Character Backstories

This is one of those topics that probably every gamer will have a different take on.  When you’re creating a character for a new game, how much, if any, backstory and history do you come up with for them?

I’m one of those people who tends to come up with a detailed backstory for my characters.  You could say that I go a bit overboard, even.  For example, in our Knights of the Astral Sea game that Tim Ballew is currently running, I wrote up three full pages of my character’s background, including where she was born, what her childhood was like, her education, and how she came to be a mad scientist/spy in the service of a dimension-straddling Britannic Empire.  I even wrote up a couple of additional pages detailing how she met my backup character for the game on a mission a few game-months before the actual first session of the game (you can read about Genevieve’s background, and also her subsequent adventures during the game, here).

I even wrote up a couple of pages of background for that backup character, Captain Alastair Hawkesworth, just in case he was needed.  He’s a naval officer from the early 1980s of an alternate United Kingdom where the dirvergence point of history was the marriage of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker-Bowles in 1979, leading to a humiliating British defeat in the Falklands War shortly followed by the end of the monarchy. 

I like the backstories for a few reasons.  First, I personally feel like I’m more invested in the character if I’ve put that creative effort in, and also because they simply feel more fleshed out and “real” with a proper history.  Second, knowing that history gives me details to use during the game to get a handle on how the character “should” react in certain situations.  Third, it provides plot hooks for the GM.  And fourth, it simply makes the character make sense, especially when I use the history to explain how the character ended up with a particular attribute or skill or power or some special gear.  That last one works backwards as well – in writing up the character history, I sometimes end up fiddling around with the character’s stats and other attributes based on what I’ve come up with for their early life, their education, their early adventures, etc.

I’ll be digging through my notes and posting more old character stuff as I can find it…

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