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  1. - Top - End - #61
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    The short answer is, Yes, it's a good thing for the GM and the player to communicate regarding backstory/character history. Really, I don't see how the backstory can make much sense without some communication there.


    What follows is my opinion / preference, but I'm not going write "IMO" and "I feel" and so on umpteen times, so be aware it may read more assertive of an absolute than it's meant to.

    First, to get this part out of the way... other players don't get to tell me ANYTHING about my character's history or backstory or relationships. They do not get to add things or change things. Any system or campaign that regards other players retroactively imposing facts on my character as expected, or even acceptable, is a hard pass, an absolute no-go. I don't care that you think our characters met in somewhere in the past or have some relationship. I don't care if you think my character should have a missing sister. If you want to suggest, OOC, that these might be good ideas, and you're willing to accept a firm "no thank you", fine... but the instant you think you can impose them, well, the words I'm going to use in response are not postable on these forums.

    As a GM, I expect some sort of backstory, even if it's just bullet points, notes for each background-related thing on the character sheet, etc. I need something to work with and some information to help me understand where the PC is coming from and how they fit into the world. I don't think it's asking that much to require something more than a tubula rasa. I'll answer any questions, help them with suggestions, add little details to the map if needed, whatever it takes to make the PC into a "person" rather than a collection of attributes and abilities on a sheet of paper. But every character is from somewhere, and did things before the campaign started, and I want to know what those are.

    And no, I don't view every backstory element as a request to have that element come up in the campaign, any more than I regard Chekhov's Gun as more than a trite platitude. It's information to help me establish the character within the setting and in my mental space as the GM. If a player wants to specifically have something become an issue in the campaign, they need to note that specifically, or ask for side-sessions when the characters have downtime.

    And as a GM, I avoid imposing backstory/history on a player's character as much as I possibly can, I always take it from their submitted backstory or ask them if they're OK with me adding something or ask them questions about their character's life before the campaign started if something isn't clear.

    As a player, I expect the same level of courtesy from the GM. If you're my GM, do not ever just say, mid-session, "you receive a letter from your sibling, desperate for help" if I haven't included a sibling in the backstory and you haven't discussed it with me OOC. My response will be something like "I don't have a sibling, this is obviously a scam or a trap", or "my character is devastated by this revelation that their father was a cheating scoundrel".
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2019-06-10 at 03:52 PM.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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  2. - Top - End - #62
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    And as a GM, I avoid imposing backstory/history on a player's character as much as I possibly can, I always take it from their submitted backstory or ask them if they're OK with me adding something or ask them questions about their character's life before the campaign started if something isn't clear.

    As a player, I expect the same level of courtesy from the GM..
    (And other Players)

    Exactly this.

    I'd also avoid games that required changes to my character by others.
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    Quote Originally Posted by karellink View Post
    2019-05-19 2:04 pm
    as a great dragon you must have the correct wisdom for these kind of shenanigans.
    Mark Hall said
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  3. - Top - End - #63
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Agreed.

    With regard to collaboration between players and GMs: I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is something that benefits everybody. When players and GMs collaborate on PC backstory, everybody wins. There will be no sudden discoveries that a PC doesn't fit the game or setting and must be remade. There will be no instances in which a PC tries to refer to backstory, only for the GM to stonewall for some reason. The GM can ensure that everything is on the up-and-up, the PC can have help fleshing out a character from some stats on paper to an organic part of a living setting.

    Bonus, this improves player investment in the world. A smart GM won't just help the player flesh out the PC's backstory; she'll work concepts from the PC's backstory into the setting. PC's parents disappeared on an archaeological dig? Won't the PC be surprised to discover them as part of the brainwashed cult worshiping an ancient deity! PC's childhood best friend left town to join the priesthood? Guess who PC runs into in the capital! Interspersing these nuggets into the world - and making them plot-relevant - allows the player to feel like the PC is important, which is a great way to encourage players to want to know more about the setting.

    With regard to collaboration between players and other players: So much yes. One of the best ways to ensure party cohesion at the start of the game is for the players to collaborate on backstories. I was a player in one campaign where basically everyone talked about their characters in Session Zero and created this weird, fun family dynamic, where this one adopted that one, these two were childhood friends, this one was saved by that one's sister, and so on. If collaboration between players and GMs ensures that the PC has a place in the world, collaboration between players ensures that the PC has a place in the party.

    That said, I also agree with those who say that nobody, not other players or the GM, gets to control your character's backstory. As a general rule, I believe that's true - other players can ask if their PC can have a place in your PC's background, but they can't unilaterally make that call, nor can the GM arbitrarily tell you this stuff. At least three exceptions to that rule exist, however. First, a GM can certainly tell you if something in your backstory is not appropriate for the setting or for the game. If your GM is running a rags-to-riches campaign where all the PCs are trying to strike it big, he could certainly veto you coming from a wealthy family; likewise, if the campaign takes place in one part of the world, the GM is within rights to veto your character coming inexplicably from another region. Second, a GM can and should be able to control any aspect of backstory with a mechanical impact; if you have influential family members in your background that you can call on for plot-affecting impact, the GM is within rights to say that would upset game balance. And third, as has been mentioned, there may be situations - such as con-games or one-shots - where the GM should be allowed to simply slap something together and hand it to the players for use, rather than spend time letting the players craft their own backgrounds. Sometimes, the need for expedience trumps the need for personal expression and collaboration.

    But generally, my backstory is like my alignment - you don't get to tell me what I can or can't do.
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  4. - Top - End - #64
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel View Post
    That said, I also agree with those who say that nobody, not other players or the GM, gets to control your character's backstory. As a general rule, I believe that's true - other players can ask if their PC can have a place in your PC's background, but they can't unilaterally make that call, nor can the GM arbitrarily tell you this stuff. At least three exceptions to that rule exist, however. First, a GM can certainly tell you if something in your backstory is not appropriate for the setting or for the game. If your GM is running a rags-to-riches campaign where all the PCs are trying to strike it big, he could certainly veto you coming from a wealthy family; likewise, if the campaign takes place in one part of the world, the GM is within rights to veto your character coming inexplicably from another region. Second, a GM can and should be able to control any aspect of backstory with a mechanical impact; if you have influential family members in your background that you can call on for plot-affecting impact, the GM is within rights to say that would upset game balance. And third, as has been mentioned, there may be situations - such as con-games or one-shots - where the GM should be allowed to simply slap something together and hand it to the players for use, rather than spend time letting the players craft their own backgrounds. Sometimes, the need for expedience trumps the need for personal expression and collaboration.

    But generally, my backstory is like my alignment - you don't get to tell me what I can or can't do.
    Agreed, the GM's veto power ("that doesn't fit this setting / that doesn't fit this campaign") is different from trying to impose/insert background by unilateral fiat.
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  5. - Top - End - #65
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    EDIT: I see several people already expressed similar opinions. Hopefully, my response will make sense in the context of their posts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Constructman View Post
    Quertus, are you just flat-out opposed to PCs having a preexisting relationship with each other at Session 1?
    Conceptually, no. I think it represents a missed opportunity for forming those bonds, but is otherwise fine. In fact, I love parties where some of the PCs have adventured together before!

    However, the implementation? Whenever my tables, or any "adjacent" tables, have tried starting the game with PCs having preexisting relationships, it has been a recipe both for disaster, and, when I was a player in such games, for a dissatisfied me. The latter because the "form relationships" minigame that I enjoy has been replaced with this horrible, artificial *thing* - it's like expecting a fresh, juicy watermelon, and instead finding nasty artificially flavored paper. It's just not the same.

    For the former… I'm not sure why. I suspect it's because people were lazy, and expected "preexisting relationships" to be a magic bullet to solve intra-party conflict.

    That said, I am opposed to background connections as a means of cheap conflict between PCs - both because it's cheap, and because it's conflict. I prefer a cooperative, collaborative experience - or, if we are going to have conflict, let it be over something meaningful, like what to do with the goblin children, now that we've murdered their parents.

