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Umael
2010-08-25, 11:03 AM
Kinda wondering about this one, wanted to get other people's take.

A lot of people don't bother coming up with backgrounds for their characters, or if they do, they exclude any mention of the PC actually having friends or family. The lack of background usually comes from apathy ("Who cares? I just want to fight!") or rush ("Okay, I've made my character, but we only have two hours before I have to leave.").

Some people do include friends and family, only to have the GM use them as plot devices to be killed, captured, tortured, and raped (sometimes even in that order). Given that some of these GMs have prodded (even to the point of bullying) the players into making these backgrounds, this often leads to the next group - the orphans.

As a defensive move, a number of more experienced gamers have decided that their character HAS a background - they are an orphan. Hence, there are no friends or family to give the GM a plot hook to manipulate their characters.

Sometimes, just sometimes, you get a player who comes up with a background and a GM who promises not to exploit it in stereotypical ways.

(There are, of course, other options.)

So... where does your gaming group fall?

DMGreg
2010-08-25, 12:08 PM
I personally love creating fully fleshed out characters. I have an unfortunate tendency to create dysfunctional families, though, because I *want* the DM to do fun things with/to them. In one game I was particularly frustrated because I created quite a bit of low-hanging fruit. My father was essentially the Ginsu knife guy, having found a new way to alloy steel to hold a good cutting edge longer, and my sister was a budding opera star who slept her way to the top. The DM more or less ignored our back-stories and decided to just charge ahead with the story he wanted to tell.

So what I'm getting at is the background sword can swing both ways. Just as it's possible to go overboard with abusing a character's friends and family, ignoring a well thought-out and well-presented background can lead just as easily to frustration and alienation of the player.

As I've primarily been a DM in recent years, I try to encourage my players to give me as much background about their characters as they want to give me. I actively ask (though I try not to badger if they're not interested in the roleplaying) for details on siblings, cousins, friends, etc.

I also try to be conscientious about the fact that their character is their story told in the context of whatever campaign I'm running at the time. I rarely do anything to a character's family/friends without first chatting with the player in a roundabout way. Of course, you don't have to ruin a plot idea by coming out and saying, "I'm going to kill your character's brother." Try to get a feel for the player's comfort level with you as the DM taking creative license with their story. Alternatively, playing off tension between a character's relatives and friends can lead to some satisfying non-combat, or even combat, encounters.

PersonMan
2010-08-25, 01:31 PM
Normally, the characters I make don't have a family because I can't imagine them with one. However, many times they do have someone important to them-but a good chunk of the time they're as or more powerful than the actual character, so eh.

Dienekes
2010-08-25, 01:40 PM
I'm the official GM, so I encourage my players to come up with decent background information including families and friends if they're so inclined. I then ask what they wish to see happen as a part of their backstory and try to incorporate it into the game.

I don't think I have ever had a family member captured, murdered, or raped to be used as a plot device, yet. I have had a member usurp their father's criminal empire, be forced to choose between assassinating their wife's murderer (her death in the player's backstory) and let the kingdom fall to chaos or kill their vengeful son. Or a player who's background was a nobles son able to ask for help from their duchy in an important assault on an enemy castle.

Edit: Wait, I did use the family as plot once, when a player's backstory literally was her children were kidnapped by a villain.

Jane_Smith
2010-08-25, 01:41 PM
I go the orphan route. To many jerk-gms out their that have ruined that bit of backstorys for me. Seems like nowadays 2 out of 5 gm's are just power-tripping jerks who like to abuse their players or npcs in whatever way they can phatom to the point of nonsense/plotholing their own main story just to be as sadistic as possible. Only time I add family is when they are the ones i -want- killed.

Ignition
2010-08-25, 01:43 PM
Whatever Fits The Character is the golden rule. Some characters require a full family tree, others don't put much stock in their families for whatever reason. There's not a one-true-rule I follow, per se.

Generally speaking, I have at least three paragraphs of information on a character before I'm comfortable enough in their 'skin', as it were, to play them effectively. Where They Were, Where They Are, and Where They Want To Be. If the character's parents are still alive and they've got three sisters and a brother in various places of the world, that goes under Where They Are, and informs how I play the character. If the character's parents died in an alleyway because of a mugging gone wrong, that goes under Where They Were, and again, informs how I play Batman the character.

As long as what you write informs your IC decisions and OOC plans, I don't really have a 'rule' for family history, as much as I have a rule for 'character information'. If I find the family more interesting than the character, well, why aren't I playing someone in the family? Concentrate efforts on where those efforts will produce the best effects is my thought on the subject.

Britter
2010-08-25, 01:50 PM
I ask the player what they want. The games I play these days involve the whole group making characters together, so we discuss the sort of game we want, the type of things that the players want to pursue, and build characters accordingly.

If a player has a family in their background, I try to get a general idea of how they want to interact with the family members, if at all. Some people just don't care, others want antagonistic relations, others want friendly relations, still others want a combination. The player and I work together to figure out how it should work into the game. Actual implementation is mostly up to me, and there will be twists and such of course.

I tend to take this approach with most aspects of the game. If a player wants a particular plot develoment for their character, or wants to have specific situations arise that their character has to deal with, we discuss it and then implement it in game.

To be clear, I am talking about introducing situations that the players want to try to overcome into the game, as opposed to rewards, experience, or free gear and the like. Just because a player wants a certain outcome from their particular family interaction doesn't garuntee that they will be able to pull it off in game. But I do give them the opportunity to have things work out, if they can make it happen.

Marillion
2010-08-25, 01:59 PM
In the game I'm playing, one of the other PCs is my half sister. The person we thought was her father is actually my father, meaning that I would inherit his lands if not for the person we thought was my father but is her father (and my uncle), who is a sorcerer heretic and also kind of a jerk. He proxied my half-sister into marriage to another jerk who wanted her (my) lands, but this jerk turned out to be not such a bad guy after all. And then he was assassinated, just as my half-sister was starting to fall in love with him. Meanwhile, my uncle holds the lands, and perhaps intends to pass them to me, if I do his bidding.

"Get working on another heir! Yvette is just down the hall."
"Why should I do anything for you, Uncle?"
"Fine! I'll start working on another heir! Yvette is just down the hall!"

We love it when the DM screws with our families, is what I'm saying :smallbiggrin:

valadil
2010-08-25, 02:56 PM
So... where does your gaming group fall?

I'm only going to speak for my own GMing here.

I let the friends and sometimes family of the PCs be functional allies in game. Obviously there are restrictions. Just because you're friends with the king does not mean you'll give you gold and concubines just because you asked. Generally the more important someone is the less likely they are to be available to help some adventurers.

Anyway, my motivation for this is twofold.

I want to encourage people to write NPCs so that I don't have to. If the PC comes to game with a best friend, I don't have to invent an NPC and befriend the players with it.

I also want players to be resourceful. If that means calling in favors from their friends, so be it. At some point the players would have to start paying for help, but if they can get a favor every 10 sessions, whats the harm in that?

That last bit is a two way street btw. NPCs can call in favors too. It's just another kind of plot hook. I like my plot dispensers to be reusable, so I don't go and kill them off. I'm not going to promise to never kill off an NPC, but I'd like to get some mileage out of them first.

Anyway, other games charge experience points for allies. I don't. I give them away for free. All the players have to do is write them. (Although I suppose you could look at it as me giving away XP for writing NPCs, and the players immediately purchasing NPC contacts and allies with that XP. Do it that way if you're using a system that supports ally/contact/mentor NPCs and want to maintain some amount of balance.)

Also, since we're sort of on the topic I've come up with a new way of giving out backstory XP. I want to encourage players to write a lot without making them fill up 20 pages, just to get a bigger XP bonus. What I do now is give a base bonus just for writing. Then each time I use an element of the backstory in the game, they get a bonus. If the backstory element screws them over, the bonus is bigger. I like this so far, because it encourages players to write backstory that interests me. I'm going to be attracted to interesting NPCs, rather than the ones who exist to fish for points.

Umael
2010-08-25, 03:02 PM
I go the orphan route. To many jerk-gms out their that have ruined that bit of backstorys for me. Seems like nowadays 2 out of 5 gm's are just power-tripping jerks who like to abuse their players or npcs in whatever way they can phatom to the point of nonsense/plotholing their own main story just to be as sadistic as possible. Only time I add family is when they are the ones i -want- killed.

See, this is something I personally don't get. I mean, I understand why you and people like you do this, but it seems you are missing something.

A "power-tripping jerk" is a "power-tripping jerk", regardless of whether they are in the GM's seat or not, and I would have extreme reservations about playing with one, even if they were not GMing. I play RPGs for fun, and I want everyone to enjoy themselves, not one or two out of the whole bunch (unless that IS the whole bunch... but then I tend to do best with larger groups).

The thing is, if I was to run a game for you... actually, well, I don't think I would run a game for you. Not without a severe change in outlook from you.

I don't mind someone playing an orphan because that's the character concept they have. I DO mind if they play an orphan because that's the only character concept they have, and I DO find it mildly insulting the reason why you are going to play an orphan in my game.

(Disclaimer: I am not saying "you" as in just you in particular, Jane_Smith. Nor am I accusing you of actually insulting me.)

If my thinking is correct, you are playing an orphan because you don't want your PC to come with attachments (i.e., friends and family). You don't want you PC to come with attachments because you are concerned that as GM, I might abuse my position as GM by using those attachments. In short, you do not trust me because you believe that I might be a "power-tripping jerk". Hence, on that lack of trust, you take a premature preventative act.

If you don't trust me, why would you play with me?

RPGs are usually "small" affairs of games played by up to ten player (yes, there are more, but they are rare, and usually much smaller). The most common times that people will play them are in regular gatherings (social club, circle of friends) or special gatherings (conventions). In regular gatherings, you are likely to know the same group of people well enough to know which ones can be trusted or not. In special gatherings, usually time is at a premium and you won't be playing long enough for your character's background to really matter.



I ask the player what they want. The games I play these days involve the whole group making characters together, so we discuss the sort of game we want, the type of things that the players want to pursue, and build characters accordingly.

This is very cool. This is the general system I try to use, speaking as one member of my gaming group and for my gaming group as a whole. I advocate this basic design for everyone and every gaming group. Make your wishes known as a player, listen to the wishes of the players when you are the GM. Work to make the experience fun for everyone.



