Five Ways to Keep a Character Fresh

While some groups can meet every week without much by way of variation, others aren’t that lucky. Some are closer to once a month; some are brief periods of together interspersed with long droughts of “you’re across the country, he has school too, I have work, this game only seems to work live, now what?”; some have a schedule mostly depending on the inspiration of a GM who has a little trouble getting inspired. Gaps like that make it easier for a character to slip through the cracks—for the player to forget their details, their motivations, their current plans. How can we keep our characters fresh in the face of these sorts of droughts?

  1. Take notes. I don’t just mean keep logs or saved copies of the thread, though online RPers wouldn’t be hurt by doing that as well. I mean real, live, honest-to-goodness notes. For people with no other way of re-accessing what happened in game, this is a way to make sure you don’t forget anything between sessions; for the others, it’s a way of grounding and sorting through what happened (and you never know when your GM might need to be reminded of details herself). And for everyone, it’s a way of reinforcing the memories of what happened. You know why teachers are so fond of study guides? It’s because the act of going over these things, putting them in print, solidifies what we’re writing in our memories. And if you write them in voice? Added bonus.
  2. Find excuses to slip into voice. If you’ve got friends who are the type, consider inviting them for a conversation or two. If not, try journaling, or playing with writing other events in the character’s life (and if your GM’s interested, show them; if they’re the low-inspiration sort, or do better with feedback, it might help them get or keep their own acts in gear. Or try writing exercises, particularly if you’re having trouble with the character to begin with; those should keep you in material for a while.
  3. Make plans. Most characters have something they want; figure out what that is, and start brainstorming ways to get it. You don’t have to write these ways down, though I find it helps, for the same reason that physical notes help to solidify memories—and besides, you wouldn’t want to forget one of the good plans, would you? Even if the character herself doesn’t have any goals or plans of this sort, you probably do, even if it’s just work up through an optimized build or do something that you’d find too awesome/hilarious/nifty not to have happen.
  4. Read over what you’ve got. It may not always be as good as writing, but it’ll keep you fresh and give you more time for the important parts to catch in your mind. Besides, if part of the story is figuring things out (dangerous with an irregular schedule, but for some people the risk is worth it), going over your notes when you’re out of the scene and have had time to think might bring out a conclusion that you wouldn’t have made in the heat of things.
  5. Talk to your fellows about game. Most groups aren’t going to be too afraid to talk shop, and some even seek out excuses; I had a couple of friends with whom I could pretty reliably arrange sushi-and-talking-game get-togethers. If out of sight rapidly becomes out of mind, isn’t it best to keep everything where you can see it?

Those are my ways of making sure I don’t lose my characters even over several-month gaps. Do you have any of your own?


  1. As a DM running a group with big gaps in between session, I like to send my players little reminders as game day approaches, to remind them of stuff that happened before as well as hype them up about the ew session. I find the worst drawback of long gaps between sessions is not necessairly forgetting things, but spending too much time getting back into the swing of things. If the players are psyched up before we start, it’s easier to jump right in.

  2. Ravyn says:

    Agreed–and one hopes the GM stays psyched as well, that being something my groups have tended to have problems with. You lose either side, it’s a bit of a feedback loop.

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