The Importance of Backstory

So, one of the big reasons I made this blog was to reminisce about my previous games and see if I couldn’t draw something from them to help my current game or anyone else’s who stumbles across my ramblings.

First example from a previous game I played in: U’thar Darkenhavok, Drow paladin of Daermon. This was a 3E game I played in for a few years online, and one of my first outside of my close circle of friends.   The issue with U’thar was that he was not a pre-requisite Lawful Good paladin.  He followed a dark Drow god of lies and trickery, and so he followed suit by also being a Chaotic Neutral Paladin, stripped of his ‘lay on hands’ and instead having a +5 against truth-discerning spells and effects as well as a toxic touch attack that rendered violent illusions on the person affected.  U’thar went on to prove himself a severe asset to the party, even going so far as to act quite heroically in the defense of his party mates and being the one female adventurer’s silent enforcer (Drow, duh.) in her bid for leadership.  Now why would a DM allow this to happen? Back-story, back-story, back-story.  This was one of the first lessons I learned as both an active player and DM, if a player can work out the details, provide reasons and motivations for their character, 90% of the time it does nothing but enhance the game.

When a player sits down and says “Okay, I want to be a dwarven barbarian with a +3 axe at 1st level.”, a DM needs to have a bit of enticement to make this happen.   Now if that same player goes on to explain that he’s a barbarian because his father carried him from his burning city into the forest before he died and left him with a group of nomads, asking that they raise him and give him this axe that belonged to his great grandfather and it was used during a grand rebellion against the megalomaniacal tyrant of his day, THAT makes it more interesting.  Now there’s history, a story to fall back on and some serious flavor to an otherwise outlandish request.

In the story of U’thar I handed my DM a five chapter story on what he was, where he came from and what exactly happened to him to make him what he is, but by no means is this necessary.   I enjoy a good, well written back story as much as the next DM, and for standard character creation I’ll at least ask for a paragraph or two on their history.  However, I offer all of my players the chance to get almost anything they want so long as they can make ME want to give it to them by way of storytelling.  Spin me a good yarn about how your character stumbled across a high-magic wizard battle when they were younger and got blasted with arcane energy, cool, I’ll let you have your once daily magic attack.  Adopted son of the local thieves’ guild master and picked up adventuring to hunt down his killer?  Alright, you can have those returning throwing knives and a bonus to stealth.  In an adventurer’s back-story, even a little bit can go a long way.

Beyond the benefits of using a back-story to eke out some goodies from your DM, a good story can open new doors for you as a player.  That mentor you had that taught you a certain kick-ass move?  Well you just used it on one of his old friends and he recognized it and wants to buy you a beer to talk about old times and let you in on a good rumor he heard.  Your long-lost brother?  He’s now the arch-nemesis you’ve been facing this whole time.  Your parents died protecting you from a terrifying evil?  Their spirits come to your aid as you face it down and help give that killing blow the extra impact you need to finish it off.  So more than just helping you, a good back-story helps your DM bring you more into the world and make the experience all that much more real to you and more exciting for everyone.

So much can be accomplished by a little creative storytelling.  As a DM, we pour hours into making interesting, entertaining and challenging adventures for you to work your way through, it’s only fair that you put the same effort into your characters.  And hey, make it sweet enough and we’ll even throw a bone or two your way.

As for the rest of it…

Lagavulin Single Malt:  An intensely smoky, peaty scotch, the Lagavulin is quoted by some as undrinkable and is absolutely not for the delicate of palates.  Hearty, full bodied and brimming with smoke, this single malt is aged in first fill sherry casks and is a smooth, balanced scotch with a briefly sweet aftertaste.  Timid tasters beware, as this may be too powerful for you.

Jack’s Tobacco Ascadian Coast:  Here’s a blend that even SOUNDS like it belongs in a D&D game.  A mix of Virginia, burley and perique tobaccos, this bold blend of natural flavors is aged for three months and provides a smooth, hearty smoke for long evenings and after climactic battles.

Boswell Pipes:  Making beautiful pipes for over thirty years, this family-run business has been hand carving smoking utensils since 1975. An absolute treat to hold, smoke, and admire, the Boswell pipes are a fantastic display of craftsmanship and care.

~ by darkpatu on April 11, 2011.

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