Player-Character Bonds… How do YOU find an emotional bond with your character?

Funny little story…

This past weekend, the gaming group I’ve been playing with decided it was time to put the sandbox campaign we’d been playing on hold and start something new in November. At the heart of the decision was the fact that the campaign just never “clicked” for everybody involved (two players and the GM). And I have to say that some of that lack of “clicking” was definitely my own problem.

Question MarksThe issue was that I just never bonded with the character. Whether it was my understanding of the setting, or the background I’d chosen, or some other hidden factor, I really don’t know. But the emotional bond just wasn’t there.

What was funny to me was that the GM had created a story early in the campaign that I really attached myself to. My emotional bond was to that story – not to my character or the world – but this small thread that even the GM mentioned he had no idea what he was going to do with.

For the next campaign with this group, I not only have to find a solid character concept that works in a party setting – but I really have to focus on finding an emotional bond with the character. Without that connection, I might as well be simply playing a board game and moving a piece around on a game board.

So here’s my question… What are the different ways YOU find to bond with a character? If you don’t find that bond immediately, what do you do? I’m curious and would love to learn from the collective wisdom of the community. :)

–Fitz

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This article has 7 comments

  1. forged Reply

    I made this a separate comment from my previous one because this has less to do with Fitz’s question about bonding with your character and to do with the story element that Fitz found very interesting.

    I’m the GM of the campaign that Fitz mentioned. While I only ever got a vague notion of what I was doing with that thread I introduced from the get go …. it served its purpose admirably.

    It gave the party a common bonding element within the first session despite the fact that they all came from a common environment in the backstory. It made the characters unique from a majority of the population. It introduced themes that I thought would be important for the campaign (although I didn’t get far enough with those themes). And it started the first session with enough of a bang that it felt distinct (at least for me) from games that I been involved with in the past.

    When we determined at dinner during our last session that we were going to wrap up the campaign in a bit under 3 hours to put on-hold, referencing this initial event served as the anchor for giving myself a ton of options if we ever decide to resume this campaign.

    So for an idea that I never fully explored to its vast potential, I thought it did an amazing job of what it did do for the campaign.

    (The idea itself is a bit long-winded for a comment, so if enough people are interested, maybe Fitz will have me post it as a blog comment here.)

    • Fitz

      To @Hungry, @Wyatt, @DNAphil, @Sean Holland, & @forged, thanks for all the good suggestions. I have another post that will be going up that provides a simple 6 question formula that may help some for this emotional bonding issue. But I appreciate all the great help. Building a core of one or more major points and then exploring those themes as the game progresses sounds very practical.

      To @forged, I know I’d love to see more about the “dream” on the blog and invite you to guest post. :) Anyone else who would like to contribute, please let me know.

  2. forged Reply

    I seem to follow a combination of the things mentioned on here. I’ll come up with either part of a personality or usually some pivota background event that leads to a certain point and then wait to see the voice that emerges from actions and dialog to see where the character is going over the first few sessions.

    The less I know a world, the more likely the character will sound very bland until I get a feel for what is going on.

    In a couple of characters cases, the character idea was just simple a slogan they used.

  3. Sean Holland Reply

    I try to look for the central idea of the character as I am getting them ready for play, something that make me interested in playing them. Now, what interests me when I create the character may not be what makes me bond with them in play.

    For example, in one campaign I played an escaped slave who became a priest. My initial thoughts about him were to play up the anti-slavery angle but he developed much more into a theologian and religious scholar who attacked slavery through doctrine rather than directly.

    But I think the core is building one or more major points that really interest you in the character and then seeing how those hook into the campaign (and being willing to let them evolve with the game and other characters).

  4. DNAphil Reply

    I do it in two steps. I create one feature or background hook for the character that I really can connect with, and then spend some time brainstorming about that feature, so that I get very comfortable with it.

    I use that hook to get into the first few sessions. By that time, I have had time to play him and have had some reactions to the world. I use those experiences to expand the character and create the final bond.

  5. Wyatt Reply

    During character creation. I tend to play in the kinds of games that require some kind of background and somewhat comprehensive crunch work to create a character, so I tend to bond with them as I am carefully putting them together. This is also why I tend to despise games that have both really thorough character creation and high character mortality.

  6. Hungry Reply

    I find that I don’t bond with my character until 2-3 sessions into the campaign. It’s not until then do I really find the “flavor” of how I want to run the character (or how he demands to be run as is often the case.) Once I’ve gotten into the flow of the character, that’s when I start to get into them and bond with them.

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