    Lastly, I am vehemently opposed to systems which force aspects into a PC's background. I built this character's background very carefully for a purpose, stop having your kindergartner scribble all over the art museum.

    Quote Originally Posted by Great Dragon View Post
    Personally, I really don't want any of the other Players deciding to portray my PC's Parents, or even Aunt/Uncle. These are usually viewed as "Authority Figures", and I'm playing a RPG to get away from that. Not to mention why someone almost twice the group's Age is still a 1st level Character?
    There is that. And I've certainly seen many a bad linear GM pull them out for just that purpose.

    But even a good GM will fail at role-playing them. And that's my objection to their use. I don't want the GM to **** over all the hard work I've put into my character and their background - and for what? At least the railroading GM has a method to their madness, but why cheapen my experience by taking a **** on my backstory with your bad role-playing?

    -----

    I think those will most help people see my PoV. I'll reply more later, after people have had a chance to digest these tidbits.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2019-06-10 at 04:22 PM.

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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel View Post
    With regard to collaboration between players and other players: So much yes. One of the best ways to ensure party cohesion at the start of the game is for the players to collaborate on backstories. I was a player in one campaign where basically everyone talked about their characters in Session Zero and created this weird, fun family dynamic, where this one adopted that one, these two were childhood friends, this one was saved by that one's sister, and so on. If collaboration between players and GMs ensures that the PC has a place in the world, collaboration between players ensures that the PC has a place in the party.
    So, as I've been asking others: how do you make that work? Every time I've tried it, or seen it tried, it's resulted in catastrophic failure, in exactly the opposite direction from your predictions. The party was much less stable than the "random group of strangers" (which itself was much less stable than the characters who had actually adventured together before).

    Any guesses what we/they did wrong, or how to do it right?

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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    @Quertus: umm.
    Not really something I can do, over a Forum, sorry.

    Some groups mesh, hardly without any problems.

    Others, even though they have known each other for years, never mesh as a cooperative group. You know, despite everyone trying?
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    Quote Originally Posted by karellink View Post
    2019-05-19 2:04 pm
    as a great dragon you must have the correct wisdom for these kind of shenanigans.
    Mark Hall said
    *It isn't realism, it's verisimilitude; the appearance of truth within the framework of the game.

    × This must be supported by all sides to remain effective.

  8. - Top - End - #68
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Great Dragon View Post
    @Quertus: umm.
    Not really something I can do, over a Forum, sorry.

    Some groups mesh, hardly without any problems.

    Others, even though they have known each other for years, never mesh as a cooperative group. You know, despite everyone trying?
    That's the thing, though: it's not just "some groups", it's every single group I've seen attempt connections through backstory - including ones that had never had such problems before.

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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    So, as I've been asking others: how do you make that work? Every time I've tried it, or seen it tried, it's resulted in catastrophic failure, in exactly the opposite direction from your predictions. The party was much less stable than the "random group of strangers" (which itself was much less stable than the characters who had actually adventured together before).

    Any guesses what we/they did wrong, or how to do it right?
    Step 1: Agree on the terms of the relationship; i.e. don't just say "our characters are going to be siblings." Talk about what that means. How do they like each other? Is one overprotective? How loyal are they to family? Etc. etc.

    Step 2: Play the relationship in good faith. Don't trt to use it to turn the other character into a minion, don't try to blackmail the other player, don't play a relationship that hasn't been ageeed on...

    Step 3: Don't find fault with the other player's portrayal of the relationship when it deviates ever so slightly from how you think they should portray it from their end. See it as an opportunity rather than a failure. Try to see the other player's actions in the best light possible.

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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    So, as I've been asking others: how do you make that work? Every time I've tried it, or seen it tried, it's resulted in catastrophic failure, in exactly the opposite direction from your predictions. The party was much less stable than the "random group of strangers" (which itself was much less stable than the characters who had actually adventured together before).

    Any guesses what we/they did wrong, or how to do it right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Great Dragon View Post
    Some groups mesh, hardly without any problems.

    Others, even though they have known each other for years, never mesh as a cooperative group. You know, despite everyone trying?
    Quote Originally Posted by MrSandman View Post
    Step 1: Agree on the terms of the relationship; i.e. don't just say "our characters are going to be siblings." Talk about what that means. How do they like each other? Is one overprotective? How loyal are they to family? Etc. etc.

    Step 2: Play the relationship in good faith. Don't trt to use it to turn the other character into a minion, don't try to blackmail the other player, don't play a relationship that hasn't been ageeed on...

    Step 3: Don't find fault with the other player's portrayal of the relationship when it deviates ever so slightly from how you think they should portray it from their end. See it as an opportunity rather than a failure. Try to see the other player's actions in the best light possible.
    These are both great answers.

    In my group's case, it was that we used common backgrounds as a starting point and went from there. For example, my LE samurai-type character had been saved during a war by another character's (now-deceased) older sibling. Thus, my character owed a life debt, which the younger sibling - a PC - inherited. This colored the dynamic between the two characters - my character was regularly teaching the other character swordsmanship, because it would really inconvenience my character if this other character died before the debt was repaid. How that worked in practice, ironically, was that it shaped how my character interacted with the other characters in the group. Y'see, this other character's player was a bit of a rubbish RPer. So instead of regularly interacting with this character, my character interacted with the rest of the party based on his relationship with this character. So, starting as aloof and stuffy - because again, LE samurai-type - but eventually becoming protective of them, as an extension of being protective of this character. And the dynamic actually worked reasonably well as a result.

    See, there's the lesson. It's like Step 3 that Sandman describes - don't assume the relationship will remain static or as you expected, but take any deviation as an opportunity. The fact is, whether the characters acted on or ignored their common backgrounds, it gave them a basis for interacting with all of the other characters. Which worked out pretty well, all things considered.

    Think of it this way - you're not going to be in the same kind of relationship with your childhood best friend, right? You may stay friends, or drift apart, but the nature of the relationship will change. So, too, with shared PC backgrounds - the dynamic changes. And it impacts how you interact with other people. And that's fine. What it does is add a layer.

    That said, it really does also depend upon your fellow players. If you have a rapport with one or more players, or they get really well into character, these dynamics can really shine. But if you don't have a particular dynamic with the person behind the character, or they tend to skimp on the backstory and jump into the plot proper, these details are likely to fall by the wayside. And if that happens, the person who insists on the characters' relationship is the one making the problem, not the one solving it - it's best to just let it drop.
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  11. - Top - End - #71
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Great Dragon View Post
    @Quertus:
    I think that the question about your "outsider" was: do you still make at least a Basic Idea for them?
    Beyond just Race, gender (?), Class (Subclass)
    And visible items?

    Where are they from?
    Backgrounds can be used to tell a lot about this.

    1) Another Region of the GM's Game World?
    If so, do you work with the GM to figure out where that is, and what the customs are?

    2) Another Plane/World?

    A) Is it another (pre-existing) D&D Campaign Setting?

    Are we in Greyhawk, but you want to bring in a Mage from Ravnica? Cool.
    What Background, and Which of the 10 Guilds are they from?

    Both you and the GM might also need sit down and figure out any conversions for how your "spells" work.
    *****
    But, trying to say that your Dragonborn is from Dragonlance, usually isn't going to work, because Draconians are vastly different, and figuring out how to change them into 5e PCs would most likely take too much time.

    B) Or is it a Custom Made World?
    (Including maybe your own)

    Either of these can be used to show people cool stuff and ideas about that World.
    Few people care about backstory more than I do. It's the foundation that the character, every facet, including their personality, is built upon. And there is a rhyme and reason, discernable patterns - even if they aren't necessarily predictable, they aren't random.

    The example I currently like to harp on is how a shopkeep asked the gaming group what it meant when a customer asked, "how much is this?". Even these simple actions come from a foundation, tell us something about the speaker. Makes me wonder just how much typing on the internet before I've revealed my True Name, bared my soul sufficiently for some future AI to retroactively comprehend my True Self, and successfully emulate me. I might not even be a brain in a jar - I might just be a simulation of someone long dead.

