we were really starting to enjoy the characters, the campaign abruptly died out. However, the pirate’s player and I continued discussing our characters’ adventures and this led to us running a follow-up “one-shot” where they led a treasure expedition. This “one-shot” ended up leading to several other follow-ups, until it turned into what is now an on-going, several year long campaign with hundreds of pages of supplemental character interactions outside of the actual game sessions. During all this time Ellri has grown and matured, enduring tragedy, confronting his own demons and trying to make amends, all while raising a daughter and trying to deal with the numerous threats bearing down on the ones he loves. He’s grown so much in the past several years and become a truly rounded and compelling character. He also been with me as I became aware of my own social anxiety, to the point where I’ve kind of passed it onto him as well, inadvertently. It’s funny, for a character I initially created to be the opposite of what I usually do, Ellri has grown on me, challenged my “normal” for an RPG character, and even changed my view on the world in some respects.

Finn Rand (DND 5E)

If there’s one character class in DND which I’d be least likely to gravitate to, it’s the monk… which ironically made it the class I most wanted to try next. So when a friend asked if I wanted to create a guest character for a one-shot they were running, I knew what class I was going to go with. For further inspiration, I had recently watched Iron Fist season 2 and enjoyed it, so I knew I wanted to play a character who was essentially the Iron Fist. I have this strange appreciation for the show’s version Danny Rand, in spite of the various ways it bungled the character. During character creation I rolled really well, getting above average or great on all but one stat… which ended up being a measly six. Given the character’s reputation, I put this towards Intelligence and thus Finn Rand was born.

Finn Rand was an idiot monk who would was obstinately a pacifist, but had no compunctions about beating the shit out of people with his fists alone (in fact he loved it and the contradiction had probably never occurred to him). The party got into a showdown with a group of giants who he tried to negotiate with. When that failed, he negotiated with his fists, constantly using ki to knock them over. He also passed on little bits of wisdom to the party which, while maybe not appropriate to their situation, were no doubt inspirational. He was kind of fun to play, but very one-dimensional since punching and knocking things over were the only things he was really good at and his abysmal intelligence meant that he was useless outside of combat (and, in fact, could be dangerous if he suggested that they try to talk to the vampire lord and see what he says). As a result, I don’t imagine that Finn will be making any returns, but stranger things have happened.

Maria (DND 5E)

It’s undeniable that Dark Souls and Bloodborne marked a shift in the sorts of RPG playstyle I liked. For years I had always liked a heavily-armoured, slow, greatsword-wielding beatstick with little to no magical ability. This carried over in my first playthrough of Dark Souls 2 (my first Souls game), but eventually I started to gravitate to the playstyle I had developed in Bloodborne – low HP, low-to-medium armour, sky-high attack with some magical abilities to supplement it. I like the trade-off of death after only one or two hits in exchange for high mobility, speed and attack, it means that if I make a mistake I suffer for it and it encourages flawless play to get through. Naturally, inspiration from Souls and Bloodborne would eventually carry over into a TTRPG character.

One of my friends wanted to DM a DND session set in the Magic: The Gathering universe and gave me a guide of some characters I could build. This setting had vampire as a player species and I decided that I wanted to give this a try (the vampires in this setting are FAR less powerful than they are in DND). I also decided that I wanted to finally try my hand with a female character and very quickly gravitated to a character inspired by Lady Maria from Bloodborne. I was going to play a monster-slaying paladin at first but then I found out that blood hunter had been added as a new playable class and it was too perfect to pass up. A stoic vampire who uses blood magic and sacrifices her own lifeforce in order to slay monsters, no matter what the cost? I was stoked and couldn’t wait to play her.

