Results 1 to 19 of 19
  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground
    Join Date
    Nov 2017

    Default Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    TLDR: One of my players has created for herself a sexy male elf to act as a longtime bff/love interest for her PC and she fully expects me to use him as an NPC so she can romance him. Is this typical? Should I even allow this to any degree? Because I really don't want to.

    Longer explanation: So I'm a first time DM running a campaign for my friend and her brother. The brother, I'm not worried about. My friend is another matter altogether. This is her absolute first time playing DND- she's not familiar with the rules or anything. I occasionally write fanfiction for her on birthdays/holidays as a gift, so I am explicitly familiar with the specific type of character she likes to play- very often extremely OP Mary Sues who can do no wrong despite doing many, many wrongs objectively.

    My issue is that she has already started treating this like I'm writing a fanfiction for her instead of designing an interactive story that includes other characters who deserve just as much game time as her... y'know, chaotic evil dark elf assassin rogue. For instance, she has already created a sexy buddy assassin for me to play as an NPC so she can romance him. I very badly do not want to do this. I do not feel like this is the type of thing that is done typically in DND settings, and I feel that she is abusing her special relationship with the DM by assuming I will allow her to do this. I'm more than willing to let players have certain allowances based on their backstories, etc, but this feels... weird?

    Anyway, I guess my question is what kind of boundaries should I be setting out for my friend? How far should I let player creativity go, and when does it get to a point where I have to step in and say "Yeah, no, you can't do that. Next option."

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Beholder

    Join Date
    Sep 2013

    Default Re: Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    Yeah constantly being hit on by your friends and/or family and having to flirt back while running a game can be gross.

    I would explain to your friend that you are still new at DMing and you don't want the added job of being her in game boyfriend on top of everything else. Maybe her boy toy can be a reoccurring NPC introduced down the line? Not a constant tag along (I really hate Party Adopted NPCs) out of the gate.

    The big thing is talking to your players, being honest, and trying to work out a compromise.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    Zombie

    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Location
    Takaoka, Japan

    Default Re: Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    My typical ruling on these kinds of things is backstory love interest is fine, but they are not helping you in combat unless I specifically want you to be controlling two PCs, and if they are an NPC you understand that I am given complete control of how this character develops based on the backstory I am provided.

    I like seeing my players create interesting NPCs to populate my world with. It ups their buy-in and it can lead to some legitimately surprising, tense, or touching moments. That said I have never let my players create an NPC that travels with them for the entire adventure.

    If you are uncomfortable with elements of her backstory you are totally within your right to ask her to change, revise, or brainstorm ways to make it palatable. You are right, this is a collaborative game. You are not making a story for her, you are making one with her. Discomfort before you even hit session one is a really bad sign for the group, and should be addressed in a conversation.
    Last edited by Skelechicken; 2017-11-29 at 02:07 AM.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Orc in the Playground
     
    Composer99's Avatar

    Join Date
    Sep 2013

    Default Re: Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    Quote Originally Posted by witchmark View Post
    TLDR: One of my players has created for herself a sexy male elf to act as a longtime bff/love interest for her PC and she fully expects me to use him as an NPC so she can romance him. Is this typical? Should I even allow this to any degree? Because I really don't want to.

    Longer explanation: So I'm a first time DM running a campaign for my friend and her brother. The brother, I'm not worried about. My friend is another matter altogether. This is her absolute first time playing DND- she's not familiar with the rules or anything. I occasionally write fanfiction for her on birthdays/holidays as a gift, so I am explicitly familiar with the specific type of character she likes to play- very often extremely OP Mary Sues who can do no wrong despite doing many, many wrongs objectively.

    My issue is that she has already started treating this like I'm writing a fanfiction for her instead of designing an interactive story that includes other characters who deserve just as much game time as her... y'know, chaotic evil dark elf assassin rogue. For instance, she has already created a sexy buddy assassin for me to play as an NPC so she can romance him. I very badly do not want to do this. I do not feel like this is the type of thing that is done typically in DND settings, and I feel that she is abusing her special relationship with the DM by assuming I will allow her to do this. I'm more than willing to let players have certain allowances based on their backstories, etc, but this feels... weird?

    Anyway, I guess my question is what kind of boundaries should I be setting out for my friend? How far should I let player creativity go, and when does it get to a point where I have to step in and say "Yeah, no, you can't do that. Next option."
    I find the idea of being made to act out a player character's romantic interest to be particularly uncomfortable. I realise that in principle, the player/character separation should make it feasible... but nope!

    At the end of the day, you are also playing the game, and need to be able to set boundaries on the kinds of things you are willing to do as a DM so that you are also having fun. (I mean, "if the players are having fun, you're having fun" is true as far as it goes, but there's still something wrong if they're having fun and you're feeling uncomfortable, squicked out, or what have you.)