We love it when the DM screws with our families, is what I'm saying :smallbiggrin:

This?

This is my favorite personal style.

It's not for everyone, of course, but I make my characters, both as a player and as a GM, to be screwed over - while every person in the gaming group enjoys themselves. As a GM, I am mean to PC and NPC alike, and as a player, my PC is meant to abuse and be abused. Oedipus wasn't a classic because of its family-friendly theme.

(I once had a GM tell me that she wasn't going to do anything special to screw my PC over; I had done a good enough job on him myself BEFORE I even submitted the concept to her.)

Strawberries
2010-08-25, 05:25 PM
I like to come up with friends and family for my characters. I usually also throw in a couple of people they dislike, or have some issues with. It helps me to feel the characters more "real", and makes them easier to roleplay. It is first of all an aid to myself as a player, not something that necessarly has to come up in game. But if the GM wants to use them, I'd be very happy.



This?

This is my favorite personal style.

It's not for everyone, of course, but I make my characters, both as a player and as a GM, to be screwed over - while every person in the gaming group enjoys themselves. As a GM, I am mean to PC and NPC alike, and as a player, my PC is meant to abuse and be abused. Oedipus wasn't a classic because of its family-friendly theme.

I subscribe to that. I'd have no problem with a GM killing off a family member or a friend, or bring a enemy from my backstory for us to confront. I'd love that, actually. :smallsmile: Personal preference of course, but if it offers a great plot hook, is interesting and tied to my character, what more could I ask?

Marillion
2010-08-25, 10:01 PM
This?

This is my favorite personal style.


Well, it certainly doesn't hurt that the system basically awards us bonus XP for letting the GM abuse our characters :smalltongue: But the group all agrees that our characters are there to be screwed. Makes for a better story when/if we come out on top in the end.

A variant I enjoy is when the GM uses us to screw with the family. For example, due to her sorceress heretic heritage, we had to fake my sister's death. No one informed her father. That was a fun session, consoling him over the loss of his daughter :smallbiggrin:

Zaydos
2010-08-25, 10:14 PM
Personally I'd prefer not to have my character's family members killed to motivate him on a romping rampage of revenge. Now kidnapped :smallbiggrin: What other reason is there to have a little sister?

Actually usually if I remember to mention a family member it is because they are 1) missing (and my character is looking for them), 2) dead (and I'm avenging them), or 3) kidnapped/hostage (and I'm trying to save them). Rarely it is 4) mentioned in the hope that something will happen with them. Of the characters I've made for PbP recently:
1. was a were-rhino and specifically had a mom (and noted that if they needed a PC specific hook that he would rush to protect her if she was in danger), and an absentee dad (who he wanted to meet and decide whether to go berserk and smash or not).
2. A survivor of Cyre in an Eberron game. Embittered by the death of her friends and family she of course did not have a family (killed off by the backstory).
3. A nymph. No specific family because she didn't remember her youth (immortal and all that, things that happened more than 500 years ago were a little bit fuzzy).
4. A paladin. Orphaned with a younger brother who provided her original motivation for joining the paladin order.
5. A dwarf ardent//paladin. Father mentioned in backstory (thane of his home), no siblings (only son and heir being an important part of said backstory), but a cousin (who he voluntarily gave his hereditary position to).
6. Illithid wizard in a world where evil races have been driven to extinction. The death of his race is a large part of his motivation. Course illithids don't have families really.
7. Illithid wizard for a different campaign. Again no family because illithids don't really have them.
8. Human meldshaper/binder. No siblings, dead mom, and dad he hates. Again his family is his motivation, in this case the fact that his family made a pact with the devil for power and he dislikes that (although he's slowly turning to apathy and psychosis).

When DMing? I've not had a character give me a backstory till... a few weeks ago. And I'm pretty sure none of those included family members (at least one is amnesiac, and another is from a different dimension so they have excuses). Actually I can think of three PCs that has ever specifically had family members and they have all put them in specifically for me to use in certain ways (usually resulting in a lot of fun). Most of the time they don't give me a backstory to begin with :smallsigh:.

Snake-Aes
2010-08-25, 10:38 PM
I defaulted into orphans long before a dm tried to manhandle me with my parents. I can't really think of an upbringing that ends with the guy leaving to be in harm's way with a family behind him without making it sound incredibly stupid or incredibly illogical. Not that it doesn't happen, my duskblade abandoned his family (damn wizards) who kept tryin to make him be a wiz, and he wasn't into so much casting and would rather beat things up. 2/3 of the personal plot involved evading their chase, and 1/3 involved uncovering dirty little secrets they kept from him.

The two characters I play today, however, aren't like that. One is ageless and everyone she was actually attached to is dead for a decade or so. She does have a family now in the form of people she grew to love. The other one only has one known, living parent, and doesn't like that one.

shadow_archmagi
2010-08-25, 10:48 PM
I generally don't bother with backstory because if I wanted to talk to someone awkwardly pretending to be a real father

I'd talk to my real father

WarKitty
2010-08-25, 11:01 PM
Be evil. "I have a family - I just don't care!"

valadil
2010-08-25, 11:09 PM
If you don't trust me, why would you play with me?


It's a symptom of adversarial gaming where the group's attitude is that the game is about PCs vs GM. In such a game where the GM is out to get the PCs in any way he can, just so he can laugh maniacally when he rips up their character sheets, playing a character with no emotional ties is a reasonable defense mechanism.

I think it's a sad and pathetic way to play the game, and am amazed it's so popular.

--

I didn't mention my thoughts as a player before.

My goal as a PC is to make a unique mark on the world. If I'm playing an adventure and it runs the same way it did for the last group of PCs, I've failed my job. When the GM incorporates NPCs that I've added, that puts a touch of my character into the world. It also puts me in the spotlight and lets me roleplay. And it flatters me that the GM was interested in what I wrote. I don't care what they do with my NPCs, I just want to see them used.

Lady Moreta
2010-08-25, 11:10 PM
I think my group probably falls somewhere in the middle.

I created a fairly detailed backstory for my character (roughly four pages), my DM has included bits of it in the story at a couple of points. She was away for bardic training, crap happened (she was raped and got pregnant), she went back to her home, hoping/expecting help & sympathy; instead she received "it must have been your own fault". They looked after her until she gave birth, then took the child away, and they kicked her out/she left in fury. I never really specified, but I have always had it in my head that her parents are still alive, but she had no siblings - probably a cousin or two though.

DM brought that into the game, when one of the NPCs we were travelling with suggested we travel to her home to ask for help. She shot that one down in flames (for obvious reasons she hates her family). The second time was a succubus posing as her possible daughter (she doesn't know if the child was a boy or girl). Which made for some - interesting - times... she hasn't told the rest of the group about her past, and they didn't understand why she flipped. Once the succubus was revealed as a succubus, she lied and told them that - essentially, she failed her will save. What none of them realise is that she actually made the last save, she just freaked out at the thought that the kid could have been hers. Fortunately, she's a bard, so her bluff is fantastic, and none of them have any sense motive to speak of.

I don't really know what the others have done for backstory - one guy (the most experienced in our group) I'm pretty sure will have something. Not sure about the other two, one has a basic "lived here, grew up, decided to find some adventure" story and I don't know anything at all about the other. I like to write though, so backstory made sense to me :smallsmile:

shadow_archmagi
2010-08-25, 11:13 PM
I think it's a sad and pathetic way to play the game

In theory, if both the players and the DM are aware that this is the style, then it doesn't have to be sad or pathetic.

I mean, if I challenge you to a friendly chess game and then try to murder your army to the best of my ability, that isn't sad and pathetic, that's PLAYING THE GAME NORMALLY.

Of course, that isn't to sad that adversarial style is always sunshine and happiness.

Just that you can have vs without sad

Yukitsu
2010-08-25, 11:14 PM
I love including family with my characters, even where it isn't really likely or appropriate. But yeah, I've noticed no one else at the table will. They only want to deal with things that advance plot or give bonuses, instead of wasting time on characterization, so I usually get the DM's characterization award (Ie. NPCs always react better to me, because I react better to them) :smallsigh: It's hard being the only sane one in a group full of murderous sociopathic kelptomaniacs.

Umael
2010-08-25, 11:31 PM
But the group all agrees that our characters are there to be screwed. Makes for a better story when/if we come out on top in the end.

I think the second sentence is the key. It is part of the unwritten rule in our gaming group that, yes, as your GM, I will probably find multiple ways to screw each and every PC. But I will give them a fair chance to come out on top. That, and I screw over each and every NPC too.


A variant I enjoy is when the GM uses us to screw with the family. For example, due to her sorceress heretic heritage, we had to fake my sister's death. No one informed her father. That was a fun session, consoling him over the loss of his daughter :smallbiggrin:

Ooh! Story! Story!

valadil
2010-08-25, 11:40 PM
In theory, if both the players and the DM are aware that this is the style, then it doesn't have to be sad or pathetic.

I mean, if I challenge you to a friendly chess game and then try to murder your army to the best of my ability, that isn't sad and pathetic, that's PLAYING THE GAME NORMALLY.

Chess is by definition a competitive game between two players. D&D isn't. I mean, it can be played that way, but it's way too versatile to be limited to one kind of play.

Allow me to revise my statement? I think it's sad and pathetic when people assume adversarial play is the only or correct way to play. Bear in mind I have a low opinion of competitive behavior to begin with.

Lord Raziere
2010-08-25, 11:53 PM
Oh, I have this thing I call "Connected Heroes Project" basically, every single one of my characters knows at least two other characters of mine, for example, both a brother and a sister would be heroes and they'd each know a friend who is a hero and those two heroes would know two other heroes.

Meaning basically, the only people my characters know are just as powerful as the character themselves, and they in turn also know people who are just as powerful, not only it ensures I'll always have a backup character but it means that each family member and friend can kick just as much ass as the character I'm currently playing, so no matter what the DM does, I win.

plus it helps me roleplay and world build and make my characters feel like they are apart of a larger world instead of being isolated.

Hawriel
2010-08-26, 02:50 AM
I usualy have an idea in the back of my mind about my characters background. However my tendancy to over analize, edit myself like mad, and perfect kills good or good enough, rarely ever allows me to put any thing donw on paiper.