…of course, that game never ended up materializing and I was forced to wait until another friend started a game and said we could bring characters we’d previously made into it. I jumped at the chance and Maria finally was unleashed. Funnily enough, this was in a game crawling with regular DND vampires, so the differences between them and Maria were even more pronounced. She was really fun to play as well, effectively translating that high risk/reward playstyle that I love so much while also being interesting character to roleplay outside of combat. Early in the campaign she purchased a magic rapier which she soon discovered was cursed. She kept this on her the whole time, but in the climactic battle against an evil sorcerer, she finally unleashed it, knowing that she would need its power to overcome the villain, no matter what it would cost her. The blade drained Maria’s lifeforce, but still she held on until the villain was vanquished and her entire arm was shriveled and weakened. It was tragic, but she was stoic about it, simply saying that “It needed to be done.” I really hope I get the chance to play her again – this campaign is on a bit of a hiatus after the first storyline ended, but we all said that we wanted to continue it, so hopefully Maria will be back slaying evil soon!

Hatred Bonefury (DND 5E)

Bards tend to fit within a very specific mold, so of course I wanted to make a “different bard” when a friend suggested that we create weird characters for the one-shot they were running. Being a huge metal head, that meant a half-orc bard who goes from town to town playing heavy metal concerts. I quickly gravitated to a Nathan Explosion-type character, complete with the death growl voice (which seriously screwed up my voice for several days every time I played this character… but worth it). This also meant that I was playing an idiot once again, so we got moments of heavy metal badassery where Hatred summons a tree to life to play in his concert, while also believing that the monster ravaging the town is a potato and therefore needs to be turned into chips and french fries to be defeated. He was also, in true Nathan Explosion form, only concerned about the monster because it was killing his fanbase off while they still had money to spend on merch. Again, he was a one-dimensional joke character and my voice suffered in the two sessions this one-shot lasted, but goddamn if he wasn’t a blast to play. I hope that Hatred gets to go on tour again someday soon.

Orome Arrick (FFG Star Wars)

Back when The Force Awakens came out I bought the Force & Destiny rulebook for Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars RPG line. Unfortunately, I never really got a chance to get a game together until this past month when an old acquaintance suggested we get a game going. I quickly gravitated towards a pilot and scoundrel character in the vein of Han Solo, while also trying desperately not to just be a bargain-bin copy. I came up with the name Orome Arrick – like many of my characters he was named after a character I created during the cooperative storytelling RPGs I took part in ~15 years ago. Orome is a young, cocky flyboy, a very capable pilot forced into the life of an outlaw. I was inspired by Netflix’s The Business of Drugs, which shows how cartels exploit desperate people at every level of their business in order to enrich themselves and wanted to reflect that in Orome’s backstory. As a result, the Black Suns criminal organization has manufactured a situation where Orome owes them a crippling debt and has become addicted to booster blue, providing them with a dependable and convenient revenue stream which enriches them several times over. Orome dreams of a life where he can break free of these obligations and explore the galaxy at his leisure, but most of his time is preoccupied navigating the seedy underworld he finds himself in and doing whatever he can to get ahead. We’re only a couple sessions in so far, but I’m really enjoying Orome as a character and can’t wait to see where his adventures will take him.

G’dorah Hirose (DND 5E)

My latest character is one that I haven’t gotten the opportunity to actually play yet, but which is an interesting concept I have wanted to try for a while now. I’ve always found Hannibal‘s portrayal of prosopagnosia fascinating and have thought that it would be interesting to roleplay a character who cannot see the faces of those around them. There’s an delicate balance to strike here – obviously I don’t want to be disrespectful to people who actually suffer from prosopagnosia, turn the condition into a dumb joke, or make it a trait that completely defines the character. I’m relishing the challenge though and think that I will be able to portray it respectfully when the time comes.

