Player Tips: Writing a Background

tree-701968_960_720Player tips articles offer a short series of tips to help you brush up your skills in certain areas, the lists aren’t exhaustive but keeping them in mind should help you develop your playing style.

In this player tips article we offer some advice when it comes to creating background for your player character.

1. Put some conflicts into your background

A background where everything is fine and a character has a blissfully happy life isn’t generally very interesting, it’s fine to start a background like that but roleplay characters, like those in fiction, characters really shine when they are drawn into conflicts and have to struggle against opposition. Whatever that opposition is, be it an illness, social injustice or a marauding orc horde, make sure you put at least some conflict in your background.

2. Leave some questions unanswered

When you create your background, don’t try to neatly tie all the loose plot threads off, the GM will be looking for things that he can bring into the game to give your character some spotlight moments, and unanswered questions are like a signal to GMs that there’s something they can play with and use to enhance the game for everyone.

My character was wrongly imprisoned because he looked like the perpetrator of a horrible crime, he never did find out who actually committed the deed.

3. Create some links to the campaign world

If the GM can’t find a way to bring your background into the campaign world or it’s a real struggle then chances are they aren’t going to use it as much (since they already have enough work to do), make sure that your background links you with people and organisations throughout the campaign world. If you can describe/create at least the barebones of an interesting NPC or group then so much the better since the GM will be more likely to incorporate it into their game.

Thad was a member of the Dark Moon thieves guild in the town and passed their initiation test when he was just 13 years old.

4. Make it easy to read and reference

Huge voluminous novels are great, if you’re sitting down with a lot of time in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea, however, if you’re a time-pressured GM struggling to get ready for their next great session, you don’t really want to be wading through vast chapters of superfluous information to find what you want. I recommend setting your background out in a series of bullet points to make it easier for the GM to read. If you want you can still do the novel but give the GM a handy summary/reference sheet.

As an example of a great background please click here to see the background for Ordious Mawlin the half-orc thief from my 3Brothers D&D Campaign played by Thashif Maran.

5. Tell the GM what you want to see in the game

Most importantly of all, tell the GM what you want to see in the game, if a GM is combing through your background and finds out that your character was involved in lots of investigative work then they’re going to throw lots of mysteries and secrets your way, whereas if it has more explosions and chase scenes than the average action film the GM will assume that you want lots of fight scenes and high octane action. Whatever you’re looking for in the game, make sure that there’s some of it in your character background.


Ship picture is a free vector graphic designated CC0 Public Domain, the original image can be found here. Tree graphic taken from pixabay public domain images.

Starting the session already injured

We’ve got the next exciting instalment of Thashif’s Dresden Files game coming up this evening, I haven’t got around to doing a session write-up yet but basically we had to clear a nest of ghouls out of a warehouse as a favour we owed to someone, now my character Murdoch wields the powers of hellfire thanks to having a demon inhabiting his body and this power is great for licking out the damage, however it also puts a terrible mental strain on the character meaning that I can only use the power for so long before I’m pretty much useless. During the last session I used the power about as much as I could to take down these ghouls and promptly passed out at the end, not realising one of them was still going, the ghoul then through itself on me and did some serious injuries and well as pulling one of my characters eyes out.

My character has some increased healing abilities, but I’ll be starting this session still on some pretty heavy damage, this got me thinking about the way lasting damage is handled in Fate and some other games. I really love the way Fate handles healing, essentially you are at a disadvantage during the game until you reach your next milestone at which point (assuming you have IC justification) the wound (or consequence as it is called in Fate) is healed. That milestone might come at the end of your next session or even in a few sessions time depending on how the plot of your game develops.

This is a great way of doing it IMO and helps get rid of one of something I’ve often seen in other games, players rushing their characters in recklessly heedless of the vast amounts of damage they’re taking because they know that they can rest up for a day or two, heal up and then get back to doing what they are doing best. I’ve always thought that if you take damage it should have some actual lasting effect during the sessions, when it does people in my experience tend to be less willing to fling themselves heedlessly into danger or, if they do, they are at least aware of the potential cost.

So in tonights session I’ll be starting off pretty beaten up, but that’s fine, it’s the price I pay for taking down the ghouls last session, it gives the characters who are healthy more time to be in the spotlight, adds some interesting complications for the session and also, above all else, gives me something a bit different and interesting to roleplay. How does my character react to being injured? How is his mood affected? Does he still behave in the same way? Will this have affected how he views situations in the future?

All these questions and more both help you to play the character during the session whilst injured and even considering them means that you’re adding extra depth and richness to your character portrayal.

Weekly vlog 12-01-16

In this weeks vlog I talk about a couple of the games I’ve played in recently and my decision to step away from LARP for a year.

Session 1 Sumary: I Gave Vengeance a Dirty Look

Last Sunday I played in the first session of Thashif’s Dresden files game, I play a character named Clarence Murdoch, a demonically possessed PI, the following is a brief IC report of what occurred.

