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Kami2awa
2014-11-27, 03:25 AM
I've been wondering recently if it is worthwhile to create character backstories prior to play. There's a couple of reasons for this-

Firstly, not everyone has read everyone else's backstory. If one PC's backstory becomes the focus of the game for a while, this can leave the other players confused and often left out of the game for a while.

Secondly, once characters are created I often find my RP of them is quite different to my original idea of the character, which often doesn't gel well with their backstory.

Finally, I worry that it runs into "Tell, don't show," or "Informed Attribute" (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/InformedAttribute) which is often thought of as bad writing in other forms of fiction. The backstory is external to the game itself so is harder to really show to the players.

An awful lot of great fictional protagonists don't have much backstory until the story starts. Consider Bilbo Baggins, or Frodo and Sam, or Arthur Dent, who really had very ordinary lives before being hurled into extraordinary adventures.

Knaight
2014-11-27, 03:29 AM
Having a back story doesn't necessitate having an exceptional back story. With that said, I generally find that a fairly minimal back story is fine, and that it can often be expressed in a better way than an actual narrative. A brief overview and a handful of details that are expanded upon can pretty much cover things.

What you absolutely do need is a character concept, which is more than just a race/class combination or a set of skills and attributes. It also generally helps to have an established personality flaw ahead of time, and some concrete connection to something in the setting (though that obviously doesn't apply to fish out of water campaigns).

McBars
2014-11-27, 03:49 AM
Secondly, once characters are created I often find my RP of them is quite different to my original idea of the character, which often doesn't gel well with their backstory.

Finally, I worry that it runs into "Tell, don't show," or "Informed Attribute" (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/InformedAttribute) which is often thought of as bad writing in other forms of fiction. The backstory is external to the game itself so is harder to really show to the players.

An awful lot of great fictional protagonists don't have much backstory until the story starts. Consider Bilbo Baggins, or Frodo and Sam, or Arthur Dent, who really had very ordinary lives before being hurled into extraordinary adventures.

I think they are a waste of time; they go unread & unused and/or are often of crappy, Salvatorean quality.

More important is the second point you raise, typically the characters play very very different than described in their backstories.


Having a back story doesn't necessitate having an exceptional back story. With that said, I generally find that a fairly minimal back story is fine, and that it can often be expressed in a better way than an actual narrative. A brief overview and a handful of details that are expanded upon can pretty much cover things.

What you absolutely do need is a character concept, which is more than just a race/class combination or a set of skills and attributes. It also generally helps to have an established personality flaw ahead of time, and some concrete connection to something in the setting (though that obviously doesn't apply to fish out of water campaigns).

Pretty spot on here. I think they ought to be a thing you think of in ~5 mins and take no more than half that to read.

Knaight
2014-11-27, 04:17 AM
Pretty spot on here. I think they ought to be a thing you think of in ~5 mins and take no more than half that to read.

That sounds about right, though I generally find that they can be spoken and not written most of the time anyways, unless they are heavy on proper nouns.

NichG
2014-11-27, 04:20 AM
Putting certain things into writing is helpful so that you don't find yourself either forgetting them or getting stalled trying to improvise them. For example, I find names in particular hard to be spontaneous about. If I stutter or pause when telling someone the name of my character's brother, that could send a particular subtext about what my character thinks about his brother. I'd rather be doing that intentionally rather than because I can't come up with a name in a quarter-second. So backstories are useful for that, just to force you to make those decisions ahead of time.

The other thing they're useful for is establishing written record with DMs who are less comfortable with players assuming narrative control. For example, 'I belong to an organization which sent me here to collect a letter from an informant' is a cool thing to have going, but some DMs might have problems with a player suddenly announcing that kind of thing without having checked with them first (maybe it clashes with some particular bit of the setting; maybe it doesn't fit the sort of separation between character, player, and world they want; maybe the last time a player pulled it, they used it to get extra wealth, demigodhood, and a pet dinosaur, and the DM is just fed up; whatever)

So a backstory can be sort of a heads up of 'here's something I'm planning to do, does this work for you?'

