DnD Homework

42 posts / 0 new
Last post
I suppose I should start at the begining, I'm a DM myself, and my new DM is trying to encourage roleplaing, something I can identify with. However, his heavy-handed approach is annoying me.

You see, he's assigned us a 1 page paper talking about our background, who we know, our personality quriks etc. Normally this would just be an eye roll situation, however several things are really getting to me.

I'm the only player who thought about his character before hand (one of them didn't even have a NAME.. DURING playing). I'm positive that I'm also the only one who will be roleplaying.

Several aspects of my backstory have already been errataed (criminal who was reformed to religion in prison) I'm a slave now, and I had to fight to worship Pelor because as he put it, CN characters always worship Heronius, and are always trying to fight against the government.

He gave us an HOUR AND A HALF LECTURE on his campaign setting. Then started the session inside a tavern... a tavern run by ex-adventurers. How can I be expected to put in work when he cant be bohtered.

He was an hour late to HIS OWN SESSION... come on, thats just poor form.



So I'm tempted to either write the most retarded back story ever about how I'm a descendant of angels and dragons, or just quit the game entirely.
So I'm tempted to either write the most retarded back story ever about how I'm a descendant of angels and dragons, or just quit the game entirely.

Going the retarted babckground story routew just gets you a retarted background. You could try and address your Dm with your issues. Then if that doesn't work leave and find a new game.
Or develop an hour-and-half backstory and bore him out of his mind with it. Just grab the biography of anyone famous and change the names an places to fit the campaign world. When he complains, just tell him "Now you know how we feel. Cut to the chase and let's either play the game or don't."

If he's got 90 minutes worth of campaign world material, well congratulations on his thoroughness, but he needs to start thinking small and building up from there. Detail the town and immediate surroundings, work on the rest of the material behind the scenes and reveal it only when the players are ready to hear it. He's runnign backwards, it sounds.
After 18 years of DMing, one of things I realized early-on was that most players don't like writing backstories. Don't get me wrong, some do - and those that do are great to have in your campaign if you enjoy (as I do) a shared storytelling approach. But what happens in most cases is that a couple of players write up their backstory, the rest don't, and then the whole exercise seems to be something of a waste. So I don't ask them. It's just that simple.

Another thing I learned is that you will have a far more successful campaign if, instead of a backstory, you ask the players to sit around and brainstorm (usually over a lot of beers) the concept of the party before anyone creates characters. What is this group of characters doing together? Are they holy crusaders? The beginnings of a thieves' guild? Explorer-archaeologists? Once the players decide upon what they think will be fun, they create characters that fit within that context, and ask them for one or two lines on their character's personality.

Once that's done, you write your campaign around that. Their choice will dictate the tone of the campaign and its general flow. Most DMs I encounter write a campaign, then ask their players to create characters, then come up with backstories and some weird or contrived way to bring the characters together in an often unbelievable way. That's a bad tact in my opinion and instantly sets up your campaign for potential failure.

As for showing up late to his own session, stuff happens. If it's consistent, say something. Otherwise, don't be petulant like so, so many other gamers out there. Have respect for what the DM is trying to accomplish, even if the method is not what you would have preferred. Copy my post (or posts you find more helpful) and email it to him as friendly advice.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Yug. As a DM, I ENCOURAGE backstories, and have been known to give small rewards for well thought-out ones, but I generally don't require more than a paragraph or so, just the "who I am, where I grew up, why I do what I do" kind of thing.

Next time he's late, pull out your books and start DM a session without him. Run until he gets there, and politely wrap things up as soon as reasonable once he arrives.
Hand him a photocopy of pp8-11 of the 4E DMG instead. These four pages quantify several different "types" of players, how to appeal to each, and offer advice on how to use backgrounds.

