Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"B" is for "Backgrounds"

Today's post is about Backgrounds

Backgrounds in my opinion are one of the most important parts of character creation. A concept is good, but a background is better. A concept might be something as simple as "an ex-military special operative now working for the vampires". This is a good start, and van give some nice clues to personality, and mannerisms. Using this example ,we could assume being not only ex-military, but dedicated & well-trained ex-military, this person probably has a certain code of honor to live by. They likely have a lot of self confidence, and would carry themselves with pride. it's possible that they still keep their hair crew-cut or at least close to a military style.

However this is just scratching the surface, this would create a interesting yet ultimately 2-dimensional character. Depending on your group, the campaign/system and play-style this might be enough. Even if it's sufficient though I think developing a further more in depth character can be really rewarding, and for other styles of play or systems it may very well be essential.

I'd like to stop here and point out a a favorite set of products of mine


These books are bit older, and hard to find, but if you can get a hold of one it's definitely worthwhile. The provide an intelligent method for randomly rolling up backgrounds. Instead of being truly random though it uses well placed modifiers to create backgrounds that make more sense. For instance if you roll that you were born to a rich family, you will get a positive modifier when rolling on the tables for education, as its more likely you received a proper education than if you had come fro ma poor family.

When thinking about your characters background one thing that can come in handy is to think about family. A persons family can have a huge impact on a characters life well after their formative years, they can also provide great plot hooks for a Game-Master to make things more interesting.  continuing with the example above, imagine the same character, who was raised i na military family, Dad was in the army, moved around a lot as a kid, used to the life etc. Now take that same concept, but imagine that he'd been raised by a family of pacifists, and he estranged himself because he thought the cause was justified, but his parents thinking fighting is wrong no matter what.  not just his relationships will change, but his outlook on the world and personality would be very very different.

The more detail you give to a character, the more it will come to life, also the more a Story-teller has to work with. Lets assume I'm running a game and I want to introduce a plot to the group involving a crime, getting them to investigate it and run into certain detective or underworld NPC's. If I know that one of the characters comes from an abusive home, getting them involved with a case involving a child will have much more impact, than some random street mugging.

This also ties into the memorability of a character, the more fully developed and rounded they are, the more memorable it becomes.  No one remembers "hey that ex-military guy that killed things" but everyone remembers "that really tough hard as nails spec-ops guy that broke down and cried when he saw the little girls dead body". Or "That lone-wolf soldier, who fell to his knees and thanked God, when he finally found the family he thought he'd lost"

Why don't you tell me your favorite memorable character bit in the comments?
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