    Anyway, point is, I aim for single author backstories. So I'm from as far away as I need to be to have authorship of all the elements of my characters background. If I can do that as a Minecraft style shut-in with a garden on his roof, I might even be from the starting town. But, usually, my characters hail from "off the map" at a minimum, and from another world as a preference (less work for me to use one of my existing worlds than to start from scratch building cultures, religions, myths fashion, art, etc).

    So, uh, yeah, I make lots of background for my character, to help me roleplay them, and to enable me to explore various facets of humanity.

    Quertus, my signature academia mage, for whom this account is named, originated as a tool for me to explore the inability of some players to ever "see the elephant", to ever get good at the games they'd been playing for years (or decades!).

    -----

    @Hypersmith - so, I feel like I thought I was trying to ask you what I thought was a simple question, where you might answer "red" or "blue". Instead, you've given an answer more like, "it could be a purple square, or a grey sphere, or a sonnet". So I'm all like, "****, there's a lot more dimensions to this than I bargained for!". This means that I'm having difficulty parsing your responses, in part because they are *bigger* than I was anticipating. So apologies if I misinterpret anything you say - it is certainly not intentional. It's just me struggling to catch up with the scope of your answer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hypersmith View Post
    Not one without the other, no, or I would have said "I don't care for the actual character" I think the backstory completes the character. Gives them personality that makes sense. Even if it's just something simple or very straightforward, characters usually don't come into being only when the game starts. And honestly, if you're takeaway from my argument earlier, particularly

    Is that I don't like characters coming to life, you're being willfully blind. I very much meant what I said, not what you interpreted. I mentioned earlier building into characters. I didn't say the end product is the backstory. I like seeing a chacters backstory come to life, as both player and GM. It just holds an extra joy for me as GM.

    Like, what's even the point of a backstory if your character is just a bunch of numbers on a sheet of paper?
    Hmmm… in a movie, book, anime, whatever, yes, one often sees where the character came from as part of "bringing the character to life". Without exploring those connections, without those flashback moments, many characters would be less approachable to the audience.

    However, I think it would be unfair to claim that all approachable characters that have been "brought to life" have always had their backgrounds explored by the audience.

    Thus my distinction between "bringing the character to life" and "bringing their background to life (too)".

    I certainly don't fault you for your technique, I just initially didn't understand it from the phrase "bring the character to life".

    Quote Originally Posted by Hypersmith View Post
    I've run and played in games that have a healthy range, where backstory didn't make a difference at all to backstory defined how your character interacted with others. Good range of sizes, from 3 to 8 people, not counting GM. And in my experience, more engaging and compelling characters emerged more consistently in games where players cared about where they came from. I don't feel the need to have my fingers in everything, but if I'm doing it, it's all or nothing. Everyone is on board and they all work with me to varying degrees. If it's not an even playing field in that sense, I'm avoiding it entirely, since I'm running for the enjoyment of the table, not just two or three people in it.
    I mean, I probably care more about where my character came from than most players, and I *absolutely* agree that, uh, "more compelling characters emerge" from better backgrounds - at least, for me. Other players' mileage may vary.

    What I now don't understand is your insistence on "all or nothing". If Bob likes X, but John likes Y, why not give them each what they want?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hypersmith View Post
    As for wanting to engage the setting that way... That just doesn't make sense to me. Because you're starting as a stranger to the other PCs anyway unless it's a collaborative backstory between players. There's no such thing as no, or even noish connections between the character and the world. You come from somewhere. I'm not asking that you make a novel out of where. Showing up as a stranger is normal. Forming connections will happen. It's not like having a backstory means all of a sudden that I expect PCs to know everyone in town or city. It's not like it removes the chance to engage in the world. What it does mean is that you have a place in the world you're engaging with.
    Hmmm… for various reasons, I generally want my character to be as new as possible to, as disconnected as possible from, and as ignorant as possible about, whatever area "the adventure" is taking place in.

    So, for a game set in New York city, my character might be from Paris, or they might be the homeschooled son of a reclusive agoraphobic shut-in mother & a mute farther who did occasional odd jobs for the mob so that we could continue squatting in "abandoned" buildings. Both were illegal immigrants, and were deported just before the game starts.

    In other words, in either case, there is no one "in the world" (New York city) that my character had ever interacted with before.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2019-06-10 at 09:29 PM.

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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    @Quertus
    Don't have a lot of time to reply atm, so this will be brief. But I think I get your points a lot better now - thanks. I'm particularly cool with the clarification at the end. I think I understand it as you're not avoiding a backstory, you're avoiding the adventure area when you make it, so you can explore the adventure area in game. I get that.
    As for all or nothing, that mainly goes for integrating backstories into the story. If one or two of the players aren't interested in doing that, it means they essentially have to sit through a chunk of game where nothing interesting is happening to them. Maybe all or nothing is an extreme way to word it, but it certainly means I'm toning down the amount to which I'll integrate and make use of the stories.
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    @Quertus: What follows are just my (rambling) thoughts, and meant to perhaps achieve a better understanding for everyone.
    No offense is intended.

    Hmmm… in a movie, book, anime, whatever, yes, one often sees where the character came from as part of "bringing the character to life". Without exploring those connections, without those flashback moments, many characters would be less approachable to the audience.
    But, anime, and especially movies/TV shows, are all (entirely) "one author" formated. Even with multiple "writers/artists", there is always one person that decides what is allowed, and how.

    The "Audience" is completely passive, and has no say on what happens.

    Using any book, movie, anime, etc, as anything but the basic concept for a Character (either Abilities/Powers and/or Personality type) in a tRPG, will most likely only end in disappointment.

    An example here might be the "Golden Age" Superman.
    In the original 1930s comics (IiRC), this guy was nearly unstoppable. (And a complete mystery).
    Superman was interesting enough to attract attention, but the company (especially DC) realized that they needed to "make him more Human" to really get true fandom for Superman. And not all the "changes" to Superman worked.

    Quote Originally Posted by Beleriphon View Post
    My favourite is that Kryponite is a thing because the radio show actor for Superman went on vacation, so they just temporarily gave Superman a reason to not be on the show.
    I have no idea if that event was the reason why Kryponite even became a weakness for Superman - and other Kryptonians.

    In the comics, "Red" Kryponite wasn't introduced until Superman #61, Nov 1969.
    "Green" Kryponite in Action Comics #161, Aug 1951.

    The "Original" Superman is absolutely impossible to actually duplicate in any Superhero RPG. He simply had too many Superpowers, and almost no real limits.

    And that's not even going into the "moral" (social, or psychological) issues with Batman.

    I'd try to give more examples, but really, I don't have access to any of those comics to "quote" from.

    However, I think it would be unfair to claim that all approachable characters that have been "brought to life" have always had their backgrounds explored by the audience.
    Well, yes. The "classic example" here is Wolverine.
    When first introduced, he literally wasn't anything more than just "a mean savage with metal claws and fast healing". (They actually added that he had "Adamantine bones" later)
    As time passes (both in the comics and IRL) more was revealed about Wolverine, and his past.
    Like his "name" was Logan.
    That he had been "friends" with Captain America in WW2.
    How he got the Adamantine bones/claws.
    And that he was the tenth attempt to be a "Mutant Hunter".
    That he had History and connections in Japan, and having been "trained as a ninja" (very popular at the time)

    I mean, I probably care more about where my character came from than most players, and I *absolutely* agree that, uh, "more compelling characters emerge" from better backgrounds - at least, for me. Other players' mileage may vary.
    I agree. How best to describe?
    A lot of the X-Men had at least decent Backstories.

    But, the one that I really liked, was Nightcrawler. There was a lot of potential for Kurt to go down the Dark Path. Literally growing up looking like a demon, tends to not make things easy. Everyone knew, even from the first time we see Kurt, that he mostly grew up in the Circus.
    But, what I never really saw explained, was his Deep Faith. Which really was a major point of Kurt's Personality: How he could calmly stand there while someone shouted "Freak!" or "Demon" in his face. That Kurt detested violence, but acknowledged that it was needed at times.