Alot of it had to do with me wanting to phocus on the character themselves. Who they are, what they want, how would the react. I know a background IE friends and family is a good foundation for this. It's some times to distracting. Or as I said befor, I can never get somthing I like or a truely clear vision.

This has not been always the case. My first character does fit this tendancy, I was 16 mind you. But I have made characters with not just a family but how they fit into his community. I find the GM and player group helped most in this regard.

My most filled out character was in a campain that started in a small town. Sence every one fallowed the unspoken agrement to make a person from this town, it was easy to do. Damned if I can remmember the system we used. I really liked it.

Here is my most filled out character. Nathan a farm boy.

The character was a teen age boy named Nathan. He lived in an out lying farm. One that was a little further out that other farms. He had a father, mother, older brother, younger sister, and a dog.

Nathan was quiet. he loved spending time by himself or with his siblings exloring the land around his farm. He was also empathetic. He could use magic, mostly the healing sort. However he kept this to himself. He did help peaple when he could, but he was always discreat about it.

This of corse didnt last when the plot hit the town. In the form of an undead army. Wile Nathan was serving his militia requierment for the month. The first two days had him and the rest of the militia running raged. His family never made it to the town. After a day and a half of fighting he was finaly allowed to go home. He was apart of a group that was asined to check on the out lying homesteds. Only his dog was found alive. He barried his family with the help of his friends in the militia.

That was really neer the beginning of the campaine. One of the reasons why he was so filled out personality, family, and place in the community, was because we had a gaming group that liked doing the small things. For instance I didnt mind taking a back seat and have my character spend time doing support work in the village. Nathan of corse was treating wounded during a siege of the town. Some times the only thing he did was interact with NPCs wounded, militia, and townsfolk doing support jobs. Nathan faught when needed, but he was reserve.

I particularly remember a meenwile back with nathan seen he was talking with two village girls. One was checking up on him wile he slepped in a closet after treating wonded for 12 hourse strate. The other found a reason to always help him with the sick. They where not only interested in him because he was a nice boy, and cute (he had the stat for that). They where starting to suspect why the peaple he attended where healing better than others. The more peaple got better the more ragged he became.

This goes into why he kepted his healing abilities secret. Not only was he a quiet person. He was afraid that peaple would fear him. Or worse think he was a savior. He was only a farm boy and he understood that.


Any way I think why that character turned out so well was because I was in a group that like to roleplay. They liked character and story development. Sure we got down to some real brutal fighting. It just had a real sence of ergency and danger to it. Because of the background of are characters, and the fact that we where fighting for somthing very real. There family friends and community.

kamikasei
2010-08-26, 03:44 AM
I defaulted into orphans long before a dm tried to manhandle me with my parents. I can't really think of an upbringing that ends with the guy leaving to be in harm's way with a family behind him without making it sound incredibly stupid or incredibly illogical.
Yup, yup. Depending on the nature of the game and the kinds of characters that would reasonably fit in to it, chances are it doesn't make much sense for them to have extensive roots.

Of course there are exceptions. Second children of dragonmarked houses in Eberron. Dragon-blooded in Exalted. Pretty much anyone who can stumble in to rather than seek out adventure. Overall though, for a lot of game types, especially in D&D, the PCs are the sort of people who wouldn't do what they do if they had parents and siblings and spouses and kids to "normalize" them.

It's a lot easier to deal with a family if the PCs are adventuring for a particular purpose rather than just for the sake of it, though. If they've been sent on a quest by an employer, they're simply "temporarily away on business".

Connington
2010-08-26, 04:07 AM
I kind of run the gamut, depending on the GM. If he's good, I'll give him material to work with. If he'd the sort who's attempts at drama make me surreptitiously look for opportunities where I can charge in with a bad plan that will get my loved one killed, I take action.

:elan: Where is he from? Well, he dropped here from another dimension. Big mystery how it works. Wizards can't figure it out, and there's no way to contact the other dimension.

:roy: I don't suppose he was taken in by an abbey of peaceful, defenseless monks?

:elan: Nope, he's lived a hard-scrabble life since he got here, taught himself the local language and everything.

:roy: But he's got friends, right?

:elan: Yes, but they're all high-level adventurers, and can take care of themselves. And they all know higher-level adventurers that they'd call in if they needed help.

:roy: Love Interests?

:elan: Too Chaotic Neutral to get tied down like that. Nothing more than one night stands.

:roy: I can work with that.

:elan: Also, he's sterile. Mules are more likely to have kids.

:roy: ...

Kiero
2010-08-26, 05:47 AM
My characters always have family, and it's often a powerful motivator and defining characteristic for them. A character without ties to the world (which is what people who matter to them are) isn't one who interests me.

My current D&D4e character is an exception in that his wife and child were murdered by the villain's minions, but in that instance it's a driver for revenge.

Calmar
2010-08-26, 05:51 AM
To me the very concept of being an adventurer implies that you're far away from your family and roots. Whether I play or run the game, I assume the heroes have families - back home. As soon as the relatives and loved ones are threatened, taken hostages, or get killed, it ceases to be fun in my eyes, because you're no longer an "adventurer" and become a desperate guy trying to defend a bunch of NPCs (because honestly, how much relation do you feel to NPCs you haven's actually encountered ingame before?)

And in the end you also probably don't want the PCs to be scrying for the villains family in order to force him to abandon his evil plot...

hamishspence
2010-08-26, 05:54 AM
Be evil. "I have a family - I just don't care!"

That's a very narrow range of evil characters though. Some (as suggested by Savage Species, and The Giant in one of the Gaming articles) care plenty.

You could even have a character whose love of the family was what drove them to do evil deeds in the first place "I must protect my family from even potential threats, no matter what I have to do in the process".

Nihb
2010-08-26, 06:07 AM
As I player, I go with what works with the character. I tend to forget about friends - those we meet in the campain are more important to me. There have been exceptions, but I usually give them a full family. Parents and extended family, and the spouse's family too, once. The family may be helping or against the path the character took, but they are there. I rarely get to meet them in play. The last time one of my characters presented his parents to his team mates, they all were astonished I had both a father and mother (the players genuinely were surprised).

As I DM, I try to include those NPCs when I can. Our last campain was a good example : one of the players' character came from a noble family with lawful neutral values. When their daughter wanted to marry her to a man from another noble family, she ran away, hiding from her parents. While being a bard. That didn't work so well and eventually, a big fan of her, a neutral good wizard wanted to join. The party leader accepted him on the team and after a while, he tried to seduce her. He was the man she was meant to marry, and he didn't want to force it on her. Eventually, her parents wanted him to kidnap her. The plan he made worked, and the bard was bound and brought to her parents.

She spent a few days at her parents' house and they've had a lot of negociation and arguments. Eventually, the father made a deal : she had to marry the man, give them a heir, and after a year, her father was to give her 100'000 gp, a part of the family's fortune. She refused and walked away, never to see them again.

Heeee quickly lost interest after this arc. A shame. Haw well. Two other characters had family in that campain, but they were more helpful.

I don't think I ever hurt a NPC, but again, I never had any reason to do so.

Coidzor
2010-08-26, 06:09 AM
Mostly the rush/apathy portion. The roleplaying aspects are things we're still getting the hang of, though we all enjoy getting together, hanging out, and doing the tactical fighting game thing.

Manga Maniac
2010-08-26, 06:39 AM
I find that family members tend to be non-existent until the PC dies when suddenly his older brother who would apparently die for him comes out of nowhere and continues doing whatever then original character was doing.

Life is strange like that...

Ajadea
2010-08-26, 06:41 AM
I like to come up with friends and family for my characters. I usually also throw in a couple of people they dislike, or have some issues with. It helps me to feel the characters more "real", and makes them easier to roleplay. It is first of all an aid to myself as a player, not something that necessarly has to come up in game. But if the GM wants to use them, I'd be very happy.



This?

This is my favorite personal style.

It's not for everyone, of course, but I make my characters, both as a player and as a GM, to be screwed over - while every person in the gaming group enjoys themselves. As a GM, I am mean to PC and NPC alike, and as a player, my PC is meant to abuse and be abused. Oedipus wasn't a classic because of its family-friendly theme.


I subscribe to that. I'd have no problem with a GM killing off a family member or a friend, or bring a enemy from my backstory for us to confront. I'd love that, actually. :smallsmile: Personal preference of course, but if it offers a great plot hook, is interesting and tied to my character, what more could I ask?

Thirded. As a PC, I make backstories for the GM to mess with them.

Also, I'm glad you don't mind Audric's epic run of bad luck, both current and planned. Of course, now that I've seen your interest in character-related plot hooks, planned bad luck gets worse. And considering some of the stuff I have planned, I would advise that you be afraid. Very afraid. :smallamused:

When I GM, in general, family plot-hooks are side-quested. I like using that sort of thing to add verisimilitude to the story. Not everything leads into the main quest.

Strawberries
2010-08-26, 01:54 PM
Also, I'm glad you don't mind Audric's epic run of bad luck, both current and planned. Of course, now that I've seen your interest in character-related plot hooks, planned bad luck gets worse. And considering some of the stuff I have planned, I would advise that you be afraid. Very afraid. :smallamused:


I admit, I walked right into that. :smallsigh::smalltongue:.
I am afraid now. But still happy you decided to use Audric's backstory. :smallbiggrin:

WarKitty
2010-08-26, 02:19 PM
That's a very narrow range of evil characters though. Some (as suggested by Savage Species, and The Giant in one of the Gaming articles) care plenty.

You could even have a character whose love of the family was what drove them to do evil deeds in the first place "I must protect my family from even potential threats, no matter what I have to do in the process".

Most definitely. Although that character threw the DM for quite a loop. He had planned an epic "you have been taken out of your world and you have to collect these powerful artifacts to get back" campaign. My character of course went "Meh, good riddance to those jerks back home. Powerful artifacts you said? Sign me up, I'm sure I can make them do my bidding somehow!"

Aroka
2010-08-26, 03:26 PM
My campaigns usually involve characters tied to the world, and often their family and friendship are the defining aspect of the party - in Glorantha games, for instance, everyone is of the same clan, and frequently of the same bloodline (extended family). When this isn't true, my players still tend to exhibit some nesting instinct, and form homes and families.

