There’s a certain kind of player, and I myself am one, who just wants to know everything about their character and has a tendency to overthink it. If you’re one of those, this article is for you. None of these are things you absolutely have to know the answers to, but they can be fun to think about. So if you’re the kind of player who spends way too much away-from-table time thinking about your PC, have fun with this.
1 – What does your character smell like?
Yeah, I know, what a weird question, but it’s a valid one. You probably know what your character looks like, you might even have considered what their voice is like, but what a person smells like matters when you’re in close quarters, and I don’t just mean “body odor.”
A druid might smell like flowers or pine needles. If your character is a smoker, that scent will probably cling to them. Or, for that matter, a pyromancer would likely smell like ash and smoke as well. A cleric might smell like incense. A rogue, like rough leather and sharp acrid toxins. Sailors often carry the scent of sea salt long after they’ve made port.
Keep this in mind particularly if you do play by post online, where you can potentially get a lot more descriptive than sitting around a gaming table.
2 – Is your character right handed, left handed or ambidextrous?
Fifth Edition D&D doesn’t make as big a deal of which hand is your off hand as some previous editions did. Dual-weapon fighting has its penalties under most circumstances, but it doesn’t refer to the off hand anymore.
Still, though, there are some things about being left handed that bear thinking about. For instance, when your writing system is read left to right, you end up getting a lot of ink along the side of your hand. Scissors are not made with you in mind. You bump arms with people at the table with you when you’re eating.
Christians used to believe being left handed was a sign of the devil. I tend to play tieflings as left handed because I think that’s hilarious.
3 – What does your character’s laugh sound like?
Is it a cackle or a chuckle? A giggle or a guffaw? Do they have a high pitched laugh or a low one? Do they laugh in a constrained and polite fashion or just let it go right from the belly? Is it melodic? Grating? Hushed? Barking?
What does it take to get a laugh out of your character? Do they laugh easily or do others have to really push? Is there a certain thing that makes your character laugh every time?
This is another one that is actually useful if you do play by post, but if you’re the kind of player who likes to do character voices while having an idea in your head of what it’s meant to sound like, it is a good direction to go in at first as well.
4 – What is your character’s favorite food, or what would their last meal request be?
Different people like different foods for different reasons, and those preferences are a great easy way to keep a character some level of consistent without having to overthink it. I had a character in a modern game once that who constantly was drinking Dr. Pepper to the point that when she was replaced by a doppelganger, the rest of the party immediately knew it wasn’t her when they saw her drinking a Coke.
It wasn’t in your face, either. It was just a small thing that came up when the group happened to go to eat or were at a restaurant. It takes two seconds to mention what your character is eating, and when you make a pattern of it, people notice.
So what does your character like? Is he a meat and potatoes kind of person or does he flip his top for anything sweet? Is he into spicy things or does he eat like a first grader (just cheese on pizza, chicken nuggets, maybe chocolate milk but probably water)?
For that matter, what doesn’t your character like? Is she into variety but always picks the olives out of anything she’s eating? Can she just not abide the smell or taste of fish?
5 – What is a bad habit of theirs?
There are a whole slew of these to choose from that you can just pepper into your descriptions and mannerisms when you’re in character. If your character’s a smoker, you can mention them lighting up or chewing on things when it wouldn’t be appropriate. She might spit to show her disapproval. He might swear too much.
Bad habits could be a good tell for when a character is nervous. Picking scabs, biting nails, chewing lips, nervous giggling, all of these things can make for a good tell.
Some bad habits get you into trouble. A gambler and a gossip always have targets on their backs albeit for different reasons. Those are the kinds of things your DM can really grab onto and use against you, too. And let’s be honest, you really want that to happen don’t you?
6 – What about their vocabulary?
I don’t mean how many words your character knows, I mean which ones they use. There are hundreds of words a character can use to express a positive reaction. So think about it. Is it awesome? Great? Copacetic? Righteous? Splendid? Fantastic? What about the negatives? Not proper? Unfortunate? The worst? Terrible? Does it suck?
What are some other things your character has a tendency to say that other people might not make a habit of? Do they tend to sound eloquent or crass? Playful or serious?
Consider your character’s race and background. Dwarves probably have a lot of stone references in their cultural euphemisms, for example. They might be prone to compare to pyrite, for example, if they are superficial or possibly living beyond their means. My Scarlet Sisterhood halfling, Kenna, at my fiancé’s suggestion, refers to humans that annoy her as “sixer” because they’ll usually assume she means they’re six feet tall. Halflings live longer than humans do and what she actually means is, “you’ll be six feet under long before I will.”
Musicians have a bunch of jokes about instruments and sheet music that set their vocabularies apart. Sailors, too, tend to sound like they’re speaking a totally different language if you listen to them. Consider what your character does for a living, it can be a fun thing to flavor your dialogue with euphemisms used by folks in the profession in real life.
7 – Do they have any scars or birthmarks?
If you’ve gotten to level 3 minimum, your character has some scars. You probably played through the situations where they got them. But even a character who has never seen combat has probably seen life.
I’m willing to bet you, reader, had a childhood. I’m also willing to bet that it involved some bumps and bruises. A scar on the arm from falling out of a tree, perhaps, or maybe a situation where you accidentally cut yourself on a kitchen knife or were bitten by a pet, perhaps?
Your character had a childhood, too. If they’re a fighter, they probably had training as well. No matter how careful you are, you’re going to get cuts sometimes, and sometimes those are going to scar over. Even if they somehow managed not to, they could have a birthmark.
8 – What’s their favorite weather?
Some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it raining wild magic and turning people into potted plants.
Does your character like stormy weather? Are they more a fan of a clear day? Does hot weather make them irritable and sweaty, or do they enjoy sunning themselves in it? What about snow? Do they find an overcast day to be lovely or dreary? What humidity level do they prefer?
It’s something to consider. I’ve had very few DMs actually factor weather into their games, but if they do, it’s a good excuse to have your character behave a little differently. Fussy when wet, anyone?
9 – What are your character’s sleep habits?
If left to their own devices, is your character a day person or a night person? How early do they wake up and about how long do they sleep? Are they a cheerful person when they wake, or are they fussy until they’ve had their coffee? Do they even drink coffee? How do they sleep? What do their pajamas look like? Do they even wear any if they can avoid it?
Do they prefer to sleep alone or with a partner? If it is with a partner, is it innocent or are they being a little bit devious? Adventurers go through a lot of scary stuff, does your character have nightmares about any of it? Anything else?
10 – What are your character’s pet peeves?
Everybody has things that annoy them. For me, it’s the sound of other people chewing. You might be laughing, but don’t. If I ever go to jail, it will be for assaulting someone with a steak knife over chewing sounds.
So what drives your character up the wall? People not using their turn signal? Overuse of emojis? Being ignored? Someone installing the toilet paper the wrong way? The word “moist?” People touching them? Paying for expensive things in copper pieces?
None of these are things that are linchpins of your character, but they’re fun to think about, and they can serve as a good seasoning. I wouldn’t doubt at least a couple of people read this and already know the answers to all of them.