Prepping Small Groups of Characters

Sometimes you’re going to have a group of characters that are so associated that they might as well serve as one single character; you hardly ever see them apart from each other, and it’s usually either plot-related or a fact about feasibility when you do. Presenting these sorts of groups onstage is a challenge, particularly when you’re prone to forgetting one is there, but it’s not impossible. Here are some tips for assembling such a group.

Groups like this operate on two levels, the unit level (the part that makes the group functionally a single character) and the individual level. The tighter-knit the group is, the more important the unit level is; they may all be different, but one can tell the members of a tightly-knit group are working towards the same goal (unless, of course, they don’t want someone to know, but possibly not even then) and have the same pool of resources to draw on. On the other hand, when looking at each character, the individual level is more important: knowing what that character contributes to the group, what her personality is like, and how it interacts with the other personalities.

First, then, think about the unit level. How tight is the group, exactly? What brought them together, and what keeps them together? What do they want, and what don’t they want?

On the individual level, one of the first things to think about is roles within the group. I don’t just mean what skills they have, but also what sorts of situations bring them out, and what (if anything) gets them to take the lead in conversation. I find that good roles, particularly when dreamed up at the same time, serve as narrative anchors; as soon as a conversation or a situation moves into the domain of one particular character, she jumps in and takes the lead. For instance, I once did a scene in my game with five characters at the same time: one was deliberately fading into the background and thus didn’t speak unless addressed and didn’t show body language unless offended, but all of the others had different cues. One served as primary speaker and in matters relating to not starting a fight; one was primarily concerned with the whereabouts of a friend of theirs, one with potential wrongdoing on the part of the PCs and one with a combination of calming the last one down and finding out about a mutual opponent of the groups. It didn’t matter if the group triggered them or if they triggered each other; everyone got a turn (and I spent the entire conversation switching colors like a chameleon on a TV screen).

If the individual level is important because of conflicting agendas within the group, now is the best time to figure out those characters’ intentions and methods.

If any of these characters existed before the group was put together, figure out how their personalities tie in first, before fleshing out the ones who were either less developed or created specifically for the situation. This way, you don’t have to worry near as much about unforeseen conflicts.

Incorporating these into your group design should make it easier not to misplace the characters as you use them. Have fun!

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Prepping Character Groups: Role Play | Exchange of Realities
  2. Unit Level: Small Group as Character | Exchange of Realities
  3. Impractical Applications (Oathkeepers and Small Groups) | Exchange of Realities

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