I love making and playing D&D characters. I have a tendency of putting the concept before the utility of the character. Not purposefully, but it must certainly seem so. Maybe even seem aggressively so. Fortunately the latest edition of D&D makes it difficult for even me to create a truly useless character.
So in the previous campaign Dan conducted (still a 3.5e campaign) I did may darndest to make a character that was effective in combat. Other than utility my other inspiration was a show I saw. It was either a military or police show and it said there are three types of people: sheep, wolves who prey on the sheep and wolfhounds who protect the sheep. The wolfhound was specifically not a sheep itself, but shared more qualities with the wolf other than the prey.
My character was a sociopath. Specifically he placed absolutely no value on human life. But he wasn’t a psychopath. He would never kill from rage or a pathology. He was also not amoral. His next key trait was loyalty. Once given it was absolute. Basically he was the type of person who a government would choose as an agent with a license to kill. In the campaign that is exactly the role he had until the government betrayed him and he switched sides to the good guy team. (The campaign actually started with all the PCs escaping from jail.)
The other piece that made him playable was that he had a family. Despite most of the gaming group being fairly devoted family men very few of the characters created share that choice. I thought it was sort of odd. So he had had a wife and daughter. When the government betrayed him it cost his wife her life. This gave him a personal motive as well. And a solid plot thread of rescuing his daughter from their clutches. One of the aspects of the character that most interested me in playing him was whether he could actually experience love. In practice it didn’t matter, his loyalty and mimicry made it so that it didn’t matter so much.
The last part was that he was a master of disguise. This was not something that came up very often. When it did he generally blew the disguise. Regardless of his skill he would act in a creepy fashion. he would fall silent and just stare at people or utter a mild threat that was scary because it was obviously completely earnest.
In general he was the perfect person to help overthrow a corrupt government. But he would have no place in a kingdom at piece afterward.
In the current campaign, I went the polar opposite direction. We got pre-gens so I didn’t really get to make Alnoth useful or not by the numbers. But I was able to shape the personality. The role of the character was controller/leader and positioned as a negotiator. He was also an alien, but the characteristics of the race were mine to develop.
My last character had been very dark so Alnoth was not. In fact he was completely unacquainted with violence in conception at least. So unacquainted, in fact, that his Primary trait would be cowardice. In play, it has turned out a little different than I thought.
The next aspect is that he is a Telepath. Wherever he is, Alnoth picks up the surface thoughts of folks around him. This plus cultural training st his path towards being a negotiator. Put I flipped that a bit as well by making him only a junior negotiator – more acquainted simply with reading people than playing an active role.
Finally, I made his alien culture quite different from the norm. Important distinctions were about violence and individuality. Violence in their culture is commonplace, but strictly regimented. Individuality is not a concept they really understand. While they are individuals they’re primary purpose is support of their tribe and their guild. Every individual has a genetically predetermined role to play on that society.
In play this has turned about in some ways that surprised me. For instance while a coward, his primary instinct is to duck and then run into danger. If it can’t be avoided the best tactic is to end it altogether. Outside of combat, it displays almost as a mild paranoia as Alnoth evaluates every situation for danger.
He also has a very difficult time relating to the people he is with. He has adopted the crash survivors as his tribe. But by definition that makes everyone else on the planet not his tribe and thus either definite or potential enemies – even temporary allies. Additionally, no other person seem to know what their role should be. See no groups in his culture need leaders. People just know what they are expected to do. The same doesn’t apply and both the survivors, the PC team and their allies all look to people for leadership.
Ultimately although I set out to make both characters as different from each other as possible, it turns out that they are very similar. After the more superficial choices I made they are both defined by not fitting in properly with the society around them. Both have the skills and intelligence to blend in, but something in their character always fouls it up.
I have no idea what my next character will be, but having identified the trend above my first choice will be to make someone who is a team player.