Drawing back on the very earliest days of my character creations, this character is a dragonborn paladin (similar to the Lizardman general who kickstarted all of this). I came up with the name G’dorah Hirose for two reasons: as an obvious tribute to King Ghidorah and the actor who portrayed him in the Showa era, and as a “Dorah the Explorer” joke (hey, I said I wasn’t going to make fun of her condition, not that I have to be completely straight-faced). Dorah is a holy warrior of the goddess Eldath and suffered a serious head injury fifteen years ago against a demonic foe which caused her prosopagnosia. She believes that the condition is a result of demonic scarring upon her soul and it has caused her to become even more pious in an attempt to cure her affliction through atonement. I’ve always loved fanatical characters (Maria fits within this mold as well) and G’Dorah is poised to give me even more opportunity to explore this fascination. Even if this potential campaign falls through, I can guarantee that G’Dorah will be getting used sooner or later!

Please follow and like us:

Love/Hate – Bloodborne

While it isn’t actually a part of the Souls series, Bloodborne is in a similar mold with some very key differences. In fact, FromSoftware would take inspiration from Bloodborne and carry it forward to the Souls-series proper. As a result, it’s clearly worth lumping this game into this love/hate series and see how it relates with the main franchise.

Love

  • Fantastic Style and Aesthetic – Bloodborne‘s biggest asset is definitely its aesthetic. Whereas Dark Souls is somewhat stifled by its fairly generic western fantasy style, Bloodborne has a much more stylish aesthetic, mixing steampunk, Gothic architecture and eldritch horror elements together to create a stunning world which is just incredibly cool to inhabit. This also extends to the game’s fantastic soundtrack, which further helps to sell the setting. Werewolves, religious fanatics and Lovecraftian horror in one package? Sign me the hell up!
  • Combat System is Really Fun – Despite appearing very similar on the surface to Dark Souls, Bloodborne‘s combat system is one of the main things that sets it apart:
    • Whereas Dark Souls emphasizes patience and defence, Bloodborne encourages aggression and speed. The speed of combat has been increased significantly through increased character fluidity, more aggressive enemies and the game’s lack of viable shields, meaning that you have to dodge constantly if you want to be successful.
    • Contributing to the aggressiveness of this game is the Rally system, which allows you a couple seconds after taking a hit to regain lost health by damaging the foe. This can be the difference between life and death in a tight situation and can save you having to use a blood vial to heal if you’re quick enough. Whole playstyles can be built around this system and it really does make you want to be more aggressive and risky while playing because you’re rewarded for your efforts.
    • Also contributing to the fun combat system is that every weapon has a secondary function which changes their moveset in interesting ways. For example, the hunter’s axe is a short-ranged slashing weapon, but can be extended to a two-handed weapon to give it increased range and sweeping attacks, whereas Ludwig’s Holy Blade is a longsword that can be sheathed into a slow and heavy greatsword. These are just a couple examples, but it’s a really cool system that makes all of the weapons far more interesting and fun to use. Plus these trick weapons actually make a noticeable difference in combat, some being more viable in certain situations.
  • Exploration is Very Rewarding – Bloodborne is arguably the Soulsborne game closest to recapturing the sense of exploration and interconnectedness of the first Dark Souls. It is considerably more linear and flat in comparison, but the game’s world is more interconnected than Dark Souls‘ sequels. Also, perhaps most importantly, it rewards exploration with some fantastic and meaty hidden areas. Discovering the pathway to the haunted castle of Cainhurst was one of the moments that made me fall in love with this game in the first place.
  • Memorable Characters – I would argue that the cast of Bloodborne are at least as iconic and memorable, if not moreso, than the cast of Dark Souls. Eileen the Crow and Lady Maria in particular are unforgettable and have stuck with me to this day (to the point that I have posters of each of them). The game also has such interesting and complex characters as the Plain Doll, Gehrman or the imposter Iosefka, not to mention even the minor characters such as the Odeon Chapel Dweller and Arianna which are quite memorable in their own right.
  • Streamlined Mechanics – While Bloodborne uses a lot of the framework of Dark Souls, many of the more complex elements have been streamlined or removed. Some people feel like this makes Bloodborne a lesser experience, but I feel like it’s just trimming the fat and focusing on pure enjoyment rather than busy work. For example, equipment load has been eliminated entirely (halle-freaking-lujah), meaning that you can focus your stats entirely on your actual preferred weapon loadout, rather than struggling to wear any kind of armour. Also, weapon upgrades are significantly easier, requiring only larger chunks of blood shards to increase your weapon’s damage and slots that you can put various damage-altering runes into. Magic has also been streamlined to items that you can use which spend your blood bullet supply and are just based off of one stat.
  • Some Fantastic Bosses – Bloodborne has an array of fun bosses, nearly all of which are top notch. Father Gascoigne, the Bloodstarved Beast, Martyr Logarius, Vicar Amelia, and Rom the Vacuous Spider are all great fights in the main game. The DLC also knocks it out of the park with some unforgettable and difficult fights. Lady Maria of the Astral Clocktower in particular is the boss which made me fall in love with the sweet, sweet satisfaction of trying and retrying a boss until you have learned their patterns. Ludwig, Laurence and the Orphan of Kos are also extremely difficult bosses, providing some of the ultimate challenges for veterans and newbies of Souls games alike. Soloing all of these bosses recently on a NG+ playthrough was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had playing a video game, especially Ludwig and the Orphan, both of whom felt impossible to beat when I first played.

