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A Time of War Twenty Questions
Character creation is a different experience for each person. Some people, whether they realize it or not, are simply out to recreate themselves within their characters. Others have different goals in mind when creating their characters. In any event, players start out with some basic ideas about who their characters are. The MW3 game system allows players to flesh out those ideas in greater detail than in many games by using the various Life Modules. In going through the Life Modules, a player builds a history for his or her character.
Twenty Questions takes this basic history one step further, helping each player develop a richer story for his or her character that allows for roleplaying to its fullest potential. If you, the player, know all the nuances of your character’s history and motivations, you will find it much easier to play that character (and likewise, the gamemaster will find it easier to build adventures around the characters in the group). Before delving into the questions below, players should already have decided such basic considerations as sex, race and so forth. These character elements are important to the creation process, and should have been determined before you started creating your character.
The questions below fall into five categories, but you should feel free to begin with any question that triggers an immediate response and work back through the rest at your leisure. Obviously, the answers to many of these questions will have come up during the Life Modules, the final stages of character creation, but you may have considered them only in the most elementary sense. Take those answers and build on them to form a detailed history for your character.
Where is your character from?
This question gives you an instant background for your character. It also sets up the framework by which many other questions can be answered. Be specific. Don’t just give a nation or a world – you should already have that as part of your character’s Affiliation. This time, give an exact location. For example, two characters growing up on Luthien could easily come from completely different areas. One might be from the upper nobility of Unity City, the other from the hard-edged streets run by the yakuza.
Does your character have a family?
This important question almost always gets left out of game play. A family can be vital in defining a character. Does your family make demands on you and your time? Do you adventure in secret so that they don’t even know, or are you estranged from them to the point that you never talk? Were you raised to believe one thing but now have turned against that code? Are any of your relatives working in opposition to you (such as a cousin in ComStar), or does your lifestyle put them in danger?
Another consideration is whether your character has ever been married or had children – something that may come up in a Life Module. If so, where are they now? Is your character currently seeing someone? Several someones? Is your significant other an adventurer as well? How does your career affect your relationship?
Does your character have an ethnic background?
The answer to this question goes hand-in-hand with the questions above. Your character’s ethnicity should have a large impact on his or her cultural upbringing. Answering this question is much more in-depth than just selecting an Affiliation for your character. Were you raised in a foreign nation, or were your parents immigrants? Were you raised in a culturally rich environment, or was your lifestyle largely assimilated? Were you part of a mainstream ethnic group, or were you hated and persecuted on your homeworld? Every Successor State is a cultural melting pot of sorts, and your ethnicity likely shapes your personal history and outlook as well as how people perceive you.
What does your character look like?
Create a quick physical description of your character, including height and weight and the color of his or her skin, eyes and hair. Are you taller than average or so short you look like a child? Are you athletic in build or underweight and scrawny? Your physical description includes your character’s natural appearance and any body modifications such as piercings, bionic implants and the like. What about that blue Mohawk… or those custom yellow contact lenses? Are any of these characteristics distinguishing? Do you remind people of a famous holo-vid star, or scare people with your steely glare?
What does your character dress like?
Now that you’ve described your character’s body, it’s time to dress it. What’s your character’s style? Does he have any? Are you the height of fashion or are fatigue pants and a concert T-shirt the only things you ever wear? Do you dress down for work or snazzy up for social engagements? Your character’s resources and lifestyle may certainly affect these options. An Argyle farmer will dress very differently than a Lyran banker or a character raised in the wealthy suburbs on Andurien.
Does your character have any physical quirks?
While Attributes and traits can help you pick some physical quirks for your character, there are a number of other habits or distinguishing features to choose from. Is your character known for hair or fingernail chewing, or scratching himself in very unflattering places? Was your nose broken and never set correctly? Where did your character get all those scars? You can also adopt any number of suitable physical handicaps that have little or no game application, such as limps, twitches, stuttering or even missing eyebrows.
Skills, Attributes and Resources
Where did your character learn his skills?
Who taught your character how to wire explosives, fire guns, track humans through a forest and so on? How about those tech skills? Where did your character learn the languages he knows? When and where was your character trained and by whom? Is your character still tied to these people and places? Again, the Life Modules will answer the basics for those questions, but now you need to take those answers to the next level. Each of your character’s skills carries with it the story of how your character picked up such information. Descriptions of when, where and how your character learned these things, as well as the teachers and circumstances, could spawn stories and insights into your character.
Where did your character get his goodies?
Your character begins the game with a set amount of money and equipment. How these resources became available to him is part of your character’s history, from each piece of armor to every individual bullet. How did your character earn the C-bills to get that pistol? Does he owe someone for the favor or did Daddy pay for it? Was it issued to you, or did you just conveniently forget to return it after you left active service? Maybe the character has an extensive background in a military or mercenary unit. Each piece of gear can have a story linked to it.
What’s the story with your character’s ‘Mech?