Families and friends shouldn't just be burdens for characters, either (even when they're acquired as a disadvantage of some sort in games like Shadowrun and GURPS). Social networks should support them when appropriate. Again in my Glorantha games, the PCs typically get everything they need from their clan/bloodline - there's very little concept of "personal belongings", and arms and armor, horses, and even magic items are provided at need. The PCs, naturally, turn in most of their treasures and loot to the chieftain, who gifts it back (and creates excellent opportunity for social conflict if he's not as generous as he should be). Glorantha may be a special case, though, because one of the world's themes is that you're part of something bigger than yourself.

Tyndmyr
2010-08-26, 03:42 PM
Kinda wondering about this one, wanted to get other people's take.

A lot of people don't bother coming up with backgrounds for their characters, or if they do, they exclude any mention of the PC actually having friends or family. The lack of background usually comes from apathy ("Who cares? I just want to fight!") or rush ("Okay, I've made my character, but we only have two hours before I have to leave.").

Oh, I mention them, in detail, along with the tragic deaths of everyone involved. It's terrible being an orphan, but hey, so are most of my fellow adventurers. Occasionally, they'll be related to someone else in the party, but related to an NPC? Well, that's just crazy talk. NPCs come in two flavors, the kind you buy from, and the kind you kill.

Volthawk
2010-08-26, 04:12 PM
Well, I sometimes do orphans, but not to stop the DM, just because it fits. And sometimes gets past some awkward questions (like what parents would let their teenager live in a space station saving people in a mechanical scorpion (M&M, of course)). Although I do also put in family. For my characters in general (that I remember anyway):



David Astabury: Left home without telling family. Game died after a short time.

Luke Astabury: David's brother, went out looking for him. Again, the game died before anything became of it.

Sothix: Kobold who represented his tribe. They ended up being trapped in a demiplane, but I ultimately benefited (got a necklace that let me talk to them ,giving me +4 to knowledge checks and a way to stop my 5 Wis guy doing anything too stupid) Still hunting down the BBEG, who did it.

Can't remember the name (was a Phasm): Didn't elaborate on that.

Superstes/David (only used personae): Doesn't have a family (is an Outsider), but has a father figure. So far, nothing bad's happened to the guy.

David Freeman: The teenager I mentioned earlier, parents got killed by a gang trying to recruit him, as he had computer skills.

Lodeg-Petisse: Enslaved Kobold (all the party was), so family wasn't really mentioned.

Severus
2010-08-26, 04:39 PM
So... where does your gaming group fall?

We're grown ups.

Our characters have reasonable families. GMs don't abuse those families unless you took family as a disadvantage, or unless it is great and cool and valuable for the plot.

For instance, one campaign began with all of us as kids/cousins of a great noble house. Scene 1 was our father/uncle being destroyed by a corrupt king and us hunted to 'finish' the job.

It was a great, great revenge story when we finally overthrew the king, seized the throne and visited holy vengeance down upon all his accomplices.

In a current campaign, I'm a young gentlemen in 1880s vienna (league of extraordinary gentlemen style game) who has spent an inordinate amount of game time ensuring that his two sisters find very good husbands so the family will prosper. Fun roleplaying.

The "ha ha, your sister got raped and killed by orcs" just is sooo lame. I'm glad I haven't had to deal with it in a long time.

TheThan
2010-08-26, 04:49 PM
There is nothing wrong with using a PCs family as plot hooks. As long as your very careful and don’t do it too often. Also killing the NPC off is a very big no-no, unless the PCs fail at the rescue, but just out right killing an NPC family member is seriously a bad idea. Generally Dms should ask before they try anything of the sort, as the player may actually want to role-play a death in the family, especially if it was caused by his/her failure.

Background characters are a great way for Dms to throw quests at the characters, or introduce other elements of the story being told. For instance a character’s little sister gets abducted by cultists, which leads to a bigger plot involving said cult. Or even something as simple as a family/friend that has or knows a guy that has a job for the PCs. These sorts of quests work really well for sandbox games where the PCs are looking for something to do.

Umael
2010-08-26, 05:27 PM
Oh, I mention them, in detail, along with the tragic deaths of everyone involved. It's terrible being an orphan, but hey, so are most of my fellow adventurers. Occasionally, they'll be related to someone else in the party, but related to an NPC? Well, that's just crazy talk. NPCs come in two flavors, the kind you buy from, and the kind you kill.

Umm... let's just say that this style of gaming is not for me. As player or GM.

WarKitty
2010-08-26, 05:31 PM
It's an interesting dilemma. On one hand, the orphan thing has been done to death. On the other hand...I almost always like to have some sort of unusual background, some tragedy, something. Some reason why I'm risking my life out here in a profession where I never see my family instead of working at home and hiring some other schmuck to do it. Even for a warrior there are far safer careers than adventuring.

Emmerask
2010-08-26, 05:39 PM
Thirded. As a PC, I make backstories for the GM to mess with them.

hear hear

(would have written fourthed??? but I really don´t know how to spell it or if this is even a word in English, not my native :tongue:)

Uncertainty
2010-08-26, 07:52 PM
Personally, I don't enjoy having my characters screwed with by the GM. Thus, the quality of the backstory I hand in varies heavily depending on what I think the GM is going do with it. If a GM is willing to talk about how they'll use my backstory in game, I'm usually willing to provide something good.

Unfortunately, most of the GMs I've played with recently have been rather nasty with this kind of stuff. I just try to avoid giving any backstory details at all in these cases; breaking out the whole "I'm an orphan" thing only as a last resort.


If you don't trust me, why would you play with me?

You know, I've been asking myself the same damn thing recently. To be honest, though, there are not a lot of options for me as far as gaming groups are concerned. I guess that's what I get for going to a tiny college in the middle of nowhere :smallfrown:.

TheBlackShadow
2010-08-26, 07:56 PM
Even when I play orphans, I generally collaborate with the DM to bring the absent family members into the story somehow.

For instance, I once played a Wizard (name of Zane Stormcrow, though the last name he eventually took for himself fairly late in the game, and went for most of the campaign as just Zane). Loneliness was a major element of his character, and his early life on the streets (he was taken in by the Mages Guild when his powers manifested in a fight with another street-kid in his twelfth year) shaped his outlook to a considerable extent. As the campaign wore on, it turned out that one of the main villains, a powerful Necromancer, was his father, who had seduced his mother so that he could sacrifice his first-born son in a ritual that would give him eternal life (the mother escaped before this happened, obviously, although she died shortly after giving birth). While I will admit this was a little corny, meeting his father, and noting many of the similarities between them, developed his character by causing him to question his own feelings and motivations, and I had him temporarily join Team Evil, trading all his Wizard levels in for Blackguard levels.

Obviously the story itself is a bit longer and more convoluted than that, and a part of its resolution (and future plot hooks) relied on his mother's status as a Dragonkin Cleric of Bahamut, but I won't go into details. The above was just an example of how I like to work stuff like that.

Zanatos777
2010-08-26, 08:08 PM
I encourage my players to have friends and family for two reasons: to help the character feel 'real' and of course because they are plot points waiting to happen.

Of course I have had two total extremes occur when the players create their families, in one case the player's family was completely destroyed in a truly horrible fashion for a minor slight against the main villain while another player in the previous game had a completely defenseless family of farmers as his parents but I never even introduced them despite them coming up every now and again.

Odd (only because I just thought about it as it was not intentional), the evil elf supremacist warlord's family was horribly slaughtered and desecrated while the good plucky kid/archer/terrify shapeshifter's (very late game that last part) family went completely unmolested save the character's sister (played by the player's girlfriend in only two or three sessions of a 20+ session campaign).

Ormur
2010-08-26, 10:05 PM
I've been involved in a total of three campaigns where attitudes ran the gamut. In my first one I made up a small backstory that didn't make my character an orphan but close to it with wandering parents and a dwarf I knew. The DM used the dwarfs by having drow slaughtering them and running them out of their mine. The only one named by me survived though. It's fine by me, the world is pretty screwed up so it was to be expected. An other player's character was from a monastery that got sacked, also by drow, his next one didn't have a family as far as I know but the third player had a more elaborate backstory with everyone safely tucked away on the other side of the world.

In another campaign I have a backstory worked out with the DM that at least gives the character a mother and a plausible reason not to visit the country of his birth. I strongly suspect he'll invoke our backstories if they ever become relevant to the plot. Mine is so embarrassing I kind of dread that.

I don't remember anyone mentioning their character's NPC family members except to acknowledge they weren't the result of an immaculate conception in my campaign. Maybe they don't trust me but I haven't really brought up their backstory. I might do it when the war begins. :smallamused:

El Dorado
2010-08-26, 10:36 PM
We used social status and birth tables in our D&D games. Our families could be freed slaves to royalty and we could be orphans to the youngest of twelve. This was all modified by race and class. Nothing like finding out about your family (or lack thereof) with a few dice rolls. :smallwink:

This stuff tended to affect the early game (such as what weapons and armor you started with) more than higher levels. The DM sometimes used the family in his plots (rescue missions and such) but this kind of thing was rare as most of our campaigns eventually involved saving the world.

Marillion
2010-08-26, 11:21 PM
Ooh! Story! Story!

Welll....


Sorcery is very much a bad thing to the ultra-religious society we lived in. The sorcery that runs in my family through Evil Uncle Jose is El Fuego Adentro, The Fire Within, which allows those who have it to control fire. I'd had suspicions that my sister Josephina had it, and being a good Vaticine (think Catholic) boy, Rafael was very deeply conflicted about possibly suffering the maybe-witch to live, and he mentioned as much to his confessor.

A week later, for some reason we were raided in the night by Inquisitors. We successfully fended off the attack from the Spanish Inquisition (even though none of us expected it:smalltongue:), without my uncle or sister using their sorcery. That bit is important, as until now they'd only been rumored to be sorcerers. No one except for she and he knew for a fact they had it.

We took some Inquisitors prisoner, and my uncle went to go negotiate their release. Unbeknownst to him, my sister, who thought their remaining lifespans were unfavorably comparable to those of a mayfly with a gimpy wing, visited the Inquisitors in the dungeon. Upon seeing one of our childhood friends among the Inquisitors, she became enraged, drew fire from a torch on the wall and held it in her hands and asked him if her being a witch really changed how he felt about her.

