Useful character backgrounds

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Stan

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As a DM, I've received quite a few multipage backgrounds from players. They often assume incorrect things about the world. They have things that would take wrapping the whole campaign around to make use of, and each player's would go in a different direction. I'm sure that I'm not alone.

I've tried giving max word counts, like 100, 50, or even 20. That helps, but I'm thinking a template might help some players. The ones I've found online aren't worth sharing - too long, too many useless options, like birth city and family size. I also don't want a list of family members to threaten as that's just not my game style. D&D 5e personality traits are ok but they are not the same as background and don't fit all games.

Which is where you all come in. Maybe we can crowd source one. Here's my start:

Write a sentence or two about each of these three things. Max 25 words per section.
  • What do you look like and what would someone who met you notice within a few minutes (dialect, mannerisms, etc.)? - this is also shown to other players.
  • Who and what were you before you became an adventurer?
  • What do you want to do beyond the immediate adventure?
 

hawkeyefan

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It varies a bit from game to game depending on what kind of details are expected by default....like 5E I know I’ll get Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws, and that each PC should have a background.

So I ask for stuff like “You have an ally; who is it and what connects you to them?”

And “You have an enemy; who is it and why don’t you get along?”

Questions of this kind are useful for me because they have specific answers, but they also usually have implied answers too. They’re also pretty leading, but open to a wide variety of answers. One player could have an enemy like Thulsa Doom....killed his parents and is responsible for all manner of suffering and so on. Another player could come up with a Flash Thompson type...a bit of a rival or bully, but nothing major.

That’s the kind of stuff that works for me. It fleshes out the character and possibly the setting, and gives you some possible NPCs to work with.
 

TJS

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I don't read backgrounds these days.

Any character backgrounds have to be developed as part of a normal conversational exchange. These days that will often be over some kind of messaging rather than in person but it has to be a conversation with to and fro, questions and answers.

And I'm very suspicious of any such converation that can't be held in the presence of the other players (or in a shared chat).

Usually all I personally really care about is the answers to the questions I need to get the campaign started.
 

Black Vulmea

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So I ask for stuff like “You have an ally; who is it and what connects you to them?”
I dunno. I'll let you know when I make one.

And “You have an enemy; who is it and why don’t you get along?”
I dunno. I'll let you know when I make one.

That’s the kind of stuff that works for me.
*shudder*

It fleshes out the character and possibly the setting, and gives you some possible NPCs to work with.
How about if you create some NPCs and I'll see if I can work with them?

That's how I flesh out my character.

Maybe we can crowd source one.
Here's mine:
  1. Create a goal for your character.
  2. What resources do you need to achieve this goal?
  3. How do you plan to get these resources?
 

Ravenswing

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For my part, I've always loved being handed a character backstory -- it's a player ASKING me to hand out plot hooks, effectively, and tells me as little else could about where the player would love things to go. Some of them have gone several pages long, but that doesn't bother me. Considering that the longstanding industry leader has a set of corebooks totaling over 700 pages, any GM whining about the horrific imposition in being asked to read a 4-page backstory gets all the consideration from me that he deserves.

Indeed, as Stan says, these players often make incorrect assumptions about the world. But the answer to this isn't a word limit or a confining template. It's a bit of mature technology called a "pen." I use it to strike through the incorrect assumptions (elapsed time, about twenty seconds), and perhaps to jot some corrections concerning what a character native to my world would know, and then I hand the writeup back to the player. Win-win.
 

Black Vulmea

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"He's a notorious voodoo dwarf with a mysterious suitcase handcuffed to his arm. She's a blind Buddhist pearl diver from a family of eight older brothers. They fight crime!"

Coming soon to Netflix.

Thanks, PolarBlues PolarBlues!


I'm so ready to run a dwarf warlock right now.
 

arjunstc

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I ask for four things:

1. Short term goal
2. Long term goal
3. An ally from your past
4. An enemy from your past

Sure the actual obstacles that the PCs will face will be determined by me the GM, but while I decide what happens in the world, the players decide what motivate their characters.

And yes, they will make allies and enemies going forward in the campaign, but since the PCs are not born just yesterday (well, in-game anyway), it is not beyond reason that they would have made friends and enemies in their pre-campaign lives.

I've used this with some success in my longer campaigns. For the shorter ones I usually just tell my players what the tone of the game is, and we just make do as we go along.
 

0qualifications

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When I start my games we come up with a group premise that everyone makes their characters around.