    What I now don't understand is your insistence on "all or nothing". If Bob likes X, but John likes Y, why not give them each what they want?
    Maybe because the GM is running the "A" game?
    And, unless they can all work together to figure out that something like the "G" game is best for everyone, there may not even be a game at all?

    Which means that there might need to be more "interconnection" between the PCs - and having connected Backgrounds would be the easiest way to accomplish this? Now, no one gets to decide things that directly change your Character's "traits".
    For example, that they are directly connected to your Ideal/Bond. Or being a Parent/Aunt/Uncle/Mentor, that determined how your PC became the Class you chose.

    Does this means that John and Bob can't get both? Not at all, but may need the GM to work harder to figure out how to get both. And both John and Bob being "flexible" about their Character's backstory and/or background is helpful.

    Hmmm… for various reasons, I generally want my character to be as new as possible to, as disconnected as possible from, and as ignorant as possible about, whatever area "the adventure" is taking place in.

    So, for a game set in New York city, my character might be from Paris, or they might be the homeschooled son of a reclusive agoraphobic shut-in mother & a mute farther who did occasional odd jobs for the mob so that we could continue squatting in "abandoned" buildings. Both were illegal immigrants, and were deported just before the game starts.

    In other words, in either case, there is no one "in the world" (New York city) that my character had ever interacted with before.
    And there's nothing wrong with that.

    But, keep in mind that while the first Character you bring to the game has that "background", making every Character after him exactly the same (stranger/outsider) - is not as interesting.

    ****

    Now, I'm very much aware that creating a "truly unique" Character really is nearly impossible.

    40+ years of just D&D, every other tRPG and video game RPG and MMO, plus every comic, novel, movie/TV, cartoon, and anime.

    Personally, I'm much more interested in a new concept than a "clone" of an existing Character.
    Sure, maybe being like Wolverine was your desire, but as the GM, I'm going to ask "what makes your Character different?".
    (I'd also most likely not allow Adamantine, but you could buy "unbreakable bones" as a power.)

    ****
    Note: references to various known Characters are only meant to be examples.

    I hope this helps.
    Last edited by Great Dragon; 2019-06-11 at 04:11 PM.

  14. - Top - End - #74
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    I like collaboration. I had a DM tell me I couldn't have a player that used a crossbow because the Pope almost banned them hundreds of years ago. I also couldn't be an Elven Monk.


    The ideal situation would be where a character brings background to the DM and DM works it in. The character doesn't try to be absurd and the DM doesn't try to have a power trip.

  15. - Top - End - #75
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Hypersmith View Post
    @Quertus
    Don't have a lot of time to reply atm, so this will be brief. But I think I get your points a lot better now - thanks. I'm particularly cool with the clarification at the end. I think I understand it as you're not avoiding a backstory, you're avoiding the adventure area when you make it, so you can explore the adventure area in game. I get that.
    As for all or nothing, that mainly goes for integrating backstories into the story. If one or two of the players aren't interested in doing that, it means they essentially have to sit through a chunk of game where nothing interesting is happening to them. Maybe all or nothing is an extreme way to word it, but it certainly means I'm toning down the amount to which I'll integrate and make use of the stories.
    I guess, coming from a war gaming background, and playing with lots of war gamers, I just naturally find making a game about "multiple things" just makes sense. Because, if there wasn't more than just combat in an RPG, it wouldn't be an RPG, it would just be a (bad) war game. So, since I can share screen time, with combat for the dedicated way gaming junkie, "talkie bits" for the dedicated "roleplayers", things to investigate for the dedicated diggers, etc, I guess I believe packing a full deck, to share the spotlight between the hearts, diamonds, spades, and clubs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Great Dragon View Post
    Maybe because the GM is running the "A" game?
    And, unless they can all work together to figure out that something like the "G" game is best for everyone, there may not even be a game at all?

    Which means that there might need to be more "interconnection" between the PCs - and having connected Backgrounds would be the easiest way to accomplish this? Now, no one gets to decide things that directly change your Character's "traits".
    For example, that they are directly connected to your Ideal/Bond. Or being a Parent/Aunt/Uncle/Mentor, that determined how your PC became the Class you chose.

    Does this means that John and Bob can't get both? Not at all, but may need the GM to work harder to figure out how to get both. And both John and Bob being "flexible" about their Character's backstory and/or background is helpful.
    I mean, I've played in games where some characters backstories were investigated. And, during that time, I've participated, or my character did other things, or it was simply someone else's turn in the spotlight. Just like I can enjoy playing "highschool romance drama" in a tactical basketball simulator game.

    Perhaps, more relevantly, I cannot imagine a scenario where preexisting connections were required that wouldn't set of my contrived and/or railroading alarms.

    If, IRL, I get hired on to a new job, and I find one coworker is my cousin, a second saved my life, a third is their lover, a fourth worked with my cousin previously… yeah, **** this, I'm running for the doors before the twilight theme song starts playing. Because that **** just ain't natural.

    Quote Originally Posted by Great Dragon View Post
    And there's nothing wrong with that.

    But, keep in mind that while the first Character you bring to the game has that "background", making every Character after him exactly the same (stranger/outsider) - is not as interesting.
    … If Quertus (who is not from around here) feels exactly the same as Amalak (who is not from around here), then I have not only epically failed at role-playing, but their stats were apparently irrelevant as well.

    Which… might be a rather difficult scenario for me to acclimate to.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2019-06-11 at 09:10 PM.

  16. - Top - End - #76
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    I mean, I've played in games where some characters backstories were investigated. And, during that time, I've participated, or my character did other things, or it was simply someone else's turn in the spotlight. Just like I can enjoy playing "highschool romance drama" in a tactical basketball simulator game.

    Perhaps, more relevantly, I cannot imagine a scenario where preexisting connections were required that wouldn't set of my contrived and/or railroading alarms.

    If, IRL, I get hired on to a new job, and I find one coworker is my cousin, a second saved my life, a third is their lover, a fourth worked with my cousin previously… yeah, **** this, I'm running for the doors before the twilight theme song starts playing. Because that **** just ain't natural.
    Yeah, that's pretty much a textbook example of narrative contrivance.

    (Unless you've spent your whole life in the same small town.)
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2019-06-11 at 09:20 PM.
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    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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  17. - Top - End - #77
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Perhaps, more relevantly, I cannot imagine a scenario where preexisting connections were required that wouldn't set of my contrived and/or railroading alarms.

    If, IRL, I get hired on to a new job, and I find one coworker is my cousin, a second saved my life, a third is their lover, a fourth worked with my cousin previously… yeah, **** this, I'm running for the doors before the twilight theme song starts playing. Because that **** just ain't natural.
    That degree of overlapping interlocking is going too far and creates problems. In my current campaign the backstory relationships are

    Player A: Seneca Indian, is blood brother to Player B.
    Player B. Explorer/Soldier. Went to the colonies and is blood brother to player A. His best friend is player C who is in the same regiment.
    Player C. Soldier/Don Juan. Best friend is player B. Is cousin to player D.
    Player D. Spy. Cousin to player D. Is in love with player E who he has known since childhood, but the love is unrequited
    Player E. Arcane researcher. Thinks of player D as a dear devoted friend, but she does not return his love. (The campaign is kind of 17th Century early X-files where magic may or may not be real).

    So for most relationships in the party it’s friend-of-a-friend kind of level at the start. That gives the players lots of freedom to role play and not have a web of constricting and competing back story relationships. However it also means they start with a reason for this particular group of 5 to be together and to go on adventures together.

  18. - Top - End - #78
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post

    I mean, I've played in games where some characters backstories were investigated. And, during that time, I've participated, or my character did other things, or it was simply someone else's turn in the spotlight. Just like I can enjoy playing "highschool romance drama" in a tactical basketball simulator game.

