Gaming ThursdayOctober 30, 2014
We’ve just started up a sweet new* D&D campaign. We begin essentially as street gang members, eking out the barest of livings in the lowest slum of a very large (>100k people) city… starting far far away from being heroes or even being in a position to become heroes. It’s low key yet high tension, and rife already with interactions, interplays, and mystery, and great RP.
In order to help populate our gang, and to make it so we felt a deeper connection to everyone in the gang, the GM asked us to each make secondary characters and gang members. He intended for us to make one additional character each; we the players… misunderstood. We really took the “s” in secondary character_s_ to heart. I made four characters.
In rather short order I wrote a short intro and back story for each one of the characters. And to be honest, I’m really quite chuffed at how they all turned out. Unintentionally, each story ended up coming out differently, with different styles and tone and focus and format. And inside of this, they each managed to be quite evocative, giving a tangible sense of the character, who they are and what they are dealing with. Nifty.
What’s surprised me out of this is that, while I’ve written many very lengthy backstories for my characters in the past (and my prime character in this game does indeed have a multi-pager) and those have worked out great, here each of these backstories were less than a page in length, yet still dripping with enough flavour to be able to play an interesting and unique character. It’s had me reconsider what is minimally necessary for character creation (in terms of the character character aspect, not the mechanics aspect). And I think it might boil down to only three things:
- Attitude/Being — The PC’s personality and how they are acting and being in the world
- Aptitude/Talent — What are the things the PC can do, and what skills or abilities or unique talents do they have and use to solve crises
- Concern/Goal — What are the PC’s intentions, and what are they interested in or worried about or dealing with or up to
While a more full backstory/history will fill out the whys and hows of the above, which is great for depth and for RP exploration and for the DM to mine for the story, at the table in the moment, I think it is those things that are the most important. When the campaign events begin, they shape the character in the RP sense and give them their way of interacting with the world in pursuit, or avoidance, of their goals and concerns.
And that’s what makes RP so fun.
I could easily see myself playing any of the characters, and having a great time with each of them. We had to pick only one secondary PC to actually use in the game, but I know the others will hang around for some future campaign where I’ll be delighted to bring them to the table and to life.
(* Technically, we are re-starting this campaign, which died a quick death after one or two sessions about 6 or 8 years ago after some hard player derailment…. )