Posts belonging to Category Backstory

Degrees of Backstory Characters

Into every character’s backstory, a few characters who aren’t the backstory’s central character must fall. They don’t live in a vacuum, after all. (And if they do, they’re probably pretty boring characters, and lack verisimilitude. Even hermits usually had someone who raised them.) That doesn’t mean they’re all created the same, though.
Overall, backstory characters are [...]

The Art of the Cross-Backstory

We don’t have to work alone when we’re coming up with our PCs’ histories—and a lot of us don’t want to! GMs like cross-backstories because it means they can circumvent the getting the group together part and focus on the actual plot; a lot of players enjoy the chance to collaborate—heck, some game systems even [...]

Reprise: Keeping Angst in Check

Originally posted on September 9, 2008. Have you ever gotten tired of a character, PC, NPC or just plain fictional, who invited himself to a pity party and never left? So have I.
No beloved peasant villages were harmed in the making of this post.
If you’ve been running games for a while, you’ve probably seen one [...]

Guest Post: Journaling In Character

Tonight’s post is brought to us by regular commenter Shinali, lady of the prolific (and hilarious) IC journals; she kindly offered this one to me after my request for guest posts a while back.

Sometimes your character’s views on things matter, but there is no way she would share them publicly. Other times you [...]

On Characters and Their Secrets

There will always be mysteries.
You can know a character for years, run her through every online survey, every writing exercise you can find. She might spend time in your head, might occasionally be the muse for one of your freewrites; there might be portraits or character sketches, journals or even cartoons in her voice and [...]

Presence, Absence and Nuance

You sometimes see characters who despite not actually being present are moving the story at least as much as anyone who’s actually there. Sometimes they’re dead, other times it’s just a case of physical (or metaphysical) distance; they might be emulated, perpetually preempted whether they actually have an effect on the current storyline or not, [...]

Individuality and My Backstory Process

Yesterday, I mentioned that I find some rather interesting interactions between my interest in seeing characters as individuals and my approach to backstories. It’s pretty much inevitable given my own approach to both writing and role-playing, and it’s something I like trying to analyze.
When at all possible, I like to write characters’ backstories in first [...]


Hoyt keeps a blue crystal ruined by the attempts at carving it in the lining of his coat, and woe betide the person who finds it and tries to take it away. Manar carries a little yarn doll, barely as long as her finger, on a string about her neck. One person might tuck a [...]

If the Shoe (or Whatever) Fits….

I’ve always been fond of magic items that were very much a product of their histories. You know there’s a story, and there are relatively intuitive ways to figure out what that story is. (And not just “Ask the item”, either, even if it does have intelligence or a talkative spirit.) But there’s one element [...]

Background Surprises: Intrigue Your Audience

It’s easy to not pay attention to the people in the world around you, to pigeonhole them into this group, that group, the other and not really pay it much mind. This lot does this. Those other people do that. PCs in RPGs (and their players, possibly more so) seem to be rather fond of [...]