City of Heroes
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Designing an Original Character

It can be very difficult to come up with a hero or heroine that is truly unique. Certain powersets just seem to go together very well, and are popular builds (like the so-called "Wolverine" Scrapper build of Claws and Regeneration). Some culturally-accepted appearances are also popular--on American servers, for instance, you might see a good number of blonde-haired, tanned, and lithe heroines running around Atlas Park. But creating a unique character is not just about choosing wild and wacky powersets, or using a random combination of costume pieces and colors--you can make your character unique through an origin story, generic power pool selections, and even how you interact with other heroes in teams and supergroups.

For me, I've found that thinking out what kind of hero I want before I start working in the "New Character" creation screen helps me a lot. Not only do I have the proper amount of time to brainstorm and sift through ideas, but by the time I get to the character creation screen, I already know generally what I'm looking for, so actual character creation takes a lot less time. Also, thinking about an original, unique, and fitting name before you actually start creating the character is an important step--check out the Naming of a Hero article for more about that process.

Below follows a list of steps that I use whenever I'm creating a new hero. You can choose to follow these steps in the order that I've given them, but if you find it easier to start with a different step, feel free to do so! Sometimes characters' personalities don't quite emerge until you choose certain powersets for them, and sometimes you don't know precisely what Origin you want until you develop the personality. The basic questions are:

1. Think of a character personality for your hero. This can be a thinly-veiled reference to your own personality, or a completely different personality from your own--or any gradient in between! The personality of your hero is not something that necessarily takes shape quickly; allow yourself to think about what kind of hero suits you as well as what your imagination springs forth.

For me, each of my heroines are facets of my personality as well as characters in their own right. I took small bits of my personality and slices of my experience, and added in pinches of influence from literature I've read, as well as generous amounts of imagination. A truly original character is hard to create--I acknowledge that. But you can get a pretty unique character by just starting out with what you know (your own life, your own experiences, your favorite characters from books, pop culture, TV, etc.), and then making it a little more fantastic and a little more unusual; after all, that's probably how a lot of superheroes got their start on paper!

2. Choose an Origin that suits the personality you've come up with. Did this person work hard through physical and mental training to become the hero he or she is (Natural), or were they gifted powers through a ritual or a special object (Magic)? How about through genetic experiments or improvements (Mutation) or through a scientific accident or experiment (Science)? Or perhaps did they craft a device that gave them powers, or helped them channel already-existing powers (Technology)?

3. Choose an archetype and powersets that reflect the personality you have created. This depends largely on your perceptions of each archetype and powerset, so think carefully about what kind of archetype and powerset pair would match up with your character's backstory, personality, and Origin.

For instance, Blasters are strong at range and do best by keeping enemies at arm's length; thus, when I created my own Blaster, I matched her standoffish personality with two powersets that make enemies stay where they are (Electricity Blast and Electricity Manipulation). Since Elec Blast and Elec Manip also drain enemies of Endurance, rendering them unable to fight back, this fits with how she deals with the enemies in her origin story as well.

But What If I've Already Created a Character?

If you've already created a character and want to make it more unique, you can rewrite the origin story as a first step, adding new details that make your character stand out or explain why he or she has certain powers. You can also take powers from the generic power pool list to give your character new and different skills--for instance, I decided that I wanted all my heroines to have more team support skills. Thus, I have taken Aid Other (Medicine tree) and Recall Friend (Teleportation tree) with each character that needs the team support powers--even my Willpower/Dual Blades Tank can heal and teleport now!

You might be wondering, "How can you reconcile using team support powers on a character that is more of a damage-dealer?" I had problems with this, too--my Regen/Claws Scrapper didn't seem to be the right kind of character for team support powers like healing and teleporting. However, I had an epiphany: why can't my heroines evolve as they level up? Why can't they become more versatile heroines as they "grow up?" Thus, I was able to explain why even my Scrapper and Tank have healing--it's part of how they learned how to cooperate in teams of heroes. Not only do I enjoy giving the unexpected heal or teleport from time to time, but I also make it fit with each of their backstories to my satisfaction.