He spat in her face.

She storms out of the cellar, and runs into her father, who has just agreed to release all of the Inquisitors within the week so as to maintain good relations with the Vaticine Church, as no proof could be found of their sorcery.

****.

The very next night, our fellow PC Dmitri hatches a plot to get us out of this mess. He gathers up a bunch of his friends, surreptitiously releases our childhood friend, and uses their combined forces to restrain me and my sister. He then proceeds to hold Josephina's head under water until the bubbles stop coming up. I break free of the men holding me and try to hit Dmitri, but I only land a glancing blow before I am subdued once more. Dmitri says that he understands, but he expects an apology. The Inquisitor pronounces her dead and reports back to his superiors that the witch has been dealt with, no need to return to our estate. Dmitri takes Josephina's body into another room and uses his empathic healing abilities to bring her back to life.:smallwink:

The empathic healing abilities that no one knew he had.:smallannoyed:

That allowed him to pull off a plan that he conveniently neglected to inform anyone about, including me, my sister, her father, her husband, or any of the other players at the table.:smallmad:

It was awesome :smallbiggrin:

Dmitri has me brought into his room the next day, where I find...My sister, perfectly ok. I start crying manly tears, and I apologize to Dmitri for attacking him yesterday.

And then I break his nose.

He's still waiting for an apology for that one :smalltongue:

However, we decide to keep her life a secret from my uncle, because Josephina actually doesn't like her dad and wants me to inherit the lands. I seriously reconsidered this after he showed up at her funeral completely ****faced and starting lighting things on fire. Fortunately, Josephina's "widower" and I manage to talk him down, convincing him that now is not the time for bloody vengeance.

We recently accidentally ran into her father. He was so overjoyed that he took the stairs two at a time...on the way to re-rewrite his will. :smallfrown:

Tyndmyr
2010-08-26, 11:26 PM
Welll....

7th Sea is a bit exceptional in regard to family. First, it's not just fluff. Backstory actually interacts with the mechanics. In fact, the entire setting is very mechanics integrated. It makes some things work quite well that are less likely to come off smoothly in a more generic system, IMO.

In particular, a *lot* of information is available about every area of the setting, so events like you describe just fit into the story smoothly, and it's much easier for the DM to involve them without it seeming like fiat, or coming as a total surprise.

Marillion
2010-08-26, 11:31 PM
Yeah. 7th Sea is a very...cinematic game, and that's why I've fallen in love with it.

Tyndmyr
2010-08-26, 11:36 PM
It's a fantastic system. I play the D10 version myself...I think it's inherently vastly superior to the D20 system. Just a lot harder to find certain books for...*cough* swordsman's guild.

Marillion
2010-08-26, 11:40 PM
<[email protected] version. I really like the roll&keep mechanic.

And, I've got a copy of the Swordsman's Guild book. :smallwink: It's my swordsman's best friend.

Galileo
2010-08-27, 01:14 AM
I tend to start my characters with a few basic ideas, then flesh them out later on. This does mean I sometimes start a campaign with a mostly backgroundless character, but I do discuss where I'd like to head with my character with the DM.

I've only made one character where I put huge amounts of thought into his family. He's a middle-aged warblade who lived as a farmer with his wife and children. He used to be an evil wizard, but was transformed into an Elan, stripping him of his memories and magical powers. The DM and I are planning on having my previous self appear as a villain. Gotta love time travel.

Umael
2010-08-27, 11:00 AM
@ Marillion: Awesome story. The smileys made it.

*thumbs up*


RE: d10 system - I haven't had a chance yet to play 7th Sea (although I am going to be playing a runic sorcerer once our Star Wars campaign is over). However, I am familiar with 7th Sea's big brother, L5R.


RE: Adventurers and family members - This comment is in response to everyone who says something to the effect of: "Yeah, I play an orphan, because that's the only family structure that makes sense if I wanted to be an adventurer."

Hogwash.

Modern day adventurers, whether you are talking about people like Steve Irwin, or a deep cover CIA agent, or a SEAL - they can all have families. If Dad was an adventurer who met Mom, and she was an adventurer, why can't they raise Junior as an adventurer too? What about "Mom was an alcoholic, Dad ran away from home, I got nothing to lose, why not risk my life for fame and fortune"? Or "I'm a patriot, and if my skills mean my country asks me to go overseas and infiltrate a rogue nation in a long-term, deep undercover operation, then that is what I'll do"?

While it is perfectly valid to say that the orphan concept works for adventurers, it is by far not the only one. Furthermore, those of you who insist on using it and only it are doing a dis-service, both to yourself and to gaming. When everyone plays orphans, it becomes a cliche', and you end up selling your own imagination short.

JeenLeen
2010-08-27, 03:54 PM
I think my DM enjoys using friends and family as plot twists, but only when reasonable. He doesn't go out of his way to cause problems for the PC, but will if it makes sense. (Although since the PC is often getting many enemies, it would tend to make sense that someone attacks or tries to manipulate him through his family or firends.)

I enjoy making full backstories, but family are too often a liability without any gain. Now, if it's a wife who can also fight or do magic, who can in some way assist, that's different. I've thought of having an infant to care for for character development, but I have too much of a min-max streak to take on a liability for no gain.

D&D

Neutral wizard born to evil family worshipping Vecna as a god of knowledge -- he hoped to prove to his family that one could go without evil magic and still persue secret knowledge.
Left party before family got integrated because wizards were so weak (i.e., I made a blaster wizard and was annoyed that the fighter ourclassed me.)

Gnome cleric - had to choose between protecting family or persuing the quest.

Mage: The Ascension

Tradition mage millionaire -- after some problems which led to him losing his identity but informing his best friend and business partner that he was a mage, his actions led to his friend being brain-washed by the Technocracy. Led to two chantries in town and my character's mentor being killed.

Akaishic - as a defense, family was killed when young and mentor killed recently. A good friend of his was killed when my char ticked off a Giovanni family.

Current char, a Virtual Adept -- has a mentor he works with. Also has some friends in various chantries. His Sleeper sister is married to a VA living in the Net, which seems pretty safe, and his parents are dead.
I enjoy it because they are Reality Hackers and believe the world is a game. His mentor calls his sister a liability that will only bite him later due to plot.

WarKitty
2010-08-27, 04:06 PM
Related question: How many of you make PC's that, in-game, won't talk about their family/friends? It seems in many campaigns (those where you're opposing an intelligent evil entity) to be an entirely reasonable move on their part - after all, if no one knows who my family are, no one can try to use them against me!

Zaydos
2010-08-27, 04:28 PM
Related question: How many of you make PC's that, in-game, won't talk about their family/friends? It seems in many campaigns (those where you're opposing an intelligent evil entity) to be an entirely reasonable move on their part - after all, if no one knows who my family are, no one can try to use them against me!

Hadn't thought about that...

Well... of characters I've made right now:

Guthbrand: Would freely talk about his family to his fellow were-creatures but would edit certain things out when talking to normal humans (for example that his dad was a were-creature).

Thorgrim: Sees no reason not to talk about his family.

Teres: Wouldn't want to because they're all dead and it's a sad subject for her.

Arthram: Isn't about to be talking about his family in the situation he's in; might mention the easily established information (his dad is a baron) but not the juicy bits (the whole demon-worshiping cultists part).

Zillithon: What's this 'family' concept mean? He's an illithid, he doesn't have a family.

Those are the ones I'm currently playing or submitting.

icefractal
2010-08-28, 02:33 AM
This?

This is my favorite personal style.

It's not for everyone, of course, but I make my characters, both as a player and as a GM, to be screwed over - while every person in the gaming group enjoys themselves. As a GM, I am mean to PC and NPC alike, and as a player, my PC is meant to abuse and be abused. Oedipus wasn't a classic because of its family-friendly theme.The thing is - I totally understand that style, I can see why people like it ... but I just don't. Not fun for me at all, at least as regards family.

It's not about whether the DM is a jerk, it's about whether they're a perfectly good DM who uses certain plot elements I don't want to be involved in. And I don't feel like they should have to change their entire style to suit me - there are four other players, presumably one or more of them is interested in those elements, so they can have the family drama, and everyone has a good time.

Sure, I could have a standard family anyway, and just ask the DM not to create any drama with them, but:
A) If they're not going to be in the game anyway, are they really necessary?
B) I don't want to sound like I'm attacking that style, when other players are enjoying it.
C) It can break consistency when foes target everyone else's family but conveniently forget mine.

Andion Isurand
2010-08-28, 02:38 AM
from Heroes of Horror, pg. 140

Empathic Sense (Ex): When a bane wraith draws within
30 feet of any sentient being, it immediately and instinctively
knows the name and appearance of every one of that
individual’s friends and loved ones. Furthermore, it gains
a general sense of where the individual believes her loved
ones to be, although this information might not be accurate.
This ability allows no save, but spells or abilities that
make the subject immune to mind-reading or telepathy
block this power.
= fun times

Zaydos
2010-08-28, 09:17 AM
from Heroes of Horror, pg. 140

Empathic Sense (Ex): When a bane wraith draws within
30 feet of any sentient being, it immediately and instinctively
knows the name and appearance of every one of that
individual’s friends and loved ones. Furthermore, it gains
a general sense of where the individual believes her loved
ones to be, although this information might not be accurate.
This ability allows no save, but spells or abilities that
make the subject immune to mind-reading or telepathy
block this power.
= fun times

That is so evil. I don't know whether I love it or hate it.

bobspldbckwrds
2010-08-28, 09:26 AM
i love to give my characters backgrounds, and that comes from being a writer. but i don't bother unless i know that the campaign is going to be longterm (i.e. i know that the dm isn't a chronic victim of "lets do this game instead".) honestly, i expect the dm to use the family against me, and i tend to try to keep my characters in contact with their family as they adventure.

it is bad dm'ing when the only thing they can think of to add a sense of urgency is, "oh, and the cult has all of your moms"

but it is bad rp when the only way they can get into character is when they have to look at the background sheet, and say "oh, yeah, his mom"

The Big Dice
2010-08-28, 09:37 AM
Oh, I mention them, in detail, along with the tragic deaths of everyone involved. It's terrible being an orphan, but hey, so are most of my fellow adventurers. Occasionally, they'll be related to someone else in the party, but related to an NPC? Well, that's just crazy talk. NPCs come in two flavors, the kind you buy from, and the kind you kill.

