Monday Inspiration: Character Perks – Several Interesting PC Development Ideas

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0977

Today I have a few interesting character development ideas for you as a follow-up to the A Cool Twist For One Of Your Players Musing I published in February, 2017.

The idea is to make each character special in some way to not only create great player engagement but to give you more adventure hooks and roleplay opportunities during your campaign.

RPT GM Jeromy sent in this idea:

We got this idea from Pathfinder’s Mythic Adventures. They suggest characters not start out with mythic ability, but gain their power after the character has been established in the player’s mind.

This gives the newfound abilities a sense of otherness, and gives the player a metric for just how powerful they really are now.

We took this one step further with what we call a Commoner Start. Basically, everyone rolls their stats and chooses their class abilities, but all class skills and class derived bonuses are “locked” until we reach the magical “Moment of Change.”

Not only is it fun to play as the son of a shepherd with only his trusty shepherd’s crook to fend off the giant rats in the first dungeon, being able to use low powered creatures to give the players a real challenge is a blast as a DM.

I used to call this a zero level campaign, but I like Commoner Start better. It follows the true mythical journey where the heroes are a type of everyman called to adventure.

I like Jeromy’s idea of unlocking character features via gameplay and achievements. I’ve been thinking about this as I contemplate races for Duskfall.

RPT GM Todd Smith emailed me these ideas:

Two players were half siblings to the Clan Champion of the Spider Clan. This made for some amazing intrigue and they ate it up.

I love the idea of adding PCs to families important to the milieu. Perhaps a PC is related to the villain, a major ally, or a rival.

I have also done it with latent psionic abilities. Mental powers are often overlooked it seems by players.

Nice. I’m thinking of giving certain Duskfall races certain unlockable cantrips as a form of innate ability. I believe that, working backwards from these abilities, you could create some interesting cultures this way.

If folks in the clan, family, or village can whisper 100 feet, for example, how would that affect social hierarchies, various rituals, beliefs and values, and relations with others?

And I did a Pathfinder campaign where one of my players was distantly related to a Dragon and found herself involved in good vs bad dragon intrigues which lead the whole group into this.

Bloodlines are a fantastic idea, Todd. Distant bloodlines keep character stats the same but can bring in lots of cool plot possibilities.

RPT GM Paul Davis offers us these ideas:

A bloodthirsty monster is about to strike a character, but instead stops mid-swing. It cocks its head a little and says, “Your time isn’t now.” It then departs.

A nice way to freak a player out by launching a powerful foe at their PC. And then following up with a thread of greater fate.

A character always receives favored gambling outcomes. In dice games, for example, the player can move one die face after a roll. Or when a coin is tossed, it lands in his favor 75% of the time.

I wonder what such a player would do to push their luck in other circumstances? It could make for some interesting gaming moments.

When the players create their characters, ask them to think about some physical attributes and markings.

If a player picks something unique, such as a birthmark or some other distinct feature, use that to tie in a prophecy involving a deep sect.

Cool idea. And player instantiated. Well done.

A magical dog follows one player everywhere, but some 20 to 40 feet back. Never coming near, leaving when chased. Waits outside of dungeons (it isn’t a dumb dog).

Earnest attempts to separate (like boarding a ship just as it leaves a dock while staring at the dog) works…except…when they arrive wherever, the dog is there….

Some players love pets. This is a great way to offer one that also involves a mystery.

I have a couple ideas, as well.

First is for characters of long-lived races.

Create an interesting timeline of events for the PC’s family and ancestors. This gives a player something intriguing to explore and discover as your campaign wends on. It also gives you an easy tool for introducing 5 Room Dungeon hooks.

Second idea is, riffing off of Paul’s idea, make a character magical. They radiate magic.

You don’t have to figure out what this means until your campaign is underway. And it pretty much leaves the door open to a multitude of possibilities. Maybe listen to your player speculate and pick something they seem especially excited about. Adding a little extra character spice to surprise players is an excellent addition to a campaign. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.