It has taken a some time, considerable thought, and a little bit of effort, but here is the final entry in the Character Wheel series. As promised, in the coming weeks I will compile all these various posts, edit and refine them, and put them out as a PDF so you can make better use of them.
By now, your character has a complex set of Attitudes and Motivations. You can describe him down to the mole on his left shoulder, and you know how he celebrated his sixth birthday. But do you know who was there?
A character doesn’t grow in a vacuum. He’s influenced by the people around him. As such, you need to take some time to think about his important relationships.
6 Page PDF
This Character Sheet includes sections for every part of the Character Wheel. It is system agnostic, so feel free to use it with any character for any game.
It’s Who You Know
Relationships are complex things, and people have a lot of them. A hugely tremendous number, really. In part, they define us. In a game, a character’s relationships are powerful motivations, tinged with deep-rooted attitudes. Each has it’s own history. To a certain level, every relationship a character has is practically a character biography in and of itself.
It would be ridiculous to keep track of all, or even a significant fraction of it, so I’ve designed the relationships section to expand gracefully.
Every character should have a few people in their lives that will dramatically effect the game and create subplots. Perhaps your character has a serious conflict with another party member that will have to be resolved. Maybe he’s earned himself a powerful enemy. Or, it could be that he simply has dependents that he has to provide for, always draining into his personal wealth.
Write these details down and share them with your Game Master so that he may use them against you. Appropriately, that is.
Contacts & NPCs
Contacts are people who can provide some service for the character. Some games have a specific mechanism for earning valuable contacts. Others develop these organically. When starting a character, you’ll want to talk to the Game Master about any contacts you want to start with.
As the game progresses, your character will meet a variety of NPCs. Any that seem useful of significant to you should be noted down, along with their usual Location, and any other useful notes. I’ve provided check-boxes on the sheet, as well, to designate if they are an Enemy or an Ally.
While these aren’t relationships, it’s convenient to track significant locations in the same space as you track NPCs, since the two are often related.
The other members of your party are your most immediate relationships, and the ones that deserve the most thought.
Fill in the character’s name, and where you might find them when they aren’t adventuring with you. Also note down a quick description of the character. Lastly, determine the type of relationship your character has with them, and what opinions he holds.
You should talk with the other players when developing these relationships, so you can all work together to make party interactions the most fulfilling. You don’t have to, of course, and you should never feel that you have to build your character’s attitudes according to the whims of other players. Still, a little discussion as to the nature of various party member relationships and how they might progress can be valuable.
Filling out this sheet can also be a valuable tool to separate player from character. We, as players, have relationships with each of the other players at the table and opinions about them as well. If we don’t think about it, we’ll often let those relationships and opinions cross over into the game as is. There isn’t anything wrong with that, most of the time, but it’s a missed opportunity for roleplaying. Plus, some players get frustrated when they develop a new and distinct character, but all the players treat him exactly the same as all his other characters.
Family & Other Relationships
There really is no end to how many relationships a character can have. It’s certainly worth taking some time to come up with a family for your character. Is it a traditional family, or is something strange or broken about it? Is your character married? Divorced or widowed? Maybe he has children who have grown up, or who are young and have been left with a crazy aunt. And, of course, he probably has siblings. Siblings make great NPCs for a variety of purposes.
After considering your character’s family, consider giving him a few friends, teachers, distant family members, or rivals. Anything to spice things up.
Like everything on the wheel, don’t develop this all at once, but feel free to add people as time goes by. These relationships make a character far more interesting.
That’s it for the entire Character Wheel. The next step is to start over again and keep going around forever, or until the character dies, you die, or you stop playing.
The Character Wheel has been a fun intellectual effort for me, building upon and organizing ideas I’ve used for a very long time. I certainly hope it’s useful for you. If you have any feedback, I really want to hear it. Maybe it’s just too much, and you want something simpler. Maybe it’s not enough and you think I’ve missed something. Maybe it’s just perfect how it is, and you want to award me the Nobel prize for game design. Whatever it is, I want to hear it. Enjoy.