You forgot the third kind: ones that hand out plot hooks.

Seriously though, people get weird about family in RPGs. Payers and GMs alike. Sure, they might just be a backgound element, never actually getting any time on camera as it were. But they are important. Nobody is born, grows up and learns a trade in a vacuum. People become who they are either because of or despite their family and friends. That's as true for an adventurer as it is for a wage slave.

I take a leaf from the Method. Think up a backstory, but don't show it to anyone. Then roleplay it. Come out with anecdotes based on the stuff in your background. Like how you left home because your dad was a jerk and so you ran away to join the circus. Or mention the old hermit in the woods that introduced you to the Druidic faith every now and then.

Family and friends don't have to be a huge deal. All they really need to do is give your character a sense of having come from somewhere.

Gorgon_Heap
2010-08-28, 09:53 AM
I'd like to begin by saying to Marillion that his were some great stories and it sure sounds like a great time.

Now, I love writing up characters and creafting in-depth backgrounds. I've scads of the darned things piled up that I will never, ever use. Worse, in 15 years of roleplaying I've been the primary DM because I'm the one who insists on making games work as long as possible. Even though I always place a PC of my own in each game, it's still not the same as being able to just play. So all those great backgrounds I come up with don't really get used.

But I am a fan of and appreciate when players do that kind of groundwork and I try to respect it, though frankly, it rarely happens.

One campaign I'm running right now my PC has a family far away that she has spoken of when asked; one guy's background is he became a druid after his wife and child were killed; another is an orphan (but this is forgivable because this is his first rping experience) and the last has no background to speak of, which makes it hard for the rest of us to deal with because the other characters never know how to deal with him and as a DM I can't grasp his motivation.

Strawberries
2010-08-28, 11:00 AM
Related question: How many of you make PC's that, in-game, won't talk about their family/friends? It seems in many campaigns (those where you're opposing an intelligent evil entity) to be an entirely reasonable move on their part - after all, if no one knows who my family are, no one can try to use them against me!
Well, most of mine wouldn't talk about their family with the BBEG, but they wouldn't see any reason to keep their background secret from, say, their party members. But that depends on the different personalities they have.
Audric, my paladin - the one Ajadea was teasing me about - has already brought up one of his relatives to another party member when I felt he needed to, since his motivation to keep working with said party member is linked to that piece of his backstory.
Kitra, my rogue, is technically an orphan, but she has a huge net of acquaintances that make up for the missing family. She doesn't see any reason, for now, to tell the paladin she adventures with about her upbringing, but I expect it to come out sooner or later (telling a paladin she is an ex-kid gang’s thug and an ex-prostitute should be priceless).
My drow sorcerer, instead, wouldn’t be so open. But he is a drow. Paranoia comes with the territory.


Sure, I could have a standard family anyway, and just ask the DM not to create any drama with them, but:
A) If they're not going to be in the game anyway, are they really necessary?
B) I don't want to sound like I'm attacking that style, when other players are enjoying it.
C) It can break consistency when foes target everyone else's family but conveniently forget mine.

Everyone has their style of course, but to answer your points:
a) Speaking personally, yes. Family and friends are a huge part of what make my characters who they are. They don’t have to come up in game if the DM doesn’t want to use them, but they have to be there.The Big Dice's quote underneath sums it up for me.

b) I like that style, and you wouldn't sound insulting at all to me. Not everyone likes the same things. Just saying "I don't like that" isn't an insult to those who like it.

c) That's true, but as Ajadea said, not necessarily everything has to go into the main quest. The threat to the other’s family doesn’t have to come from the same foes you are all fighting.

Moreover, we are speaking as if the only thing family and contacts could do is provide drama. But they can also provide support (not combat-wise, more in the line of “I’m going to call in on a favor to get information/a place to stay/ a contact with someone/whatever else comes to mind”)



Seriously though, people get weird about family in RPGs. Payers and GMs alike. Sure, they might just be a backgound element, never actually getting any time on camera as it were. But they are important. Nobody is born, grows up and learns a trade in a vacuum. People become who they are either because of or despite their family and friends. That's as true for an adventurer as it is for a wage slave.

Well said. :smallsmile:

Umael
2010-08-29, 12:00 AM
The thing is - I totally understand that style, I can see why people like it ... but I just don't. Not fun for me at all, at least as regards family.

Personal choice.

And I don't think anyone here is offering their services as psychologist or priest.



It's not about whether the DM is a jerk, it's about whether they're a perfectly good DM who uses certain plot elements I don't want to be involved in.

Again, personal choice. Some games sound like a lot of fun for people other than me.



Sure, I could have a standard family anyway, and just ask the DM not to create any drama with them, but:

For the record, NPC family drama is not always about rape and torture and just bad things happening.

One of my characters in my Mage game is going to find out that the woman she thought as her mother isn't. A werewolf attacked her in her parent's home, and it was her father who took it down with a silver bullet.

"Drama" could be things as simple like your PC's sister getting married, your PC's aunt passing on juicy gossip about your other aunt's infidelity, your grandfather's retirement celebration from the university.



A) If they're not going to be in the game anyway, are they really necessary?

Yes.

Even if those NPCs never are even mentioned, having you include them in your background can be vital for determining your character's psychology.

For example, if your PC comes across an abandoned baby of your PC's race, how does he or she react? If your background included the fact that your PC grew up in a large family, he or she probably knows how to handle a baby. If your background included abusive parents and no other siblings, your PC would probably quite differently. Different backgrounds mean different reactions - and if you never considered your PC's family, or simply decided they don't exist, you miss out on something fundamental to your character's psychology.



B) I don't want to sound like I'm attacking that style, when other players are enjoying it.

Again, personal choice.

A good GM can adapt and make sure that your PC's family add favorably to the game.



C) It can break consistency when foes target everyone else's family but conveniently forget mine.

Again, NPC family drama doesn't mean nothing but bad things.

That, and bad things happened for a variety of reasons, and from different sources. If there is good reason, it doesn't break consistency.

Drakevarg
2010-08-29, 12:27 AM
My players are generally too lazy to come up with backstories. So for my current campaign, I made up their backstories for them.

Then I had them play a session consisting of nothing but getting to know these people.

Then I killed all of these people horribly and left the PCs to find the wreckage. Gave the party rogue roleplaying XP for weeping over her bisected friend, whom she found hanging from the rafters and literally died in her arms.

Sadly, they went and forced the Big Bad to make an appearance before they could witness the really gruesome stuff. Like the mother crucified to the ceiling, or the zombified little boy eating his pet dog, or their mentor (and one of the player's father), gibbed from the waist up.

I'm a horrible person, and I love every second of it. :smalltongue:

Jane_Smith
2010-08-29, 12:34 AM
Remind me not to play in your games. <_< Ever.

Drakevarg
2010-08-29, 12:37 AM
Remind me not to play in your games. <_< Ever.

*fanged grin* Oh, it gets worse. I'd like to tell you, but it's a massive spoiler for the campaign and you never know when a nosy player is going to look in the wrong place.

Umael
2010-08-29, 04:54 AM
Remind me not to play in your games. <_< Ever.

Not me. Play it horribly right, and I'll love it every minute.

Tyndmyr
2010-08-29, 07:15 AM
You forgot the third kind: ones that hand out plot hooks.

Right, right. Shady looking guy in the tavern. They usually end up falling into the "kill" type eventually, though.

742
2010-08-29, 08:29 AM
"before she left to join the fight against lord evilton her parents had her make them hollow teeth, because they were both writers and would rather kill themselves than be part of such a worn cliche. they have no qualms about being paid to act as bait in a trap to kill her, as long as its sufficiently dramatic and they have veto powers over the costumes of any involved persons."

El Dorado
2010-08-29, 08:58 AM
I've had a DM reveal that the feral, surly NPC barbarian was actually the PC paladin's father. The player and PC were suitably shocked and gracefully went along with the revelation. I don't think the player had even thought of a background but it created a tie that he could explore, if he chose to.

Uncertainty
2010-08-29, 04:27 PM
Again, personal choice.

A good GM can adapt and make sure that your PC's family add favorably to the game.

Thing is, there are a good number of GMs who don't adapt to or respect their player's personal choices. These are the kind that essentially say "You gave me this backstory, this is my game, and I can do whatever I choose with it."

In such cases, it's a lot easier to forgo a complicated backstory entirely than to deal with the OOC drama; or to put up with a DM forcing what I find to be an unenjoyable playstyle down my throat. Hence, the orphan story.


Actually, I am pretty impressed with the flexibility expressed here by yourself and some of the other GMs. I've never had a GM ask me what kind of game I am interested in playing; though as I said before, most of the people I play with are jerks.

big teej
2010-08-29, 04:43 PM
1. was a were-rhino

(emphasis added)

I WANT ONE!!!

where can I find the stats for this please thankyou love you bunches?:smallbiggrin::smallbiggrin::smallbiggrin:



We used social status and birth tables in our D&D games. Our families could be freed slaves to royalty and we could be orphans to the youngest of twelve. This was all modified by race and class. Nothing like finding out about your family (or lack thereof) with a few dice rolls. :smallwink:


where can such tables be found? I am intrigued

Zaydos
2010-08-29, 06:05 PM
(emphasis added)

I WANT ONE!!!

It was a gestalt game I just applied the lycanthrope template (MM) to a rhino (MM). Not technically an omnivore or carnivore but the DM let that slide.

Piedmon_Sama
2010-08-29, 06:14 PM
Sometimes, just sometimes, you get a player who comes up with a background and a GM who promises not to exploit it in stereotypical ways.

This is us. This is my group. We all kind of take pride in our ability to write and tell stories. That is how we met up online. I'm pretty sure each of us would be mortally offended at the notion of using such a cheap and overrwrought plot device as "your sickly precious little sister has been kidnapped by the DARK LORD!" unless the player deliberately wanted to use that trope as part of his character-concept. (I'm kind of subverting it right now--one of my PCs thinks he's on a quest to rescue his girlfriend from an evil sorcerer. Actually she's been dead for years and he's completely deluded).

