Posted by: Jess Riley | October 17, 2008

Katafray Project: Creating Eme

edited in by Blogatelle

edited in by Blogatelle

One of the big problems with doing a project like this one is that I rarely seem to think about things in the same way that other people do. Creating Eme was an interesting experience, because even though I knew I was going to have to write a post explaining how I went about it, I can’t honestly say where a lot of my ideas came from.

In essence, I suppose, characterisation for me comes from creating a basic concept and working my way out from there – starting with the skeleton and building up around it, as it were. Unlike Sean, I think a basic knowledge of the background from the beginning is as important as the personality. Certainly, the personality is going to be most prominent thing in your roleplay, but an understanding of the background is essential to playing well, and especially to playing consistently.

That’s not to say you have to know every detail of your character’s past; things like that can easily be invented on the fly. An understanding of the basic points of their life, the things that actively shaped them into what they are today, however, I think is essential to a well-written and -played character. Important details about their history cannot just be invented on the fly while maintaining any semblance of consistency. People have things in their pasts which shape who they are as much as anything else.

I have to confess, though, when it comes to World of Warcraft, I had to start in the obvious place: class and race. I decided to go with a gnome primarily because I think they’re cute and sweet, and a warlock because I like to play warlocks. Alright, so it’s far from a deep start for a concept, but it makes sense; I didn’t want to play a character that I felt like I couldn’t play, not without some good reason. I’m not good enough to do that really well.

Most of my ideas came from this point onwards, asking myself questions and building up a concept around the class and race, starting from here and working outwards. The actual brainstorming session went something along the lines of:

How do I make her interesting? (aka, I suppose, finding a major quirk to riff from)
She’s a single mother.

Why is she a single mother?
Because her husband died in Gnomeregan, or in trying to retake Gnomeregan.

So, what’s with the kid?
It’s a son. He’s staying with her mother at the moment.

Why did she leave her son with her mother?
She’s grieving, she went off to study the demonic arts.

Will she come back for her son?
Probably not for a long time.

Does she think about her son?

It sounds like a shallow path to character creation, but in many ways it makes a lot of sense. By starting with an idea and following that train of thought to its logical conclusion, I can start with the bare bones of a character and build it up from the inside.

All this begged a very important question, though: does all this come across as looking a little like a Mary Sue? I have to say, looking at what I have so far, it does, a little bit. It’s far from the most gratuitous example I’ve ever seen, but it does still need work.

In part, that’s what the early days of play are for: taking a concept and trying to put it into motion in the best way, editing out the things that don’t work and enhancing the things that do, so that by the time more intense roleplay begins, the character is a workable one.

As I understand it, the next stage of the Katafray project is avatar design: stay tuned for that!



  1. I think that a lot of problem with Mary Sues lie in its definition. A lot of the characteristics that comprise a Mary Sue are also found in memorable characters that people enjoy and reflect upon and to whom they were attached.

    Instead of looking for just defining characteristics of a Mary Sue, look further at how they’re being applied. It’s not uncommon to meet someone from Gnomeragon who lost a lot of their family and friends; as was mentioned on this site earlier, nearly half of the race was decimated in the destruction of Gnomeragon. Looking at my own family, that could easily mean that I’d have lost either/both of my parents and at least one of my three younger brothers.

    Furthermore, that kind of near genocide is definitely going to have an impact on a person. It’s hard to go through something like that with little change. A good roleplayer is going to note that and apply that knowledge to the character. However, an excellent roleplayer will not allow that to be the only defining characteristic of his character.

    Yes, having lost a number of one’s family can be a characteristic of a Mary Sue. However, it’s justified in many cases within the Word of Warcraft due to the established lore. A Mary Sue would take that knowledge and seek the opportunity to lament about his character’s woes, the loss of family, and the struggle to continue living against such overwhelming odds. A damned good roleplayer will add those elements to a character but would find other idiosyncrasies that flesh out the character and make him appear real.

    It’s a matter of degree.

  2. Cyrna, exactly. The official word is one in two people died in Gnomeregan (source, Alliance Players Guide). That’s just… unbelievable. To put this in perspective, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed 140,000 of its 255,000 people, or roughly 55% (source, Wikipedia). That’s the level of death we’re talking about.

  3. Well, I didn’t mean to come across as ‘if you play a gnome with dead family, you are a Mary Sue’, and I’m sorry if my post looked that way.

    My point was primarily that when you start venturing into dead families and abandoned children, you edge closer into questionable territory, and it becomes a concept that could go either way, depending on how you play it.

    I’d like to think that I – and most people, who can give it some thought – can manage it without coming across as Mary Sue-ish, especially given the context of the game and how likely it is to come across that way. Hence, in part, my point that I feel that the early days of character creation are for exploring how to get your point across.

    I think I was unclear, but I really like your comment. You present a very important point.

  4. This post interested me and while I am certainly the least person to give opinion about role play, (since I have never done) so I will not comment further and make myself look more ignorant. However, the concept of a Mary Sue was one I hadn’t heard of before; I learned something here and it gave me food for thought.

  5. To expand on Cynra’s point, I think the misconception that most people have of a Mary Sue is that one exists as long as any one of the usual tropes is fulfilled.

    Not true.

    The problem with that misconception is that it is a largely unrealistic expectation. If that were really the case, then any person on this planet who has ever lost a friend/family member/pet dog is automatically a Mary Sue. It doesn’t make sense.

    Mary Sues exist when they are, more often than not, comprised of more tropes than is realistic, or worse, the one trope that is used is so overplayed (and overacted) that Mary-Sueism is grossly obvious.

    Roleplaying is about drama, not melodrama. It’s up to the roleplayer to realize the difference, and make their character realistic – not absurd.

  6. Jess: Oh, I didn’t think that at all, Jess! Instead, I wanted to expand on the point you made:

    “All this begged a very important question, though: does all this come across as looking a little like a Mary Sue? I have to say, looking at what I have so far, it does, a little bit. It’s far from the most gratuitous example I’ve ever seen, but it does still need work.”

    I wanted to clarify that, no, your character isn’t a Mary Sue because you chose that background, but rather that your character would be a Mary Sue depending on how you played said character. The characteristics that you picked in developing your character’s history (single mother, child left behind, grieving from the loss people close to her) may seem like a Mary Sue, but a lot of it depends on how exactly that comes out in roleplay — and how frequently!

    I think that I was trying to tack on further information for the casual roleplayer while expanding further on my own opinions regarding Mary Sues, thereby resulting in a big Charlie Foxtrot. Apologies!

    Pixelated Executioner explained it far more concisely than I did without presenting confusion. Huzzah!

  7. Given the Warcraft writers’ love of near-extinction level events, it’s a wonder most characters haven’t lost family. (And that’s before looking at pre-industrial child mortality, which magic would ameliorate somewhat.)

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