    I imagine your friend's brother (and any other players, should any eventually join your playing group) would also find it awkward and uncomfortable spectating such interactions.

    All that is to say that, yes, you need to have a discussion with your friend about this.

    Since you write fanfiction for your friend, that could be a way for you to accommodate her desire to have an NPC to romance without having to act it out at the gaming table. It could be part of the roleplaying, as it were - setting-specific stories that develop the relationship between her and her desired NPC and the backstory between them. (It could also be a way for you to transmit setting content.) I could see that approach keeping your friend engaged with her character and the game at that level, allowing you both to concentrate on her learning the game system and sticking to the adventure as such during game sessions. You could also work with her to find other ways to incorporate her NPC romantic interest into the game, whether "on-screen" or off.

    (All that's not to say that, if you found some kind of balance everyone participating was comfortable with, you couldn't include such content in the game. In the first episode of the Critical Role 'cast on YouTube, some of the players get a bit flirty early on with an NPC they're trying to persuade to be a guide/infodump, and it is entertaining and fun. It doesn't hurt that the player who eventually made the die roll rolled terribly, for extra entertainment value.)
    ~ Composer99

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    Red Fel's Avatar

    Join Date
    Aug 2013

    Default Re: Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    Quote Originally Posted by Skelechicken View Post
    My typical ruling on these kinds of things is backstory love interest is fine, but they are not helping you in combat unless I specifically want you to be controlling two PCs, and if they are an NPC you understand that I am given complete control of how this character develops based on the backstory I am provided.
    Pretty much this.

    If you write NPCs into your backstory, great. I like that. As DM, I will try to work them into my story and give your background a chance to be relevant. It gives me more material to use, plot hooks and narrative, and gives you a chance to feel invested in the game. Everyone wins.

    But you don't control those NPCs. I do. That's why they're NPCs - non-player characters. And I decide whether they're even appearing in the story - they may not. As DM, I decide who appears and who doesn't - maybe your NPC love interest is on an adventure of his or her own.

    If your character's life's mission was to romance another character, he or she would have stayed home to do so. Alternatively, you would do what every fantasy protagonist does, and go on a quest to either rescue your love interest or obtain that one item that would prove your love - but you would do so away from that NPC. Maybe you'd come home and visit with them once in awhile, fine, but most of your time is spent apart.

    In short: The life of an adventurer presumes that you will be traveling away from your love, not that they will be traveling with you. (Unless it's another PC, but that's between two players.) Plan accordingly.

    Even if you visit your love interest, as DM, I reserve the right to draw a curtain (or "fade to black") over the romance when I so choose. As a general rule, I prefer not to show scenes which make anybody at the table uncomfortable, and that includes me. And as a rule, flirting with my players, even ICly, makes me uncomfortable.

    So, yeah. The answer to the title is this: You can put your love interest into your backstory. Where I draw the line is when you require that I make that character into an NPC, and require that I play that NPC in a certain way. Your backstory is your call. My NPCs are mine.
    My headache medicine has a little "Ex" inscribed on the pill. It's not a brand name; it's an indicator that it works inside an Anti-Magic Field.

    Blue text means sarcasm. Purple text means evil. White text is invisible.

    My signature got too big for its britches. So now it's over here!

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

    Join Date
    Aug 2010

    Default Re: Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    Well, first have you considered that maybe she's trying to give you a hint?

    Beyond that, I generally feel that backstory is, in many games, kind of optional. I mean, it can be nice if done well, but often isn't necessary and can (in cases like this) be downright harmful.

    The biggest problem with backstories is that they're often written alone, out of context of what everyone else is doing, and require then some way of tying them together. Writing long backstories out of context of what the rest of the group is doing is peril-fraught, at best. This can make the typical party unity issues many, many times worse.

    Consider some kind of group backstory creation, as is used in Fate. At the minimum, I'd recommend a strong Session Zero before writing backstories. Just as "We're playing D&D!" without any further detail is a recipe for disaster, generating backstories without any idea of what the game is about is a problem. If you just say "we're playing D&D, make a backstory!" you're going to run into the worst examples of assumptions about the game running headlong into each other.
    "Gosh 2D8HP, you are so very correct (and also good looking)"

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Celestia's Avatar

    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Location
    Canterlot, Equestria
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    Change the NPC love interest from a sexy male elf to a sexy female elf. Now it's uncomfortable and awkward for both of you. Problem solved.
    Princess Celestia's Homebrew Corner
    Old classes, new classes, and more!
    I am a chaotic neutral elf wizard
    Str: 13, Dex: 13, Con: 11, Int: 18, Wis: 16, Cha: 10


    Thanks to AsteriskAmp for the avatar!