I'm playing six PCs in one campaign now, and four of them have pretty thoroughly grounded backstories with plenty of hooks and NPCs. The most prominent one, Beogar the Half-Orc Druid, has two living parents and seven younger siblings (unfortunately my DM kind of pussed out of playing that many NPCs at once by having Beogar's family on a pilgrimage when the party visited his house). My co-player in this game has two PCs, one of whom is the daughter of an early antagonist and the other has a single mother back home. We'd never expect our NPC relations to be "exploited" in a way some DMs do.

Acero
2010-08-29, 06:19 PM
Everytime except once, I go with the Disney route and have the PCs family killed off or never brought up.

Once exception was a Paladin who had a Cleric uncle (another PC)

El Dorado
2010-08-29, 09:55 PM
where can such tables be found? I am intrigued

Dragon Magazine # 70 I think.

big teej
2010-08-29, 10:23 PM
Dragon Magazine # 70 I think.

Alas, a resource I do not have access to, unless it can be found online.



It was a gestalt game I just applied the lycanthrope template (MM) to a rhino (MM). Not technically an omnivore or carnivore but the DM let that slide.


was the gestalt a requirement to make it work? or did you just happen to be playing a gestalt campaign?

Zaydos
2010-08-29, 10:26 PM
was the gestalt a requirement to make it work? or did you just happen to be playing a gestalt campaign?

It was a gestalt campaign where one side of the character had to be mostly some type of lycanthrope. It has a good number of racial hit dice and then +3 LA so game mechanically I think were-direwolf is flat out better (except for natural armor bonus but he's a berserker and his AC is "did you roll a 1?") but it's just a more awesome concept.

big teej
2010-08-29, 10:30 PM
It was a gestalt campaign where one side of the character had to be mostly some type of lycanthrope. It has a good number of racial hit dice and then +3 LA so game mechanically I think were-direwolf is flat out better (except for natural armor bonus but he's a berserker and his AC is "did you roll a 1?") but it's just a more awesome concept.

the way my group.... well, the group I played with before I left for college, handled LA, LA + 3 wouldn't have been a huge deal

how did we do that?
we ran LA one of two ways, we were still up in the air on how to do it, as we had only had a few characters with LA
option A) use the LA + x and thats it so ECL = LA + class levels, and treat it as normal character
option B) use the LA + x + racial hit die, and treat it as normal character-ducks for cover-

El Dorado
2010-08-29, 10:56 PM
Alas, a resource I do not have access to, unless it can be found online.

You can probably find it at rpg.net.

Umael
2010-08-30, 11:04 AM
Right, right. Shady looking guy in the tavern. They usually end up falling into the "kill" type eventually, though.

...
*calmly files Tyndmyr under "Gamer, Cynic"*



Thing is, there are a good number of GMs who don't adapt to or respect their player's personal choices. These are the kind that essentially say "You gave me this backstory, this is my game, and I can do whatever I choose with it."

Yeah, okay, weak wording on my part. I should have said that "one of the qualities of good GMing is to adapt to or respect their players' personal choices."

Because I have actually BEEN that kind of GM you mention before. I wanted all my players to give backstories so that I had plot hooks to help motivate their characters - and if they did not, I basically said all the white space they gave me was room to fill in.

It worked because I was a good GM (at least, I would like to think I was a good GM back then, just as I would like to think I am still a good GM), but that process isn't the best for everyone.



In such cases, it's a lot easier to forgo a complicated backstory entirely than to deal with the OOC drama; or to put up with a DM forcing what I find to be an unenjoyable playstyle down my throat. Hence, the orphan story.

*nod*
Understandable.
A bit regretable, of course, on both the part of your GM and you, but then, if everyone is having fun, far from a big deal.



Actually, I am pretty impressed with the flexibility expressed here by yourself and some of the other GMs. I've never had a GM ask me what kind of game I am interested in playing; though as I said before, most of the people I play with are jerks.

Heh.
We vote on what game we're going to run next and who will run it.

Think about your own group dynamics, both how they play out and how everyone seems to want them to play out. First of all, do you ever just hang otu with the rest of your gaming group just for fun because you like hanging out? If you do, is there always one person who takes charge, despite the others grumbling about it? Do you all treat each other as equals and give each person proper respect? If several have different ideas on what to do next, do you argue about it until nothing gets done?



(I'm kind of subverting it right now--one of my PCs thinks he's on a quest to rescue his girlfriend from an evil sorcerer. Actually she's been dead for years and he's completely deluded).

That is awesome.

valadil
2010-08-30, 11:29 AM
Thing is, there are a good number of GMs who don't adapt to or respect their player's personal choices. These are the kind that essentially say "You gave me this backstory, this is my game, and I can do whatever I choose with it."

In such cases, it's a lot easier to forgo a complicated backstory entirely than to deal with the OOC drama; or to put up with a DM forcing what I find to be an unenjoyable playstyle down my throat. Hence, the orphan story.


I don't consider that type of GM to be worth playing with. I mean, I'll show up to those games and socialize, but if a GM requests a backstory and can't be bothered to incorporate that story into the game, I'm going to half ass the backstory and save my good material for a GM who appreciates it.

I have found though that some GMs are willing to deal with your backstory if the game provides mechanics for dealing with it. One of my GMs ignored backstory, stating he ran games when he was interested in telling a certain story. He later explained how he had this belief that everything about a character should be represented by the character sheet. Although I disagreed with that notion, I put it to use. Since he's a GURPS fanatic we have the option of buying allies, contacts, enemies, etc. All I have to do is spend a couple of points in those and then explain who those people are in my backstory. He's perfectly willing to use my backstory if I spend points on it.

Arillius
2010-08-30, 11:36 AM
Its half/half for the group I'm in. Half the group doesn't have much of a background, the GM usually gives them one then, and the other half gets pretty extensive with theirs. One guy brought in 3 pages printed out, and he said he wasn't finished yet.

Uncertainty
2010-08-30, 12:03 PM
A bit regretable, of course, on both the part of your GM and you,

This I agree with completely.


Think about your own group dynamics, both how they play out and how everyone seems to want them to play out. First of all, do you ever just hang otu with the rest of your gaming group just for fun because you like hanging out? If you do, is there always one person who takes charge, despite the others grumbling about it? Do you all treat each other as equals and give each person proper respect? If several have different ideas on what to do next, do you argue about it until nothing gets done?

None of the groups I've played with have been particularly close - mostly, we are just together because we are interested in playing tabletop RPGs. The problem is that the gaming community out where I live is just so small that none of us have a lot of options as far as who we can play with: I think that most of the friction has been caused by people wanting to get different things out of the game (One person wants a dungeon-crawling tactical scenario, another wants deep roleplaying. One wants a dark-and-gritty horror scenario, another wants a light-and-fuzzy hero story).

We have also had some... acerbic... people DM for us in the past, who have not been very helpful when it comes to working out differences of opinion in the group.

I do think that there are a few players in the group who can be mature enough to comprimise and have an enjoyable game; but none of them know how to DM, or frankly, have the time or drive to do so. At the moment, I am on hiatus from gaming - at least until I can get settled in for the new semester.



Alas, a resource I do not have access to, unless it can be found online.

I have been able to find some Dragon Magazine stuff around the internet... It can't hurt to try a Google search at least.

Kaww
2010-08-30, 12:14 PM
I go the orphan route. To many jerk-gms out their that have ruined that bit of backstorys for me. Seems like nowadays 2 out of 5 gm's are just power-tripping jerks who like to abuse their players or npcs in whatever way they can phatom to the point of nonsense/plotholing their own main story just to be as sadistic as possible. Only time I add family is when they are the ones i -want- killed.

I feel sorry for you. The problem is that now one of my chars comes back to her village that was overrun by demons. And a part of her family was kidnapped/killed. This is not because of a plot hook, but it is impossible for a family of 15 to survive something like a blitz attack of demons intact... Demons are there because of another player's fluff (he explicitly put them there...), so I really didn't mean to manipulate her this way... I know she will read this, so I'm justifying myself now...

Umael
2010-08-30, 01:53 PM
I don't consider that type of GM to be worth playing with. I mean, I'll show up to those games and socialize, but if a GM requests a backstory and can't be bothered to incorporate that story into the game, I'm going to half ass the backstory and save my good material for a GM who appreciates it.

I don't think that was the kind of behavior that Uncertainty was talking about (correct me if I am mistaken). It seems more of case of going in a different direction than not going at all (which is how you seem to be interpreting it).

Let's say that your backstory included a father who was a retired hero.

As I think Uncertainty is saying that his GM would do things, like make his PC's father actually a villain, regardless of the fact that Uncertainty made his PC as a villain in rebellion of his father's authoritative ways. As a player, he may have wanted a reverse Vader-Luke relationship for his PC, which his GM ignored.

What you seem to be saying is that the GM is just flat-out ignoring that the father was retired or a hero, and instead spends his time farming pigs.



One of my GMs ignored backstory, stating he ran games when he was interested in telling a certain story. He later explained how he had this belief that everything about a character should be represented by the character sheet. Although I disagreed with that notion, I put it to use.

You aren't the only one, although it is good that you managed to make it work for you.



Its half/half for the group I'm in. Half the group doesn't have much of a background, the GM usually gives them one then, and the other half gets pretty extensive with theirs. One guy brought in 3 pages printed out, and he said he wasn't finished yet.

...3 pages?

Um... that's like me... lite.

...

What?



I feel sorry for you. The problem is that now one of my chars comes back to her village that was overrun by demons. And a part of her family was kidnapped/killed. This is not because of a plot hook, but it is impossible for a family of 15 to survive something like a blitz attack of demons intact... Demons are there because of another player's fluff (he explicitly put them there...), so I really didn't mean to manipulate her this way... I know she will read this, so I'm justifying myself now...

Communication, people.

There are plenty of times I have or could have done something that could have been very disruptive, and the only reason why I would do it was that it was in-character and it didn't seem right to change the reaction or that it was plot-appropriate and likewise didn't seem right to change it. In those cases, I tell the affected player OOC "Look, it's not personal, but I'm about to do something that might upset you, and it probably will upset your character. So, you cool?"

Once the player knows something bad is up and is emotionally prepared, I drop the bomb in-game.

