What does this character do?
A Builder builds. Sometimes the Builder is focused on making physical items, and sometimes he's focused instead on social structures, but no matter the details he's someone who creates something out of raw materials.
Depending on what is being built, elements of the Merchant or the Aristocrat might creep in, but contrary to those professions' goals, a Builder's primary concern is making something. Merchants fundamentally want to be paid; Builders fundamentally want to create. If a Merchant could find another way to get paid, it would be worth considering. A Builder opts to create because he prefers the creation to any profit. Similarly, while an Aristocrat maintains existing social structures, the Builder seeks to create new ones, change up the way things normally work.
For some it's even a matter of building a collection -- creating a library or a repository of artifacts, for example. The point is that at the end of his life, the Builder will look back and be able to point to something that he forged in whole or in part. His work has a tangible set of results.
What does this profession provide for roleplaying?
If you've never built something, I encourage you to go out and put together a bookshelf. If you're pressed for time, money, and options, I'll accept "assembling a bookshelf from IKEA" as a stopgap solution. Didn't putting that together give you a sort of meaty feeling? A certain sense of completeness that can only come from working with your hands?
Builders are anchored in the game world in a way that other characters sometimes aren't. Your other characters in Star Wars: The Old Republic use blasters and lightsabers and vibroblades, but a Builder knows about how a lightsaber works in an intimate fashion. He knows what it means to make one, to pull the casing apart and see the fine points that could be improved upon. A Builder in The Secret World is genuinely passionate about the information hierarchy in the Templars and really lives with that.
The net result is a character who feels connected to the world around him, due in no small part to the fact that he's invested in the nuts and bolts you don't necessarily concern yourself with. Builders are concerned with those things, and they lend that wonderful sense of verisimilitude that I harp on at least twice in any given month.
What sort of characters work best in this role?
Obviously, a Builder needs something to build. It may not be something he necessarily likes to build, it may not be something he's necessarily good at building, but it should probably be one of the two. Both are ideal, but there's drama for miles for someone who is particularly good at making something when he would rather not make it.
Whatever it is that the Builder builds also needs to be relevant in the setting. In Star Trek Online, making a cabinet isn't really all that important -- everything anyone needs can just be replicated, and anything crafted by hand is done more as a hobby than as a necessity. A Builder wouldn't just be making cabinets. Unless he was used to living apart from modern technology and making everything by hand, in which case what we're really talking about here is someone building independence rather than furniture.
Most Builders are more suited to being of a contemplative bent. The act of creating tends to inspire a certain amount of introspection and consideration, not to mention that it requires a fair bit of time besides. Exuberance isn't out of the question, but Builders are still predisposed to being thinkers first.
What should I keep in mind?
Building and crafting are not the same thing. There are plenty of things that one can build that have nothing to do with crafting systems, even if you leave aside obvious things like building a revolutionary culture. You can't mechanically craft furniture in World of Warcraft, but that doesn't mean you can't have a character who makes bookshelves and chairs. The fact that it might not correspond with that character's in-game crafting, if any, is ultimately irrelevant.
You also might want to do some research. I realize that for some people research is a filthy word, but if you want to talk about building things, it helps if you have at least a bare minimum of knowledge necessary to fake it. Yes, that goes for fake objects too. There may not be any working lightsabers out there, but there's still a lot of reading material about how they're supposedly constructed. Don't make a character a baseball fan if you think that you can get a seventh down in the first round, and don't make your character an architect if you're pretty sure "buttress" is the kind of woman Sir Mix-A-Lot sang about.
Feedback is welcome either down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, as in previous weeks. It's pretty standard like that. Next week I'd like to talk about how to avoid community drama, and the week after that I'd like to look at villainy once again.
Every Friday, Eliot Lefebvre fills a column up with excellent advice on investing money, writing award-winning novels, and being elected to public office. Then he removes all of that, and you're left with Storyboard, which focuses on roleplaying in MMOs. It won't help you get elected, but it will help you pretend you did.