Similarly, a concise backstory can be a way of saying to the DM 'out of all the things about my character I could have told you, this is what I consider to be most important'. If you write one paragraph, and its about how your brother betrayed your family and ruined your fortunes, and now you want revenge, then it's a big hint of 'hey, see if you can work my brother in somehow - one of the villains, or someone I have to make a shaky alliance with, or whatever'. If you write 10 pages, it's going to get lost though.

Seto
2014-11-27, 04:24 AM
Personally I like backstories, but they are in no way essential to roleplaying. They don't hurt it, though, and can be a nice bonus if done right. What I'd advise is that : do your character concept and imagine the way you want to rp them first (maybe go with a session or two to see what feels right), and then do a backstory to justify retrospectively the way you rp your character ; give them an in-story reason to act the way they do, etc. This gives a more coherent feel and reduces the risk your backstory will be inconsistent with your actual roleplaying.

S_Dalsgaard
2014-11-27, 04:57 AM
That's one of the things I like about D&D 5e backgrounds (and other similar tools). They make you think a bit about where you character come from, without getting overly specific, and are a great foundation to built on as you get to know your character better.

You really don't need to know Han Solo's background to enjoy the movies, but the various pre-movie books about him are an interesting read later on and fleshes out a few of his quirks.

Rallicus
2014-11-27, 05:16 AM
In my VTM game, the characters' backstories are so detailed that I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that I've never read them all in their entirety. It's been 8 months or so since I started that chronicle, too.

When I began my 5e game, I told the players to refrain from a complex backstory. This was mainly due to the problems I had with the VTM chronicle and the fact that 5e is especially brutal at level 1, so I didn't want my players to get too attached to characters that were probably going to die.

Through ingenious combat avoidance and really good combat tactics, however, they have. And now I'm left with one character with a one-paragraph backstory, two characters with a one sentence backstory, and one who has no backstory at all. Thankfully the "Backgrounds" of 5e gives me something to work with, vague thought it may be.

Recently I've requested they expand their character backstory a bit, and as of yet none of them have bothered. Go figure. :smallsigh:

In conclusion: experiencing both sides of the spectrum, I'd say that a few paragraphs is perfect.

valadil
2014-11-27, 06:30 AM
I love me some backstory. I strongly reward players who give me backstory and I put tons of effort into a backstory when I write one.

But I don't always write one.

Most GMs don't really do anything with them. Some don't even read them. I think they just like assigning homework.

Anyway, my policy on backstories is to ignore or halfass them unless I'm playing with a GM who has already proven to be able to put a backstory to good use. Once we're at that point, I'm the jerk who will write 20 pages of fan fiction about his own character.

Here's why I like backstory:

- It lets you get in character before game start. Nothing's worse than being told to introduce yourself, to make your first impression on the party and saying "Um, he's a human dude wearing *looks at character sheet* studded leather."

- It lets you get into character between sessions. Real life has gotten unwieldy and some of my characters go years in between sessions. Having a document I can refer to to put the character back in my head is a life saver.

- Players have more enthusiasm when their backstory is integrated into the game. I took a mediocre RPer's personally nemesis and made him the BBEG. The player was totally invested in the game from then on. There's a bit of a line to walk here though, because some players lose interest when they detect that the game session is Steve's background tangent. Ideally you want to pull in elements of backstories and make them main game plot.

Earthwalker
2014-11-27, 08:14 AM
Back stories are just a matter of taste and style.
I play with one friend and as far as he is concerned he starts to find out who he is playing when the game starts. When he is faced with choices he makes them and this begins to define his character. After a few sessions he has a good handle on who he is playing.
This works for him and he is happy so if I GM for him I just make sure there are some good choices to make early on.

For me I can't start a game unless I know who I am playing and where they some from. This does not have to be a 20 page document on my characters whole life. But who they were up to the point of starting play will inform me what I choose going forward.

Its alot different depending on system as well.

Pathfinder my friends way seems to work better (we generally start at lvl 1) as it is someone new starting to find themselves.

In Shadowrun it makes character creation easier as knowing who you were helps me form what skills my character should have.

Yora
2014-11-27, 08:19 AM
I think actual backstories are neither necessary, nor have any relevance in practice. What you want is having some behavioral traits, like things the character supports or opposes and how he reacts to certain situations. An actual narrative of his previous life is mostly useless.