Mixed

  • Chalice Dungeons – The game’s chalice dungeons are an interesting and unique addition to Bloodborne which haven’t really appeared elsewhere in Souls games. They are procedurally-generated dungeons that offer players the opportunity to hunt for rare loot and face off against greater challenges and restrictions (such as defiled dungeons which halve your health bar). They also have some unique lore (providing the background to the game’s events), enemies and bosses that can’t be encountered elsewhere, giving them more prominence to the game experience. Unfortunately, chalice dungeons are also just kind of a slog in part due to the procedurally-generated nature of them which makes them all feel “samey”. Some people might be into them, but the only reason I forced myself through was that I had to in order to get the game’s Platinum trophy (and was by far the biggest obstacle to achieving that goal).
  • Invasions Are Rare – Due to removing hollowing from this game, FromSoftware had to change the way that invasions work. In Bloodborne you can be invaded if an enemy ringing an ominous bell appears in your world, which happens when you call for a co-op partner, or in certain areas where they spawn naturally. On the one hand, this allows players to control when they expose themselves to invaders rather than having it be constant, but it does make them very rare to come across.

Hate

  • Low Build and Equipment Diversity – Players who are used to Dark Souls‘ “play however you want” philosophy will probably be disappointed by Bloodborne‘s comparatively-limited selection of weapons and equipment. While each of these weapons play fairly differently due to the trick weapon system, the game just has less options across the board. With no encumbrance stat, players are forced into a light armour character. Magic isn’t really an option either – you can acquire items, such as the awesome Augur of Ebrietas, which serve a similar function, but are not something you can create an entire build around due to their very limited uses. Firearms are also rather limited, requiring excessive investment in Bloodtinge in order to do any real ranged damage, making them only useful for parries usually.
  • Blood Vial Farming – Bloodborne‘s healing system involves a consumable item called blood vials, which you can carry up to 20 of at a time. Unfortunately, they have to be acquired throughout the game world. You might easily have hundreds of blood vials in your inventory, but you can hit a difficulty spike that drains all your blood vials, forcing you to go back to earlier areas in order to farm more. I had this happen once or twice late in my first playthrough and it was incredibly annoying. This was even worse when the game launched, because your on-hand inventory wouldn’t automatically refill from your supply when you died.
  • A Couple Lame Bosses – Bloodborne‘s stable of bosses has less stinkers than most Souls games, but there are a few which stand out because of how much lower their pedigree is than the others in this game. The Witch of Hemwick in particular is not very challenging at all, and Micolash is embarrassingly weak for a late-game boss, and you spend more than half the fight just chasing his cowardly ass through the arena. In fact, the last 2 or 3 bosses before the final boss(es) are pushovers in comparison to the early-to-mid game bosses, suggesting a lack of proper playtesting to balance them out.
Please follow and like us: