DMing 101: Character Development!

Dice“No…those are “not” C-low dice ma…”

This time on DMing 101, we’ll be talking about Character Development. I know, it’s like I gave it away with the title or something. Now, you may be wondering, “What the hell is this guy talking about? DMs aren’t playing characters.” For one, not true! In fact you’ll be playing more characters then anyone else, and while it’s important to take those NPC’s seriously, there are some pitfalls you’ll want to avid (more on that later). But no, PC development is a huge part of your role as a DM! So stay a while and listen folks, I have some things to say.

4th Edition“Oh look!  A bauble!”

Now you may think character development is up to the players behind those characters, and for a large part you are right. Your players will come up with their characters backgrounds, and motivations, fears and goals. But it is your job a good DM to incorporate all those things in the campaign that you are running! Few things are going to make a player happier, and more willing to show back up to the table than realizing that you actually read that crap (I mean wonderfully written back story) that they gave you. Using a player’s back story and description will really help to immerse them in the world you are creating, and it motivates them to come up with more detail, and interesting tidbits to use later!

Here are some simple ways you can incorporate your players ideas, and creativity into your campaign.

Have your campaign pass through their home town! It’s simple, and easy use the names of NPCs your player has detailed, add a few of your own, and flesh some things out and BOOM! Instant (ok almost instant) gratification, a PC could come home and help the town out of dire straights, or (more likely in my old groups campaigns) come back and slaughter the whole lot because they remember when they were small and weak. Either the returning hero, or the vengeful villain the Player will feel like they did something that day, and you don’t even have to change much of your adventure arc, just the name of a few PCs and the town it takes place in.

20131203-123953.jpg“Worst. Brother. Ever.”

Insert villain from players past in here, and watch them rumble with rage. Maybe said villain has grown to become even “more” villainy, or perhaps if you are going for something more nuanced, that person needs the PC’s help, which will test even the mightiest heroes resolve. To aid someone who once tortured you as a child for the greater good? Or abandon them to their fate, perhaps to the loss of innocents in the process. These sorts of questions make for great entertainment as you watch your players squirm under the choice. On that same vein, you can make one of the larger antagonists turn out to be someone’s past hero, making them think about all the choices they have made since! The drama, the intrigue, it’s amazing!

There are of course many ways to use your players ideas, either to aid them, or to give them some sort of obstacle, but it will always ring closer their hearts then “Evil bad guy number 2”, and that’s what we are going for here.

Questions? Comments? Ideas for an article? Post them all below, until next week my intrepid story tellers!

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