Thursday, October 28, 2010


How much back story do you like to have for your characters or for characters in game you run?

I get the opinion from many old school blogs that back story only comes up if the characters survive.  The proverbial "you meet an Inn" as if the characters were born there fully formed.  In other games I play  back story is more important.  Even with the same group of players I see differences depending on the game played.

Starting on my My Back to Basics posting, I wanted to get some basic ideas where the players want their characters to come from. 
So I talked to my boys today about it, about their characters and how sometimes the greatest heroes start out as small. So here is what my oldest came up with.
His characaters (I am lettting them play two each) are Dragonborn brothers that grew up on an orphanage/farm.  Farming is not considered to be a good choice for a dragonborn (even though they are raising giant boars) so the lowest members of society are left with the chore.  Dragonborn are used hunting their food, but they see the need for farmed food as well.  So farms are a bit of a necessary evil, but these farms are not easy work.
Liam's characters are dragonborn brothers working on this farm.  They don't know, at least not yet, that their father was a great adventurer who did from "Dragonitis".

I thought this was rather cool. AND it shows why I am loathe to indrisciminantly kill characters.  Could you have imaged a movie or book where you follow the hero for a bit only to have him die in the third scene/chapter only to die and have him replaced by another character.  The movie was named after Indiana Jones, not Sapito.

How much do you know about your characters before the game starts? Or is your character just a collection of numbers to you or do you figure it out as you go along?


christian said...

I'm not much for killing PCs. There are a lot more interesting ways to defeat them. Sure, heroic last stands are great and all, but for routine combat encounters I'd rather a defeat not result in death. Capture, embarrassment, frustration and losing valued items are all acceptable.

Trey said...

It varies. Sometimes my characters have a fairly developed backstory and sometimes not at all. It's sort of based on what sort of "concept" I had.

When I'm GM-ing, I don't have any set requirements either. I like for player's to give me a little bit of background to set-up where we are at the start of the adventure, but it doesn't have to be more than name, where there from, and former occupation.

The Red DM said...

Often I try to encourage players to give me a picture and a bit of back story, but I never force the issue. And in games like my current one (which has had a very high fatality rate) I border on discouraging background for new characters.

Narmer said...

I like character background. I like players to come up with something. One of the reasons I like Barbarians of Lemuria is that it encourages background development.

Anonymous said...

For me it depends on the type of game. For convention-gaming I don't mind some extra backstory, since there is not much time to develop one during the game, but when it comes to playing campaigns at home, I am more interested in devloping the backstory during play.

For me backstory is interesting once it enters the play, rather than being a passive element written on the back of a character sheet and usually only known to a single player.

Therefore I usually ask the players to keep their backstories brief, and then add some sort of mechanic, that allows them to introduce their backstory during the game.

I have a series of different rules to allow the players to add their backstory as an active element during the game.

As flashbacks:

By introducing the origins:
and more origins:

Timothy S. Brannan said...

mortengreis: Thanks for the links, I'll check them out!