Esprit15
2014-11-27, 08:26 AM
It depends on the game. My IRL table rarely goes with defined backstories, letting them write themselves as the story goes.

Here, I like them to at least get a feel for another player's writing ability, if I'm running a recruitment. Otherwise it's ust what race/class combos seem like they would be interesting in a game. Two paragraphs is the most I normally expect/pay attention to, though. It makes for a good, quick "Who are you, why are you here, why are you what you are?"

mephnick
2014-11-27, 09:15 AM
Generally useless, and this comes from someone who DM's almost exclusively. One of two things will happen, in my experience:


1) People will write these long back stories, then play completely differently:

Player: "We should burn the place down to destroy the evidence we were here!"

Me: "Wait...didn't you barely escape the fire that killed your family and it scarred you for life?"

Player: "Oh...*checks sheet* right..I did say that. Oh well, burn it anyway!"

2) You try and cater to their back story and they don't even realize it anyway:

Me: You scan the crowd in the city square and see a familiar face, none other than master swordsman, Krunk Stonemasher!

Player: *blank stare*

Me: Legendary swordsman...taught you to fight..raised you after your parents died..whole reason for being a battlemaster..

Player: Oh..oh yeah..right. I say "Hey, what's up"

daemonaetea
2014-11-27, 10:03 AM
As a player I love to give a backstory to the DM, but that's mostly just because I love writing. Usually what I do is give the DM a one to two page story that covers some pivotal moment in the character's life, basically what defined him. I'm a little weird though, in that while I love when the DM references that backstory, I hate when it becomes the focus of the plot. I just feel weird to drag the others along on something, to force their choices. On the other hand, I have no problem doing something from someone else's backstory. I'm weird that way.

For me, the backstory helps to focus my character's personality, or driving focus. Yet... at the same time, one of my favorite games ever was also my first. My guy had no backstory for the first five or ten sessions, then I went back and wrote one that explained the personality he'd developed over that time. I had a ton of fun with that character, and I'm not sure he would have developed in the way he did if I had come up with his backstory ahead of time.

I've also had games where I had to change my preconceived notions of the character very early on, causing a conflict with my backstory. In one game I was going to play the standard "guy who doesn't talk much or interact with the party" type. Very low key. When the game started, it turned out I was playing with a collection of borderline crazy members in the party, none of who were at all focused on getting anything done. Out of pity to the DM I became the team dad, to make sure anything happened besides gathering flowers in fields and playing instruments on street corners for pocket change. Still really enjoyed that game, I just didn't end up playing what I thought I would be.

So my not very helpful advice is that every way can work, it just really depends. As a DM I basically let each person decide what they want to do. Some enjoy giving me detailed backstories, and that's cool! Others do eventually, and that's cool too. They need a few sessions to decide what they want. Others never bother, and I can deal with that too. (Funnily enough one of the best roleplayers in our group is that way. He usually doesn't go in for backstories, but if I introduce a Lt. Goltivos he knew a few years back he'll chat away, running with it perfectly.) Overall I'd just let your players do what they feel comfortable doing, and letting it work itself out.

Tengu_temp
2014-11-27, 10:34 AM
Everything in the backstory that won't show up in the actual game is mostly useless and you write it for yourself. But at the same time, I think every character should have a backstory, just so the player will know where the PC came from. It doesn't have to be long, but it should be there.

What's more important than a backstory is character personality and description - it helps you solidify the image of your character you have in your head, and as a result roleplay it better, and it gives your DM and other players an idea what to expect from your character.



Most GMs don't really do anything with them. Some don't even read them. I think they just like assigning homework.


A DM who doesn't read the PCs' backstory fails at his job and is showing to be massively disrespectful - it's pretty much a roundabout way of saying "I don't really give a **** about your character". If a player writes something, that means he considers it important for his character, and the least a DM could do is read it!

I suppose an exception could be made for players who produce long, meandering, multiple-page backstories that are just a chore to read. But even then, at least skim through it to look for the important stuff.

Dire Moose
2014-11-27, 11:02 AM
The only time I as a DM have a problem with backstory is when a player creates a new character in the middle of an existing campaign. The problem is when the player introduces something that did not exist in the campaign setting by way of backstory, especially when they don't explain it until they've already been playing for a while.