    Perhaps, more relevantly, I cannot imagine a scenario where preexisting connections were required that wouldn't set of my contrived and/or railroading alarms.

    If, IRL, I get hired on to a new job, and I find one coworker is my cousin, a second saved my life, a third is their lover, a fourth worked with my cousin previously… yeah, **** this, I'm running for the doors before the twilight theme song starts playing. Because that **** just ain't natural.

    Counterpoint: Setups where everyone needs to have strong ties to each other.

    Pendragon (everyone plays knights under the same household at the start).

    Likewise, anything else that's about a specific small town. (Glorantha is pretty good for this)

    "Longtime idiot friends decide to go into crime together" the game.

    Like, it might not be to your taste, but there are lots of games that basically demand premade connections, especially if you're playing premodern setups.

  19. - Top - End - #79
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    If, IRL, I get hired on to a new job, and I find one coworker is my cousin, a second saved my life, a third is their lover, a fourth worked with my cousin previously… yeah, **** this, I'm running for the doors before the twilight theme song starts playing. Because that **** just ain't natural.
    That is not how you do it.

    Instead you get hired to bring a group and instead of asking some random strangers in the next tavern, you bring your cousin, his friend, your lover and a guy you own your life to. A group of people you know and somewhat trust.

    Those bonds are meant to provide a reason why those particular PCs work together and stay together, even if they are presumable quite different in personality, skill and preferrence.

    Instead of looking for some contrieved reasons why those five people should be interested in the adventure, a group from which probably at least 2 seem completely ill-fitted or uninterested for the stuff that is initially known, you can rely on oldfashioned nepotism to bring them along, even if they seemingly have the wrong skills. Or they can come as a favor to a friend.


    And that is without going into special theme groups, which also work quite well but would require even more bonds, often even an explicite hierarchy.

  20. - Top - End - #80
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    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    If, IRL, I get hired on to a new job, and I find one coworker is my cousin, a second saved my life, a third is their lover, a fourth worked with my cousin previously… yeah, **** this, I'm running for the doors before the twilight theme song starts playing. Because that **** just ain't natural.
    We had to create connections between characters for an L5R party and what we came up with (together with the GM was the following):
    -Player A's father had worked with player B's father on some trade venture.
    -Player C's family had an obligation to player A's family and he was chosen to fulfill it by being yojimbo to player A
    -Player C's uncle was married to player D's aunt (even that far, family is important in the system)
    -Player D had been rescued by player B at one point.

    There was only one direct family connection, but all players had a reason to work together with the others. How well this works depends on the system.

    Another way to get them together is if the system allows they are part of a larger organisation (eg Star Trek). They are just ordered by a superior to work together, at least until bonds form inside the party. A bit heavy handed in certain systems, but some work quite well that way.
    Clacks-Overhead: GNU Terry Pratchett

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  21. - Top - End - #81
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    So for most relationships in the party it’s friend-of-a-friend kind of level at the start. That gives the players lots of freedom to role play and not have a web of constricting and competing back story relationships. However it also means they start with a reason for this particular group of 5 to be together and to go on adventures together.
    Quote Originally Posted by flond View Post
    Counterpoint: Setups where everyone needs to have strong ties to each other.
    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    Instead you get hired to bring a group and instead of asking some random strangers in the next tavern, you bring your cousin, his friend, your lover and a guy you own your life to. A group of people you know and somewhat trust.

    Those bonds are meant to provide a reason why those particular PCs work together and stay together, even if they are presumable quite different in personality, skill and preferrence.
    Quote Originally Posted by farothel View Post
    There was only one direct family connection, but all players had a reason to work together with the others. How well this works depends on the system.
    This, this, all of this.

    Look, in my example, having everyone overlap with everyone else to that degree worked. It doesn't always. But there has to be some basic connection. There has to be some reason these people are engaging in (what is generally, in RPGs) a life-threatening undertaking with the promise of glory and riches at the end, together. Some reason that your character trusts these other people to (1) not let him die, and (2) not steal everything. A common background - even a tenuous one, like somebody you knew in your school days - has the foundational elements to create that basic level of trust and cooperation. "I met these goons in a tavern," does not equate to "and therefore I will trust my life and wealth to them and their insane quest." By contrast, even something like, "I haven't heard from Tim in over a decade," can include "But we knew each other back in school, he's good people," and therefore, "And he says he needs my help finding this book. Sure, I can help an old friend." Bam, connection made, party justified.
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  22. - Top - End - #82
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    … If Quertus (who is not from around here) feels exactly the same as Amalak (who is not from around here), then I have not only epically failed at role-playing, but their stats were apparently irrelevant as well.

    Which… might be a rather difficult scenario for me to acclimate to.
    Part of the problem is, a lot of (especially new) Players seem to connect Stats and Level/s to "Roleplaying".

    But, unless there's a specific reason for that, it's simply not true.
    Both Abilities and Level are just mechanics to "show a limit" to what a PC might be able to do. Once determined, both should "fade away" into the background for RP.

    Spoiler: The Dragonlance novels
    Show

    These did a great job of ignoring stats, and instead used descriptions to show how they affected a Character.

    Tanis, beyond being a Half-Elf, really could have been the "average guy" that happened to be likable enough to be most anyone's friend.

    Flint was (at first) a really grumpy guy, that happened to be a Dwarf. (Note that he was also "already friends" with Tanis)

    Size was what was used to show Caramon's strength.

    Raistlin looked puny, and almost always was coughing, but his words could cut as much as any knife.

    Tasselhoff was slight of build, quick with his hands, and nimble on his feet.

    Tika was just "the girl next door" that was sucked into becoming an Adventurer.

    Both Riverwind and Goldmoon:
    Their behavior was more important than their appearance.

    Heck, from my understanding, Wies and Hickman were both reluctant to actually put the information (Ability Scores, etc) of any of the main Characters into the Modules. They wanted people to use Dragonlance to make new characters and tell their own stories.


    But, unless there are immediately noticeable differences, others might not get the point of either "outsider" Character; or really tell them apart, when asked to describe them.

    Like looking at 4 people in a line and the only difference is some are wearing Half Plate and the rest are in Full Plate. One is a Paladin, one is a Fighter/Wizard, one is a Cleric, and the last is a Valor Bard.
    But, without there being some visible difference between each, to maybe show Class/es, the only way to find out is seeing them in action.

    ****
    Right now, I have no idea on Quertus - your Character. No clue on what kind of Mage, their Race*, Height, Weight/body type, Hair or Eye Color; and nothing on what is being worn: Armor, Weapons, Equipment, or color of any clothes.
    (*Sure, maybe I guess that he's a Human guy, but that's not guaranteed to be correct)

    Sure, it's ok to "not be from around here" (NYC), but your also not really putting much description into where they are from.
    PC1 is from Paris, France and not only speaks French, but also dresses in the latest Frence fashion with a Sabre strapped on a belt on their waist (you were implying that they were French, but spoke and dressed in the local manner);
    and PC2 is from, say - Ming Dynasty China and only wears silk clothes and sandals, but carries a Katana. This would make anyone in the modern world wonder "How the heck did they get here"?

    *****
    Now, a lot of the others are supporting the "Be Local" approach.

    The DM chooses the Campaign World, and selects the Region the Game starts in. The DM provides the information on who and what is in said Area to the Players.

    A starting Point is chosen, say everyone agrees on a town.

    Back to the DM, who tells what Races are both in the town, and which are nearby.

    (For this example,
    say the town (Barterville) is run by Gnomes and Halflings.

    There's a Dwarven (Don't ask!) Mine in the hills to the North.

    Moon Elves are from the Secret Forest to the West.

    The Human City (Getbent!) is three weeks on foot to the East.

    The Unexplored Region is to the South.)

    Now, this tells the Players what Races are most likely to be found in Barterville.

    So they make integrated Backstories.
    Like most everyone grew up in the town.

    Player1 is a Gnome Illusionist.
    Player2 is a Halfling Arcane Trickster.
    Player4 is an Elven Ancients Paladin, with relatives in Secret Forest.
    Player5 is a Dwarven War Cleric from those Mines, making sure trade relationships with Barterville are maintained.

