By Troy Mepyans
Sometimes it’s hard to come up with an idea for a character, particularly human characters that aren’t just two-dimensional paper cut-outs without any real dimension. What I have found to help counter this is to randomly select a birthplace, or location where the character spent their formative years, and build the character from the ground up. This is particularly useful if you are having the character start from Earth since there are so many tools on the web to randomly select countries, cities, and even smaller towns from which to begin.
Once you have your starting point, it pays to do a little bit of research about the area that you have come up with and the culture that is in the surrounding region. For example, if you randomly came up with Tokyo, Japan, you would want to research a little about the city itself and the surrounding area, along with the culture from the past to modern times. Your character may be able to trace their lineage back centuries to a famous figure of the region, or they are simply familiar with the history of that part of their family and it has become a hobby of theirs.
The population would…come together for survival in ways they hadn’t before those times. Cultures and ethnicities would blend together and the strong lines of demarcation between them would blur as the decades and centuries pass.
Something to keep in mind is that humanity of the 23rd and 24th centuries would likely look very different than it does now. After the Eugenics Wars and the Third World War, the population would have been forced to come together for survival in ways they hadn’t before those times. Cultures and ethnicities would blend together and the strong lines of demarcation between them would blur as the decades and centuries pass. That’s not to say your character has to follow that model, but it is something that may help you design an even more fleshed-out backstory as you make your build. For example, the character from Tokyo may have been born in Japan and have Japanese ancestry on one side of their family; but they may have an entirely different ethnicity on the other side of their family that they can trace back to various groups fleeing wars, famine, disease, or whatever crisis comes to your mind.
In addition, in the idealistic future, hundreds of years of racist policies and ideologies would have faded away encouraging a new, wiser society that encourages and celebrates multicultural and multiethnic unions.
Once you have the foundation laid for your character, it’s time to breathe a little life into them. Choose hobbies or activities that dovetail with the focuses and talents you’ve chosen for your character. For example, if you have chosen Mean Right Hook as a talent, your character may be a skilled boxer or at least a student of that particular sport/martial art. Other things to think about are how they relate to their past and how that can translate into talents and focuses as well. This is where your upbringing can really come into play, rather than simply adding to stats on a piece of paper. If your character grew up on a farm, what focus did they choose and how did that focus apply to life on the farm?
This same process can be applied to Academy life; and, even later, to the events that shaped their careers before they arrived at the assignment that will be the focus of your campaign. Was your character involved in athletics at the Academy? What did they do when they had time away from their studies? Did they travel to other worlds as part of their curriculum? If so, where did they go and why? Perhaps your character was involved in the Battle of Wolf 359, or the Dominion War if you’re in the TNG, DS9, Voyager era; or the Romulan or Klingon Wars of the 22nd and 23rd centuries. Was there an event that truly changed their outlook and personality? How have they dealt with the aftermath of those events? Even positive events like First Contacts or being Mentored can have a lasting impact on the development and attitudes of a character. Always be thinking of how things you are doing as you build the character might affect them as people and officers.
Whatever you choose to do, keep in mind what you have discovered as you build your character, especially their Values and possibly their focuses as well. Don’t forget to let your GM in on your character’s background, as they can use that to craft plots and subplots that help develop that even further and truly bring your character to life.
Above all else that has been mentioned here, HAVE FUN! If some of this works for you, but not other parts, that’s great! If you already have a concept in mind, run with it and see if you can add even more to it! Not a human? That’s cool too! Do some research on whatever world they’re from or use a random world generator from the web to create something totally new and different to start your journey.
Good luck as you take your first steps into the Final Frontier! Live long and prosper!