Basic Questions

What’s a good way to start a backstory for my character?
A good way to start is to pull out some paper or notepad and brainstorm. Think in general. Simple terms first, the add details, using the research you have done and your resources. Toss out the things that might not fit. The genre can and will dictate some of these, but it’s good to see what you can come up with.

Do you need a “full” backstory to role-play?
The answer is no. However, the more info in your backstory, the better you can define your character and how he/she exists in the game world. Some role-players keep a few notes on hand and “wing it” adding as they go. Get a couple of index cards, jot down some basics to remember, and go from there.

Either system can work. Just use what works best and is fun for you.

When you get done, should have a couple of paragraphs (or more) or a nice list of information regarding the character’s backstory. This will help you as a “blueprint” for your character to start role-playing – how the character sees the world and interacts with it and other characters. It also gives you a general idea of where you are headed as well.

Here’s a short and simple example questions to help brainstorm:
Need a worksheet? Ta-da!

The Past:
1) Where were your character born and raised?
2) Who were your family or guardians? Siblings?
3) How did your “family” and upbringing influence your character’s childhood?
4) What had your character learned through education and childhood?
5) What major events and/or people growing up help shape your character?
6) What has your character done since growing up?

Recent Past/Present:
1) What has your character done recently prior to being “active” in the game?
2) What does your character actually “do” for a living?
3) How would your character explain it to a stranger if he/she had to?
4) What is your character’s present mental/emotional/physical state?
5) What is your character’s world view, beliefs and/or mindset?
6) What is your character’s morals or values?
7) What are your character’s quirks, merits, flaws and/or character traits?
8) What are your character’s likes/loves and dislikes/hates?
9) What does your character do well? Doesn’t do well?
10) What does your character do when “off the clock”?
11) How does your character speak (dialects, accents, etc.) to others?
12) Does your character use certain expressions or words, if any?

The Future:
1) What are your character’s short term goals?
2) What are your character’s long term goals?
3) What motivates or drives your character?
4) How “social” will your character be when interacting with others, if at all?
5) How would you like your character to be remembered? Does it matter?

Backstory Tips:

  • Use the lore to help you with research and the details.
  • If your game offers different races and/or nationalities, find out more about them. Doing so can really help with fleshing out your character’s details.
  • For most games, keep your “brushes with fame” at a minimum.
  • Same goes for relatives, friends and related. Being the “love child” of a main character or “close buds” with a major storyline character tends to be looked down upon.
  • Forge your own path, not copy someone else’s. It’s ok to borrow and adapt a favorite character’s backstory from another source – but don’t “steal” it. Make your own unique character and use your imagination.
  • Don’t go overboard, keep it simple. It’s like using spices: Sometimes a dash is better than a handful.
  • Not everything will fit sometimes. That’s normal, so don’t feel discouraged.
  • If you don’t know something that might be crucial, start digging and asking reliable sources/people to fill in the blanks.
  • If you think your character’s backstory sounds weird, recheck your lore or get a second opinion. If it still sounds weird, it needs more work.
  • Remember: Even “regular” folks can be great heroes.