I think creating strong characters is the most important element of a good RPG. Your world can be amazing or your battle systems creative, but if you have flat, forgettable characters, then your story will suffer too. The characters are your story’s engine, in a way. Once you have your strong characters fleshed out, all you really need to do is let them loose in the world and see where they take you!
It’s no fun making characters that are whole-heartedly bad or good. That’s boring and predictable, and also not very realistic. The bad guy never sees himself as bad. Did Pol Pot think he was the bad guy? What is the warped point of view that drives their decision making? What kind of childhood and upbringing did Pol Pot have to turn out the way he did? That’s what makes creating characters interesting.
Our two main characters – Silas and Maida Foss – are petty criminals. They may be endearing scum, but they’re scum nonetheless. Like anyone, they are driven by their own pasts which form their motivations. What makes them our main characters is they just happen to be two people caught up in a mechanism that is bigger than themselves, which thrusts them into the centre of a story. They aren’t on an adventure to save the world. They don’t have super-powers. They’re just two people swept up in a series of events because of their greed and short-sightedness.
I hope that as you adventure with them, you will better understand why they are the way they are, and maybe as you learn more about their past you become more sympathetic. On the surface they may be scum, but they’ve grown up in a scummy world with scummy influences.
Silas and Maida’s viewpoints are very different, but they are two sides of the same coin. On their adventure, they will come in contact with people that will travel with them for a variety of reasons – necessity, vanity, boredom, fear – none of which are as boring and trotted out as “I want to save the world.”