Here is something I use for my players that allows me to get a good background outline from my players to break the ice with. It gets people thinking, which is good, without overwhelming them with questions. It's based off of the Minimus RPG engine, copyright 2008 Ad Astra Games, used with permission. Minimus is donation-ware, so if you like the TMB, please consider donating for a copy of Minimus, as per the instructions in the file.
The Ten-Minute Background
In an attempt to get all the information I need to create stuff from character backgrounds without having to continually push for information, I am asking that you create backgrounds the following way:
Step 1: Write 5 background and concept elements that you feel are important to your image of the character. These can be a concept overview, a list of important life events, a physical description, a personality profile...whatever you need to get an image in your mind. 5 is just a minimum...more elements are encouraged!
[Example: Martin Tenbones]
1) He is a former pirate and retired adventurer and now owns a tavern in the city of St. Clarice.
2) He is outgoing and charismatic, and attempts to keep abreast of all the local gossip and juicy secrets that pass his way, because he believes that knowledge is power.
3) He and his former adventuring band fought against the forces of the pirate captain Craven, who was a major lieutenant for the current Dread Pirate Hellbeard. He used the wealth that he acquired to build his tavern, but he sometimes worries that the pirates may one day decide to find him and extract revenge.
4) Though he is still friends with most of his former adventuring mates, some of them parted the group on bad terms. His girlfriend went back to the sea to fight pirates once more, but he received word that her vessel was taken by Hellbeard and believes she was killed. He mourns her death.
5) Although he is retired, he can be convinced to adventure again if he hears that Sasha (his lost love) may still be alive, or if he is contacted by the White Foxes during a crisis (see secrets).
Step 2: List at least two goals for the character. At least one of these goals should be one that the character has, while another should be one that you, as a player, want to see developed over the course of the game.
1) I would like to see Martin reunited with his lost love and perhaps able to mend fences with some of his former adventuring buddies over the course of this campaign.
2) It would be cool to have Martin face and possibly defeat the Dread Pirate Hellbeard once and for all.
Step 3: List at least two secrets about your character. One is a secret the character knows, one is a secret that involves him but that he is not actually aware of yet. This will help me in creating plots that center around your character. I will also be creating a third secret which you as a player will not be aware of, so expect some surprises!
1) Martin is a member of the White Fox Society, a secret society dedicated to keeping Coralton free of tyranny and evil, as well as keeping local governments honest. He provides information and rumors to them, but can be convinced to take a more active roll if pressed.
2) Sasha LeBell, Marin's lost love, is still alive. She was captured by the Dread Pirate Hellbeard and has been kept as his captive for all these years.
3) (Example of a secret I might make up about your character): Not only is Sasha alive, but also she has escaped captivity and killed Hellbeard. She has taken over his ship and crew, and has turned to piracy out of bitterness. She now IS the new Dread Pirate Hellbeard!
Step 4: Describe at least three people that are tied to the character. Two of them are friendly to the character, one is hostile. If you like, you can include an enemy of yours here as well, so I have an instant NPC nemesis to throw at you.
1) Martin's friend Audric Cwellen was one of his adventuring mate. Audric, a holy warrior in the service of the Goddess of Love, is the leader of the local cell of the White Fox society, and provides Martin with information and adventure hooks.
2) Another of Martin's old traveling companions, Aubrey LeVaine, is not as helpful as Audric, because they quarreled over the love of Sasha, and Aubrey is still bitter about losing her to Martin. Still, he can provide some magical support if Martin can convince him to let go of his hate.
3) Yebin Thistledown is a strange little creature from the Feywild called a gnome. Martin met the gnome in the Shroudmist 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 in the Rue Angélique district.
Step 5: Describe three memories, mannerisms, or quirks that your character has. They don't have to be elaborate, but they should provide some context and flavor.
1) Martin remembers growing up in a tavern as a young boy, helping his mother with the cooking. This started his own interest in the culinary arts.
2) Martin remembers the panic he felt when he discovered that the ship he signed on to was a pirate ship after a brutal attack on a merchantman. He vividly recalls the smell of blood and burning timbers.
3) Martin often recalls the goodbye kiss he gave Sasha when she left him. No kiss he's had since ever compares to that memory.
[design notes for the example character] Martin began life as an atypical barkeep. He was a retired adventurer, but still young and vigorous enough to accompany the party on their adventures. His tavern became the party's base for a while, until the BBEG of the game let off a necromantic bomb that killed most of the townsfolk and turned the town into a Zombie Apocalypse nightmare. Martin survived, and he turned into a secondary character for one of the players as he became more important to the ongoing storyline. Most of his background came from this transition from NPC to part-time PC. After the campaign reboot, Martin returned to his role as the barkeep of the party's favorite hang-out, but the players like him enough that he might return to adventuring status in the future.
Here's a List of Ten-Minute Backgrounds!
The Stray's Characters
Shroudmist Grove (under construction)
Miir, The City of Shadows (Coming Soon!)
Naros Miir, Shadow Lord (Coming Soon!)
Jereth Dythanus, The Silver Lord (Coming Soon!)
Eric (Coming Soon!)
Jessamine (coming Soon!)
BillTheManiac's Characters Xavier Blackcrest
Eldric IV's Characters
Some Like It Hot's Characters
elibus's Characters Paelias Northwind
Xat (This poster is the character's player) [
Reag Orenthes' Characters
nova head's Characters