Heck, buy him a copy if he doesn't already own one. I haven't seen a DMG with this much truly useful information since I was 10. The bits on how to actually run a game are invaluable to anyone wanting to run a game from any system!
Man you don't live in St. Louis do you. My dm did the exact same thing to me. I wrote a 3 page backstory neatly tying my character in to the broad scale world he developed. He then striped my backstory and corrupted everything about it and complained about me calling him on it.

I went from being a intelligent gruff quiet wizard who lived a hard life and just completely reformatted his magic when he connected to the power of an ancient lost god of magic. Now he is completely clueless has the mind of a 10 year old and has a completely crippled and twisted right arm. This character at level 1 has 18 int and most knowledge skills trained.

He kept telling people they couldn't run characters or forcing backgrounds on them for "lore" reasons and described all this lore he had for the setting. The first session we are in a town and the only building we find out about is the tavern which had as far as he described 1 bartender and 1 bouncer that had to have been a lvl10 human fighter who almost killed our dragonborn warlord because he asked the bartender for some "Crackers".

Then we get attacked by 26 goblin cutters 3 blackblades and a warrior. No reason just the goblins attacked the town and this group got to the inn/tavern we where at. We are told after the fight that if we had just gone after the warrior that was standing in the back ranged attacking me the wizard while all the minions and the blackblades where between us and him. He says that if we killed the warrior the rest of the gobs would have left.

Then its off to rescue some kids the goblins stole for some reason somehow. On their easy to follow trail we come across a small camp of goblins that we are told several times it is doubtful we can beat we are told also that both sides of the trail are surrounded by difficult terrain forests. The only way to beat the encounter was to go around it through the difficult terrain with 3 of the 5 characters wearing chain or scale armor. 0 checks later we are on the other side just because it was what he wanted us to do.

Ok enough rant because the 300 goblin well thought out camp with sentries and two days before the full moon night metal gear stealth run to save the kids was too much even for these boards. In short I feel your pain. Sorry you have to deal with it too. I at least get to run my own game too.
No not in St. Louis, that sounds pretty rough though.
What you want to do is swing by a construction site and grab a broken brick. Take that brick with you the game session and, when the DM finally shows up, hit him hard as you can in the back of the head. Now you want to make sure you do this hard because if you don't he will still be concious and that is, clearly, no fun for anyone. Once he is out make sure to put out a tarp so he can bleed for a while and you can then take over the game. Sidenote, remember to call the EMT's to help him out, and when he wakes up he can join as a player and learn how to really run a game.

I ask for backgrounds from all my players with one stipulation, if you don't want to write it at least know it so that I can use it to personalize the game a bit. Through the course of the game I ask little questions like character goals and such, and in regards to my campaign world I provide a CD that has all the current information on it to those that ask for world information. Then I allow the players to read and learn on their time IF they want.

Never have lectured for any length of time about my world, and have never (even though I should have a few times) turned away a background or made one irrelavent after the player invested a lot of time. And I would never tell a player that they could not worship god A and had to worship god B because of their alignment. This is the third Dictator DM that I have heard of in the last month... Most be something going around.
Man you don't live in St. Louis do you. My dm did the exact same thing to me. I wrote a 3 page backstory neatly tying my character in to the broad scale world he developed. He then striped my backstory and corrupted everything about it and complained about me calling him on it.

I went from being a intelligent gruff quiet wizard who lived a hard life and just completely reformatted his magic when he connected to the power of an ancient lost god of magic. Now he is completely clueless has the mind of a 10 year old and has a completely crippled and twisted right arm. This character at level 1 has 18 int and most knowledge skills trained.

He kept telling people they couldn't run characters or forcing backgrounds on them for "lore" reasons and described all this lore he had for the setting. The first session we are in a town and the only building we find out about is the tavern which had as far as he described 1 bartender and 1 bouncer that had to have been a lvl10 human fighter who almost killed our dragonborn warlord because he asked the bartender for some "Crackers".