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Superhero in the Playground Moderator
     
    Mark Hall's Avatar

    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Houston, Texas
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    I tend to agree... if he's motivation for her, make her motivation. He goes out to do a job (FOR HER!), but he gets caught. He's going to be executed, unless she can break him out.
    The Cranky Gamer
    *It isn't realism, it's verisimilitude; the appearance of truth within the framework of the game.
    *Picard management tip: Debate honestly. The goal is to arrive at the truth, not at your preconception.
    *Savage Scrolls: A Savage Worlds/Elder Scrolls Conversion
    *The One Deck Engine: Gaming on a budget
    Avatar is from local user Mehangel
    API Anthology 1 from Drivethru RPG.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    BarbarianGuy

    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    Id say this is not typical, nor should you be expected or required to allow it. If she wants to describe that the character is in love, that's her prerogative. But if this is D&D or a D&D like game I'd let her know that this background info is not likely to be relevant very often during the game- IE, you won't be playing out a romance with her in real time throughout the campaign. It might be more like: " ok, the adventure is over and you've returned to town. What are you doing?"

    Her-"I go see my beloved and have smoochy time!"
    You- "ok, great, he's happy to see you! Its smoochy time all day! What are the rest of you doing?"
    Last edited by Thrudd; 2017-11-29 at 09:43 PM.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Sajiri's Avatar

    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Australia
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    We do this sort of thing all the time (although its more like the DM creates an npc for me rather than I create one and tell him to play it), but we both discuss what we are and aren't comfortable having happen first. Its not a bad thing, but if you arent comfortable doing this then that's all there is to it. Have it be a reoccuring npc like was already mentioned, but if you dont want to have to roleplay an npc your friend created to be her in game lover, then you shouldnt have to do it. Particularly as a first time DM, there's already so much other stuff you have to do and learn and you dont need the added stress of having to do something like this if you arent comfortable or willing.

    3DS friend code: 0748-2783-1667
    Mii name: Sajiri


    Ruya avatar by me!
    My Tumblr (more active than Deviantart these days)
    My DeviantART
    (It's mostly old art)

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Jay R's Avatar

    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Dallas, TX
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    Backstory should be a joint project between the DM and the player. Any background elements (city, war, rebellion, island sinking into the sea, boyfriend) should be proposed as questions. And the DM should make clear in the answer that there are things the player doesn't know.

    I always write an introduction to my games. The one for my last Champions game included the following.
    Quote Originally Posted by Introduction to Champions Game
    If the character’s backstory requires a specific subculture (Norse gods, Kryptonians, the Green Lantern Corps), we will discuss it until we have agreed on the basic form. I reserve the right to decide some things about the culture that you will not be told at the start.
    Similarly, you need to tell her that this is an adventure game for a group, and there won't be a lot of time spent on one person's non-plot-related threads. Lois Lane is not a major part of most Justice League stories. She (the player) should also probably realize that adventurers travel, and the BF won't be around most of the time.

    [Ideally, as soon as she told you, you should have said, in a cheerful voice, "Wonderful! I need a hostage to get the party to follow the adventure.]

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Dwarf in the Playground
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    Personally, I find DMing intimate relationships (not neccesarily romantic) with my friends' charaters can get awkward. I usually try to work it into background scenes and what *has* happened, rather than roleplay *as* their lover/sister/parent or whatever, but try to do the best I can in pivotal scenes.

    I'm not going to RP their smoochy times, but I might RP them setting up a business together - stuff that might affect the decisions they make.

    I've also made it clear that it's up to *them* to RP their cohorts, though I did make an exception and played as Adon the Wizard sidekick, when his player forgot his name and orderd him "Cohort, cast fireball on them". Adon chewed him out so thoroughly he has become a party favourite!
    "Ech... details..."

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Imp

    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Sweden
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    She definitely shouldn't be allowed to say what the stats are on this sexy male elf of hers. Except perhaps above average charisma. Other than that make it a useless level 1 commoner that she would have to babysit in any perilous situation rather than an actual asset.
    Yar! I'm a signature virus, copy me into your signature!

    Black text is for sarcasm, also sincerity. You'll just have to read between the lines and infer from context, like a savage

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    BarbarianGuy

    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mastikator View Post
    She definitely shouldn't be allowed to say what the stats are on this sexy male elf of hers. Except perhaps above average charisma. Other than that make it a useless level 1 commoner that she would have to babysit in any perilous situation rather than an actual asset.
    She shouldn't even be able to say whether the sexy male elf is currently living or dead. A character's backstory is the past- the DM decides what happens from that point onward. If he wants to be especially nice, he might ask her what has led her to the life of adventuring apart from her love interest, rather than deciding unilaterally. So she can choose- does he stay at home in the village while she goes out? Did they have a falling out? Has he gone missing and she's looking for him? Is he dead and she's mourning or looking for revenge? Has he been sent somewhere and never returned? Being by her side as an extra member of the party should not be an option.

