On collaboration in roleplay
What is the most important thing to keep in mind when roleplaying? Is it imagination, creativity or maybe colorful language?
I say - NAY! In the grand scheme of things, those thing while nice are not really that important. The most important thing when roleplaying is to keep other players in mind at all times and to make sure that your character supplements their stories.
Upon hearing this, you may ask - isn't my character supposed to be the special snowflake, that is unique in all the world.
And to that I have to answer - your uniqueness can be fun of course and to a degree - yes, you are a player character because you are special. But it should not overshadow what your story contributes to the party. In multiplayer video games, the party is always made out of players and characters that supplement each other - tank, healer, dps. In the knowledge that each player will play their part, they each play unique part.
With roleplaying the important part is not winning though and as such those roles are less important than what the character will bring to the party in roleplay.
For example, it is sometimes fun to have the player characters be philosophically opposed. Does the party have a chaotic character and a lawful character, well that is a great opportunity. They both have different worldviews, but it is not as fun if their worldviews do not give in at all. You should play with the idea that those worldviews will influence each other to a degree. And as the ideologies influence each other, you will discover in your roleplay, how two people growing in the same society developed such differing idiologies.
You now know that I value collaboration in roleplay a lot. Well how best to achieve it?
Well I am big proponent of not thinking about your character a lot before the actual play. When I create my characters, I mostly just pick out the mechanical parts - class, race, gender. Also I usually pick like a sentence or two about what my character is like.
"A trickster kenku, who just longs for a family."
"An immoral warlock, in love with his patron."
"A cheerful human girl, running from her past by turning to her training."
All those descriptions are very vague, upon need I can add a lot of extra detail and as the play goes I do just that.
When I interact with the GM and other players I doubtlessly find more things about my own character and as such my character grows from nothing to something complex.
I feel that developing the character this way is best for roleplay. I don't need to worry about complex backstory before the story actually needs it and the GM can easily incorporate me into the world. As for the other characters - they can easily influence my character, even retroactively. That way the character become not just my own, but everyone's.
And that, I think, is a good thing.
What is your opinion on this? Do you create complex backstories for your characters before you start, or do your characters evolve with play. Which do you think is best way?