Then we get attacked by 26 goblin cutters 3 blackblades and a warrior. No reason just the goblins attacked the town and this group got to the inn/tavern we where at. We are told after the fight that if we had just gone after the warrior that was standing in the back ranged attacking me the wizard while all the minions and the blackblades where between us and him. He says that if we killed the warrior the rest of the gobs would have left.

Then its off to rescue some kids the goblins stole for some reason somehow. On their easy to follow trail we come across a small camp of goblins that we are told several times it is doubtful we can beat we are told also that both sides of the trail are surrounded by difficult terrain forests. The only way to beat the encounter was to go around it through the difficult terrain with 3 of the 5 characters wearing chain or scale armor. 0 checks later we are on the other side just because it was what he wanted us to do.

Ok enough rant because the 300 goblin well thought out camp with sentries and two days before the full moon night metal gear stealth run to save the kids was too much even for these boards. In short I feel your pain. Sorry you have to deal with it too. I at least get to run my own game too.

You know there is a term for people that take a group of characters, mold them to what they think they should be like, lead them on a series of impossible tasks all while making the key decisions for them.

They call these people authors. Tell your DM to just write his damned book already and let you get back to playing D&D.
wow...if it wasn't so sad it would be funny. Best thing to do is start planning your own game. The only way to make sure you get what you want is to do it yourself.
IMAGE(http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y239/SoulCatcher78/techdevil78.jpg)
~snip~

Sounds a lot like the game I was in, on the [thread=259802]thread that just won't die[/thread], at least in how stupid it was. Still can't top the DM's "Ok, what do you want to do?" each session and reducing everything we wanted to do to a single search check.
I suppose I should start at the begining, I'm a DM myself, and my new DM is trying to encourage roleplaing, something I can identify with. However, his heavy-handed approach is annoying me.

You need to tell him this. Don't just blurt out "I hate your stupid game" but let him know you feel he is being heavy-handed and that it isn't very fun for you. He might (and probably does) think that the approach he is taking is something that people will like.

You see, he's assigned us a 1 page paper talking about our background, who we know, our personality quriks etc. Normally this would just be an eye roll situation, however several things are really getting to me.

Suggest to your DM that assigning a mandatory length is a bit harsh. What happens if you don't write 1 page of backstory?

I'm the only player who thought about his character before hand (one of them didn't even have a NAME.. DURING playing). I'm positive that I'm also the only one who will be roleplaying.

Several aspects of my backstory have already been errataed (criminal who was reformed to religion in prison) I'm a slave now, and I had to fight to worship Pelor because as he put it, CN characters always worship Heronius, and are always trying to fight against the government.

Something I like to do is meet with each player individually before the game begins and talk about their character's background. Some people don't like to write out backstories for their character, but I've found that most people are happy to talk about their character's background and what they want out of the game. It's just as easy for me to make a few notes to use for plot points as it is for me to read a backstory and do the same thing. You might offer this approach to your DM.

Also, point out that if your backstory is just going to be changed anyway, there isn't much point in writing it out. The discussion method would alleviate this problem and allow you to let your DM know why you want your background this way rather than simply making a statement about your background.

He gave us an HOUR AND A HALF LECTURE on his campaign setting. Then started the session inside a tavern... a tavern run by ex-adventurers. How can I be expected to put in work when he cant be bohtered.

Suggest to your DM that campaign setting information is best prepared beforehand, typed up, and distributed to the players before they make their characters since such information might influence their backgrounds and character choices. Point out that spending 90 minutes listening to a lecture on the game world is a poor use of session time and could be avoided with the information given out ahead of time.

He was an hour late to HIS OWN SESSION... come on, thats just poor form.

Why was he late? Did he decide to finish watching a movie on TV or did he get in a fender bender and have to fill out a police report. Sometimes being late is excusable. Ask the DM to call the players if he's going to be late so at least you will all know.

So I'm tempted to either write the most retarded back story ever about how I'm a descendant of angels and dragons, or just quit the game entirely.