Zaydos
2010-08-30, 01:58 PM
Seeing things about 3 page backstories reminds me of an old character I had (this was when 3.5 had just come out like a week before). He had a 2 page (handwritten) backstory in a campaign where nobody else had a sentence. He was a quarter-elven (human, but noted as having elven blood for fluff reasons) orphan, on a quest to avenge his father, and trained by orcs (the orc chief being something close to an adoptive second-father to him). Also got accused of power gaming (he was a Dragon Magazine variant fighter/barbarian specializing in the Mercurial Greatsword).

My backstories have gotten longer. Last IRL character I made had a 7+ page backstory (typed), and then another 5 or so pages of personality, magic item, and appearance description. And then a 2~3 page dialogue written about his first encounter with his improved familiar, and another 2 or so pages about how he had met an important NPC in his backstory (his on again off again lover; they were both Chaotic). He probably had one of the longest backstories I've ever made.

He was not an orphan, and actually specifically was in the area because the on-going campaign villain was in the act of taking over the region and his family lived in it (giving him a reason to join the PCs). He also had an absentee father who had left on some world-saving quest, although the exact details of that I left to the DM with a few possibilities (dead, killed by BBEG who was bigger and badder than the current villain, accidentally had become BBEG, accidentally had become one of the smaller evil guys vying for place of big bad evil guy). Oh and he had a little sister he was extremely protective of. And a best friend who happened to be the exact opposite alignment (they had shared childhood trauma).

Ajadea
2010-08-30, 02:22 PM
To be fair, I don't mess with backstories as in 'and the BBEG got your mom/sister/brother/dog too!' I mess with them more as 'Wait, what? Oh $&%*!!!' They might end up dead. They might kill someone. Way of the world, especially in D&D.

Uncertainty
2010-08-30, 02:22 PM
I don't think that was the kind of behavior that Uncertainty was talking about (correct me if I am mistaken). It seems more of case of going in a different direction than not going at all (which is how you seem to be interpreting it).

Yeah, that's pretty much it. Though I honestly would prefer a GM to just ignore my backstory than to s*** on it for their own purposes.


Communication, people.

There are plenty of times I have or could have done something that could have been very disruptive, and the only reason why I would do it was that it was in-character and it didn't seem right to change the reaction or that it was plot-appropriate and likewise didn't seem right to change it. In those cases, I tell the affected player OOC "Look, it's not personal, but I'm about to do something that might upset you, and it probably will upset your character. So, you cool?"

Once the player knows something bad is up and is emotionally prepared, I drop the bomb in-game.

See, I wish I had a gm like this :smallfrown:. Really, my biggest problem with this kind of stuff is a lot like what icefractal expressed earlier: I tend to get a lot more attached to my characters' backgrounds and family members than is entirely healthy. If I was not expecting it, a bombshell like the one you described would probably ruin the session for me.

It's more my problem than anyone else's, though.

Umael
2010-08-30, 02:47 PM
See, I wish I had a gm like this :smallfrown:. Really, my biggest problem with this kind of stuff is a lot like what icefractal expressed earlier: I tend to get a lot more attached to my characters' backgrounds and family members than is healthy. If I was not expecting it, a bombshell like the one you described could easily ruin the session for me.

It's more my problem than anyone else's, though.

But it's not a problem that can't be addressed though.

Look, there is a LOT you can do if you give people a heads-up that you can't do if you just spring it on them. One of the best examples that every happened is that I had an NPC rape a PC once.

Before it happened though, I stopped and addressed the player.

Me: "Look, I didn't plan on this happening. I mean, I figured you were powerful enough to handle him. The only way I can see this playing out is for him to rape your character. Now, if you don't want that to happen-"
Her: "Oh, it's okay!"
Me: :smallconfused: "Um... it is?"
Her: "Oh, yeah! Go for it!"
Me: "Okay... but I am not going to go into any details. And I'm going to give your character a chance to get rescued. Okay, your character has her phone on her, and you speed-dial your husband..."

Then I went over to the player of her PC's husband and explained (without going into any details) what her PC's husband was hearing.

Me: "So, if you have any way of getting over there..."
Him: :smallmad::smallfurious:"No."
Me: :smalleek: "Um... yeah. You sure? Okay then! We skip over this - what are you going to do now?"

Neither of the players were upset with me, and it was clear that I was trying to cushion the effect because of the potentially violatile nature. In the end, I think I was more rattled than they were.

big teej
2010-08-30, 03:48 PM
personally, my characters have never really had family or friends (or at least, not in depth ones) not out of any fear of the DM taking offensive liberties with my work... more...... I can't figure out how to flesh out a family.

in our whole group I spend the most time on developing my character's.... well, character, or personality if you will. and I know if I turn that tendency on their family/friends, I will become unsatisfied with the character I"m playing RIGHT NOW and want to play my character's super rich uber level whatsit cousin. :smalltongue:

so that's why I typically never flesh out family and friends, I believe the most I've ever done was

A future son (my barbarian's child is going to be a BBEG)
master of an order (for my knight)
oringin story (including family) for my ogre ranger
uhmmm

that may be it.....

/ramble

Uncertainty
2010-08-30, 03:49 PM
But it's not a problem that can't be addressed though.

Look, there is a LOT you can do if you give people a heads-up that you can't do if you just spring it on them.

Alright, I guess that's true.


It really comes back to what I said in the beginning, though - the kind of backstory I give in has a whole lot to do with the GM and the group that I am playing with.


*Snipped Story*

That actually sounds kinda cool.

The Big Dice
2010-08-30, 04:03 PM
If I see a three page backstory, I'm not going to read it. If I see a background that's more than half a page double spaced and in a big font, I'm very unlikely to read it :smalltongue:

But if I see this kind of thing (http://pandius.com/npcbuild.html) used as a format for a backstory, I'm going to read it and possibly even use it as a source of hooks.

valadil
2010-08-30, 04:29 PM
If I see a three page backstory, I'm not going to read it.

My last backstory was 14 pages. I did some work for the GM though and killed my own love interest so that he didn't have to. Disclaimer: I've known that GM since middle school. He and I encourage long backstories. I wouldn't have written so much if I didn't know he was interested in reading it.

Zaydos
2010-08-30, 04:34 PM
I wrote my longest one when my DM was my room-mate and we'd have brain storming sessions a fair amount of the time. He didn't really need to read it, he'd helped work on it enough. If a DM requests a long backstory I'm willing to make one though, if they say a paragraph or two I'll try and limit it to it, but if they say one with plenty of hooks... then it gets long.

AtlanteanTroll
2010-08-30, 04:41 PM
Lets see:

Their was the Half-Orc Barbarian who's mother, while loving, didn't enjoy her child's existance. *coughs*

The Half-Elf Ranger whose father was a Human woodsman and whose mother was never know.

The Human Rogue whose parents were *******s who whipped him on the farm and made him do a load of work. Before leaving home, he beat up his dad with his dad's whip (his mom was sparred as she was already dead).

The Elf Cleric of Pelor whose parent's were killed while on the road and was raised in a church of Pelor.

Strawberries
2010-08-30, 04:48 PM
To be fair, I don't mess with backstories as in 'and the BBEG got your mom/sister/brother/dog too!' I mess with them more as 'Wait, what? Oh $&%*!!!' They might end up dead. They might kill someone. Way of the world, especially in D&D.

Oh, you don't have to kill a character or have them kidnapped to mess up with them. The more interesting stories are the less predictables. As far as I'm concerned, if everybody else is having fun, too, then go for it. And I really should stop giving you free reign...:smalltongue:


If I see a three page backstory, I'm not going to read it. If I see a background that's more than half a page double spaced and in a big font, I'm very unlikely to read it :smalltongue:

That's fair, and that's why I usually do backstories like this:

-"Cliff's Notes" backstory: a paragraph or two, the basics of who the character is and where they come from. That's what I usually give the DM when I create a character

-Complete backstory, as I imagined it, with more in-depth description of events, some npcs etc. I don't write more than a couple of pages (I'm not a writer, and moreover, in pbps, I'm writing in a language not my own, so it gets a bit difficult for me). If the DM says they're interested in in-dephts backgrounds, I hand this over.

-NPCs: those are the people that are somehow important for my character, but that are not essential for his backstory (as in, the background makes sense also without them). I check with the DM before adding those, as some people may not like a player to detail that much of the world for them. If the DM is okay with them, then they become part of the character sheet.

Drascin
2010-08-30, 04:49 PM
My characters, the extremely few times I get to actually play instead of GM, tend to be decently adjusted people who had a nice family life and are still in speaking terms with their parents, maybe even write home every now and then.

This tends to leave the remainder of the party more speechless than the guy whose backstory involves a naiad and several varieties of fish :smalltongue:.

Umael
2010-08-30, 06:27 PM
I think part of the problem is that a lot of GMs are uncreative when it comes to using the backstory of the PCs. Too many of them can only thing of motivating the PCs by either dangling their family members as bait or as using their deaths and/or injustice to motivate the PCs to go seek justice (or at least to avenge their loved ones).

It would do a GM good to imagine as many plot hooks as they can using the PCs loved ones that would motivate the PCs WITHOUT COMMITTING ANY CRIMES.

Kidnapping, rape, murder - sure. But done to death.

Let's take a classic - marriage.

For example, PC 1 is a half-elf, whose widowed elven mother married a human. Now PC's mother wants to marry - PC 2, or PC 3's brother, or the liege of PC 4, or even a minion of the BBEG.

Another classic - the family loser.

Let's call him Uncle Harry. He's a drunk, a slob, a bum, and worse of all, a con artist. Without committing any crimes, you can get Uncle Harry to be a real pest for the PCs. Just got back from defeating the dragon? Surely you can spare a few gold coins for poor ol' Harry, down-on-his-luck. Going to talk to the king? Well, ol' Harry wants to come along while you chum it with the kingie. Have to quest out to the Golden Empire of the Sands? Ol' Harry happens to be along, although he clean forgot to bring anything important.

Of course, don't forget to go the other way and be nice to the PCs as well. Meet the PC's sister's suitor, who wants very much to impress such a notable figure. Have tea with the aunt, who just finished HER magical thesis at the university. Compare notes with the archaeologist cousin - did I mention he found another part of the MacGuffin?

lokoone
2010-08-30, 07:58 PM
My chaotic/good warlock is one of the classic orphans, buut i carry my daughter with me, she is still alive, 5 adventures