A basic guide to cover the various bases of character creation.
The first thing to do in making a character is to envision what you want your character to be like. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
Try not to make a character based on what someone else wants, unless it is what you want, too. If you make a character based on your own specifications, and molded as you wish them to be, you will have more fun role-playing that character.
Never use a copyrighted character as your own. For starters, the character does not belong to you, and other people may not be willing to role-play with an unoriginal character. There is also the risk of running into the same character being played by another. As much as the players may argue how much longer they have played the character than the other, or how much more it belongs to them, it belongs to neither of them. Playing a copyrighted character that isn't yours is an insult to your own creativity and imagination; you could do so much better by making your own character.
You don't really need to specify your character's alignment, but they are listed here as an example of various personalities.
Lawful implies honor and respect for society and its rules.
Chaotic believes in the opposite, and prefers an absolute freedom of choice.
(Scenario) A hungry and poor child comes wandering your way. You:
Lawful Good, "Crusader"
⤷ take them to the market and buy them (stealing is wrong!) food, clothes, and see if they'd like to live with some friends you know. Poor little thing, you can give this kid a better life.
Lawful Good examples: Captain America, RoboCop, Carrot Ironfoundersson (Discworld)
Neutral Good, "Benefactor"
⤷ see an apple booth nearby and steal them an apple to eat, and one for yourself. Whatever works. You don't break laws if you can help it, but will help others, especially if it benefits you.
Neutral Good examples: Zorro, Gandalf (The Lord of the Rings), Will Turner (Pirates of the Caribbean)
Chaotic Good, "Rebel"
⤷ find some rich smuck you can steal some food from. Why steal from a market of hard working citizens when you can just steal from those that have more food than they know what to do with?
Chaotic Good examples: V (V for Vendetta [movie, not the comics]), The Blues Brothers, Captain Kirk (Star Trek)
Lawful Neutral, "Judge"
⤷ ignore them and go about your job (unless there's a law saying you have to help starving children). If you don't meet your quota for the day, your boss is going to get upset. You'll do whatever they tell you as long as you still get paid.
Lawful Neutral examples: Judge Dredd, Rorschach (Watchmen), James Bond, Odysseus, Lord Vetinari (from Discworld)
True Neutral, "Undecided"
⤷ don't care; there are hundreds of starving children out there. It's just the way of the world.
True Neutral believes all four compass points--good, evil, lawful, chaotic--are necessary in the world. They see the big picture and know each aspect has its part in the universe.
Neutral examples: Doctor Manhattan (Watchmen), The Watcher and Galactus (Marvel comics), Death (Discworld)
Chaotic Neutral, "Free Spirit"
⤷ are an unpredictable person, and do whatever comes to your head. You may steal, buy, or make the kid some food, or give them the boot. Whatever you feel like at the time. There is no order to anything in life, including your actions.
Chaotic Neutral examples: Catwoman (Batman), Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean), Riddick (Pitch Black), Ferris Bueller, Beetlejuice
Lawful Evil, "Dominator"
⤷ keep an eye on them to make sure they're not going to steal anything. Peasants, who needs them. Let the Law elevate those in society who are law abiding. If the kid can't make it on their own, then that's their problem. Besides, you wouldn't want to break the law, what would happen to you then? You could go to prison; your reputation would be ruined!
Lawful Evil examples: Boba Fett (Star Wars), Magneto (X-Men), The Kingpin (Spider-Man), Judge Turpin (Sweeney Todd)
Neutral Evil, "Malefactor"
⤷ see the kid has a bit of bread in in their hands, and take it away. *shrugs* Hey, when you're hungry... Nothing personal, kid. You do what you have to, it's all about taking care of yourself.
Neutral Evil examples: Voldemort (Harry Potter), Saruman (Hobbit), Mrs. Lovett (Sweeney Todd)
Chaotic Evil, "Destroyer"
⤷ grab the kid and shake them upside down vigorously, hoping they've got a few gold coins hidden away that you can take. Heck with the weak, they were put here to be exploited. If you want something, you take it.
Chaotic evil examples: Joker (Batman), Darth Maul (Star Wars), Sweeney Todd, Alex (A Clockwork Orange), Freddy Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street), Oogie-Boogie (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
Most people (unless of a noble class or of special circumstances) would not be educated, and therefore, would be illiterate. It is not uncommon, and nothing to be ashamed of; it is simply how things were. There are few cases in which a person may have to be literate, so rest easy in playing it realistic.
Avoid crazy powers/abilities: You don't need to play a god to have an interesting character! The more powerful you make your character, the less likely people will want to role-play with you. Keep it balanced!
Magic: If your character is exceptional at magic, they should be weaker of body. And remember, it should take time to cast powerful spells, and should be mentally and physically taxing to the character to do so.
Physical combat: If they are physically powerful, they should have little ability to use magic.
It takes someone years of practice to become good at something, whether magic or physical prowess, so a person usually devotes themselves to one or the other. Hybrid characters are allowed but they should not be as powerful as a pure-magic user or pure-physical fighter.
Avoid having a character that has mastered every skill, or has an unprecedented amount of skills for no reason. There should be a reason in your backstory or time spent in learning such skills. Why would a noble learn how to pick pockets? Or a tavern wench know military strategy? Most people in the Middle Ages trudged along in their lives, learning from apprenticeship to a master to learn skills. A farmer knows how to farm, a scribe knows how to write. Likely a farmer wouldn't know how to write and a scribe wouldn't know how to farm.
Special Snowflakes: Most people want their characters to be special, loved, respected. Keep in mind this is what many other people want, too. To vie for the most powerful or clever or strongest character is only going to create out-of-character drama.
Sometimes a person is too used to others being all-powerful, that they too have to up the ante in order to be equal. However, it leaves those trying to play their strengths realistically seem weak. The answer is never to increase your character's power, but to try and remember to keep things realistic and balanced. It's all right to be different from others in personality and appearance, but having a multitude of powers under your belt to be more powerful than everyone else is not going to win you friends.
Look at it from other player's perspective. How would you feel if you were roleplaying with an invulnerable (or practically invulnerable) character, who was impervious to real harm and could outwit your character in anything they do, despite that your character has trained as a soldier or a mage? You would probably feel frustrated, and that's how others would feel if your character seems too powerful or god-like.
Playing a god, demi-god, or a creature you feel should have god-like powers? Then try adding something to your story that makes them weaker. Perhaps they were cast into this plane of existence and lost a vast majority of their powers. Be creative!
Respect your fellow player and remember this is a game we have for fun! Powergaming, godmoding, metagaming, and harassment go against the spirit of the game and will earn you less friends to role-play with. If you find your character cornered with no way out but to die, IM those you are playing with and discuss a way out. Permadeath should NEVER be forced; only you can kill off your character if you choose; no one else.
Godmoding = Being all-powerful, practically invincible. A godmoder tends to try to avoid anything bad happening to their character while having a power, tool, or ability to solve any situation that they find themselves up against.
Metagaming = Taking something OOC to IC, or IC to OOC. Also known as CRP (Cross-Role-Play).
OOC to IC example: Somebody insults you OOC, so your character hits theirs. This is not acceptable.
IC to OOC example: Somebody insults your character IC, so you insult their player. Don't do it.
Powergaming = Tries to force moves on others, rather than attempting them. They tend to assume anything they do is successful. They always avoid hits and/or try to force their own hits on others without giving the person a chance to react, dodge, or parry. Often seen as unsporting, un-fun, and unsociable.