"Spies in a foreign fantasy kingdom"

We build what the people of our kingdom are like, and what the kingdom we're infiltrating is like.

"We come from a druidic/shamanism culture that has gone the way of England, and starts taking over other countries. We're trying to take over a normal fantasy kingdom with a heavy presence of a monotheistic religion."

Then everyone picks their class, and what they did before they were a spy.

"Druid, Scout for the military."

They come up with a line that kind of defines what they think of themselves, or their general view of the world.

"I believe in Druid Superiority"

Then they all make relationships with each other to establish what they think of each other at the beginning of the game.

"Issac needs to learn that his rune magic is detrimental to the spirits"

"Samuel is lost, and needs to return to his roots"

"Katie is not hard enough on those who don't follow the old ways"

That's basically it. I think going more in depth than that doesn't really offer the game anything. I reward milestone level ups for adhering to the group premise.
 

under_score

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In Call of Cthulhu, I like to get a general sense of the characters' daily lives. Work, family, the mundane. It grounds them in the setting and provides good fodder for corruption. And since it's based on the real world, you don't have to worry about players having ideas that clash with the setting.

In any other games, I like Black Vulmea Black Vulmea's list above. Sometimes it's helpful to know why the group are together in the first place. My current AS&SH game started with the PCs on a boat bound for Xambaala. I gave them a bit of background that they'd have heard of Xambaala and asked why they were traveling there so they individually had goals they wanted to accomplish, and then they decided it was safest to travel together for a while simply because none of them were Ixian, the dominant race of the Xambaala region. Given the culture of the place, that's actually been a powerful motivator to stick together.
 

Fenris-77

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I like things I can use as a GM. In that vein I usually prefer point form stuff framed by questions rather than paragraphs of whatever. I'm not a captive audience for frustrated authors. Some games have this built in to char gen really well, but for games that don't my list often looks a lot like the one A arjunstc posted above.
 

hawkeyefan

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I dunno. I'll let you know when I make one.

I dunno. I'll let you know when I make one.

Sure, players can balk at any question. My point is these are the kinds of questions I tend to want answers to. It gives a sense of what the character's past may have been, without having to give me a biography. I like some details, and then plenty of blank space around those details so that they can be determined through play.

How about if you create some NPCs and I'll see if I can work with them?

That's how I flesh out my character.

Sure, I didn't say I wouldn't do that. I feel like this is almost a given to the point I didn't think I needed to mention it.

Here's mine:
  1. Create a goal for your character.
  2. What resources do you need to achieve this goal?
  3. How do you plan to get these resources?

I dunno. I'll let you know when I make one. :tongue:

Goals are definitely something I'd like to hear about from players.
 

under_score

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So I ask for stuff like “You have an ally; who is it and what connects you to them?”

And “You have an enemy; who is it and why don’t you get along?”
I really don't like these questions, personally. As GM, I just don't want to run an NPC that the players created. As player, I feel like the GM is lazy and is offloading their work on me. Make your own damned NPCs and I'll decide if I like them or not.

I ask that character backgrounds be very character-centric. If you tell me your character is a journalist and he's always struggling to make deadlines, we know there's a boss NPC in the mix, but I can decide if he's a gruff jerk, or a fatherly mentor, or so easy-going that the paper is struggling. Your character's opinions of that character are then informed by how they interact in game.
 

Black Vulmea

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My point is these are the kinds of questions I tend to want answers to. It gives a sense of what the character's past may have been, without having to give me a biography.
The problem for me is, I read, tell me about an enemy your character made, and I hear nails on a chalkboard. I don't want to create non-player characters. If I did, I'd beat the skinny end of the table. I don't want to have an 'old enemy' show up, because nothing my character did before the game started earned him an enemy.

The most interesting thing that happened in my character's life is what's happening to him when the game starts, and it should only get more interesting when we play. Everything before that was boring, because that's why he's here now, doing something different, something adventurous, and we're playing the game to find out exactly what that something will be.

I don't want to create conflicts for my character by pulling them out of my ass; I want to EXPERIENCE THEM, in actual play.

I dunno. I'll let you know when I make one. :tongue:
Toosh!

:hehe:

ADDENDUM: under_score under_score gets it.
 

EmperorNorton

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The problem for me is, I read, tell me about an enemy your character made, and I hear nails on a chalkboard. I don't want to create non-player characters. If I did, I'd beat the skinny end of the table. I don't want to have an 'old enemy' show up, because nothing my character did before the game started earned him an enemy.

The most interesting thing that happened in my character's life is what's happening to him when the game starts, and it should only get more interesting when we play. Everything before that was boring, because that's why he's here now, doing something different, something adventurous, and we're playing the game to find out exactly what that something will be.

I think there is some middle ground here though. To me, establishing a few NPCs from your background makes the character feel more like they are a part of the world.

I mean, no one reaches adulthood without having a few friends and a few grievances with people, even if they are all low stakes and "boring" stuff.

Also, this can totally be a back and forth with the GM before the game starts. Like with underscore talking about the boss. If the player gave you that background as a GM I might go "Ok, so this is how I see your boss being, how do you think your character's interactions with them go from your characters side", to establish some "history" to the relationship.
 

Fenris-77

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I do like characters to feel lived in and to have some connections to the world they inhabit. Without that you can easily fall into the standard D&D trap of rootless wanderers that float through a setting unconnected to any of it. I don't want a story or anything, but maybe a couple of details that show how the character is a product of living prior to the start of the game.
 

EmperorNorton

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And for the point as a whole: Honestly I think more "background" needs to be created with everyone kind of working together. I don't want someone to hand me a ten page essay. I want them to go "hey this is an idea I had" and give me a rough idea. Then I can suggest areas they might be from, connections they might have, they throw some ideas at me, and we work together to fit them into the world and give them a history.
 

Black Vulmea

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I think there is some middle ground here though.
No, for me there's not.

To me, establishing a few NPCs from your background makes the character feel more like they are a part of the world.
I'm not you.

I mean, no one reaches adulthood without having a few friends and a few grievances with people, even if they are all low stakes and "boring" stuff.
If they're "all low stakes and 'boring' stuff," then who fucking cares?

Also, this can totally be a back and forth with the GM before the game starts.
It could, if I was remotely interested in having that conversation, but I'm not.

If the player gave you that background as a GM I might go "Ok, so this is how I see your boss being, how do you think your character's interactions with them go from your characters side", to establish some "history" to the relationship.
Or we can roleplay our characters and create the relationship in actual play.
 

hawkeyefan

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I really don't like these questions, personally. As GM, I just don't want to run an NPC that the players created. As player, I feel like the GM is lazy and is offloading their work on me. Make your own damned NPCs and I'll decide if I like them or not.

I ask that character backgrounds be very character-centric. If you tell me your character is a journalist and he's always struggling to make deadlines, we know there's a boss NPC in the mix, but I can decide if he's a gruff jerk, or a fatherly mentor, or so easy-going that the paper is struggling. Your character's opinions of that character are then informed by how they interact in game.

Well I would agree that it is a bit of offloading onto the players, sure. I don't think it's lazy, though. I like to set up a lot of this stuff with player input. Not all of it by any means. But I like to give them opportunities to have input.

And I certainly wouldn't want to create a dynamic they'd not like to have with a NPC from their past. Like if someone wanted part of their backstory to include some kind of mentor, I'm not going to turn that NPC into some kind of jerk or whatever. Maybe that positive/negative dynamic with the NPC is important to them. But if they introduce a NPC and don't establish the dynamic, then sure, I'll add what I think will be interesting to it.

The problem for me is, I read, tell me about an enemy your character made, and I hear nails on a chalkboard. I don't want to create non-player characters. If I did, I'd beat the skinny end of the table. I don't want to have an 'old enemy' show up, because nothing my character did before the game started earned him an enemy.

It's not necessarily about creating NPCs, though. That can be part of it, sure. Maybe they'll matter to play, maybe not....it all depends on many things. But my point of asking questions like these is that it gets the player thinking, and usually about more than just the NPCs name. There's some kind of dynamic there, and it may imply a lot that can help flesh things out. I prefer that kind of background building to "here's multiple pages of backstory."

The most interesting thing that happened in my character's life is what's happening to him when the game starts, and it should only get more interesting when we play. Everything before that was boring, because that's why he's here now, doing something different, something adventurous, and we're playing the game to find out exactly what that something will be.

I don't want to create conflicts for my character by pulling them out of my ass; I want to EXPERIENCE THEM, in actual play.

Sure, I'm not saying I want everyone to come at me like some kind of Level 1 Ben Kenobe. I'm absolutely fine with minimal amounts of detail because I agree with what you say....I want the focus to be on what happens in play. I just like to target specifics in order to get a better sense of things.

I mean, what prompted this discussion was alternatives to players offering a 10 page backstory. Your answer seems to be "the only alternative is NOTHING! LET'S JUST SHUT UP AND PLAY ALREADY!!! YEARGH!" to which I say okay, cool.....here's another option.
 

