Talking with my eldest son last night, we had a brief exchange about his own D&D game and some changes he’s making. For his newest campaign, he’s asking each of the players to write out a backstory for their character. As the wizened, elder gamer, I opined that this is something that rarely works out in practice. Players are ornery like that.
However, one of the elements he’s introducing is pretty clever and might overcome the problem. In his game, each character has to come to the table with a set of rumors spread about the character – some are true, some are not (a variant of the old 2 Truths and a Lie game).
Full stop. That’s really clever. What he’s done is four-fold:
- First, he’s overcome the barrier associated with a big, complicated backstory by making the task smaller
- Next, he’s made everything a bit more intimate; rumors are always about an individual as much as they are about what an individual has experienced
- Then, he’s provided a window into how others in the world see the PD, providing much-needed context
- Lastly, he’s created several easy to manage plot hooks for each PC
This is a great way to handle the problem of developing robust character backstories. It’s simple, easy to put in place and doesn’t feel onerous. In fact, you could even make this part of the character generation process (or even make it interactive among the players using a system like Fate’s aspect generation process).