    This should also be established prior, in order that she understand that he is not and won't necessarily ever be a party to the adventure. He's a background feature of the character that can provide her motivation and personality cues- not a member of the cast that will be her own private romantic story.

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Orc in the Playground
    Join Date
    Sep 2014

    Default Re: Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    Does the tone and scope of the adventure you plan to run fit well with an on-going romance plot?

    If not (a lot of stereotypical D&D adventures don't, but of course some do), then I suggest telling your friend upfront that this is a different kind of story than the types of fanfiction you write for each other, and give her rough overviews of a couple of typical "D&D plotlines" so she has some idea what kind of stories are more likely to be happening and can create a character that she'd enjoy playing in that general type of story. (Don't give her spoilers about the specific adventure set-up you have in mind that she shouldn't know yet, just an overview of what kinds of things tend to happen in the kind of game you plan to run.)

    I know I'd write a really different character for a "romantic adventures with a sexy elf" adventure than I would for a "let's go into some mysterious ruins, kill some funny looking things, and take their stuff" adventure, and I suspect that's true of most players. It might be worth giving her a chance to build a different character that better fits what you have in mind. (If she likes to read, you could even point her at some good online campaign journals so she could see little more what kinds of stories end up getting told.)

    (My first D&D campaign (so long ago it was in 2nd edition) thankfully had us generating characters in person so another player could remind me that my character should have some weapon proficiencies and maybe I should think about a weapon of some kind for them. I hadn't realized how combat-focused D&D was compared to the fantasy novels and other RPG systems/groups I was familiar with at the time, and had been creating more of a "wandering musician who meets interesting people while learning more about herself and the world" character rather than someone who'd fit into a standard D&D party and want to go fight things. Since we were going to run through a published module, this was not a good plan and I tweaked the character accordingly once I had a clearer idea what was up.)

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    Zombie

    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Po Tolo
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    Allow her to make the sexy male elf NPC in her background, but in the game, leave him behind. Then, introduce a different sexy male elf NPC who hangs around the PC and flirts with her. Then, when she inevitably gets involved with that NPC (because all she really wanted was a sexy male elf to make out with and it didn't matter which one), have the original NPC from her background turn up bent on revenge.

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Superhero in the Playground Moderator
     
    Mark Hall's Avatar

    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Houston, Texas
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    Somewhat unrelated, but definitely in line with this, I think of Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold. The main character has a major NPC in her background, but the DM obviously did some creative writing with the parts of the backstory.

    Spoiler: If you don't want the book spoiled, stay out
    Show
    Basically, her brother was co-captain of her mercenary company,
    and she loved her brother. But, as the revenge plot unfolds, it becomes clear that she had some big blind spots where her brother were concerned, and he was WAY more twisted than she thought he was, guilty of most of the evil **** people were blaming on her.


    If you go that route, you might also consider Hans, from Frozen... he seems great and wonderful at the beginning, but it comes out that he's got an agenda that Anna isn't aware of. So, you might have her boyfriend be sweet and all of that... but actually framing her for his assassinations, or working for a demon, or something like that.
    The Cranky Gamer
    *It isn't realism, it's verisimilitude; the appearance of truth within the framework of the game.
    *Picard management tip: Debate honestly. The goal is to arrive at the truth, not at your preconception.
    *Savage Scrolls: A Savage Worlds/Elder Scrolls Conversion
    *The One Deck Engine: Gaming on a budget
    Avatar is from local user Mehangel
    API Anthology 1 from Drivethru RPG.

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Knaight's Avatar

    Join Date
    Aug 2008

    Default Re: Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    Having that character at all isn't an issue, the awkwardness comes in expecting you to play them. They work great as a vague descriptive feature - the character occasionally receives a romantic letter (you don't need to actually write it), the love interest can act as motivation occasionally, etc.

    Given that you're uncomfortable roleplaying a romance, restricting it to something like the above is totally reasonable. Your friend will understand.

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    DruidGuy

    Join Date
    Feb 2017

    Default Re: Where to draw the line on character backstories?

    How about:

    "Hey, can we talk about it a bit? It's not what I had in mind for how NPCs would be involved, or the style of campaign I wanted to run, and...it's making me uncomfortable."
    Quote Originally Posted by Rainbownaga View Post
    I swear, 1 handed quarterstaves are 5e's spiked chain.

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •