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BudgetDM
2010-01-18, 12:52 AM
I'm going to be running a 4e Scales of War game in the (hopefully) not to distant future, and I've come across a minor snag.

One of my players, let us call him "M", is a very busy man. He runs a small business and has a family. On top of this, he is also a total newbie to RPGs. He has told me that he doesn't feel that he has the time to come up with a character back story. Now I'm okay with him just playing Generic Dwarf Fighter #347, but I was wondering if any of you have any ideas of how I could help him develop Fighter McDwarfy into a more three dimensional character.

Katana_Geldar
2010-01-18, 12:55 AM
Sometimes all you need is a few dot points from a player as from how they got to that point in their lives they decided to be an adventurer.
You may want to give him some questions you want answered and maybe introduce some things in-game that he could go with.

Temotei
2010-01-18, 12:58 AM
Here's (http://hubpages.com/hub/Better-Roleplaying-through-DD-Character-Background-Creation) an article.

And another (http://www.roleplayingpro.com/2009/04/01/class-based-character-backgrounds-for-dd/).

And another (http://www.roleplayingpro.com/2009/07/22/building-memorable-dd-characters-backgrounds/), although I haven't read this one.

Fishy
2010-01-18, 12:59 AM
Ladies and gentlemen, the Ten Minute Background (http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19713850/The_Ten-Minute_Background--Post_your_characters!). Fill the boxes with whatever garbage you want, and you automatically generate a reasonably well-rounded character with plot hooks and motivations.

Dr.Epic
2010-01-18, 07:21 AM
Ladies and gentlemen, the Ten Minute Background (http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19713850/The_Ten-Minute_Background--Post_your_characters!). Fill the boxes with whatever garbage you want, and you automatically generate a reasonably well-rounded character with plot hooks and motivations.

Awesome. Thanks for showing this.

Ryuuk
2010-01-18, 07:25 AM
The ten minute backgroun's good, I've used it a few times before and liked the results. However, I'll just add that its a case of false advertisement, I always take waaay longer then 10 minutes to finish it.

Rhydeble
2010-01-18, 07:37 AM
Not thinking of a background doesn't mean not having a background. It just means that no-one knows the character background.

Foryn Gilnith
2010-01-18, 08:38 AM
Think not of backstory, but rather of personality. What drives him? What does he like to talk about? What are his hobbies? His habits? What are his spiritual inclinations? What is/are his "default" mood(s)?

These sort of things tend to give an impression of depth, while being simple to answer in a few words. Taken from http://rpg.ashami.com/

Gamerlord
2010-01-18, 08:45 AM
Try to randomize a backstory by rolling dice?
Use the PHB2, it has some help with backstories.

Mongoose87
2010-01-18, 08:57 AM
Not thinking of a background doesn't mean not having a background. It just means that no-one knows the character background.

Seriously, I come up with only the vaguest elements of backstory in advance and make up the rest as is story-appropriate.

Glass Mouse
2010-01-18, 09:46 AM
Make him pick a few, purely RP, flaws. You can have him roll for it, if that's easier, and it is a fine basis for an interesting character. It even takes less than a minute.
Here (http://www.darkworldrpg.com/lore/flaws.html)is a nice little list for inspiration.

valadil
2010-01-18, 10:31 AM
I have players who aren't busy but can't deal with writing a page. Instead we'll just talk about the character. Sometimes I'll take notes, sometimes not. As a matter of fact, the only player I've gotten backstory out of for my next game came up with his story over a series of 15 minute IM conversations. Had I demanded a written page he wouldn't have done a thing. The backstory actually ended up better because we were able to pass ideas back and forth several times.

You also don't need a backstory right away. Let him be Boring McDwarferson for a month and then ask for a personality flaw or bad habit or something. These details can emerge over the course of the game.

Aedilred
2010-01-18, 12:57 PM
When starting a game, I tend to give my players a document with a random "background-generator" and request/insist that they use it, with the caveat that they can overrule or ignore any results they don't like. For the players who would normally produce long essays on their background, it gives them ideas, and for those who wouldn't normally write anything, it means that I have something to work with, and it only takes them about ten seconds and no thought.

In some cases, though, background will simply become apparent as the campaign goes on. Some players don't really start with a clear idea of where they've come from or even what their character is like; it sort of develops organically from there.