The main example from my experience was during a Pathfinder campaign in a homebrew setting. A new player came in when the party was around level 5 and decided to make a Hellknight. After determining that said character would not be mechanically broken, I allowed it. Then a session or two in the player mentions that he's part of a highly organized group, and that Hellkinght is not just a class, it's an official title within an order. So now this Order of Hellknights apparently exists in my campaign setting which had no such order previously.

Part of it was my fault for not checking the background of the prestige class beforehand, but the player also didn't give me that part of the backstory either as it was apparently supposed to be assumed based on the prestige class requirements which I did not know.

Another similar case was with a character who played a Warlock in the same campaign. Again I allowed the class as it seemed just another variant of arcane spellcaster and no more or less broken than a Wizard. Then a session or two after the character joined the party he declared that he was worshipping a demon lord because his class fluff required it. I tried to change that fluff on the spot since I didn't want to run an evil campaign, but it was too late; the guy continued to insist that he was worshipping a demon lord.

Jay R
2014-11-27, 11:03 AM
Back stories are just a matter of taste and style.

Agreed. My friend Glen has no interest in a backstory. I don't know who the character is until I've written how he got here.

Both Glen and I are right, for our own purposes. Build your character your way.

But I strongly recommend that if you have a backstory, it should include an abrupt change very recently, both to put him on the adventuring path and to justify the fact that the character changes as you start to play him.

My 2E thief/wizard started as a loner who distrusted everybody. I let the fact of being with a group who was loyal to him be the spur to his character growth.

My current Ranger is a northerner who doesn't have much experience with the southern cultures, which include the entire rest of the party. So he's trying to understand something that's completely new to him, and I'm playing with that.

Look at Spock in the first few episodes, or Sheldon Cooper, or the Fonz. They are clearly not yet who they will become, but you can see how this character can grow into the one we know.

Terraoblivion
2014-11-27, 12:02 PM
I'm pretty much with Tengu. A background can help clarify your character concept, but personality, image and style are more important than having more than a bare bones image of where your character came from. I do think that you should at least make the effort of establishing as much as Bilbo Baggins, which is to say establishing that he's cozy country gentry from a peaceful, insular place sheltered from the dangers of the world. That's not a lot and you probably only need a couple of sentences, but it does a lot to establish who he is.

Personally I also strongly lean towards suggesting that people do a summary of their character background rather than writing a most likely crappy short story. I also think that it's generally best to avoid too great deeds in the background, the story that gets focus, which is to say the game itself, should be the most interesting and important part.

Dire Moose
2014-11-27, 12:15 PM
Look at Spock in the first few episodes, or Sheldon Cooper, or the Fonz. They are clearly not yet who they will become, but you can see how this character can grow into the one we know.

Actually, I'd like to note something else about backgrounds now that you mentioned Spock. While he did start with very little background, he still got a backstory as the series progressed in order to explain his character after he'd already gotten a well-established personality. Same with other characters; in fact, Kirk only had a few anecdotes here and there throughout the series with his Establishing Character Moment going unrevealed until the second movie.

Even later on in the franchise when backgrounds got more detailed, they were still gradually revealed as the series developed, not spelled out at the beginning. Character development came first, then backstory was revealed to explain the established personalities.

Relating this to the game, maybe the players could start with a very short (1-2 sentence) background before playing, then after level 3 or so, when they have established their characters' personalities and play styles better, they would have the opportunity to revisit their background and write a longer version.

valadil
2014-11-27, 12:27 PM
I suppose an exception could be made for players who produce long, meandering, multiple-page backstories that are just a chore to read. But even then, at least skim through it to look for the important stuff.

So I actually made a game of testing what GMs do with backstory. I've given three different GMs the script for an SNL sketch, a backstory written in spanish, and a backstory with my character's name removed and replaced with "Jesus". None of them noticed. Oh and these were all either a page or slightly longer, so no excuses.

Seto
2014-11-27, 12:40 PM
So I actually made a game of testing what GMs do with backstory. I've given three different GMs the script for an SNL sketch, a backstory written in spanish, and a backstory with my character's name removed and replaced with "Jesus". None of them noticed. Oh and these were all either a page or slightly longer, so no excuses.