    Now, say Player3 wants to be a Half-Orc Berserker Barbarian.
    Ok. The DM asks some questions.
    Where are they from? (Getbent!)
    How did they get to the town? (Walking)
    What are their goals? (Save town from X)

    How are they going to immediately mesh with the rest of the party? (So that time isn't wasted RP-ing all that)
    * Here is where "friend to Player1" might work.
    Player1 and Player3 work with the DM to figure out something like "Gnome met Half-Orc in Getbent while on a trip with parents. Shinagines happened."

    Notice that no mention of Backgrounds were present. Each Player is free to choose what they feel applies to their Character.

    ****
    Without a lot of work from the DM, bringing in a "True Outsider" (even from another part of the same world) can be disruptive to the group.
    Mostly because it's now required to do RP introductions with this Character.
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    Quote Originally Posted by karellink View Post
    2019-05-19 2:04 pm
    as a great dragon you must have the correct wisdom for these kind of shenanigans.
    Mark Hall said
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  23. - Top - End - #83
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    This… I mean, it's bloody great advice in general. So I decided to keep your very short quote. But… would that help with the GM who assumed things based on stated relationships? Would it help when characters suddenly feud over politics, undead, slavery, murdering prisoners? I think… maybe? But what do you think?
    MrSandman in his list of steps already said a lot of what I was thinking about regarding playing in good faith.

    Making mistakes and failing is ok. There's no harm done when you know the other players are playing in good faith. If the GM assumed wrong about the relationship, that's ok. You just correct it together, or let it inspire you to do something different than what you first envisioned. If the characters feud over some issue, at least the players try to uphold to their established relationship as well. Since everyone is playing in good faith, that is... If someone claims the other characters has to be ok with their actions because they are siblings, it doesn't sound like they are playing in good faith. That's up to the other players themselves to decide and chose to cut some slack for it, which they might if they have an in-character reason for it.


    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    But even a good GM will fail at role-playing them. And that's my objection to their use. I don't want the GM to **** over all the hard work I've put into my character and their background - and for what? At least the railroading GM has a method to their madness, but why cheapen my experience by taking a **** on my backstory with your bad role-playing?
    If you only can have fun when you have complete control over all the npcs in your character background, then I don't think it is going to work to allow others to portray them. If only perfect roleplay of them is acceptable to you, you are bound to be disappointed so don't bother. To make it work you would have to change your attitude or expectations for the game. When letting another player affect your character through their relationship, you need to be open to their creative contribution in the first place.

    It can be easier to make that work if you don't have a predetermined detailed view of the npc. Leave room for how that sibling or relation could be, and entrust another player/GM to portray that character, and use their creative efforts to build off yourself. Celebrate what the other person at the table bring to the game, and let it inspire you on how you play your character.

  24. - Top - End - #84
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    So, for the most part, from what I'm hearing, it would sound like a definitions issue. The way others are defining "background connections" is what I encourage, and call giving the PCs a reason to work together / to be on this mission together. Whereas what I (and the tables I've seen) mean when we say "background connections", y'all are saying might be taking things too far.

    With one interesting exception: nepotism.

    I think having a game where you clearly have the wrong people for the job, but want to keep them anyway, because they're family (etc) would make for a brilliant setup for an enjoyable game.

    Now I just need to find a group that agrees, and could pull it off.

  25. - Top - End - #85
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Great Dragon View Post
    Part of the problem is, a lot of (especially new) Players seem to connect Stats and Level/s to "Roleplaying".

    But, unless there's a specific reason for that, it's simply not true.
    Both Abilities and Level are just mechanics to "show a limit" to what a PC might be able to do. Once determined, both should "fade away" into the background for RP.

    Spoiler: The Dragonlance novels
    Show

    These did a great job of ignoring stats, and instead used descriptions to show how they affected a Character.

    Tanis, beyond being a Half-Elf, really could have been the "average guy" that happened to be likable enough to be most anyone's friend.

    Flint was (at first) a really grumpy guy, that happened to be a Dwarf. (Note that he was also "already friends" with Tanis)

    Size was what was used to show Caramon's strength.

    Raistlin looked puny, and almost always was coughing, but his words could cut as much as any knife.

    Tasselhoff was slight of build, quick with his hands, and nimble on his feet.

    Tika was just "the girl next door" that was sucked into becoming an Adventurer.

    Both Riverwind and Goldmoon:
    Their behavior was more important than their appearance.

    Heck, from my understanding, Wies and Hickman were both reluctant to actually put the information (Ability Scores, etc) of any of the main Characters into the Modules. They wanted people to use Dragonlance to make new characters and tell their own stories.


    But, unless there are immediately noticeable differences, others might not get the point of either "outsider" Character; or really tell them apart, when asked to describe them.

    Like looking at 4 people in a line and the only difference is some are wearing Half Plate and the rest are in Full Plate. One is a Paladin, one is a Fighter/Wizard, one is a Cleric, and the last is a Valor Bard.
    But, without there being some visible difference between each, to maybe show Class/es, the only way to find out is seeing them in action.

    ****
    Right now, I have no idea on Quertus - your Character. No clue on what kind of Mage, their Race*, Height, Weight/body type, Hair or Eye Color; and nothing on what is being worn: Armor, Weapons, Equipment, or color of any clothes.
    (*Sure, maybe I guess that he's a Human guy, but that's not guaranteed to be correct)

    Sure, it's ok to "not be from around here" (NYC), but your also not really putting much description into where they are from.
    PC1 is from Paris, France and not only speaks French, but also dresses in the latest Frence fashion with a Sabre strapped on a belt on their waist (you were implying that they were French, but spoke and dressed in the local manner);
    and PC2 is from, say - Ming Dynasty China and only wears silk clothes and sandals, but carries a Katana. This would make anyone in the modern world wonder "How the heck did they get here"?

    *****
    Now, a lot of the others are supporting the "Be Local" approach.

    The DM chooses the Campaign World, and selects the Region the Game starts in. The DM provides the information on who and what is in said Area to the Players.

    A starting Point is chosen, say everyone agrees on a town.

    Back to the DM, who tells what Races are both in the town, and which are nearby.

    (For this example,
    say the town (Barterville) is run by Gnomes and Halflings.

    There's a Dwarven (Don't ask!) Mine in the hills to the North.

    Moon Elves are from the Secret Forest to the West.

    The Human City (Getbent!) is three weeks on foot to the East.

    The Unexplored Region is to the South.)

    Now, this tells the Players what Races are most likely to be found in Barterville.

    So they make integrated Backstories.
    Like most everyone grew up in the town.

    Player1 is a Gnome Illusionist.
    Player2 is a Halfling Arcane Trickster.
    Player4 is an Elven Ancients Paladin, with relatives in Secret Forest.
    Player5 is a Dwarven War Cleric from those Mines, making sure trade relationships with Barterville are maintained.

    Now, say Player3 wants to be a Half-Orc Berserker Barbarian.
    Ok. The DM asks some questions.
    Where are they from? (Getbent!)
    How did they get to the town? (Walking)
    What are their goals? (Save town from X)

    How are they going to immediately mesh with the rest of the party? (So that time isn't wasted RP-ing all that)
    * Here is where "friend to Player1" might work.
    Player1 and Player3 work with the DM to figure out something like "Gnome met Half-Orc in Getbent while on a trip with parents. Shinagines happened."

    Notice that no mention of Backgrounds were present. Each Player is free to choose what they feel applies to their Character.

    ****
    Without a lot of work from the DM, bringing in a "True Outsider" (even from another part of the same world) can be disruptive to the group.
    Mostly because it's now required to do RP introductions with this Character.
    You know, I think that this is the first time I've ever heard anyone accuse the Dragonlance writers of wanting people to tell their own stories.

    Quertus is a cowardly academic with a large vocabulary who has little interest beyond "magic" although he will entertain children, when no one is looking. He wears bright red robes, and maintains a somewhat illusory pristine appearance, as he believes is befitting his station.

