Author Topic: Backstory Workshop [Part 2]: Why even write a backstory?  (Read 375 times)

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Offline Otter

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Backstory Workshop [Part 2]: Why even write a backstory?
« on: February 19, 2019, 11:35:25 AM »
This is original content is written my me.  If you would like to use it elsewhere, please quote me and link back to this post.
The #1 Rule for Character Creation
Let’s establish this rule upfront:
Quote
The game is not all about you. TTRPGs are group games.
Your character’s backstory should not inhibit the group’s enjoyment of the game.

That means, if you want to make a potentially troublesome character, run it by your group FIRST. It will usually mean:
  • Avoid ‘loners’ who refuse to work with the group
  • Avoid scoundrels who steal other party members’ items or stab them in the middle of the night
  • Avoid the “I’m just playing my character’s alignment” chaotic neutral character who randomly kills NPCs and gets the party into trouble
  • This list is not conclusive--there are plenty of other ways to make a troublesome character

Don’t be ‘that person’. You might have fun with that character, but it can ruin it for everyone else.

Why write a backstory at all?
Before we get into the ‘how’, let’s start with the ‘why’. A good backstory makes your character memorable. You won’t be the zillionth kid whose family was killed by orcs or ended up as an urchin taken in out of the blackness of the Thieves’ Guild’s heart.

More importantly—consider this rule #2—a backstory has game-related purpose. It gives the other players and the GM ways to connect themselves and the world with your character on an emotional level rather than just feeling like the D&D equivalent of drinking buddies. (If there’s no adventure going on, there’s not really any reason for you to remain connected with the party.) For many groups, this just gets hand-waved, but it doesn’t make for a compelling character or group dynamic.



Establish your Backstory Goals
Even a very basic backstory helps you and the GM tie your character to the world. YOU have a backstory, don’t you? You have friends, loved ones, cherished memories, favorite stories. Your character didn’t magically appear out of the void, either. What have they done with their life? What has been important to them so far? You have people you have invested time in, cared about (or hated), stories you re-tell time and time again. So should your character!
  • Establish the character's personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws, motivations and goals
    • This way you won’t have to determine them on the fly (or forget to do so)
    • It gives you established and soundly-reasoned reactions to various cues
  • Establish secrets the character wants to hide
    • It could be as simple as ‘they don’t give toothy smiles because they’re embarrassed about their crooked teeth’, to ‘they accidentally killed someone they cared about in a fit of rage’
  • Tie the character to the world
    • This helps the GM bring in aspects to the story that YOUR character specifically cares about, like personal goals and quests
  • Give the character a reason to be adventuring
    • Because that’s what all of this is about, right?

Part 0: The Introduction
Part 1: My own backstory
Part 2: Why even write a backstory? <-- You Are Here
Part 3: Starting off Simple
Part 4: A Harder History
Part 5: Expert Mode Epics
Part 6: Bullet-point Backstory
Part 7: A Quick Conclusion
« Last Edit: February 19, 2019, 12:12:29 PM by Otter »
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