Well, that surprises me. I can't make a statistical statement about DMs in general, but I know I personally enjoy players' backstories and try to use them later when appropriate.

Kiero
2014-11-27, 01:08 PM
We just did this (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?383228-Getting-a-meaningful-backstory-from-players).

Esprit15
2014-11-27, 01:17 PM
Well, that surprises me. I can't make a statistical statement about DMs in general, but I know I personally enjoy players' backstories and try to use them later when appropriate.

Yeah, I don't think that's evidence of everything, seeing as every game I do recruitment for or a friend has done recruitment for has us looking over backstories multiple times to see who will fit with whom. How else do you sort through apps in a PbP game?

Aliquid
2014-11-27, 01:34 PM
Firstly, not everyone has read everyone else's backstory. If one PC's backstory becomes the focus of the game for a while, this can leave the other players confused and often left out of the game for a while. One approach is to have all of the players put together a back-story together. Including how they met each other, and reasons why they trust each other. This will force them to create characters that actually are capable of working together. The back-story does not have to be complicated or detailed though.


This of course assumes you are playing a game where story matters, and it isnít just hack and slash.
An awful lot of great fictional protagonists don't have much backstory until the story starts. Consider Bilbo Baggins, or Frodo and Sam, or Arthur Dent, who really had very ordinary lives before being hurled into extraordinary adventures.
That inspired a thought... how about having the players write up a short back-story after the first adventure. Let them get a feel for their character, the other PCs and the world first. Then ask them to provide more back-story when they level-up (or every 2-3 levels). This will help people regularly think about who their character is, how he/she is evolving and add that bit of depth to the story.

cobaltstarfire
2014-11-27, 02:12 PM
I like to do minimal backstories, and often try to put one or two things in them that the GM can try to use as a hook if they like. If they don't, oh well it's not a big deal to me (well probably mildly disappointing but I won't gripe or anything)

As a GM the few times I've run a game I like a bit of backstory and appearance/personality description, it could probably be only 2-3 sentences for each and that'd be more than enough to run on. I have always tried to integrate peoples backstories and character goals into the games I've run. Most of my players always gave me about a page worth (typed) so maybe half a page at most written.


I do think if you have a GM that you know for sure will definitely use your backstory to make sure you're precise about where you want to go with it, otherwise your GM may hijack your character arc into something at odds with your entire concept and whatever backstory you might have had to start with.

Tengu_temp
2014-11-27, 03:49 PM
So I actually made a game of testing what GMs do with backstory. I've given three different GMs the script for an SNL sketch, a backstory written in spanish, and a backstory with my character's name removed and replaced with "Jesus". None of them noticed. Oh and these were all either a page or slightly longer, so no excuses.

Good DMs are in low supply, unfortunately. How can you run a good game for your players when you care so little about them you can't even be arsed to read a single page of material the player provided for you?

McBars
2014-11-27, 04:07 PM
Good DMs are in low supply, unfortunately. How can you run a good game for your players when you care so little about them you can't even be arsed to read a single page of material the player provided for you?

Are they necessarily bad DMs? Or just used to bad players whose character personalities in no way resemble their shoddy backstories?

Tengu_temp
2014-11-27, 04:20 PM
Are they necessarily bad DMs? Or just used to bad players whose character personalities in no way resemble their shoddy backstories?

That's another possibility, but it's worth noting that if you play with bad players so often that you get used to it, your skills will detoriate just out of force of habit alone.

valadil
2014-11-27, 08:45 PM
Well, that surprises me. I can't make a statistical statement about DMs in general, but I know I personally enjoy players' backstories and try to use them later when appropriate.

Yeah, I'm surprised I encountered that many negligent GMs. I suspect most read the backstory and do nothing with it or read it and do something trivial (e.g. an NPC mentions your uncle by name and you don't recognize the name).

Also, I forgot to add the that one with the SNL script looked at the backstory and pretended to read it right in front of me while nodding and saying it looked good. *sigh*

Sith_Happens
2014-11-27, 10:03 PM
I always give my characters backstories if only for my own reference, I just keep them short (longest so far is four paragraphs) and tend to not get around to putting them to paper until a session or two has already passed. As a side-note, the only remotely tragic backstory I've written so far was the result of consciously cramming in as many fantasy shonen manga and/or JRPG tropes as possible (Doomed Hometown is just too much of a classic to skip).

