Something I've learned about myself is that creating backstory is my favorite part of character creation. You get to choose their life experience and place it in the world. Backstories are vital to characters in all creative writing. For example; If you look closely, movie script writers will always have a backstory written for the character even if that character isn’t in the movie. It gives the actors (or in this case our players) the ability to understand who the character is and how to play them. So, let's talk backstory, shall we?
1) Backstory Inspires Your GM
As a player you are vital to the world building process. The world is literally being built for you and around you. A player should put the same amount of work into a character that the GM puts into a world. And though backstory is only a small piece of the symbiosis, it allows the GM and player to easily collaborate. We know how invested our world builders get; railroading is a growing pain of gaming. I know for me it helps me think outside of the box. One of my players placed a city in his backstory and now it’s a major place in my setting.
You’ll get them thinking about your character, you’ll get them thinking about how to shape their world.
2) Creating In-Character Bonds
Creating our backstories allows for the party to connect and grow as characters. It brings a depth to the table allowing players to have an ultimate understanding of why they act the way they do. A group that has a rich array of roots also encourages roleplay when players want to learn about each other’s characters. The unique dialogue that arises from this creates a strong, in-character bond.
In the longest campaign I have ever been a part of, I played a character that went through a drastic morality shift. I had suffered a loss in game because of my backstory, my character was emotionally defeated, but my party did everything they could to pick him up. It was an empowering moment for this character because he became less selfish. He never saw these people as friends until this moment. They were only tools, but because of a small background detail, our relationship had changed.
3) Practice Becoming A Better Player
Character backstory is an easy problem with a complicated solution. The first two points work in tandem with this concept to make you a better player. Putting time into your backstory is a big investment, but has a pay off well worthwhile.
Compare your game to a spider’s web that you weave with your GM and other players. Plucking a strand in the web you created can cause an interesting vibration. Messing around with structures will only increase your understanding of how these games can work, which can lead to more fun. Isn’t fun the point of our hobby?
I believe the backstory of a character is the most important part to a game. Paying attention to how you build your character’s backstory allows you to create characters that can do great things. I will leave you with a warning though: everyone in the hobby has different levels of investment. Follow the golden rule; know who you’re playing with.
How important is backstory to you?
Benjamin Witunsky, artist, writer and nerd savant. Cofounder of the NerdMantle Podcast available on Soundcloud, Itunes and Google Play Music.
Image Source: The Hollywood Reporter
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.