It was New Years Eve and Murdoch I was drinking, I hate this time of year, there are are more murders and somehow the damn ghosts always manage to sniff me out, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when I lowered the whiskey bottle to see three ghosts in-front of me, two standing, the third in a wheelchair.

“Now I don’t hold with any of this haunting sh*t, if you want help, tell me what you need and we’ll see what I can do, otherwise you can turn and get out.”

The wheelchair figure relayed how he and his two fellows had been killed by a huge figure and that they had all served together in the same regiment during WWII, the ghosts wanted some kind of closure so, after a bit of a talk I decided that I’d help. As usual the voice of a certain someone wasn’t happy about it.
“What do we gain out of this Murdoch?” moaned the gravelly voice

I was that busy talking to the voice in my head that I didn’t notice some lunatic with a sword running at me screaming about holiness (or something) and that I had to die, I didn’t have time for that sh*t, sick of evil people trying to use me and good people trying to kill me so I warned him to stay back drawing my gun, when he didn’t I fired. I was surprised he went down so quality.

Of course, wouldn’t you know it, detective Connelly was there, damn IA agent has been dogging me every since that business a few years ago with Golubov, although he’d never been able to make anything stick, he’d made damn sure that I was ‘politely’ asked to leave the force. He’d seen everything and insisted on dragging me downtown, although I knew he couldn’t make it stick, I’d warned the madman and he’d kept coming it was an open and shut case of self-defence.

I was let out of my cell by Danny, a young cop I remember from my time on the force, he was one of the good ones.

Eventually they had to let me go and I was able to make contact with Tobias, he’s some kind of vampire, but he doesn’t feed on blood, he can sniff out his particular type of food, fear; I hoped he’d be able to help me find the murderer, it seems there’d been another killing while I’d been locked up. After a while of driving around the district where the other unit members lived we’d got nothing, zip, nada, and we needed to find some information before anyone else got killed by this thing, so I did what I had to do. I made a deal with Arioch, the demon that’s normally rattling around inside my head, the location of the killer in return for him being behind the driving seat of our body for 24 hours, I’m sure I’ll regret it later but we had no time and no options.

Arioch was as good as his word and we were soon driving to an apartment where a little guy called Tony leaved, we talked our way in and were looking around when Tony swelled up into this huge troll creature. Summoning fire I set to bringing the monster down, with Tobias providing firearms support, we were starting to bring him down (although the hellfire magic I learnt from Arioch was taking its toll on me) when he started screaming about the victims deserving it and them betraying him. Well it turns out that Tony was part of the military unit in WWII and had been the one holding secret information about a code used by the Allies, when captured, his friends had handing him over for interrogation by the Nazis in order to save their own skin, and now he was seeking revenge. Tell you the truth I can’t blame him.

I told Tony a bit about my own past and how my father had a hand in making me like this, we eventually able to convince him to confess to his crimes on the understanding that the still-living members of the unit would be investigated and bought to task for their betrayal. When he’d shrunk down, I left Tony at the precinct with Danny, although I had to bring the kid into our world, something I was hoping to avoid, once you’ve seen the supernatural the damn stuff seeks you out and you can’t go back.

Then I returned to my apartment, leaving Tobias to go about his business, after all I had a deal to keep.

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Clarence J. Murdock – Dresden Files Character

Dresden-Files-RPG-V1-V2As you’ll probably be aware if you’ve read my recent posts, we wrapped up my Jadepunk Campaign a short time ago, Thashif has stepped up to fill the timeslot and is going to be running a Dresden Files game, alternating with my FFG Star Wars campaign. I’ve played a little bit of DF but not a great deal and have only just actually acquired the books and am avidly reading my way through them, it uses a version of Fate that is a pre-cursor to the Fate Core rulebooks. It is easy to see places where the game was streamlined and tweaked between this version of Fate and Fate Core.

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Flashback Session: Curse of the Kausao Tombs

We flashback to a time before the start of our Skyless City Campaign, some two decades before the reign of the 13th Governor in a one-off session kindly guest-GMed by Thashif.

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Call of the Wyld Hunt: One-shot Changeling game

Actual play video of our one-shot Changeling: the Lost game where a group of escapees from Arcadia go to extreme (and sometimes terminal) lengths to reclaim the lives that were stolen from them:

Terror on the Outer Rim [Edge of Empire]: Session 0

Character and Setting Generation

Well we held our character generation and campaign creation session (christened session 0) for our Edge of the Empire game that we’re going to be running soon (now named Terror on the Outer Rim): you can see the intro crawl I made for session 0 here:

This was the first actual session we’ve hosted on Twitch and it wasn’t without technical problems, including:

  • The footage uploaded to Twitch seemed to be quite laggy and I was constantly receiving messages about it ‘dropping frames’ during the broadcast, not sure what I can do about that (being at best an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to IT) but I’ll have a look into it.
  • Not being able to use the layouts that had been created since one of the players was fairly late and adding an extra person would’ve changed the screen capture areas.
  • The sound quality varying considerably on Skype depending on how many people were online.
  • For some reason people seemed to talk over each other more, I’m not sure whether or not this is just a consequence of having more players.
  • Skype restricting video calls to four hours.