Quit. I realize you dislike some of the things the DM is doing and you came here to let off a little steam and seek advice, but trying to ruin the guy's game isn't going to help him become a better DM. Every DM is new at some point and every DM is going to run their game a little differently. As a DM yourself, I'm sure you do thing that are specific to your game, and while you might think everything you do is great, that doesn't make it a fact.

So I say again, quit if you don't feel the game is for you. Otherwise, I'd suggest talking to your DM about what you dislike. I would recommend that you also talk about what you like as well. Feedback is how people get better at DMing; putting up with stupid crap from players is how we get fewer DMs.
I would take it easy for a few more sessions. It seems like you are excited(I get excited too, trust me, i LOVE DND) to get started and get to the point.
Which is fine.

I would say give the DM 2-3 weeks to give him a chance to entertain you and see if you like his DM style- 2-3 weeks means 2-3 sessions.
If not, then just politely move along. No reason to stress. Some DMs would like strict papers on characters and all this other crap from their players and im not sure why. One reason may be to prove commitment so the DM isn't wasting time with a revolving door of players. Another might be a competence check? Not sure. I personally would not play the campaign if I felt the extra work was not worth the trade off of playing.
I mean a page? double spaced is like nothing. 10-15 min of work. Try to make it fun. Like I said, if not, just leave in a nice way.
As a noob DM - im completely appreciative of this thread - its very very helpful seeing the opinions of players in relation to world building and character background

ive built on paper and in my mind a pretty eleborate world, but i dont have it as set and stone ( i have rather lengthy post on another thread i started)

i felt a need to somewhat encourage my two players at the moment on character background - and i had a pretty good background worked together with one player, and gave a slight suggestion to the other based on his actual interests in movies

ill when we actually play/start the session, ill have us discuss more based around - these are the ideas were working with - how can we make them work so theyre fun and enjoyable for everyone - definitely get the food and drink going, then slide into an actual session

theyre new players so ill let them adjust how they feel about the fluff were building together - as they learn the game more and how they feel about certain things

as i read the forums - i learn more that as the DM - you just build bare bone skeletal ideas and only let the players choose, through observation of play or actual discussion, which skeletons actually grow flesh and become their interactive universe
Thanks, Gerrard, that's the kinda stuff I like hearing. Perfect analogy, I love it.
As a noob DM - im completely appreciative of this thread - its very very helpful seeing the opinions of players in relation to world building and character background

ive built on paper and in my mind a pretty eleborate world, but i dont have it as set and stone ( i have rather lengthy post on another thread i started)

i felt a need to somewhat encourage my two players at the moment on character background - and i had a pretty good background worked together with one player, and gave a slight suggestion to the other based on his actual interests in movies

ill when we actually play/start the session, ill have us discuss more based around - these are the ideas were working with - how can we make them work so theyre fun and enjoyable for everyone - definitely get the food and drink going, then slide into an actual session

theyre new players so ill let them adjust how they feel about the fluff were building together - as they learn the game more and how they feel about certain things

as i read the forums - i learn more that as the DM - you just build bare bone skeletal ideas and only let the players choose, through observation of play or actual discussion, which skeletons actually grow flesh and become their interactive universe

Somewhat on this note I offer this bit of knowledge that I learned over the years. The players love it when they can have an affect on the world, and not just in the short term but long term. When that next campaign fires up maybe something that changed because of them is encountered, or they run across children of their former PC's, or the new villain achieved his motivation because of an encounter with the old PC's. Just seeing that they hold an influence on the workings of the world can make a player smile, which is why it is important to ensure you recognize the efforts they make to do things like writing a detailed history. The 4E DMG says it, and WoTC put out a recent article on it, but saying Yes is an art and should be encouraged as it can make things even more fun for all.
You see, he's assigned us a 1 page paper talking about our background, who we know, our personality quriks etc. Normally this would just be an eye roll situation, however several things are really getting to me.


