Famous cosplayer and fellow D&D nerd, Ginny Di, recently posted a great video about how to think about making a compelling backstory for your Dungeons and Dragons character.
If you’ve ever played a role-playing game, especially Dungeons and Dragons, you’ll know that your character needs a backstory, a reason for adventuring.
Whether players are in a hurry, or they’ve written an 18-page backstory,1 people frequently make character backgrounds that fall under common themes: such and such character lost their parents, their family, their romantic partner, etc, etc, through some cliched tragedy and so on.
I am guilty of this too, but early on, I’ve learned that I enjoy my characters more when I come up with a more down-to-earth, relatable backstory. There needs to be some reason for the character to strike out and go adventuring, but like most people in real-life who are starting out in their careers, it’s not necessarily a tragic, life-shattering event. It can be something as simple as needing money, a mid-life crisis, annoying parents, eloping with someone, etc.
Further, a backstory can be amusing too. Maybe the character is a teenager who just wants to cheese off his or her parents, maybe they lost a precious item while on a previous trip, or maybe they had an accident and owe someone some money. Who knows?
The point is is have fun, and don’t make the backstory too heavy. It is, afterall, a fantasy character you literally made up from nothing. At the same time, making relatable characters is a great way to take a mediocre concept and turn it into something memorable.
1 True story, I had briefly hosted a D&D campaign at my old company, and one player who described himself as a “dedicated RPG player” submitted an 18 page backstory for his female character. His character’s backstory was …. cringey, included hints of sexual violence, and I wonder whether he was projecting something or not. In any case, the work campaign petered out soon as the players didn’t have good chemistry with one another, and frankly I wasn’t sad when it did. That’s another reason why no D&D is sometimes better than bad D&D.