Despite those problems along with myself and several of the players not being 100% up on the FFG EotE rules yet we were able to get through character creation and also come up with several potential future conflicts for the area where the game is going to be set. There were a couple of additional issues:

  • Generating characters for people without the rulebook is a bit of chore; this is no fault of the people involved (since I certainly wouldn’t expect all players to have to purchase a copy of the book) but compared to games I’ve used with more streamlined character creation I did find the process a bit lengthy and I must say was longingly eyeing the Fate Star Wars hack by Ryan M. Danks at one point (you can find that here for anyone interested).That said I’m determined to persevere with the FFG system and hopefully it’ll get easier as we all become more familiar with the rules.
  • It’s obvious that one or two of the players are more familiar with the EU of Star Wars than I am (having not played any of the related video games) and I can see people quoting obscure “facts” about the setting potentially being a nigglesome issue; I’ve decided to deal with that by assuming that only the current cannon (as established by the films) is guaranteed to be accurate, I may introduce EU elements as the game goes on but it should not be assumed this is the case.

You can see the videos of session 0 below:

Part 1

Part 2

Our next session is a couple of weeks; anyone interested in watching it live can do so on our Twitch channel:

https://www.twitch.tv/reddicediaries/

 

Star Wars Edge of Empire Character Creation live on Twitch

Tonight’s character/setting creation for our upcoming Edge of Empire game will be broadcast live on Twitch at 7pm (UK time), there is a short promo video below:

We’re hoping that if this works then future sessions will also be broadcast live on Twitch (and later exported to Youtube); you can catch all the action on our Twitch channel at http://www.twitch.tv/reddicediaries

[RPG] D&D 5E character background – Skamos Sorrowson

I’m going to be playing in my first D&D 5E game in a few days, it’s a two-shot dungeon crawl inspired by the Tomb of Horrors being run by Rob ‘theSwamper’ Davis and featuring a host of other great players such as Alex ‘Captain Gothnog’ Gillot, Thashif Muran and Sameoldji; really looking forward to it, we’re genning 15th level characters and i’ve settled on a Tiefling rogue called Skamos Sorrowson, during my dinner break I though that i’d have a quick go at knocking up a background, below is what I came up with:

Alignment – CG

Skamos Sorrowson was born to the noble house of Turuval in the great City of Marapolean; whilst initially happy to be given a son at last the Patriarch of the family Michael Turuval was incensed when the childs infernally tainted features became obvious shortly after the birth, for a long time the child was shut up in doors and Michael would speak to no-one, not even his wife Sareena, who he secretly suspected of having been unfaithful to him, after all there was no way that such devilish features could have originated in his own family. The knowledge ate away at him like a cancer until it drove Michael mad and, one dark night, he gathered his loyal bodyguard to him and strode through the house determined to put an end to the cursed child; Sareena stood blocking their path, determined that no-one would kill her child, she was stabbed fatally for her efforts, but even with her last breath she triumphed, her sacrifice had given a loyal manservant time to steal away from the house carrying the child with him.

Originally the plan had been for the manservant Tollamy to carry the child to Sareena’s own family in a distant steading, but as with many things in life, things did not go according to plan and Tollamy ran afoul of the noted thief and footpad Vernius Mudge and his burgeoning gang of the thieves, the Clawed Hand. Determined to carry out his final orders the manservant refused to surrender his charge and was shot before he could leave the bounds of the city, throwing open the carriage, the robbers found not the gold and jewels they expected but a strange child who had an odd devilish look abot him; Mudge’s second in command, a half-orc brute by the name of Ramus, pulled out a knife ready to end the child’s life and as he did so the knife vanished to reappear in the crib next to the infant, smiling Mudge pronounced it a sign from the gods that the clawed hand was destined for greatness and that he would take the child as his own, naming it Skamos (after a child that he had long ago in another life, who had died along with it’s mother).

Mudge’s prophesy seemed to be true as the Clawed Hand, with Skamos as a member, rose to become the ruling thieves guild in the city.

Skamos initially harboured a great deal of hatred against the nobility (although Mudge had only told him the very basics about his history, raising him like his own son) and initially began adventuring as a way to make himself powerful enough to take revenge on those who had cast him; over the course of a long adventuring career he came to understand that the worth of a person was not defined by their class or their riches but by their own actions and the people they regarded as friends and finally he achieved some measure of peace before retiring from his adventuring days and returning to rule the Clawed Hand thieves as second, alongside the aging Verinus Mudge, who welcomed the return of his beloved son. 

(Please note the Tiefling picture is copyright 2009 Wizards of the Coast, it is used for non-profit making purposes and no challenge is intended to copyright)