I HATE IT when my backgrounds are ignored, especially after they are assigned, and I put my effort in. This is so disrespectful, not only on the part of the DM but of the other players as well. Didn't have a name? And then to be an hour late?

I would certainly feel like I was not appreciated as a player, and that is totally not cool. I would have a conversation with this guy outside of the game and let him know what he was doing, and how you see it as being disrespectful. He could have at least called or something if he was going to be late.

I'd give it some time to assess the overall fun value, if he doesn't seem to get it together in a few weeks then find a new group. Who knows maybe he is some kind of genius with some great ideas and he is just a little slow to start. ;)
So I'm tempted to either write the most retarded back story ever about how I'm a descendant of angels and dragons, or just quit the game entirely.

Go with the retarded story.
Write it up. PLAY it. Make sure to bring it up at least once each session. Have your character go on about his heritage at great length to any who'll listen - PC or NPC.
Even add to it/change it slightly every now & then.

Is it true? Does it even make sense? Maybe, maybe not, but that's irrellevent. Your characters either got a glorious anscetory & destiny or he's nuts. Wichever way it works out, interesting things are bound to happen....

And if you annoy the DM? Bonus.
I really dislike creating backstory for my Characters. I prefer to let them start out as more or less a blank slate and let the adventures they encounter create the characters story line.
Another thing I learned is that you will have a far more successful campaign if, instead of a backstory, you ask the players to sit around and brainstorm (usually over a lot of beers) the concept of the party before anyone creates characters. What is this group of characters doing together? Are they holy crusaders? The beginnings of a thieves' guild? Explorer-archaeologists? Once the players decide upon what they think will be fun, they create characters that fit within that context, and ask them for one or two lines on their character's personality.

Once that's done, you write your campaign around that. Their choice will dictate the tone of the campaign and its general flow. Most DMs I encounter write a campaign, then ask their players to create characters, then come up with backstories and some weird or contrived way to bring the characters together in an often unbelievable way. That's a bad tact in my opinion and instantly sets up your campaign for potential failure.

Excellent observation and a capital approach to the problem. I salute you.

Old School: It ain't what you play - it's how you play it.

My 1E Project: http://home.earthlink.net/~duanevp/dnd/Building%20D&D/buildingdnd.htm

"Who says I can't?" "The man in the funny hat..."

Every time I create a backstory for a PC I find that several game sessions in, the initial concept of the character has altered upon actual contact with the world and large chunks of backstory no longer apply, are no longer interesting to me, or are actually INTERFERING with how I wish to develop my character. Whenever I have seen a DM take an interest in a PC backstory and "incorporate" it into his campaign it hasn't been to expand and enrich the world but to... well frankly to use as an excuse to simply mess with the character. ["Oh! You have a long-lost dad, eh? Well guess what? Your dad is actually a demon who abandoned you to die. Now that he has learned you haven't I'm going to ____ with your PC all the time! Wahoo!"]

If a player spells out things too specifically in a backstory the DM seems to feel he has the right and obligation to change it to suit HIS preferences even if it means destroying what YOU thought it would be like to be your character. If you don't detail it enough then the DM will take that as tacit permission to fill in the blanks FOR you, and whether this hoses your new character and general concept or not is irrelevant.

KNOW THIS - roleplaying is never something that can be mandated. Roleplaying is its own reward and it must never, EVER be reduced to homework. You do what you can to encourage it but don't demand it.

A request for character background should first and primarily be for the DM to simply understand how the player sees his character beyond the stats. It is NOT for the DM to greedily use to mine for adventure ideas. With or without a background an adequate DM should find plenty of means to feature adventures inspired by and featuring individual PC's for any number of reasons. You certainly don't have the right to CHANGE the PC's background to suit your own needs. At the very least you have to have the players approval to do so. The character AND THE BACKGROUND belong to the player - NOT YOU. Keep your stinking paws off you dirty ape!

