When we first started up our original D&D campaign, the first full-fledged adventure after a two-session tutorial run, I recall our DM giving us players a moment saying, “Now’s the time when your characters should introduce themselves and tell a little bit about your backgrounds so I can use those details against you later.” Of course, the only one of us with a fairly detailed background was the cleric, as he had more D&D experience than the rest of us combined. Our bard had a couple of details, but only because this was her player’s second, perhaps, adventure rather than her first. Rachel’s and my characters, though, didn’t really have much of a background.
For my first character, I filled out the basic stuff and the rest was unknown. The back of my character sheet was just about blank other than her height. I didn’t want to create an elaborate backstory and try to stick with it. I wanted to see how my character would react in certain situations throughout the campaign. However, with my second campaign character, I created a basic background per the DM’s request. And, honestly? I think I like it better than not having a background at all.
I had a basic idea of my first character’s background, but it was mainly from the suggestions that the Player’s Handbook gave. If pressed, her basic motivation was to find more information on her parents, as she’s a half-elf and grew up in the wilderness. Other than that, though, her background was a blank slate as well. It’s pretty much on par for even the characters I create for novels. I let them run around and act out on their own, learning bits and pieces from them as I go about it. At this point, we’ve each created a couple of other characters for more campaigns and my characters’ backgrounds are more filled out. Our current DM’s homebrew world has plenty of backgrounds for us to adapt to, and we found that creating the backgrounds definitely helps to flesh out our characters more.
Reese has a decent background. I not only used the background ideas from the Player’s Handbook, like you, but also our DM has created a semi-homebrew campaign. He had some background ideas fleshed out based on somethings in the handbook. Reese is from the Wetlands, and she follows the River Goddess. She’s very much into keeping the waters clean and she loves boats. She crafts boats and loves to go on water-based adventures.
I have a tiefling druid who is seeking knowledge about the world’s inner workings and is very exasperated with our current campaign since it is keeping her from reading, haha! Having more of a background for the characters also helps the DM since, if they know of the character’s background, they’re able to incorporate the characters more in the world the DM created. Entwining the characters’ goals based on what they’ve experienced in their history with the world is a common goal for every DM, I believe. Some DMs like to receive copies of the players’ characters beforehand to approve them, be sure their abilities and backgrounds would work with the world too. I think we have a happy medium with our current characters, having enough of an idea as to where the character comes from, but still figuring out their innermost traits by playing them.
I agree, I think it helps all of us. Not just ourselves and the DM, but the other players as well. We have something to bounce off from. With that said, the next time you make a character, are you going to create a backstory or try to wing it again?
A mixture, I think. I want to give my characters enough of a backstory so I have some defining traits to roleplay them with. After all, backgrounds and history help to shape the characters. Yet, I don’t want to so rigorously define my character with a history that there’s little chance of further development.
That’s fair and I can totally agree with that. I think, though, our DM opened my eyes to the backstories and the possibilities of how I can have fun with my character’s backstory. I might try to create backstories more often than not now.