There are two phases to the character creation process, creating a character concept and building a character mechanically. In slang terms, the "fluff" and the "crunch." Mutants and Masterminds allows for an incredible variety of characters and powers, based on a surprisingly small set of actual mechanics. Two characters can have almost the same powers as written on their sheet, but those powers express themselves in completely different ways. We have some guidelines to streamline character creation and make it more likely your character will be accepted the first time.
Character Concept: The Fluffy Stuff
The first rule of character concept is simple: Play what you want to play. If you're playing a character you don't enjoy, you're not going to have fun. It doesn't matter if five other people have similar concepts to yours, this game allows for infinite variety. If your initial concept doesn't mesh well with the Freedom City world, we can help you tweak it into something that'll be a better fit. Don't get discouraged by the guidelines, they are tools to help move your unique character smoothly into the shared world of FC:PbP.
Genre and Tone
FC:PbP is a game based specifically on Western superheroes, mostly as found in comic books and comic-book movies. Characters from other distinct genres of fiction, such as those found in anime, manga, video games, action movies, or horror fiction may need substantial adaptation to fit them into the setting. A character with a giant mecha or a sentai team would not be appropriate to the setting, but a character with a huge battlesuit or a sidekick or two could fit right in. It is also a game for adult and near-adult heroes, and therefore the minimum character age is sixteen years old.
As this is a superhero game, player characters are superheroes, and they are expected to act like it. That means making a conscious choice to use their gifts to help others, to go out looking for trouble instead of just waiting around for it to find them. This is a game for "superheroes," not "people with powers." Think less Heroes (the TV show) and more Justice League Unlimited. It means that while they may be flawed, while they may make mistakes, they learn from those mistakes, they always strive to be better people, and there are some lines (like murder) that cannot be crossed without great consequence. (We tried having both heroes and villains as PCs. It didn't work.) This doesn't mean that your hero has to have a codename, and a costume, and a secret identity, and superpowers, but it does mean that they should have at least one item off of that list. Otherwise, they don't fit the flavor of the game. We're not looking for morally-ambiguous antiheroes who would be more at home in an '80s action movie, an issue of Sin City, or Prototype. Having a character who is unsure of their abilities or ambivalent about being a superhero is just fine.
Backstory is important for every character because it explains what's happened to make your character they way they are, and usually plants seeds for future stories. A backstory can be as short as a few paragraphs, or it can go on for pages. A general rule of thumb is that the more complicated you want your character's life story to be, the longer you should make your backstory. If your character is a high school student who suddenly manifested superpowers and is going to Claremont Academy, a bare-bones backstory is entirely appropriate. If your character is a dimensional refugee from an alternate Earth where everyone else was killed by zombies but she was rescued and brought to Earth Prime to live with the alternate universe version of her family, you probably have some writing to do.
Feel free to mine the setting for backstory ideas, as well as talking to other players for ideas on where your character may have come from. Please bear in mind that the more heavily your backstory relies upon important setting characters and elements, the more heavily it will be scrutinized during approval. This is due to an unfortunate tendency for players to create characters who are intricately connected to important parts of the setting and then disappear, leaving holes in the setting. We really hate retconning here, so we try to avoid it in advance where we can. If you've got your heart set on playing the son/daughter/trainee/adopted ward of a famous hero, you're much more likely to get that character approved as a second character after you've been around awhile.
While we love seeing a wide variety of backstory ideas, there are a few cringeworthy tropes that comics are frequently guilty of and we really don't like seeing. Culturally appropriative powers, where a character meets a "primitive tribe" or "spiritually enlightened natives" and gets superpowers from them was really popular in comics for awhile, but it's not something for here. Rape as backstory, where a woman's sexual assault or abuse becomes the catalyst for her becoming a superhero, or where it becomes the catalyst for a man associated with her to become a superhero, is not appropriate to the site. This is not to say that a talented writer cannot pick up a fraught subject and handle it with grace and sensitivity, but any backstory that includes hints of these things will be up for intense review. Characters are supposed to be flawed human beings, and therefore we expect that some will exhibit prejudices and biases against various groups, but we do require that expressions of those views be restrained enough that they don't make other players uncomfortable.
Teams and Groups
Because play is fairly unstructured at FC:PbP, one challenge for new players is to find threads to put their characters into. Having your character make friends through play and have adventures with them is the most straightforward way to integrate a character, but it's not always simple. Having your character fit into a group or join a team can be a good way to make yourself available for stories. There are several types of group that crop up frequently.
- Superteams: The classic form of superhero organization, a few superheroes get together and form a team to fight crime and save the world. Superteams usually have between three and six members (they can have more, but in that case not every team member will be in every thread), and often develop through roleplay. Current superteams include The Liberty League, The Interceptors, The Midnighters, and Freedom League Auxilary.
- Proximity Groups: Some characters do threads together a lot because they all happen to live in the same area, or even the same building. The kids at Claremont Academy do threads together because they all live in the same building and go to the same school. The people who live in the DuTemps building or on Sanctuary often call on each other to socialize or fight crime. Joining a proximity group is mostly a matter of creating a character who lives in that area and getting to know your neighbors.
- Work Groups: There are a few large employers out there who are interested in hiring superheroes with certain skillsets. Companies like HAX, AEON and ArcheTech may hire characters to fill a variety of roles, giving characters a chance to interact with coworkers and bosses. Joining a work group can happen through play, or you can contact someone playing the boss of one of these companies to discuss building a career into your character concept.
- Family Groups: Whether by blood, marriage or choice, some characters are linked by bonds of family. They may fight crime together, or fight like brothers and sisters, or just face the world and all its foibles together. Some families form up from relationships established in play, like the extended Espadas clan, others like the Faretti and Cline families may be arranged at character creation.