Writing Immersive Character Backgrounds – Part 1

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When writing a background for any role-playing character, I try to think about the following parts of the character and fill out as much about them as I possibly can, so that when it comes to playing them I know as much as possible about my character and how they would react to situations, and more importantly, how to interact with other people.

Have a read of the following article that I found many years ago on a website, (which if I knew where it was from I would give credit to it now, and if anyone knows where it came from and who the original author was, I’d be happy to credit them!) and that I have modified with my own thoughts and beliefs about role-play characters.

Writing Immersive Character Backgrounds – Part 1

When you create a character for any RPG game you roll your dice or split your creation points across your statistics, pick your skills, talents, powers, equipment and clothing, but as I have said many times it takes more than dice and a silly voice to role-play! So here are the things I think about:

  1. Occupation
  2. Objective
  3. Motive
  4. Personality
  5. Attitudes and behaviors
  6. Tastes and preferences
  7. Surroundings
  8. History
  9. Network
  10. Appearance
  11. Abilities and Alignment

I know it seems like a lot of stuff but If you want a well rounded character and an excellent playing experience, you have to put a bit of effort in!

1. Occupation
One of the questions to make your character more believable (and oddly enough a question often not answered) is:

·         What does your character do for a living?

Saying she’s an adventurer is not a good enough answer, unless you’re in a game where there are adventuring schools or guilds, with apprenticeships, the occupation of plain old Adventuring is not a job for starting characters. 

Adventures are what they get dragged in to!

It might help to think about how your characters normally spends his or her time, how they get food and shelter, how they pay the bills, stuff like that.

What would your character answer when asked “What do you do?”

2. Objective
Another important question to ask regarding your character is about their goals.

·         What is your character trying to achieve in life?

·         What is your character’s ultimate goal?

·         What would your character answer when asked, in the larger sense, “What do you want?”

This does not necessarily have to be an achievable or realistic goal. For example, certain power-hungry characters might have a secret ambition to try and become a god.

Of course, it should be a goal the character could work towards, something that’s meaningful even if probably not achievable. If you know where your character is trying to get then that helps with what steps the character takes to get there, and that can definitely give your character more depth.
Some things to remember about this question, and how to make it worth while:

  • The objective must always be difficult to attain.
  • The harder the objective is to accomplish, the better it is to role-play.
  • The secret to all drama is difficulty.

Difficulty is the fuel that lights the fires of our role-playing. The greater the struggle, the more the excitement; the larger the risk, the greater the suspense.

The objective must also be something you can act on.  If it is just a philosophical ideal then it can’t drive your character’s actions. The purpose of the objective is to get you away from thinking of yourself and stay fixed on what your character is thinking.

Some categories of objectives you could find a more specific objective in:

  • Immortality
  • Wealth
  • Military Power
  • Political Power
  • Magical Power
  • Divine Power
  • Revenge
  • Self-Aggrandizement
  • Love
  • Peace
  • Security
  • Family
  • Patriotic

 More to come in the net two parts of this series, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them, either here or on the Facebook page

Andy @ DMB


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