Some thoughts on developing deeper, non-traditionl associations with characters. Chaosium’s Nephilim occult rpg contains an interesting tool for the development of PCs (or NPCs as well): a “Chinese Portrait”. I have come across this technique in other areas and reading as well; I believe the tool offers players a unique tool in fleshing out their thoughts on their PCs.

The Portrait involves developing non-traditional elements and associations for a character. Usually, one fleshes out the appearance, background, skills, family, etc. These can all be considered “normal”, “traditional”, or even “mundane” descriptions (although they are vital to the characterization process). The Portrait forces a player to think in abstract terms about a character. The technique involves answering a series of questions from the character’s point of view, all beginning with the statement “If I were a …”. Let’s begin with a few sample questions:

“If I were a type of weather, I would be…”:

“If I were a weapon, I would be…”: <note – katana is far too easy. Think in terms of the effect of weapons…if you must say "katana", please at least throw some adjectives in with in…and, no, "my grandfather's katana" is still too easy….

"If I were an animal, I would be…"

“If I were a metal, I would be…”

“If I were a food, I would be…”

“If I were another Clan, I would be…”:

“If I were a building, I would be…”

The questions can go on and on. About ten or so should be sufficient. Again, the idea is to think about the character in non-tradtional, intuitive ways, and thereby gain additional insights into their personality and behavior.

Thoughts on this technique are most welcome. Domo arigato and enjoy!

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