EmperorNorton

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I was just expressing my preference and giving some different perspectives, I'm really not sure what's up with the hostility?
 

Black Vulmea

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But I like to give them opportunities to have input.
Eminently reasonable, eminently fair.

Are you comfortable with, 'No thanks!' for an answer?

Your answer seems to be "the only alternative is NOTHING! LET'S JUST SHUT UP AND PLAY ALREADY!!! YEARGH!" . . .
Hmmmm . . . yeah, that's pretty much verbatim. I'm the Leeroy Jenkins of character backstories!

I was just expressing my preference and giving some different perspectives, I'm really not sure what's up with the hostility?
Omigawd, you're going to do the exact same thing to this thread now, too?
 

hawkeyefan

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Eminently reasonable, eminently fair.

Are you comfortable with, 'No thanks!' for an answer?

Yeah, of course. I don't know what about my posts gave the impression it wouldn't be. It seems like your issue is more the specific questions I gave as examples rather than why I like questions like those.

But yeah, I don't have like a checklist I use for every game and if it's incomplete, then no game for you! The questions I'll ask will vary from game to game, player to player, and character to character.
 

PolarBlues

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"He's a notorious voodoo dwarf with a mysterious suitcase handcuffed to his arm. She's a blind Buddhist pearl diver from a family of eight older brothers. They fight crime!"

Coming soon to Netflix.

Thanks, PolarBlues PolarBlues!


I'm so ready to run a dwarf warlock right now.

The "They Fight Crime" page is a classic. Looking at it now, I feel like telling my players to create characters using They Fight Crime as a starting point, I'd do the same for my NPCs and then run a Sin City parody using Cyberblues City.
 

EmperorNorton

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No, for me there's not.

Cool, and this has to do with my perspective and reasoning because?

I'm not you.

Honestly, that is self-evident. The reason I started my sentence with "To me" was I was sharing my personal perspective.

If they're "all low stakes and 'boring' stuff," then who fucking cares?

It could still be an interesting interaction if we say, go through the character's home town.

It could, if I was remotely interested in having that conversation, but I'm not.

We have different perspectives. Variety is good.

Or we can roleplay our characters and create the relationship in actual play.

My thing with this is that in this instance, when you are talking about say, a characters boss that he already had before play started... they would already have the relationship. It feels awkward to me because I'm supposed to be interacting with this dude like I've known him for years, but I for some reason know nothing about his personality or his opinion of me.
 

Brock Savage

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I don't have any hard and fast rules on player backgrounds but have some general guidelines:

For larger (4+ players) games with a focus on action, exploration, and treasure hunting I prefer brief punchy backgrounds that lend themselves to adventure. A single sentence is fine. They will make their story in the game.

For smaller, more intimate games where the focus is on relationships, politics and investigation I like my backgrounds a little meatier. Somewhere around a paragraph or the results of the Cyberpunk lifepath.
 

robiswrong

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Backgrounds, to me, aren't super useful.

What is useful is goals. Preferably, multiple goals. Doubly-preferably, goals that have some chance of being in conflict with each other.

Note, this is presuming more open sandboxy games. If the game is "you're going into the dungeon and getting loot" then I don't really care. And if I'm running a railroad (maybe the starts have aligned and I've been taken over by Cthulhu?) then I kinda don't really care at all because everyone just get on the choo choo, please.

But for the style I normally run? Please have goals. Those can even include some of the things others have talked about - they can be goals about relationships, etc.
 

Black Vulmea

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I do like characters to feel lived in and to have some connections to the world they inhabit. Without that you can easily fall into the standard D&D trap of rootless wanderers that float through a setting unconnected to any of it. I don't want a story or anything, but maybe a couple of details that show how the character is a product of living prior to the start of the game.
Boot Hill: (Eladio Luna) "Born in Texas in 1853. Raised on a ranch near Fort Kearney, Nebraska Territory. Father Dionisio, mother Mercedes, brother Francisco, sister Alma. Strong Catholic. Speaks English, Spanish and some Pawnee. Learned to read and write from rancher's wife. Full name is Eladio Rogelio Luna de la Cruz."

Mothership: (Ali Khanikov) "Asteroid miner and mechanic."

Flashing Blades: (Alcide Pasquier) "Born in Toulouse in 1605. Studying law in Barmie at the Dominican college. Education paid for by a wealthy uncle who wants a lawyer in the family."

