16.21: Player Characters

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, James L. Sutter, Dan Wells, Cassandra Khaw, and Howard Tayler

So, you’re the hero of your own story, and the hero gets choices, and in many ways directs the story. In our discussion of interactive fiction and writing for games, the subject of “player characters” is essential. From the array of options given at character creation/selection, to the paths available for character development and the final chapters of that characters story, “player character” touches everything.

Credits: this episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson


Go through the character creation process in an RPG. Pay attention to which parts were fun, and what attracted you to the different classes, creature types, etc. Identify what makes each major character build unique and appealing.

7 thoughts on “16.21: Player Characters”

  1. At one point about four minutes in, Cassandra says, “Yes, I am a ___”, to chuckles. What was the word she said? I’ve listened and relistened to that part, and for the life of me I can’t figure out the word she said. (Maybe it’s some game term I just haven’t run across yet?)

  2. Haven’t you left out the>/b> other aspect of a player character? I have listened to Writing Excuses> to improve my tabletop roleplaying. The key idea I learned from your podcast was to come up with a motivation for my characters. For that you need to be rooted in the setting, or you quickly feel out of place and just sort out the NPCs’ mess.

    That is what I would love to see during character creation. Without that the tuning of attributes and skills just feels like a pointless chore to me. Especially more fiddly RPGs have caused me to misskill characters multiple times, which I only realised after years of playing them (monthly or more frequent) – i.e. once I have played long enough and spent experience points to understand the game mechanics.

    And the frustrating part is that RPG mechanics are often not even compelling, and you invest a lot of time in learning rules that are unrewarding. I’m comparing them to more tightly balanced board games, but those do not provide me with the fantasy of being another person. In general I feel tabletop RPGs communicate poorly what kind of expierence(s) they support and how to achieve that, so that also the game master cannot advise you. Or they might even misguide you.

  3. This week, the five players, Mary Robinette, Cassandra, Dan, James, and Bunny, talked about what writing for players who are characters in interactive fiction means. Character creation and development, why different characters have different abilities, lots of stats or simple pick a character creation? The three pillars of challenge! How changing characters keeps players going. There are lots of good ideas about player characters in the transcript available now in the archives.

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