So, you’ve got to come up with a PC for your next game. A lot of people can rush into building a back story, but by the end find that it wasn’t what they were hoping. Without some guidance, you might accidentally find yourself creating unintentional satire’s of your favourite characters, or just build something not very fun to play.
So, how do you build a satisfying back story for your characters? I’m so happy you asked.
Following Your Inspiration
A lot of people say that all characters fall into archetypes that can be translated across multiple stories, and you should build characters based on these archetypes. While I can understand this perspective, I find it can be very subjective and creativity killer. In my experience, it is way more fun to build a character back story off a story/character you admire, and then tinker.
What are you favourite stories? Who are you favourite characters from those stories? What do they have in common? Asking yourself these questions can lend to some interesting PCs. Don’t lean entirely on an already developed character – making a carbon copy of Thor will probably leave you more disappointed than satisfied. Instead, try and rebuild some of their characteristics to fit something new.
Do you like Tony Stark’s wit and arrogance? Maybe your character has the same arrogance from being in private school or as a way to fake their way into high society. Do you like Kvothe’s strong connection to music and his ability to translate experience into music? Instead of being out in the woods for years with a lute, perhaps your PC was locked in the attic of their evil stepmother, with only a lute to play. The options are endless.
Building a Stable House
With the inspiration there, now it’s time to cover your story bases. There are a few questions you should answer before giving the information to your game master:
- Do you know your birth family? Who are/were they?
- What town did you grow up in? What was your relationship with the community? Did you make any friends/notable allies while in that town?
- Have you made any enemies? What did you do to them to piss them off? Alternatively, what did they do to you? How does this fit into you becoming an adventurer?
- Did you have any special experiences before joining your adventuring party? Why are you deciding to go adventuring?
Consider all of these things when sending your DM your back story.
This part is key. This can make or break a back story arc for your character.
When building your back story, only add details that your character is aware of. Don’t tell the story from a third person perspective. The DM will be able to take those little nuggets of story you have provided and grow it into a full story.
This can also be one of the most difficult parts of a back story. You may want to enforce a story you have in your head. But, I promise you, if you have all the pieces to a story, it won’t be half as fun to play. You can note to your DM if there are any family/allies/enemies you want to keep alive for character reasons. However, let you DM play – you never know what you will find.
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