Twilight: 2000: (CPT Tomas 'Tom' Andrej Ruzicka, USMA '94) "Born in Kewaunee, WI, moved to Green Bay at age 6. Attended Xavier HS in Appleton, living with an aunt. Father's family is Czech; mother's family Norwegian and German. Dad's a roofer, and Tom helped out during the summers, humping bundles of tar sheets and plywood. Solid grades; lettered in football and basketball, inside linebacker and small forward respectively - not the most talented, but coaches respected his toughness. Accepted to USMA, played football, deep on the depth chart; only made the travel team twice, but once was against Navy so it was all worth it. BS, Civil Engineering; AOC 12B, Combat Engineer, CO, 'B' Company, 7th Engineer Battalion, 5th ID (Mech)" Note: I haven't actually run this character yet - I created him as a test run of the Fria Ligan Alpha rules for T2K.

Eladio was born in Texas, raised in Nebraska; the campaign was set in Kansas (briefly) and New Mexico Territory, where he became a ranchero, a businessman and a United States Marshal.

Ali was born someplace other than where the campaign was set, and was last seen fighting aliens on a planet somewhere in the Sunset Quadrant.

Alcide is a law student in Barmie and is caught up in city politics, backing one of the noble factions as well as his mates from his fencing salle, when he's not getting drunk in a tavern somewhere.

Captain Ruzicka is all about finding a way home to Wisconsin.

Notice the recurring theme: they're all born somewhere where the campaign isn't set. Eladio and Alcide have settled into their adoptive homes, made themselves a part of something. Ali is travelling to an uncertain destination amid an irruption of space horrors. 'Cap'n Rooz' is trying to get home but may be forced to put down roots in Poland anyway, at least for awhile.

They are all connected to their respective settings, quite deeply in the case of Eladio and Alcide, and none of them have old friends or enemies hanging around, only the relationships made in actual play.
 

Fenris-77

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I wasn't specifically talking about friends and enemies. Your characters have lots of depth and motivation. If they aren't cardboard cut outs I'm generally happy. Not everyone wants the people part. I'm going tonm assume that games with char gen that mandate that sort of thing aren't your cup of tea. What are your thoughts on connections to the other PCs in games where that's a reasonable idea?
 

Black Vulmea

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Your characters have lots of depth and motivation.
Thank you.

What are your thoughts on connections to the other PCs in games where that's a reasonable idea?
If I ever play one of those games, I'll let you know.

Actually, FL T2K has a Buddy rule - seems to work like a FATE Aspect, something to 'tag' when you're helping out your PC buddy and cause you Stress if your buddy is hurt or killed. Haven't used it yet, as I noted, and not particularly excited about it, either. I don't like shit like this wrapped up in rules - I 'd rather just roleplay it.
 

Fenris-77

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Some PbtA games have that, as does Burning Wheel. It's not a terrible mechanic but in both cases I'd probably rather play it out as well. Some of my favorite systems use background to build skills lists and other stuff, like Mythras for example, and that's more my speed (although Burning Wheel also does that brilliantly).
 

Brock Savage

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What are your thoughts on connections to the other PCs in games where that's a reasonable idea?
I know you didn't ask me but this is an excellent question. My preference as a GM is co-op play with no PvP. I advise the players at session 0 that they are all allies, friends, relatives, colleagues etc but don't expect them describe how that came to pass. Sometimes I will reinforce the condition of friendship or allies in session 1 (e.g. they start the campaign sentenced to death in a labor camp and they have had to work together as allies to survive this far).

Previously I have asked for each player to write a one-sentence connection with at least one other player but my casual players struggle with it.
 

hawkeyefan

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Yeah, I like when there's some connections that hold the group together. Not a requirement by any means, but I find that kind of stuff helps establish motivations and traits in play.

I don't necessarily prefer this be done beforehand.....during play works.
 

Nick J

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As a GM all I really want to know is how does a player's character relate to at least two other PCs? Is there anything in their past that could create interesting circumstances in the future? And how are they tied to the setting in some meaningful way? A paragraph or 2 at most.

If they feel inclined to writeup some ten page bio or novella-length fanfic I guess that's ok, but I'll never read it. Luckily I don't play with people that are so inclined these days, so it's not really an issue (and was rarely an issue except during high school).
 

gentlemanbear

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Eminently reasonable, eminently fair.

Are you comfortable with, 'No thanks!' for an answer?


Hmmmm . . . yeah, that's pretty much verbatim. I'm the Leeroy Jenkins of character backstories!


