Pre-written characters are those created by the organizers before the game. They can vary in length from a few lines of text to several pages of information. The goal is to provide the player with all the information needed to play a particular character in the game. For longer or complex games characters are often sent out well in advance, while rerunable games often hand out characters immediately before play.
Alternatives are players creating their own characters, often in collaboration with each other and the organizers or creating characters during a workshop.
A pre-written character often contain some or all of the following elements:
- Personal history
- Personality traits
- Social role and responsibilities
- Relationships to other characters
- Goals and motivations
- Personal thoughts or memories
- Direction or Fate
- Thematic inspirations
- Costuming advice
Some of the benefits of pre-written characters:
- Structuring drama and conflict
- Giving players time to prepare
- Precise information
- Casting players for specific roles
There are of course also disadvantages, the main ones being that information tends to be forgotten i longer characters and that a given player might not play the character as intended or not feel immersed in it. It can also be hard for players to prepare in-game relationships before play as well. From the organizers or character creators point of view writing just a handful of characters can take considerable time and effort, not to mention if you need to write hundreds.