Crow
2010-01-18, 02:11 PM
If a player doesn't give me *any* background on a character, or a very sparse one, I just make one up for them, and develop it in-game. Of course this leads to characters who are surprised that they have 4 sisters or whatever, but usually they catch on to things and play along...

BudgetDM
2010-01-18, 06:39 PM
Thanks for the advise. I had kind of forgotten about the 10 minute background thing.

Dervag
2010-01-18, 07:28 PM
Another possibility: define a rival for the character- someone who knows them, knows where they're from, has a history with them. Doesn't have to be a violent enemy, though it can be.

The character's interaction with the rival may help define them, and it allows you to create interesting scenarios while remaining deliberately vague about just what in the character's backstory invoked them.

shadow_archmagi
2010-01-18, 07:32 PM
Telling my players to write backstories has never worked out well.

However, if the campaign goes on long enough, I find that characters have a tendency to emerge from random comments.

"Ah! Snakes! I HAVE A CHILDHOOD FEAR OF THOSE!"
"You do? since when?"
"JUST NOW"
"But it's a childhood fear?"
"I AM IN TOUCH WITH MY INNER CHILD"

Sooner or later, that sort of thing builds up and they have a backstory.

Glass Mouse
2010-01-18, 07:53 PM
I just remembered... My best GM sent out a form for us all to fill. No more than 1-1 pages, containing:

Full name
Gender
Alignment
Race and Class
Diety
Age
Height and weight

Background story (questions to consider: )
- where did you live before becoming an adventurer?
- why did you decide to become an adventurer?
- how did you get your class?
- how did you get your gear?
- do you still have contact to friends and family?
- what is the best thing that ever happened to you?
- what is the worst thing that ever happened to you?

Looks
- How would someone percieve you if they met you for the first time?


Dunno. It's a place to start :smallsmile:

Vizzerdrix
2010-01-18, 08:49 PM
My outlook has and will always be that at level 1, you don't HAVE a back story, farm boy. Starting at higher levels though, will get me to write more. Honestly, If my group comes up with one more stupid "Died in glorious combat with a half fiend dragon and dragged his way out of the Abyss" for a level 1 character I'll go ape. Honestly. Level 1. You. Have. Done. Jack. Squat. That is WHY you ARE starting as a first level character. [/INVISIBLERANT] :smallfurious:

Ahem. Naturally, this frustrates the hell out of my DMs :smallbiggrin:

DabblerWizard
2010-01-18, 09:27 PM
Here's a great link.

http://www.miniworld.com/adnd/100ThingsAboutUrPCBackGround.html

The site provides 100 questions you can ask your players about their character. Even in the case where you have background-loving players, I would suggest picking out no more than 20 questions from the list that you like the most. You can also use the list as inspiration to create your own of course.

Glass Mouse
2010-01-18, 09:28 PM
My outlook has and will always be that at level 1, you don't HAVE a back story, farm boy. Starting at higher levels though, will get me to write more. Honestly, If my group comes up with one more stupid "Died in glorious combat with a half fiend dragon and dragged his way out of the Abyss" for a level 1 character I'll go ape. Honestly. Level 1. You. Have. Done. Jack. Squat. That is WHY you ARE starting as a first level character. [/INVISIBLERANT] :smallfurious:

Ahem. Naturally, this frustrates the hell out of my DMs :smallbiggrin:

Aww, what about all those epic level chars who just happen to have been heavily level-drained? No love for those?

(Honestly, though, I don't agree - even a lvl 1 will have some kind of story; whether it's "grew up in a monestary after being abandoned by my parents" or "lived happily with family until discovering that I had magic abilities, whereafter I decided to follow my obvious fate and become famous as a result of these abilities" or "was bullied because I'm half-whatever, now off to prove myself despite this" or even "lived with my tribe, but it was wiped out by *insert evil race here*, and now I want to quest to kill all *insert evil race here*". Ahem. Yeah, I really like making backstories. To me, writing them out novel-style helps define my character. Though I guess it's not everyone's thing :smallsmile:)

Malificus
2010-01-19, 08:55 AM
(Honestly, though, I don't agree - even a lvl 1 will have some kind of story; whether it's "grew up in a monestary after being abandoned by my parents" or "lived happily with family until discovering that I had magic abilities, whereafter I decided to follow my obvious fate and become famous as a result of these abilities" or "was bullied because I'm half-whatever, now off to prove myself despite this" or even "lived with my tribe, but it was wiped out by *insert evil race here*, and now I want to quest to kill all *insert evil race here*". Ahem. Yeah, I really like making backstories. To me, writing them out novel-style helps define my character. Though I guess it's not everyone's thing :smallsmile:)

This. Level ones have back-stories, they're just not impressive back-stories.