Jay R
2014-11-28, 08:59 AM
So I actually made a game of testing what GMs do with backstory. I've given three different GMs the script for an SNL sketch, a backstory written in spanish, and a backstory with my character's name removed and replaced with "Jesus". None of them noticed. Oh and these were all either a page or slightly longer, so no excuses.

You don't know whether or not they noticed. If somebody did that to me, depending on our relationship in other ways, I might not tell him. It's possible these DMs started reading it, decided that you were sneering at them or wasting their time, and didn't bother discussing the fact with you.

Sith_Happens
2014-11-29, 06:21 PM
Now that I think about it:


Also, I forgot to add the that one with the SNL script looked at the backstory and pretended to read it right in front of me while nodding and saying it looked good. *sigh*

How do you know they didn't just consider an SNL script to be an acceptable backstory?:smalltongue: Or didn't recognize the particular sketch?

Talakeal
2014-11-29, 06:30 PM
You don't know whether or not they noticed. If somebody did that to me, depending on our relationship in other ways, I might not tell him. It's possible these DMs started reading it, decided that you were sneering at them or wasting their time, and didn't bother discussing the fact with you.

I am going to second this.

If someone did that to me I would honestly be too embarrassed to confront them about it and would assume they are just there to make fun of me and my game. I wouldn't directly handle the issue, but I would certainly be pulling every passive aggressive trick in the book to let them know they are no longer welcome at the table or find excuses to schedule the game on nights when they can't show up.

Jeff the Green
2014-11-29, 07:21 PM
Here, I like them to at least get a feel for another player's writing ability, if I'm running a recruitment. Otherwise it's ust what race/class combos seem like they would be interesting in a game. Two paragraphs is the most I normally expect/pay attention to, though. It makes for a good, quick "Who are you, why are you here, why are you what you are?"

Yeah, basically this. I play mostly on PbP, so that means a) I have a lot more time to read/write a background than I normally do for a face-to-face game, b) that it's important for the GM to get a handle on the players' writing ability, and c) the game is likely to be rather deep (assuming it lasts) and not a beer-and-pretzels sort of game, so backstory will come into play.

valadil
2014-11-29, 08:05 PM
I am going to second this.

If someone did that to me I would honestly be too embarrassed to confront them about it and would assume they are just there to make fun of me and my game. I wouldn't directly handle the issue, but I would certainly be pulling every passive aggressive trick in the book to let them know they are no longer welcome at the table or find excuses to schedule the game on nights when they can't show up.

I won't lie, it was kind of dickish of me. In my defense all three of those GMs were people I already knew and had gamed with before. I don't think I'd go for something like that with a GM that didn't know me better. Also, they were all confrontational and I don't see passive aggression being their method for dealing with something like that.

Dienekes
2014-11-30, 01:59 AM
As a GM I like a good backstory and read every one given to me. I think them useful in determining what tone the game should be in to fit with the groups desires and a source of inspiration for the way the plot can go.

That said I've never seen a backstory more than maybe 3 pages. Anything more than that would be a bit excessive.

azoetia
2014-11-30, 02:55 AM
As a DM I want only one line of relevant backstory that I can work into the game and create a personal connection to the plot from each character. Players are welcome to write as much as they want, but everything beyond that one line will be relevant only to the player and how he or she roleplays. Don't make me read 8 pages and then die in the first session unless it's really, really funny.

Sith_Happens
2014-11-30, 05:34 AM
Don't make me read 8 pages and then die in the first session unless it's really, really funny.

The backstory or the death?:smalltongue:

azoetia
2014-11-30, 03:51 PM
The backstory or the death?:smalltongue:

The backstory. The death will always be really, really funny. :smallbiggrin:

Talakeal
2014-11-30, 04:13 PM
I won't lie, it was kind of dickish of me. In my defense all three of those GMs were people I already knew and had gamed with before. I don't think I'd go for something like that with a GM that didn't know me better. Also, they were all confrontational and I don't see passive aggression being their method for dealing with something like that.

I am not judging; I don't know you or your group. I was just saying how I would react in the same situation which may or may not shed light on / apply to your situation.