However, if the PC background just goes too far in giving the PC privileges, is too weird, just fails to fit the campaign, etc. you don't have to indulge them. But YOU don't edit the characters background - you let THEM edit it to be more suitable.

It can be great to be able to intimately incorporate PC backgrounds into your game world and to have their cooperation in expanding the campaign. It is not, however, a REQUIREMENT for anyone. Any DM who wants to make it one probably just needs to get off their arse and do their job rather than try to coerce players into doing it for them at the expense of their own PC's.

Just my opinion/observation.

Old School: It ain't what you play - it's how you play it.

My 1E Project: http://home.earthlink.net/~duanevp/dnd/Building%20D&D/buildingdnd.htm

"Who says I can't?" "The man in the funny hat..."

Huh. Y'know, that's quite different from how we do it, or at least how we've done it so far (in our third campaign EVAR now). We just sit down and I, the DM, say "Okay, this is a new campaign. Welcome to the world of . This world has dragons. Let's start."

Admittedly, it may not sound like much, but I tend to talk to my players beforehand a bit anyway, and also afterwards. They hand their backstories in at the second session, and I see if I can fit it into the campaign world (which is always a piece of pie-cake), unless its a bull story.
In a recent 3.5 game, our DM basically arranged to give out two free skills maxed at first level if you could describe how you got them. Didn't need to be even connected with your class.

No background no freebie.

Generally I like that myself.

I like a background from the players. It gives me a target rich environment to add bonuses for the players. No background no bonus.

I also generally give a lot of X just for doing a good job of acting out the written personality. No personality written down, no bonus XP.

After all, if there's nothing in it for me, there won't be for them.

And going from 1st to 4th, those perk XP points can make the level advance move twice as fast sometimes.
What you want to do is swing by a construction site and grab a broken brick. Take that brick with you the game session and, when the DM finally shows up, hit him hard as you can in the back of the head.

Wrong! Clearly you want to hit your DM in the face with the brick. So, every morning, when he looks into the mirror he can see the brick imprint and be reminded of the rage that poor DM'ing can instill in players.

Also, I recommend putting the brick in a tube sock, just for the shock factor. Plus you don't want to bloody your brick.
Wrong! Clearly you want to hit your DM in the face with the brick. So, every morning, when he looks into the mirror he can see the brick imprint and be reminded of the rage that poor DM'ing can instill in players.

Also, I recommend putting the brick in a tube sock, just for the shock factor. Plus you don't want to bloody your brick.

You're a sick freak who shouldn't be allowed to talk to decent folk.



































Seriously, who wears tube socks that aren't liquid permeable? It'd be like sloshing around in bags of hot sweat all day!
"When Friday comes, we'll all call rats fish." D&D Outsider
Obviously the sock has some potential to absorb liquids. I can see, though, the amount of violence you intended the OP to hit his DM with would create enough blood letting through being BLUDGEONED, which usually does not result in as much blood as a cut would, that a normal tube sock would not stop the seepage onto the brick.

How DARE you put the though of a water-tight tube sock in my mind!

You SIR, should not be allowed to talk to decent folk! Flip flapped and reversed!

At least we can talk to each other though... *looks around shiftily*
I don't have to put up with this sort of flipflappery. I'm out of here.
"When Friday comes, we'll all call rats fish." D&D Outsider
I recommend putting the brick in a tube sock

Gives new meaning to the term, "Rock 'em Sock 'em!"
<\ \>tuntman
Stuntman, that is rediculous.

I appreciate you.
In a recent 3.5 game, our DM basically arranged to give out two free skills maxed at first level if you could describe how you got them. Didn't need to be even connected with your class.

No background no freebie.

Generally I like that myself.
.

Me too, we wouldn't get one or two maxed out, we would just get weird bonuses.

