Thoughts On Character Backgrounds

It seems to me that having a strong background, or at least strong, well-defined character goals, are more important for villains than heroes. Heroes are typically reactive, working to stop the great evil from accomplishing their sinister plans like conquer the world or steal a pie. The villains, on the other hand, are proactive, seeking to conquer the world and eat a pie.

People have written some pretty good backgrounds on the wiki, so I’m not complaining. On the other hand, people have also worked to conceal information in their background from their fellow PCs (understandably).

Some good questions to guide background creation are as follows: (Obviously, don’t try to answer these one by one, but it’s a good idea to make sure that most of these questions are addressed, especially the Why Are You Evil and What Do You Want questions).

Who Are You? (How would you describe your character’s personality in a few traits? One book I read about creating realistic bad guys suggests you give them two ‘evil’ or ‘negative’ traits as well as one positive trait, to make them fully rounded people.)

Where Are You From? (Not just geographically; the son of a nobleman has lived a far different life than the son of a street sweeper, even if they’re both from Nexus.)

Why Are You Evil? (Chances are pretty good your character is evil, whether it was a conscious choice to go bad or not. What caused your character to join the winning team?)

What Do You Want? (The Question. Character goals should probably be the ones you can achieve by hatching schemes and having adventures, not sitting in a tower for twenty years.)

Who Do You Know? (No man is an island, although some men have probably unleashed a zombie apocalypse on an island. Who are the important people in your character’s life; they can be people you’ve already killed, of course.)

This is rather off topic, but is it just me or has family become totally overused in most RPG style backgrounds. I mean sure, family is important, especially in the character’s early life, but I hardly ever see anything written about the people the character spends the most time with (other than his party members). What about friends, man?

And the other problem with family relationships is that while people might get pretty vicious with each other around the holidays, blood tends to be thicker than water. This doesn’t leave a lot of ambiguity within the relationship, instead basically locking the family into the “Helpful” reactions.

Thoughts On Character Backgrounds

Dark Lords of Praemor mroehler