Omigawd, you're going to do the exact same thing to this thread now, too?
IMO/E, the "no thanks" response is literally refusing an important aspect of play. To me, it is intrinsically directly akin to those who play lone-wolves with tragic backstories that leave them without families. They don't want ties to the other characters or the world. That strikes me as a bit sociopathic, and what you are saying is redolent of that for me.
The characters were people who were born to a family. They matter. They were born of a certain place, which by necessity had/has a certain character, and that informed the way the character grew up.
PCs are whole people who are supposed to be "real" within the context of the setting.
They are integral pieces of the game-world.
I want the PCs to have depth and an air of believability, not to be featureless flat cardboard cutouts that you color in as you play. The character role is supposed to change in play, yes, it morphs and gets adapted through active game-play, sure, but that does not mean, by any stretch, that you don't bother defining the starting point for the role you intend to play.
How they arrived at the state in which they begin active play can inform the direction you take them in at the start. It doesn't mean they are bound to follow that direction. They are supposed to be living, breathing people. And people change over time.
You don't want to play that way? You don't care who they were?
I'll find those who want a little history (emphasis on little, preferably with some punch) behind them for my table, thanks.
There is never any shortage of them.
 

zanshin

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I really enjoy the session zero where we talk through how the characters know each other and why they would be team mates. A lot of things get thrown around and it helps because when people are fully committed to the roleplay, the characters have enough backstory to get over the bumps in the road when there are disagreements in game.
 

Black Vulmea

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IMO/E, the "no thanks" response is literally refusing an important aspect of play.
And that is what, exactly

To me, it is intrinsically directly akin to those who play lone-wolves with tragic backstories that leave them without families. They don't want ties to the other characters or the world. That strikes me as a bit sociopathic, and what you are saying is redolent of that for me.
The characters were people who were born to a family. They matter. They were born of a certain place, which by necessity had/has a certain character, and that informed the way the character grew up.
Did you really just call my preference for sketchy backstories "a bit sociopathic?"

PCs are whole people who are supposed to be "real" within the context of the setting.
They are integral pieces of the game-world.
I want the PCs to have depth and an air of believability, not to be featureless flat cardboard cutouts that you color in as you play. The character role is supposed to change in play, yes, it morphs and gets adapted through active game-play, sure, but that does not mean, by any stretch, that you don't bother defining the starting point for the role you intend to play.
Lemme stop you there.

My defined starting point for Eladio Luna is, un vaquero from Nebraska looking to buy a rancho and raise cattle. My defined starting point for Alcide Pasquier is, a law student looking to advance himself through city politics. My defined starting point for Mulkar Farzef is, a free trader trying to keep spacing and make a credit or three doing it.

Depth and believability come from how I play them as they chase their dreams, not some bit of fiction I wrote before I sat at the table and rolled a die. I learned through actual play to what lengths Eladio would go to be the man he thought he wanted to be, and what it was like once he got there. I'm learning through actual play how the rootless life of a space merchant affects Mulkar's ability to form bonds with others. I want to learn through actual play what qualities war and defeat and devastation bring out in Cpt. Tom Ruzicka as he fights to keep himself and his soldiers alive in the ruins of WWIII Poland.

How they arrived at the state in which they begin active play can inform the direction you take them in at the start.
In my experience, nothing informs the direction my characters go better than actually playing them.

It's called Develop-in-Play. DiP eschews lots of background and relationships created whole-cloth out-of-game for 'play to find out,' building relationships in actual play and creating a background through retrospection.

For me, nothing is 'real' until we sit down together and play the game: ask questions, declare actions, roll dice. Those things really happen around the table, and they define my starting point for caring about my character.

And daydreaming isn't playing.

You don't want to play that way? You don't care who they were?
I'll find those who want a little history (emphasis on little, preferably with some punch) behind them for my table, thanks.
There is never any shortage of them.
Jolly good!
 

AsenRG

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Here's mine:
  1. Create a goal for your character.
  2. What resources do you need to achieve this goal?
  3. How do you plan to get these resources?
I'll suggest a variant:
"Tell me a long-term goal, a short-term goal and something your character likes; those must not overlap completely (i.e. no "I want to become rich", "Become filthy rich", and "Likes money" on the same character sheet:grin:).

Then you can add the "resources and plans" to each goal. But I also add "how did he end up having those goals".

IME, once you add this to all character sheets, you have a party which has useful backgrounds, and is ready to become a self-motivating entity in a sandbox game:shade:.
 
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