Jay R
2014-11-30, 08:37 PM
Don't make me read 8 pages and then die in the first session unless it's really, really funny.

I don't "make" you read anything. The backstory is for my purposes, to help me design a character. The DM certainly gets a copy, and if he uses it, great. And of course anything that disagrees with the basic assumptions (beardless dwarves, etc.) will be clearly explained and cleared through the DM. But (for example) I know exactly why my new ranger has Frost Giants as a Favored Enemy, and I know exactly why he took the Leadership Feat. They grew out of who he is and how he got there.

azoetia
2014-11-30, 10:42 PM
I don't "make" you read anything. The backstory is for my purposes, to help me design a character.

So we're in agreement?


Players are welcome to write as much as they want, but everything beyond that one line will be relevant only to the player and how he or she roleplays.

Talakeal
2014-12-01, 02:37 AM
So we're in agreement?

I don't want to presume to read Jay R's mind (he has called me on it before :smallsmile:); however I don't think that not forcing the DM to read it means that the campaign will not benefit from them doing so.

Kami2awa
2014-12-01, 06:27 PM
I like the idea backstories written (or embellished) after 1-2 sessions of gaming with a given character. This would make it more likely that the backstory fits the character and the stuff they've already done.

Jay R
2014-12-01, 06:58 PM
So we're in agreement?

More or less. I always read, and try to incorporate, my player's background, and it's nice when the DM will read mine. My best DMs are the ones who read and critique it, and sometimes suggest modifications so my history has a place in theirs. But I can't force them to, and don't need them to.

And I will certainly write it even if I know they won't.


I don't want to presume to read Jay R's mind (he has called me on it before :smallsmile:); however I don't think that not forcing the DM to read it means that the campaign will not benefit from them doing so.

Thank you for the courtesy. This time you happen to be correct.

nedz
2014-12-11, 06:12 PM
As a DM what I want from a back-story is some way of investing the character in the world. If a player gives me something I can't use, then that's unfortunate. I'm much more interested in what organisations they may, or may not, be involved with; than something about some incident in the forest in their youth ó however much that shaped their character. Also it has to tie in with the rest of the party, which they don't always. I have also been known to use elements from a back story years into a game ó which usually throws people.

Susano-wo
2014-12-12, 12:15 AM
I think you need a character. The backstory required depends on the needs for that character. (and can certainly evolve if it makes sense for it to do so). Sometimes its, "I met the party while looking for a lost family heirloom, and they were in the same dungeon/castle/whatever. We all helped each other, and became friends."

Sometimes its "I'm a knight from a foreign land, searching for his missing younger brother. Brother was sent out with a merc company to sharpen his combat skills, as is common in our land in times of peace. I also have magical talent, but I am conflicted about it. certainly it is a natural gift, but its not honorable to blast an opponent with magic."

First example is hypothetical, second is very truncated version of backstory for one of my favorite characters. (other details include basics family tree, details about homeland, and description of how his family gained knighthood. :smalltongue:)

(PS. I laughed when I read the bit about submitting SNL scripts,m etc as backstory :smallbiggrin:

Milodiah
2014-12-12, 01:02 AM
I just went through a battery of seven Rifts characters as pregens for an upcoming game, and I have to say, Step 8 of their process is very interesting to me. Should the player and/or GM want, they can roll down a line of percentile charts to determine things like siblings, basic demeanor, place of origin, and most interestingly (to me) how they feel about the two most contentious things in the setting, non-humans and the (totally not totalitarian fascist) Coalition States. It's much more interesting to have a character who considers the CS to be humanity's saviors and a character who's seen what they do to humans and non-humans alike first-hand in the same party. I've seen a player choose to secretly murder a significant nonhuman NPC to keep it from joining the party because part of his rolled-for backstory is 'highly distrustful and hateful towards nonhumans", which was more motivated behavior than I've seen in a long time from PCs. In my opinion, backstories aren't just about histories, they're about opinions...you get much more interesting characters when the players' sheets let them know how they should react to things, especially when there are differences across the party.

Kelb_Panthera
2014-12-12, 05:19 AM
Background informs who the character is now so, IMO, it's a good idea to have at least a basic background for a character. It doesn't have to be anything extraordinary, just a paragraph or two if you were to write it down.