The above quote has very little to do with this post, but it does encapsulate how serious I am about Character Business. Not business in the sense of Neckties and Profit-Margins, but business in the theatrical sense, that is:The Monarch: " (sighing) Jollyrancher82, never get henchmen.''Jollyrancher82: "You know, that's not my real name.''The Monarch: "Well, how was I supposed to know? I used my real name.''Jollyrancher82: "I just thought, you know... "The Monarch," I thought you were into cosplay...''The Monarch: "Real name! And I am into costumed business, not costumed play."
9. An incidental action performed by an actor on the stage to fill a pause between lines or to provide interesting detail.Character Business is one of the things that can make or break a game for me. PCs with good character business can rescue a dreary plot and if done well can make a good game great.
14. (Performing Arts / Theatre) Also called stage business Theatre an incidental action, such as lighting a pipe, performed by an actor for dramatic effect (http://thefreedictionary.com/business)
Partly I like character business because it's often a result of player's thinking about a character and coming up with something that character would have to do. When I ran a one-shot game where all the players were hobbits, having a cleanliness obsessed wizard meant that any break featured a nice bit of character business where the wizard used prestidigitation to clean any dirt, dust or blood off himself. The do-nothing hobbit warlord with a heart of gold had some great business as he was always trying to get the other PCs to do things so that he wouldn't have to.
Character relationships are another great source of character business. One of the blasts of playing Kam Clovertail was having his two siblings as PCs to interact with. This meant that there was always sibling feuding style character business for us to indulge in. For Sid, I always had creepy "the stars will be right" muttering and insane evil to indulge in, partly to the detriment of that character, unfortunately. For Uwain, as I go forward playing him, I hope that his character business will be encouraging convictions in the other PCs of that party.
One of my favorite characters to play was a PC mainly built around character business. I played Fausto Sforza in a Vampire the Masquerade LARP, who started as a Revenant ghoul and assistant of another PC, the Monsignore Benito Giovanni. Even though Fausto was mortal, he always had plenty to do, taking care of the Monsignore's needs, like setting appointments and making phone calls and dealing with modern technology as the Monsignore was from the 19th century and uncomfortable with any post-1900 technology.
I'm going to be playing an One-Shot D&D Next game on New Year's and an ongoing 4E game in February and for both, I plan on trying to get other player's to have related PCs to encourage some good character business.