The Backstory Creation Game
To play the Backstory Creation Game you’ll need a way to record notes. I prefer index cards. I also use this chart with lists of generalized conflicts, ideals, and people:
|6||Curse||Seeking Balance||Spouse or lover|
|9||An Item||Thrill Seeker||Extra-Dimensional Entity|
Decide who goes first and have them pick one of the items off one of the lists for their character.
Then follow up with some of these questions:
- Conflict – Ask them to define the conflict. What started it? Why is it important to their character’s life to this point?
- Ideal – Ask why their character follows that ideal? What pushed them to believe in this ideal so strongly? How is it a pillar of their character?
- People – Ask who is this person? Why is the person relevant to the character? How is this person relevant to the character? What kind of relationship do these characters have?
Feel free as the GM to expand on these questions until you have a feel for that part of the character’s backstory.
After each player has chosen one each player now picks a column they haven’t chosen from and rolls a 10 sided die. If they roll the same as another player’s choice that player, or the GM, can ask them to roll again. Once they have one ask the appropriate questions from above. Do this until each player has their second item.
For the last part of each character’s backstory, the rest of the group chooses one of the items from the list they haven’t selected from yet, and then the GM asks questions until that aspect of the backstory is fleshed out the same as the previous two items.
At each level the player to the left and right of the current player defining their character item can optionally ask a single question concerning the item they’d like to know more about.
When everyone is done, the characters will have conflicts, people in their lives they have connections to, and ideals based on previous experiences. This gives PCs a little more meat on the bone. It will also have been done as a group activity, so all players know the characters’ backstories and will have some investment in them. And when this backstory stuff comes up in the game – because part of the point is to build up a bunch of material to use later – everyone will know something important is happening, which creates more engagement.
This is a progressive idea a lot of players might be comfortable with because of how much control they’re giving up in creating their character’s backstories, conflicts, and personalities in some cases.
The questions from the conflict, idea, and people part of the backstory creation game will help you and the players understand what is important to the character and create a cast of NPCs and game hooks you can use to keep play moving when it slows down.