If your character owns his own vehicle (‘Mech, fighter, DropShip, and so on), how did he come to own it? Was it the family ‘Mech passed down through ten generations, or is he up to his eyeballs in hock to pay for it? Is it new or was it rebuilt from scraps? Why does the cockpit smell like that? Is it a stock model or has it been upgraded so many times that it’s barely recognizable? How does it handle? In the BattleTech universe, vehicles often have just as intricate and detailed histories as their owners do – sometimes even more so. Tell us that story.
Where does your character live?
Choosing a lifestyle for your character can also provide a background. Are you rich enough to afford the lifestyle of a noble, but you still live in a barracks? Why? Where do you live exactly? Do you have a safehouse halfway across the planet? Why there? Do you live in gang turf where each day is an adventure unto itself? How do you get home every day? How do you deal with urban predators and raiding pirates? What’s your relationship with your neighbors?
Who are your character’s contacts?
Even though the gamemaster runs them, you can have a hand in creating them. Each contact you choose should fit into your character’s background. How did you meet? Is the relationship just business, or do you share mutual interests? Do you meet every Friday night at the corner pub? Describe some aspects of each contact’s personality as well. Is she a ruthless cop who happens to have a crush on you? Or is he an avid Solaris Games fan? Pay extra attention to 2- and 3-point contacts, as they should play a significant role in your character’s life. Why are you buddies? Were you partners once, or was she your mentor?
Who are your character’s enemies?
Just like contacts, enemies tell a story about your character. Did you cross a powerful general sometime during your reckless youth, or did that noble just decide to pick on you to make himself feel more powerful? Using enemies can help you flesh out why you adventure, how you came up with your gear or any other backstory you wish to create. Enemy personalities should be described in detail just like your character’s contacts, as they will also play a significant part in your character’s life.
What are your character’s likes and dislikes?
Everyone has likes and dislikes, and nothing makes a better background or roleplaying hook than to establish a few for your character. These can range in intensity from minor annoyances to something that crushes your character’s heart or drives your character to rants and rampages. They can be funny or serious. Do you hate Ceres Metals Industries because they supply the CCAF and your father died at the hands of Capellan troops? Or are you such a diehard sports fan that you’ll go AWOL in order to catch a game?
What is your character’s moral code?
Every character should have a point where he draws the line. Wetwork? Extractions? Does your character prefer using non-lethal technologies or does she love to whack seedy bureaucratic stooges? If your character is amoral, how did she get that way? What dehumanized her?
This question covers other topics of personal morality as well: bionics, sex, pollution, lying, stealing and so on. These can run the gamut from questions that arise in daily life (paying taxes) to more esoteric subjects that may never arise (cloning).
What are your character’s goals?
Are you determined to keep going out on missions until the Sirian Lancers are destroyed? Or just until you can purchase that vacation home on Kooken’s Pleasure Pit? Or maybe you just want to make sure your kid sister can afford to go to a good school. Goals help define the character’s outlook on life as well as lay the groundwork for future stories. Goals may also change for characters depending on events that occur in the game. A character may even be driven to bitter cynicism or difficult soul-searching as he strays from his original plans.
Does your character have personal beliefs?
Are you a radical anarchist? An ultra-conservative who thinks that something drastic needs to be done about the Free Capella “problem?” What personal beliefs does your character take to heart, and does he affiliate with any religious sects, political organizations, brotherhoods or secret societies because of them?
Does your character have personality quirks?
Are you anti-social? Arrogant? Opinionated? Pessimistic? Superstitious? Laid back? Stressed out? Paranoid? Pick a trait or two and invent a story that explains how you got to be that way.
Why does your character participate in adventures?
The answer to this question can be as simple as survival instinct or it can be much deeper and psychological. Adventuring can be a prison for some and a land of golden opportunity for others. Are you out to make a reputation? Are you striking back at another nation or even a corporation in the name of the people? Or are you just a sick SOB with a taste for thrills and maybe even a death wish?
How does your character view his role as an adventurer?
Adventuring is one thing; liking it may be completely different. Does your character enjoy the thrill of the game or is she always fearful of getting killed? Are you cocky about your successes, or do you just take it all in stride? Maybe your character thinks the end justifies the means. Or maybe your character hates the idea of war but is stuck in a no-win situation, forced to do whatever is necessary to survive and get back to where he or she was before it all started.
Why does your character work for/with the people he/she does?
Who you work for now may be significantly different than who trained you. If so, why did you switch your allegiances? If not, why do you still work for them? Do you just follow a paycheck? Do you feel like you still owe them something? Or do they have their hooks in you so deep you can’t get away? Who you work for (and, conversely, who you would never work for) will tell others a lot about your character. Perhaps you don’t work for anyone, but are an independent contractor. Okay, how and why did that happen? And how about the other characters you work side by side with? That story may end up being the very first adventure you go on, but if not, how did you happen to hook up with them?
BattleTech is a science-fiction “space opera”: a factional, militarized universe set in the thirty-first century, a future where humanity has spread to the stars and spawned titanic interstellar empires, each nation controlling hundreds of worlds across a region of space stretching a thousand light years and beyond.
Initially published over thirty years ago as a tabletop board game, BattleTech has gone on to become one of the gaming industry’s most important and longest-lasting science-fiction universes.