Tyndmyr
2010-01-19, 10:05 AM
Seriously, I come up with only the vaguest elements of backstory in advance and make up the rest as is story-appropriate.

Ditto. Likewise, I often allow others to play off my backstory as well. Hell, Im improving, why shouldn't they?

This is why my overpowered, optimized to hell wizard/incantatrix/Iot7v is a alcoholic in denial.

Friends don't let friends teleport drunk.

Serpentine
2010-01-19, 10:18 AM
My quick'n'dirty method: fears, fetishes, virtues, vices, goals. I find it easy to pick out these, then come up with reasons from their past to explain it, if I'm having trouble coming up with a backstory.
Fears: A full-blown phobia or a philosophical insecurity. Examples from my game include Undead (Rogue, was attacked by zombies while all alone and before he'd heard of such creatures. Was rescued by the party Cleric, and was subsequently best friends with him (CG + LG, btw)), and failing/letting someone down.
Fetishes: Full-on fetish, or just something you have "a thing" for. E.g. nymphs (Rogue again), shiny things (Gnome cleric of Garl/sorcerer/thingamabob), jewellery.
Virtues: Defining positive feature. E.g. protectiveness (Knight), cheerfulness (Rogue).
Vices: Defining negative feature. E.g. alcoholism (Knight, recovering), ADD (Rogue).
Goals: Long-term, short-term, unobtainable or easy-done. E.g. find the Philosopher's Stone (Rogue - player was also interested in a plot that involved him finding it, then having to use it to save someone's life instead of making money, like he wants to), find the stone missing from an artifact (Gnome, recently acquired. Gotta remind that player that he's welcome to follow up that plotline...), collect shiny/blue/shiny blue things (Gnome again), return home from exile (Knight).

SpikeFightwicky
2010-01-19, 10:33 AM
If a player doesn't give me *any* background on a character, or a very sparse one, I just make one up for them, and develop it in-game. Of course this leads to characters who are surprised that they have 4 sisters or whatever, but usually they catch on to things and play along...

^-- This

I like to use this method for players that are drawing blanks or have any kind of trouble with backgrounds. This happened once in a Call of Cthulhu game and the PC in question received a telegraph request to meet up with a high-school sweet heart. At first the PC was confused, then realized what was going on (random background detail added) and became intrigued. It ended about as well as an average CoC game can, but was quite memorable.

Mark Hall
2010-01-19, 12:28 PM
Last weekend, I started in a Mage game. The GM was going to make my character, but she ran out of time, so I came up with one on the fly. I had a rough sketch of who he was (Grad Student at Rice in Evolutionary Biology), but he developed almost entirely in-play. Why's get got one dot of Athletics? Turns out he plays frisbee on the weekends (learned when I frisbeed a plate into the face of a Presbyterian minister at a Dennys... said Dennys subsequently exploded, as they are wont to do in Mage games). Why does he know a comparative linguist? Turns out that, while my grad student taught at University of Houston, he went to Rice, where the linguist is infamous for his horrible teaching.

He doesn't really have a background... just highlight events that help to explain him. The rest is pure RPing.

BishFish
2010-01-20, 09:30 PM
the most important part for RPing is having some personality. I played a campaign where I died and i took over one of the NPCs. The character had no developed backstory, so I just created a personality of the absolute PC (as in Politically Correct in this sense.) NG druid. it is a lot of fun even if I don't have any backstory at all.

Decoy Lockbox
2010-01-20, 10:33 PM
One of my players is playing a dwarf fighter, and for the longest time she didn't have a backstory or even a name. I came up with one for her that played on that idea:

her character was essentially the dwarf equivalent of a knight, who fell out of favor with the king and was stripped of his title, lands, family, arms and even his name. Now, this nameless, homeless dwarf must fight to redeem himself! Coming soon to a theater near you, rated pg-13.