Sunday, January 30, 2011

Getting my players backgrounds is no small task: Part I

So a while back I sent an email out to my group with the backgrounds as listed in the Character Builder for their characters and I asked them to fill in some basic information using that as a basis. I got one reply and a verbal from another at our last session.

I decided I would go just a step more and actually write out the background a bit but keeping it basic. This way the player could take the basic outlines and flesh them out as the need arose.

I really want this game to be different than other games I have run in the past, I want to build material for their characters so they all have fun. At any one session I could have up to eight players at the table to play and that is a lot of information to remember for anyone. In Star Wars they usually said here is my basic premise for my character and I ran with it but even then I run most games on the fly and to have something for all eight players in one session probably will not happen on a regular basis.

If there is one thing I have noticed in my years of gaming is that as it becomes easier to stay in contact, like through email, the less response I get back from the group as a whole. Procrastination? Probably so and I think I need to just sit down with the group and define the backgrounds as a group.

One thing I will probably use a bit more are character hooks, have some sub-plot side stories ready to go for each player that I can slip in and out as needed. I got this idea today after reading some of the seminar reports back from D&D Experience on Adventure Building.

Here is the background for my friends Human Knight names Kevril Shieldheart. I have included the 1st page of his character sheet.


Kevril Shieldheart
Defender of the Oppressed
Campaign Setting: General
Though the great empires of the world have fallen, tyranny still reigns on a small scale in many places. You swore to bring down tyrants both powerful and petty. Did you grow up under a tyrannical regime? Does it matter who is being oppressed? Would you rather fight for the victims or empower them to fight for themselves?
    Associated Skills: History, Streetwise
Benefit: You gained Streetwise as a Class Skill

Kevril's Background
You are the Defender of the Flame Imperishable. You grew up listening to your father tell the tales of the Knights of Nerath, Defenders of the Empire. The men and women who spread the light into the darkness and drove back the hordes of the “Ruler of Ruin”.

You were taught that no person deserves to be oppressed and that all should enjoy the freedom that the Empire of Nerath gave to its citizens. Give light to those who are in darkness and drive back the evil who would spread the veil of darkness across the world.

You are also not on a fool’s errand, you do understand that the Empire is no more, that darkness is everywhere and that you must be diligent and strive to empower those who have it within themselves to help drive back the darkness. You have joined with a group of adventurers who seem to share your goals, are they up to the task of restoring the Empire?

Some thoughts on this background:
When I set out to run this campaign like most of my other games I end up making the characters, (with the exception of my last Star Wars Saga game where most of us sat down and did a character creation day) Neal came up with a knight when he heard they were a defender. In running the game he has been very protective of the group and stands back and observes.
When in a tavern he stands near the door with his back to the wall not so much because he is paranoid (in my games they usually watch their backs) but because he is playing his role as a defender pretty well. I did not go off and tell my players you are a striker or defender etc etc they have just fallen into that framework themselves.

As such if you read the background and see things like Flame Imperishable and Empire of Nerath you can tell I have set my game in the Nentier Vale. The article for the Legacy of Nerath article appearing in Dragon Magazine Issue 393 really had me thinking of adding some of this into the game. Neal's character helped me fit that bill just a bit.

I have a Cavalier in the game who is out to redeem himself for past deeds, and this past will probably tie into his background just a bit. Imagine the possibilities that are provided when the Empire you want to see restored has met a stumbling block in a Cavalier who might have ended the life of someone who could give legitimacy to a new throne.

More on that later.

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About Me

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I am Regional Coordinator for the Great Lakes Region for D&D Adventurers League. Worked for Best Buy as a Project Team Specialist were I did store remodels, support Vendor displays and set merchandising standards for the stores in the Chicago market. He also enjoys playing games (PC, Console, Board Games, RPGs and Miniature Skirmish Games), reading, watching movies and listening to music.