More Characterization Catalysts

Yesterday, I talked about factors that might affect how easily someone can backstory a character. Pretty much as soon as I’d finalized the post, I found a few more.

Minimum requisite information. Some worlds just seem to demand a better idea why people are what they are and do what they do than others. If you can run a character without really knowing where she came from or what she did, it’s not as urgent as if the character just doesn’t make sense without knowing who her family is, what her history is, and/or who she knows. It’s really hard to tell what makes a world feel one way or another (setting doesn’t hurt, though), but it still can have a stronger impact on a player’s motivation than “Hey, can I have a backstory for this one?”

Energy in. This may sound utterly bizarre, but even a player who normally takes a great deal of pleasure in backstorying characters might have trouble working with the story of one who isn’t satisfying in other metagame senses. Why put extra effort into someone you’re inwardly almost hoping dies in the next battle?

One perfect element. Sometimes, there’s just one little thing in the character backstory that jumps out and screams at the creator. Past adventures that just beg for extra detail, supporting NPCs who feel like they need to be done correctly (and thus need to be described carefully so the person who’s supposed to be, say, a career manipulator doesn’t end up being portrayed as depending entirely on sex appeal), a mechanic that requires justification, an incident too awesome or hilarious or characteristic not to put in… things that feel like they need to be written are much likelier to get written.

Have you run into any others?

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