    Spoiler: wysiwyg
    Show
    Quertus is a 5'6" human with a long ageless face, short black hair (no facial hair), and pale skin. He wears bright red, gold trimmed robes and a bit of jewelry, especially gold-rimmed ruby-tinted glasses, but also notably including a prism - somehow containing 4 bouncing red spheres - suspended by a leather cord around his neck. He carries an iron staff which looks nothing so much as a miniature copy of Sauron's tower, if the eye were made of lightning instead of fire. Small wisps of almost imperceivable magical energy seem to spontaneously form around him.

    He has numerous monogrammed pouches, in similar red-and-gold, and several other cloth objects suspended from his belt. On one hip rests a golden hourglass with red sand; the other sports a mahogany wand case with 4 wands.

    And then there's less obvious / hidden / illusory details, as well.


    Amalak is a Warrior-Priest of Death, trained since birth (not really, it just sounds good) to accept pain, not fear Death, and to hunt down undead abominations that mock Death whatever they may be found. As I retired him nearly a quarter of a century ago, I'm a bit rusty on the… finer points

    As both are D&D characters, both would be *really* out of place in New York city. Quertus, having been to New York before, would be doing his Flying Invisible Incorporeal Teleporting best not to interact with any of us "savages", whereas Amalak would initially be a gaping tourist.

    But, even if they were put in a scenario where their unfamiliarity / stylistic nonconformity wouldn't take center stage (say, trying to "blend in" at a park), I would be quite remiss in my role-playing if they did not come off as distinct individuals.

    So, I continue to believe that both differences in personality, and differences in the underlying playing piece, should be more than adequate to set apart two characters who happen to both be "not from around here".

    As to "not putting much focus on where they are from", well, that's because I generally want the focus to be where they are? Just like how backstory is important IMO, but it's important not because of who they *were*, but because of how it informs who they *are*.

    I don't know which part of your closing concerns I find more curious. On the one hand, you consider role-playing "disruptive" and "wasting time", which I find odd, given that, to me, it's what makes RPGs better than war games. On the other hand, you specifically call out as disruptive the tool that, in the context of this thread, has served best IME to prevent catastrophic disruptions of the game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pelle View Post
    If you only can have fun when you have complete control over all the npcs in your character background, then I don't think it is going to work to allow others to portray them. If only perfect roleplay of them is acceptable to you, you are bound to be disappointed so don't bother. To make it work you would have to change your attitude or expectations for the game. When letting another player affect your character through their relationship, you need to be open to their creative contribution in the first place.

    It can be easier to make that work if you don't have a predetermined detailed view of the npc. Leave room for how that sibling or relation could be, and entrust another player/GM to portray that character, and use their creative efforts to build off yourself. Celebrate what the other person at the table bring to the game, and let it inspire you on how you play your character.
    Well, maybe not *perfect*, as I didn't even roleplay myself *perfectly*, but… I've yet to have a GM come anywhere close to meeting my standards.

    "Leaving wiggle room" in the NPCs personalities kinda defeats the point - I don't see myself being who I am today had my patents / siblings / friends had that level of "wiggle room" in their personalities.

    To me, it would make more sense to leave some wiggle room in what class I'm playing, so that if I decide to bind vestiges or invoke utterances, I can let it inspire me to retcon those classes in.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2019-06-12 at 08:30 PM.

  26. - Top - End - #86
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    TL;DR
    Maybe there was too much "noise to signal" in what I was saying - Like the fact that 5 people being able to sit down and crank out the entire party in, say, a half an hour IRL, while possible - might not be believable.

    * Sometimes, Instead of bringing your premade Outsider to "explore the DM's world", try working with the DM in creating a PC that is already "a part of that world" and if the other Players are friendly, work with them to create (pre-existing) a party connections. *

    I do agree that Backstory should only explain who the are *now*, and maybe why.

    @Quertus:
    Well, thanks for at least an Idea on your Character.

    *****
    To me: Dragonlance was an interesting "world" to read about up until they got into the "Preludes 2" series, which was "information overload" to me.

    DL-RPG (AD&D 2e and 3e) was very much a disappointment to me. While it did "keep the Lore", there are some things that I was not really fond of (I really prefer Halflings over Kender - don't think Gully Dwarves are funny or should be PCs - and I didn't like how Mages Worked) but that's a personal preference thing.

    The modules were meant to be a "quick way to share the Story, only with new PCs" but ended up being nothing more than "reliving the novels".
    *******
    Like a lot of the other "Popular Worlds", the intentions of their creator/s got lost in the translation. This happens quite a bit when going from doing a Hobby, to being part of a business.

    *****
    I guess that I got too carried away in my Ramblings, there.

    Point 1: Abilities and Levels shouldn't have much impact on Roleplaying. Sure, keep track of things that make a difference, like maybe how much "the puny mage" can pick up and easily carry, based on their Strength. But, if the mage doesn't try to do that IC during the RP, don't bring it up.

    Point 2: Everyone "adapting" to the Group.

    In my Example, the main Point was that the Players were making "interconnections" between all the PCs. So that anything that might not have specifically been mentioned during Character Creation (Session Zero) by any of the Players, could quickly described to one player while everyone else listened (and then "knew that info" IC) and then the Group moves on.

    Now, say that we replaced Player3 and brought in an "Outsider" PC that is completely unknown, and has no connection to any of the other PCs.

    I wasn't saying that RP wasn't desired, but that instead of simply the Example Group crying the D&D equivalent of "Avengers Assemble!" and jumping directly to the Action, everyone had to stop and take the time (possibly hours IRL) to "get to know" this new PC, before the "actual game" started. (Something they were trying to avoid)

    Now, that Example was meant only for that group.
    Maybe with the next Group, all the Players agree that they don't know anything about any of the other Characters, and the DM only has the "basic info" on them.
    My Knowledge, Understanding, and Opinion on things can be changed

    Without a Playtest Group - I'm Forever Stuck in the White Room.

    I am learning valuable things, here. So thanks, everyone!

    Quote Originally Posted by karellink View Post
    2019-05-19 2:04 pm
    as a great dragon you must have the correct wisdom for these kind of shenanigans.
    Mark Hall said
    *It isn't realism, it's verisimilitude; the appearance of truth within the framework of the game.

    × This must be supported by all sides to remain effective.

  27. - Top - End - #87
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    I can see quite a few posters are going to have issues with my views, but its good to have a contrary opinion once in a while.

    I have a firm rule that player character backgrounds are only (and can only be) written from the viewpoint of the character themselves. That means that while they can write definitively the events that occurred in their life up to that point, with regards to the motives and explanations behind those events, the characters opinions are exactly that, only opinions, and not definitive facts. These opinions might very well be correct, but at the same time, they might be mistakes, misunderstandings, or straight out lies.

    In my opinion, the players ownership ends at their character. While they can certainly give me their characters opinions of the NPCs in their past, and describe the actions they have taken in the characters presence, those NPCs are entirely mine to do with as i wish, and their inner thoughts and motives are my domain, not the players. Yes, even down to the level of family members. And yes, I make sure my players are aware of this.

    Now, having said that, that doesn't mean every player characters history is going to be torn apart and made my plaything. In all honesty I have very rarely done so, and have yet to have a player protest about the treatment of a backstory NPC. But I wholeheartedly reserve the right to use and utilise them as I see fit to best serve the story we are telling.
    Last edited by Glorthindel; 2019-06-13 at 03:34 AM.

  28. - Top - End - #88
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Usually I'm on the "leave it to the player unless they ask for help" team

    Right now I'm starting an Adventure in Wonderland for the first time and I'm finding that is nearly impossible if I'm going to make a fun experience that isn't just "lol so random"
    The result is me working to help with backstory and asking questions about characters, it's been interesting so far. Kinda fun

  29. - Top - End - #89
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    Max_Killjoy's Avatar

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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Glorthindel View Post
    I can see quite a few posters are going to have issues with my views, but its good to have a contrary opinion once in a while.

