Once you have reasonable idea of how your character would be if they were an average, adventurous member of their race and culture, you’ll want to expand on them and make them who they really are. A unique, memorable, but believable being.
Name. It’s critical that you give your character a name that is appropriate for their background culture. Avoid borrowing names from inappropriate sources. I recall a Noldorin (high-elf) character that started to role-play with us in LotRO (Lord of the Rings Online) named “Amarr Gallente”. A very nice and elegant sounding name. Not withstanding that the name wasn’t Tolkien lore-centric but it was borrowed directly from the names of two of the races in EVE Online (the Amarr, and the Gallente). It blew it for me right there. I forever called him “space-elf” OOCly, and I avoided any role-play if he was involved.
Captain Fuzzyboots may be a fun name for your Khajiit, but it won’t cut it in any serious RP group. The same would go for an Argonian named Versace Black-belt, or a Nord named He Man Sword-swinger. You can get your named changed now in ESO, but it will cost you 2500 Crowns in the Crown Store which has a dollar value of around $20 to $25 worth of Crowns, or almost 2 months-worth of ESO Plus Crown rewards.
Background. You’re going to want a bit of an idea of your character’s background. What is their family and home like? What sort of defining events occurred in their past, and what brought them to a life of adventure? I know that many players, especially newer ones, will tend to be orphaned, and possibly no other surviving immediate family. I think this occurs as it is an “easy” way to fill-out that part of one’s background. My suggestion is to avoid doing that, if only for having a richer character-story. After all, if you’re one of dozens in your RP group(s) running around with as an orphan you’re really not much different and your character won’t stand out as much. Besides, having living parents (except for older characters who possibly have now lost a parent, or both to old age) and other family makes a great place for your character to go when you can’t be around in-game, or for other reasons of the character’s absence that don’t need to be dramatic, etc. Be sure to understand your culture’s familial practices, rearing of young, etc.
A point on parents. Racial intermixing for love and cross-breeding is not that uncommon between the mer and men. There are no lore examples that I am aware of for Khajiit producing offspring with other races, and this would be a physiological impossibility for the Argonians. The beast-races can find themselves in love-relationships (asexual) with other races, but this would be rare. And, there is also magicka and other supernatural phenomena that could explain offspring where there shouldn’t be.
Crossing borders – cross-culture and interracial influences. Your character can have personality traits, cultural beliefs, and mannerisms that aren’t native to what you might normally find. Work on having a plausible and reasonable lore-consist reason for these.
Personalities. Everyone has a unique personality, yet we all tend to be a combination of the four personality types, with two that tend to be more dominant than the other two. Each type consists of two basic factors. They are:
- Directive – outgoing and task-oriented
- Inspiring – outgoing and people-oriented
- Supportive – introverted and people-oriented
- Cautious – introverted and task-oriented
The two dominate personality types we tend to have will have one of the two factors for each in common, such as introverted, or task-oriented. It is very rare, and often the sign of a major psychiatric problem, that someone would have two dominant personality types that don’t share a factor in common. Now we are much more complex than this simple explanation, but it’s a great “tool” to understand people and yourself, and this can help you define your character better. As an example, let’s say your character is an experienced and successful military commander. They would probably have Directive and Cautious as their more dominate personality types. These two share “task-oriented” in common, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this character would also have some Inspiring as a close third, or even edging out the Cautious.
For those who may be familiar with the classical Greek humours, these personality types can be loosely associated as:
- Choleric = Directive
- Sanguine = Inspiring
- Phlegmatic = Supportive
- Melancholic = Cautious
They don’t directly “translate” but you get the idea.
The Classic – going with a character that is just classic for their race and culture. Nothing wrong with this. What can make them stand out will be their personality, or something from their background that is present for them in your RP. Avoid “King and Kin” associations for your character.
Whipping out the Wand – using magic or other supernatural explanations to give your character a trait or feature that would normally be impossible through established lore and norms for the game world. You want to avoid using this as a trump-card to force something about your character that really isn’t necessary. When done properly and with a well-thought-out background, this can really help your character pop to others, and make them memorable. The trick is to make sure the memory isn’t one of rolled-eyes on the part of your audience, which can lead to avoidance of your character by the others. A simple example, Argonians do not give live birth of their young (fertilized eggs are lain and the young will hatch from the eggs). To use a “magic” explanation to make it so will probably be too much for other lore-centric players to accept. A great resource for you is to bounce any ideas of this nature off of the veteran role-players in the community. You’ll probably develop a fantastic and memorable idea the will work well.
This final tip is more about when engaging In-Character in role-play, but it applies equally to how you develop your character to start with.
Anachronisms – avoid these as much as possible. An anachronism in the sense of RP is importing ideas, mannerisms, phrases, and concepts from the real-world or from other game and fantasy worlds.
You get the idea.
Keep in mind that what comes naturally as a turn-of-phrase to us, for example, most likely won’t work well within the cultures of Tamriel, Nirn, and Oblivion. Ask yourself about the origin of such a phrase and if it would even make sense. Find a way to make your own phrase from existing lore. This will help you stand out.
An example of a turn-of-phrase that probably wouldn’t work well in the Elder Scrolls culture is “the whole nine yards.” This phrase developed in our western culture just over a century ago, and has morphed to an understanding most related as coming from American football or even the military (referring to a belt of ammo’s length for fighter aircraft), even though these are just myths. It most likely came from a common length of cloth taken from bolts, based on what was normal then. There was even a related phrase in use at the time of “the whole six yards.”
Cursing is another area. There is a rich culture of swears and curses in Elder scrolls, many unique to various cultures and races. You’re far better off using these rather than using what we do in modern, real-world life.
In summary, I hope you find these concepts useful in developing your character(s). Overall, go for a uniqueness that is believable and consistent, and avoid going overboard into the realms of the spectacular.