I had a Rogue (of course) that had a background as travelling performer and juggler, and did card tricks. I would receive a bonus to my Sleight of Hand checks whenever I was using cards, or my Perform checks when I was on stage, and he gave me a Craft (Small Mechanical Devices) skill that would allow me to create the little devices I would use for my stage illusion acts.

It was really pretty cool. Stuff that added real flavor to the character but wasn't game breaking or overly powerful.
Only one response is ever needed for these posts.
If your DM/Players do something you don't like which hinders your ability to enjoy the game let them know, if they continue then find a DM/Group more suited to your tastes.
That's all.
Wrong! Clearly you want to hit your DM in the face with the brick. So, every morning, when he looks into the mirror he can see the brick imprint and be reminded of the rage that poor DM'ing can instill in players.

There is a level of wisdom in this that I had not thought of before. To enhance the effect you could includ magnesium powder to make the strike more "flashy."
Go with the retarded story.
Write it up. PLAY it. Make sure to bring it up at least once each session. Have your character go on about his heritage at great length to any who'll listen - PC or NPC.
Even add to it/change it slightly every now & then.

I second this notion and the idea about the brick. Backstories are great to an extent, but should not be overdone. And it is a real problem when the DM develops hte campaign setting more for his enjoyment than for what the group would enjoy. In our group one guy alsways a has a relatively elaborate backstory and tends to develop his character very well, one other guy barely has any personality for his, and the other two of us are in between with simple backstories and relatively well developed characters over time.

Our DM then adds slight tweeks to them to fit in with how he wants to run the campaign and that help to make sense why so many different people find themselves in the same group. If you really want your warlord to be the traumatized lone survivor of a decimated band of dragonborn warriors that is fine with him, but then you have to X to try to redeem yourself and doing X requires that you join group Y to accomplish that.

In theory I would have no problem with a DM assigning a backstory as long as he is flexible and respectful of it and as long as the player is willing to create different backstories for different characters.
After 18 years of DMing, one of things I realized early-on was that most players don't like writing backstories. Don't get me wrong, some do - and those that do are great to have in your campaign if you enjoy (as I do) a shared storytelling approach. But what happens in most cases is that a couple of players write up their backstory, the rest don't, and then the whole exercise seems to be something of a waste. So I don't ask them. It's just that simple.

Another thing I learned is that you will have a far more successful campaign if, instead of a backstory, you ask the players to sit around and brainstorm (usually over a lot of beers) the concept of the party before anyone creates characters. What is this group of characters doing together? Are they holy crusaders? The beginnings of a thieves' guild? Explorer-archaeologists? Once the players decide upon what they think will be fun, they create characters that fit within that context, and ask them for one or two lines on their character's personality.

Once that's done, you write your campaign around that. Their choice will dictate the tone of the campaign and its general flow. Most DMs I encounter write a campaign, then ask their players to create characters, then come up with backstories and some weird or contrived way to bring the characters together in an often unbelievable way. That's a bad tact in my opinion and instantly sets up your campaign for potential failure.

As for showing up late to his own session, stuff happens. If it's consistent, say something. Otherwise, don't be petulant like so, so many other gamers out there. Have respect for what the DM is trying to accomplish, even if the method is not what you would have preferred. Copy my post (or posts you find more helpful) and email it to him as friendly advice.

This is very good advice
I've found that a detailed backstory written up by characters is so seldom used as to be a waste of time except for the players personal pleasure. As often as not a player has some peculiar connection to prestige or power. Unless there is only a couple players or less there is little simply no way to include much of a backstory into game play and still manage the campaign as they had started out with.

I'm in agreement with the posters who think of their character as a starting point. Its not that i'm opposed to a extensive back story its just that so much of it will just ned up wasted time. Its also been my experience there is just as many players who are anti back story. Thier time is more involved in making the character and i've even had a fellow pc tell the dm to "make up the back story for my character. I'll just ignore it if you saddle me with something i don't want"
The only back story I specifically asked for was why the PCs were in or near to the specific city in which I told them the adventure would begin. For some it was as simple as "are you from here?" or "are you visiting?" and "why?" It really makes a big difference on how the rest of the world plays out. Of course, since I am building my world from the PCs out the rogue told me he screwed over a syndicate because they wouldn't let him in. From that I created a brand new town, a brand new syndicate and brand new NPCs to hunt him down, all because that is what he wanted. I refuse to force those things on my players and every player should refuse to allow it to be forced on them.

It is character **** and that is wrong.

If you have suffered from this horrible crime, please feel free to join us in Marion, Indiana for a game in which you can create your own character and world as deeply or as shallow(ly?) as you want.
I've found that a detailed backstory written up by characters is so seldom used as to be a waste of time except for the players personal pleasure.

And I feel appreciated when my DM uses my backstory, rewards me for my enthusiasm, and effort. It is great when they integrate it into the game, an old foe shows up, or a story element that I came up with makes an impact on their story.

This is something that certainly helps pull me into the game and makes it a rewarding experience. :D
I enjoy writing backstories, and sometimes my players have asked me to write one up for them. They then play with it and tweak it a little if they feel the need to. But a lot of times, I must admit that I feel the best backstories are those made up on the fly. They're asked about as part of the game. As a DM, I might not ask what town you came from or why you're adventuring. As Tuss Massusen, the barkeep, I might ask "What brings you around these parts?" As a member of the Thieve's Guild looking for potential recruits, I might ask you if you have any experience as an enforcer; "No? Hey, no problem. Just take this brick, put it in a sock, and if he don't pay up, hit him in the back of the head with it."

The DM should note down any answers that are given so that a PC has a consistent backstory that builds up only enough material to be relevant. If you want to build off of it, maybe ask OOG "Hey, did you have anything specific planned witht this?" If not, ask permisiion to go to town with it.
I've found that a detailed backstory written up by characters is so seldom used as to be a waste of time except for the players personal pleasure.

...

I'm in agreement with the posters who think of their character as a starting point. Its not that i'm opposed to a extensive back story its just that so much of it will just ned up wasted time.

One DM I had likes players who have backstories for their characters. However, he does not require us to actually have one before actually playing our first session. When I first played with this DM, we just went right into our first gaming session. This allows us to see how we actually play the character. It's one thing to say, "my character will be like this" and totally another to actually play it that way.

After playing a session or a few, we start getting a good feel of who our characters are. After that, we can come up with a better idea of how we got there (the backstory). The more we played, the more we end up adding to the depth of our characters in terms of our history and our motivations and what we plan for our future. Playing our characters give us a better understanding of him and enables us to come up with a better back story than if we had to do it cold. Also, playing the campaign will give players an idea of the DM's campaign world. Exploring this world and discovering its wonders will also help in developing a PC's back story.

I agree that when we first make our character, it is a starting point. I think that for the first session, all your character needs is to have some motivation to be an adventurer and how he ended up at the location. How that motivation came about can be developed later. Any detailed backstory may not be necessary incorporated in the first adventure anyway.

I find that I do like incorporating character backgrounds into the campaign, but I like taking my time to make things flow well in the campaign. If different PC's have a variety of different backstories, I probably would only be able to explore the aspects of one (or maybe two) at any time in any particular adventure, if at all. Backstories are a nice additional element to any campaign. You do not need to have adventures based on them all the time. If you do, it's good to have them incorporated seemlessly.
<\ \>tuntman
To be honest i'm of two minds in reagards to the subject. I've been a dm where i wish the pcs would show at least a glimmer of interest of where there character came from. I've also been on the other side where an extensive back story was demanded. To the extent of likes and dislikes motivation, hates, fears and so on. Only for it to be promptly forgotten and never refered to again as well as dismissed by the dm as not conforming to setting.

For the most part i don't hate or love backstory creation. I just despise making it when i've got a creative mind block and i've got the suspiscion that its not going to be used anyways.
Sign In to post comments