I've given my players the task of filling out your background questions, and it's been the easiest and most painless thing ever. Integrating their desires and character histories into the story arc has never been easier.
It's like a source material feast.
When the Cat's a Stray, the Mice will Pray
I don't follow a specific format like you do, but I do encourage my players to spend time figuring out how they fit in the world. I find the best way to promote it is to actually use the character backgrounds that the players give to draw them into the story or be some kind of background.
For example the most senior role player in my current campaign makes very in depth backgrounds. I love it personally, we will spend days talking about how his character fits in the world. In the campaign I just started, he is playing "Echo Stormheart, also known as the Chaos Shepard." To make the story short, weird things happen around him. When he was born, there was a storm that hit the remote town his mother lived in. They never knew his father, and his mother was dead when they heard the baby's voice echoing through the house. They never spoke of what they saw in there to him. Odd things happen around him. Animals, not through magical compulsion, will either hate or adore him, and people will mistake him for someone they know all too commonly. He knows things that any rational person would wonder how he could know something without pre-disposition. He has two oddly colored eyes one is silver and one is green. The silver one turns colors from time to time without him noticing. There's more oddities and background about him, but that gets you the gist.
He plays his character as a good character who always tries to see the best in people, and his own personal theory is that his senses are a little weird, and that's why the world around him acts so oddly to him. As if he can see in to the past or the future at times. The truth is though, Vecna himself, actually came down, ripped out the eye of the newborn, and placed his own eye into the socket. Since then he's been growing up with the eye telling him secrets, and recently, secrets of undead. So much so, that in game, he actually unwittingly turned a dead imp into an undead imp that now follows him. It was a pretty big shock for a good aligned character to realize that he could raise the dead into undead, especially because he worships Pelor!
It'll be funny when I have the paladin in the party drop the bomb "If your hand causes you to sin then cut it off and cast it away," as a hint to him that he has an evil body part. It'll also be interesting to see whether he turns evil due to the influence of the eye, he actually puts his eye out to remain good, or he struggles his entire life with the eye playing with him.
Why do I bring this up? Because when other players see that when you make a background, it'll mean something, they in turn want to make a background as well.
While long, detailed character histories such as these are always a bonus, they sometimes get out of hand.
I've done similar, but this thread has me inspired. Great minds at work and fun as heck to pick from! I'm asking my new 4E campaign group to give me background (and i've stolen a number of your ideas from here - unabashed plug!).
I'm looking to do a number of short "flashback" scenes, ala "Lost" - maybe one each gaming session. Each would feature one or two of the party's main characters and the other players will get NPC parts to play in the scene. I'm wondering if anyone else has done much with flashbacks and how well it worked, was everyone interested in other folks' backstory, and how did you reward the "encounter" (i'm thinking with Action Points maybe?)
I read your background. Ta-da! The ten-minute background is my favorite. It makes you want to play the character.
Here's an actual PC I am playing, Robin "Redcap" Powrie, a vicious, bloodthirsty gnome ranger.The Ten-Minute Background Robin Redcap [Evil Gnome Ranger multiclassed with Fighter, Level 2]
I think it works best to run your questions backwards, it seems to roll better in my experience.
For example, start with 3 childhood memories. People tend to be much more free-wheeling with making up childhood memories, as they don't see the immediate connection to who their character is now.
Move into defining 3 people, 2 allies and 1 enemy, (parents count as 1), sometimes many adventures are simply orphans, because that way they don't need to think about parents, family life, etc, of the character. Starting with childhood memories, oftentimes a relation with a parent is hinted at. This is build off of, and then you are 33% done. It is easy to bang out two more relationships.
Secrets step, this is often build into the 3 relationships, either as something MORE on top of the relationship (maybe a why) or else something that the PC is more than just not happening to mention to the other party members, but something he is actively trying to keep some close relationships from finding out about. Being secretly married to the barmaid in your home town, the rest of the aventuring party isn't going to care, but being secretly married to the barmaid in your home town, and neither set of parents know about it, that is already more interesting.
throw these all together and you get some great hooks for storyline goals. Just like the 2 goals are DM hooks for adventures, these underpinnings are great hooks to build your 2 goals off of.
Round it out with 5 (or more) 'interesting facts' about your current situation, 3 of which relate to your goals, secrets, relationships, or memories, but 2 of them must not, and now the creative juices are really flowing, and only 2 must be totally new. Often you get 2 totally new ones and 7 that are related to the work done before.
I love this background. But I'm a bit biased, as I love gnomes who focus on beating the tar out of things with their man strength.
Monsieur Tutheinco-Ponayme could be called Toulouse, to good effect, although everyone might still call him "too lazy". :D However, if this disgusting trend of nobleborn characters continues, I shall have to post some sort of antidote. Serfs up, yo.
To Strive, to Seek, to Find, and Not to Yield: The Seeker's Handbook
Dirty Harry, Seeker|Ranger Controller
frothsof wrote:WE i LOVE YOU
The lack of qualification is conspicuous for a reason. Also, I'm going to post my own 10-minute character background here in a bit. I play a homebrew race. The character concept is far from original, but feel like he's sufficiently unlike the characters the Foglios have written.
3) Yebin Thistledown is a strange little creature from the Feywild called a gnome. Lenasu met the gnome in a Forest and saved him from a pack of Howlers. The Gnome makes all sorts of alchemical items and gadgets, and loves collecting odd souvenirs and items, as well as "recreational herbs." He operates a bizarre patchwork shop.