Day 26: Origin
Very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink, he would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark.Dr. Evil- Austin Powers (1997)
When creating an origin for a character, how much backstory is too much backstory? I believe that should depend upon what level you are starting that character out with. If a character is starting out at first level, then the backstory shouldn’t be more than a few sentences. Perhaps a half-a-page at the most. Where did you grow up at and why did you take off for your life of adventure? Is there anyone from your past that is notable? Not a ton of detail, but at least one or two ideas for the GM to use in the game if needed.
If the character has a higher level when starting, then yes create a longer backstory. I’ve heard of players who have written up an 18-page backstory for a peasant that is out seeking his fortune. That much detail may be too much for the GM to read and why would a newbie character be that detailed.
I’ve heard from some players that they have enjoyed making up the origin of their character as they play the game. A creative process between party members and game master. Sometimes these could turn out to be the most interesting stories of all.
I did have one Dungeon Master who had me give him a series of 10-20 random dice rolls before starting a campaign. From those dice rolls he sent back information on my character. Are one or both parents still alive? Any siblings? Occupation of family members (or my character) before he left for adventure. I need to see where he got that table from so I can use it in future games. I recall early characters seemed to be orphaned loners (thus the bad guy, i.e. GM, couldn’t use the family against the character later in the game. Unless you murdered your family like Elric the Kinslayer, they would probably still be around.
I’ve always thought that session zero was a perfect opportunity to talk about the origin of characters as they are being rolled up. This could also explain how the party members came to be together. If someone wrote up a reasonable backstory, I could see myself giving that player experience points for the effort.
These last minute decisions on entries are becoming easier. I’m not certain why. I couldn’t think of anything for “Theory”. “Play” seemed very generic and could go almost anywhere. Every time I thought about “Renew”, I kept thinking of Logan’s Run.