Skip to main content

Differentiating Characters Without Mechanics

I recently listened to an episode of Gaming and BS and the hosts were talking about Loot in the game. They got into the subject of how Loot was the main venue to differentiate character in Old School D&D and whether they preferred this or the current method of using many different character customization options in the rules.

I want to say that although they touched some good points, they forgot the main way to differentiate characters in any RPG, especially Old School RPGs: Through playing the game. In a game where you literally take the whole of this completely different person, the way you play them is what really differentiates them.

So, for me, the major ways to make your character different is through these following things:

Personality and Mannerisms: A brash and cocky fighter is very differently than an centered and calm one. The same character can be very different if he is always sharpening his weapons obsessively or if he likes to talk to his weapons as if they were people.

If you need, here is a link to a big list of personality traits:
And here a list for mannerisms:

Former Occupation: What did your character do before becoming a greedy adventurer? This can shape how they see the world, what they know and how others see them. A farmer could know a little about plants and animals, but wouldn’t be as respected as a former sheriff or town guard. The way the character left their former occupation might also change things. Did he left it willingly or was he exiled from his home village?

Here is a list of common medieval occupations:

Ambitions and Complications: One of the main things that define who we are is what we want. A grim mercenary looking for his next pouch of gold plays really different from the former soldier trying to rebuild his reputation. Your problems also shape you. Do you have an addiction? Are you afraid of something. Does someone hates your guts? Often starting with a problem help differentiate your character and can give the Referee something to male the game more personal to your character.

If you need a list of complications, Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells has a generator for that!

Past Deeds: After a few game sessions, the things your character did in the game will also help determine who they are. After coming back from a haunted ruins bearing sacks of coins, they start to attract attention and gain fame. This might be good or bad. If they steal the inhabitants of the small town, they will be criminals and not heroes. Along the way, they will make friends and enemies (or just contacts, which is also very useful). This will all shape them.

In the end, for me at least, differentiation is more about how we play the game than how the game rules are set up. I prefer to concentrate my efforts and time for the actual game as it happens, not outside it writing huge backgrounds or creating an elaborate build that takes me three hours to complete. I think that’s why I like BX D&D so much...

If you like what you've just read, check out my books over RPGNow and Lulu.

Popular posts from this blog

My RPG Zine Trilogy is on Kickstarter!

 I can't believe I didn't post about it here! The Dead are Coming, Screams Amongst the Stars and Running Out of Time are on Kickstarter right now! These are 3 complete games, made using the system of Electric Bastionland and Mausritter as the basis (and with some modifications to fit my vision for each of them). As with my games, they all come filled with many tools and tables to generate gaming content, adventures, locations, NPCs and much more. They are compact, easy to use, and equipped to provide you with years of entertainment! Here's a brief description of each of the games. The Dead Are Coming The first of them is called The Dead Are Coming, a minimalist, OSR style RPG about survival in a post-apocalyptic world where the dead have risen and other survivors can be much worse than the undead. Characters in this game are common people who have been struggling to survive, find their loved ones, keep them safe and just trying to keep living. They all carry resources like

How to never describe a dungeon!

Artwork by Luigi Castellani I've heard it a thousand times. You probably heard it too. Some people , I don't know why, say that dungeons , especially large ones, are boring . The endless repetitions of rooms and corridors and having to choose to go left, right, north or south depresses them. I don't know why. Actually, I do know why. Because they don't really know how to run a dungeon in play. It seems easy, effortless. Just say what's in the room the PCs are in and where the passages going out of it go. But it's not. They get bored with the "you get to a intersection and there is a door to the north and two passages, one going east and one going west" because that's a terrible way of describing a dungeon environment and gives nothing really useful to the players to choose from. You never describe a dungeon like that . There's a lot more going on that we can initially see. A good referee will take all the context of what the dungeon w

Dark Streets & Darker Secrets - Complete Game Text

November was NaGaDeMon (National Game Design Month), and I decided to create an Action Horror RPG using my system (updated with all the modifications of Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells). Inspired by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, X-Files, The Chilling Tales of Sabrina, Grimm and many more TV Shows, comics and books, I quickly worte Dark Streets & Darker Secrets . It is written in a very direct and simple way, similar to Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells originally was, but with uodated rules and a lot of tools and tables to assist the Referee in creating adventures, NPCs, locations, artifacts, monsters and much more. The book itself will eventually be release in partnership with Gallant Knight Games , but the text is already written and ready to be used, so I am sharing it here with you all! There is no official character sheet yet. I am working on it. But a simple Index Card will work just as well! So here it is: