This article deals with Characters as it relates to NationStates. For more general information, see the Wikipedia article on this subject.
In roleplaying games, a character is a role or persona assumed by the player within the world of the game. In NS, the player of a nation can 'control' (and create) many different characters. By far most characters can be found in the NationStates and International Incidents forums, though several have been seen in the UN and General forums as well.
Use of characters in NS
Characters in NationStates are very diverse; there are humans , but also various kinds of non-humans (such as elves), aliens, artificial lifeforms and sentient computers, etc. These characters may be inspired by the personality of the player itself (in which case the president or king strongly resembles the personality of the player or even has the same name as the RL person behind the nation) or they may be inspired on famous people from RL, science fiction movies, (computer) games or books (such as Lord of the Rings.) Many players create entirely new and unique characters that have their own personalities and characteristics. Some characters have pictures, but others do not.
Jurisdiction over characters
Every citizen of a nation falls under the RP jurisdiction of the player. Characters are often used by players in roleplay as representatives of their respective nations' government or ideology: envoys, government ministers, heads of state, etc. But as the jurisdiction extends to every citizen of a nation it is also legitimate to create and run characters with marginal or no political involvement, purely to add depth to a nation or story.
It is, however, considered to be bad etiquette to create or appropriate characters from other nations without permission. Roleplaying characters who are not of the players own nation rarely happens, if at all.
While most players (especially in the International Incidents forum) only create a character for their national leader to represent them in international relations, other roleplayers tend to create a vast array of different characters inside their nation (such as ministers, generals, religious figures, famous sports players, but sometimes also ordinary persons to give an idea of the nation from the perspective of a common person.) Using many characters in a roleplay to give a story-like narrative of what is going on is called Character roleplay