Friday, May 6, 2011

The Character Pitch

After reading L.G. Smith's post over at Bards and Prophets on pitching a novel, I suddenly thought, "Wow! This technique could easily be applied to create characters for a roleplaying game!" The technique Smith discusses comes from author, Linda Rohrbough and involves breaking down the pitch into a series of sub-components called, "log lines" (is this an industry standard term or something of Rohrbough's invention?).

The log lines are three short statements that address:
  1. The main character and action in the story
  2. The character arc and changes which take place
  3. The theme of the story
For the purpose of adapting this technique to game-character creation, we are mostly interested in the first log line. Since a tabletop RPG is essentially a story being written as it is played, the other two log lines will naturally take shape as the game progresses.

So, the first log line should include the following elements: Hero, Flaw, Life Changing Event, Opponent, Ally, and Battle.

Smith uses the movie, Rocky as her example, but I decided to come up with an example character off the top of my own head.

Slaw, a half-orc barbarian (hero) who wrestles with his orcish bloodlust (flaw & opponent) feels out of place among his people until he meets an elven slave (ally). The slave introduces Slaw to his druidic ways (life-changing event) and helps him control his violent impulses. In turn, Slaw becomes a vegetarian and helps to free the slaves of his tribe (battle).

(Note: the idea for Slaw, the vegetarian barbarian came up during last night's game session)

As the above example shows, Rohrbough's approach to novel pitches adopts quite well to character creation. Three sentences was all I needed to put together a character backstory with tremendous roleplaying potential.

Happy Friday everyone!


  1. YAY! I hope Slaw comes to visit us in NPC form in the future :)

  2. We're going to make a novelist of you yet. :)

    Actually, that's an awesome application of the log-line formula. And I think log-lines came from pitching movies originally, but it's a term authors use to describe the pithy sentences they come up with to summarize their work.


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