    I have a firm rule that player character backgrounds are only (and can only be) written from the viewpoint of the character themselves. That means that while they can write definitively the events that occurred in their life up to that point, with regards to the motives and explanations behind those events, the characters opinions are exactly that, only opinions, and not definitive facts. These opinions might very well be correct, but at the same time, they might be mistakes, misunderstandings, or straight out lies.

    In my opinion, the players ownership ends at their character. While they can certainly give me their characters opinions of the NPCs in their past, and describe the actions they have taken in the characters presence, those NPCs are entirely mine to do with as i wish, and their inner thoughts and motives are my domain, not the players. Yes, even down to the level of family members. And yes, I make sure my players are aware of this.

    Now, having said that, that doesn't mean every player characters history is going to be torn apart and made my plaything. In all honesty I have very rarely done so, and have yet to have a player protest about the treatment of a backstory NPC. But I wholeheartedly reserve the right to use and utilise them as I see fit to best serve the story we are telling.
    Under that division, do you consider the existence of NPCs from the PC's background part of the character, or part of the world?

    That is, if a player said they had no siblings... or their parents were dead... or that their village was destroyed and that's why they're out adventuring... or in some way signaled or openly stated that they weren't interested in their PC's past becoming part of "the story"... would you accept that?

    If a player said their PC had a big family, and that they were a constant source of both lighthearted and heavy drama as the PC grew up, would you accept that?


    There's a danger of "forcing it" when it comes to NPCs -- family, old friends, retired mentors, etc -- as a source of drama and vulnerability for the PC, and often bad experiences with that sort of thing are the root cause of "I'm an orphan, from a village that burned down years ago killing everyone while I was away, and I've only ever had one-night-stands" syndrome.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2019-06-13 at 12:01 PM.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    The Worldbuilding Forum -- where realities are born.

  30. - Top - End - #90
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: How much do you like to collab on backstories (players and DMs)

    Quote Originally Posted by Glorthindel View Post
    I can see quite a few posters are going to have issues with my views, but its good to have a contrary opinion once in a while.

    I have a firm rule that player character backgrounds are only (and can only be) written from the viewpoint of the character themselves. That means that while they can write definitively the events that occurred in their life up to that point, with regards to the motives and explanations behind those events, the characters opinions are exactly that, only opinions, and not definitive facts. These opinions might very well be correct, but at the same time, they might be mistakes, misunderstandings, or straight out lies.

    In my opinion, the players ownership ends at their character. While they can certainly give me their characters opinions of the NPCs in their past, and describe the actions they have taken in the characters presence, those NPCs are entirely mine to do with as i wish, and their inner thoughts and motives are my domain, not the players. Yes, even down to the level of family members. And yes, I make sure my players are aware of this.

    Now, having said that, that doesn't mean every player characters history is going to be torn apart and made my plaything. In all honesty I have very rarely done so, and have yet to have a player protest about the treatment of a backstory NPC. But I wholeheartedly reserve the right to use and utilise them as I see fit to best serve the story we are telling.
    I mean, I could be a brain in a jar, or a programmatic simulation of someone long dead. Shrug. But if you make my mom 8 feet tall, or make her personality incompatible with my "backstory", I'm no longer me.

    So, I am opposed to the GM running my NPCs not just on account of ownership, but also because, if they mess up the NPC, they mess up my character. Corollary: I've never had a GM not mess up my NPCs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Great Dragon View Post
    TL;DR
    Maybe there was too much "noise to signal" in what I was saying - Like the fact that 5 people being able to sit down and crank out the entire party in, say, a half an hour IRL, while possible - might not be believable.
    I mean, I probably could singlehandedly crank out 5 playing pieces in half an hour in many systems, but I couldn't make even a single character without significantly more time.

    Quote Originally Posted by Great Dragon View Post
    * Sometimes, Instead of bringing your premade Outsider to "explore the DM's world", try working with the DM in creating a PC that is already "a part of that world" and if the other Players are friendly, work with them to create (pre-existing) a party connections. *
    Been there, done that, no fun for anyone involved any time I've tried. My character didn't feel anywhere near as connected to the world, I didn't get to enjoy exploring the world, and the GM constantly felt like my character didn't feel like they came from the world. In the GM's eyes, I was an even worse alien, who was a mockery of the GM's world. "A person from New York wouldn't have the background to have those beliefs".

    Quote Originally Posted by Great Dragon View Post
    I do agree that Backstory should only explain who the are *now*, and maybe why.
    Oh, *definitely* why - thanks for catching that oversight in explanation!

    Quote Originally Posted by Great Dragon View Post
    Point 1: Abilities and Levels shouldn't have much impact on Roleplaying. Sure, keep track of things that make a difference, like maybe how much "the puny mage" can pick up and easily carry, based on their Strength. But, if the mage doesn't try to do that IC during the RP, don't bring it up.
    … not direct impact, no. But they do tend to impact what their background looks like, which itself impacts personality. When you've gone punch for punch with a god (and lost, mind you), it has a definite impact on a person.

    But my point had nothing to do with attributes and levels affecting personality. My point was simply that differences in the playing piece can make characters distinct. Yes, Annie says "come play with me" in her girlish tones, but she is also different from other LoL characters by virtue of both her physical appearance, and her statistical characteristics.

    So, if we were playing "Wreck it Ralph, the RPG", I would expect Annie to feel distinct from Heimerdinger (let alone from Gauntlet's Blue Wizard, or Unreal Tournament's Howard (an AI we made up)) both in terms of their statistics and their personality, even though both are "not from around here".

    Quote Originally Posted by Great Dragon View Post
    Point 2: Everyone "adapting" to the Group.

    In my Example, the main Point was that the Players were making "interconnections" between all the PCs. So that anything that might not have specifically been mentioned during Character Creation (Session Zero) by any of the Players, could quickly described to one player while everyone else listened (and then "knew that info" IC) and then the Group moves on.

    Now, say that we replaced Player3 and brought in an "Outsider" PC that is completely unknown, and has no connection to any of the other PCs.

    I wasn't saying that RP wasn't desired, but that instead of simply the Example Group crying the D&D equivalent of "Avengers Assemble!" and jumping directly to the Action, everyone had to stop and take the time (possibly hours IRL) to "get to know" this new PC, before the "actual game" started. (Something they were trying to avoid)

    Now, that Example was meant only for that group.
    Maybe with the next Group, all the Players agree that they don't know anything about any of the other Characters, and the DM only has the "basic info" on them.
    I mean, your example feeds well into my PoV, in that Avengers worked so well because they roleplayed out the characters individually meeting each other

    Granted, Stark had heard of Cap, who was the indirect cause of Hulk, and Barton saved Natasha, who had "worked for" Stark, so there actually were some connections… but those were irrelevant to how the party got together (that was all Fury), and were more used as world-building, and to highlight the dysfunctional nature of the group ("This is who my father wouldn't _____ up about?", Stark's mistrust of Natasha).

    The "Fury picked all of you, who may as well have no other connections" was all it took to have the party, and have them form connections. Heck, Thor, the epitome of "not from around here", had no connection to the party, only to the NPC quest giver's followers, and to the quest itself.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Under that division, do you consider the existence of NPCs from the PC's background part of the character, or part of the world?

    That is, if a player said they had no siblings... or their parents were dead... or that their village was destroyed and that's why they're out adventuring... or in some way signaled or openly stated that they weren't interested in their PC's past becoming part of "the story"... would you accept that?

    If a player said their PC had a big family, and that they were a constant source of both lighthearted and heavy drama as the PC grew up, would you accept that?


    There's a danger of "forcing it" when it comes to NPCs -- family, old friends, retired mentors, etc -- as a source of drama and vulnerability for the PC, and often bad experiences with that sort of thing are the root cause of "I'm an orphan, from a village that burned down years ago killing everyone while I was away, and I've only ever had one-night-stands" syndrome.
    Myself, I find that doing things "for the story" tends to make for a worse story.

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