Now we’re getting towards the edges of the races you can play in Dungeons and Dragons from the main Players Handbook. There are additional races or race options in other books. I’m going to call out some Tiefling things are from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. […]
Alright, we’re onto the last class for D&D character creation.
In the prerequisites, we’ve talked about how to make a character that fits the campaign and is fun for you and the group (101). We then went on and talked about how Dungeons and Dragons gives you tools, such as personality trait, ideals, bonds, and flaws to create some role playing experiences (201). Finally, in our last class we looked at how you can create an open backstory that the Dungeon Master will be able to tie into the game and that can tie into your role playing and character development (301).
This last bit is going to build off of creating that interesting backstory to give more options for the DM and for the player themselves with role playing. It could just be considered a continuation of the previous one, but I think that there are a few more intricacies with building a character with everything in here.
Leave Blanks in Your Backstory
This one is interesting because as a player you often want to know everything about your character. But it’s going to give you more opportunities to develop a character if you haven’t filled everything in. It also allows the DM a chance to create more character hooks for you. If your whole background is known, they only have the hooks that you were instructed to create in 301. However, if the DM has opportunity to work on your backstory and create hooks in those openings.
This is also tricky because it requires trust between players and the DM. There is at times a mindset that it’s DM vs the players. If you think it’s going to be like that, it’s hard to give a DM a chance to twist your characters backstory. But if you do allow for it, you can develop more interesting and deeper stories and stretch yourself with role playing.
Play to Your Weakness
Probably could have been mentioned earlier as I talked about flaws and looked at what D&D has baked into your character creation already. But there’s an idea of a dump stat, and no, this isn’t the stat you dump all your points into, it’s the stat that is lower than every other stat and is below the average, ten, that the commoners have. It’s easy to not want to have one of these or to not let it shine. However, the dump stat is going to provide you a lot of role playing opportunities. So give your character one, and then tie it into the backstory. Pick whatever stat that you want to dump, I wouldn’t recommend CON (constitution) though for any character, but really make it part of your story. There’s a desire to have it be the heroic things that you have done and your great moments to create your backstory, but instead consider your previous failures as to figure out why you are driven to be an adventurer. This also, again, creates more plot hooks for the DM to grab onto.
Don’t Be Afraid to Change
Finally, don’t be afraid to change your backstory. Don’t be afraid to change your character. You might think you have a concept that you love, but it might not end up being what you thought it was going to be. Figure that out early on, and if that is the case and it isn’t a character that you love, talk to your DM and change your character. Now, this can be done a couple of different ways. Maybe you don’t like the backstory that you created, so change that up. Even possibly changing out your background if need be to match your new backstory idea. Or it could be that you thought you’d love playing the Wizard, but you really want to hit things with a big pointy metal stick. Talk to your DM and change the character that you are playing. Depending on what the DM wants to do, your previous character could be magically transformed, or it could be that your previous character leaves the party and a new one comes in. My only caveat to this is that you should try and change early to find out what you want. In Dungeons and Flagons season one, Clint changed characters completely in the middle of the game, and it just happened to work that it made sense in the story, and I actually gave him the option as I knew he wanted to try new things. But that puts pressure on the DM, so if you are going to change, try and change early as the party and story are just starting.
I’m sure that there are many more things that I could talk about with character creation. However, I think for Dungeons and Dragons, that this is a very strong basis for getting character ready for a game and into a game. If you put everything together, you’re going to, most likely, have a fun time. There are certainly other things as well that can impact your game, but if you do this process, you can be fairly confident it won’t be your character.
Are there any tips that you’d like to add for character creation? If so, leave them in the comments below.
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This was something that I saw on twitter, I believe, earlier this week or it was part of a podcast, Total Party Thrill, that I’ve been listening to, but it was a hypothetical about why someone might join an adventuring group if they have a nice normal backstory.
Why would a farmers kid who has had a nice life on the farm, loves their family, their whole family is still alive, and they have a sweetheart, why would they join an adventuring group?
Why would a noble who might not be in line to inherit the throne but they would have a very comfy and relaxed life with basically anything they could want join an adventuring party?
Why would a wizard who has a comfy job in a wizarding school with a family and their students love them and they won’t have anything else they want join an adventuring group?
Why would a cleric who has a community surrounding them that attends their temple, they all believe in the deity of the temple, and they have found their calling, why would they join an adventuring group?
The answer most of the time is that they wouldn’t. It doesn’t make sense for them to join a group because they have a good life. The most common reason would be that they want something more and something greater. That’s a pretty safe and simple story, but not all that interesting if you’re playing that character. So how are you going to able to spice up your characters story?
And when I say spice up the story, I don’t mean add in some tragedy. How are you going to make it more interesting without adding in some tragedy, some death in the family, some desire for revenge, some scandal happening to your PC?
Let me see what I can do with the four examples I gave of pretty comfortable backstories:
As cleric you’ve had a good life and have set up a nice temple and community in your peaceful little town. You have made friends and settled into a nice groove. One evening while you are praying you are shocked to hear a voice speak to you. It commends you for doing so well and tells you that there will be another cleric of your deity coming to town. They are older and have some information that you must carry on for them and find for them while they take over your duties. The next day a cleric comes to town and they tell you of an artifact, a relic of long ago, that would help increase the bounty of your farming communities crops and help the kingdom as a whole find peace. They are too old now to continue their quest to look for it, but your deity had sent them here to find you so that could continue the quest. It’s hard, but you have heard the word of your deity, and everything they said came true. You pack up your bags, promise to return, and say many a sad farewell as you head out on the road to find those who can help you complete the quest.
The life of an academic suits you greatly, you’ve spent years at the university studying, then teaching, and the city that you’re in has become your home. You have a family and two kids. You’re in the middle of a class when you get a message sent to you from an old teacher. They have some exciting news, they have discovered a lost ruins and texts for magics that you thought had been lost ages ago. You agonize over it for a week, but eventually, at the prompting of your spouse, you send a message back saying that you will head out there, you just need to convince the school that they should fund your research. When they hear about it, they quickly help you find an adventuring party so that you will be safe on your travels.
Your life has been practice sword fights, sitting through fairly interesting meetings, and generally learning how you’re going to be able to rule your lands when you inherit the seat of power. It isn’t much of a lands and you are going to be under the king, but that’s just fine with you. You’ll have a simple but nice life dealing with the problems of a few farmers about whose cow is whose when someone’s fence breaks. But you know before that you have one last thing coming up. You’ve been putting it off for a while now, because it isn’t something that you wanted to do, you’d rather learn from watching your parents at home. But every generation, the child who is taking over the seat of rule has to go out and see the real world like they were nobody. You understand why, it will give you a perspective on things, but you’re not all that excited about it. Your parents have put together a group for you to travel with, so the time has finally come, and you set out on your own, not sure what you might find.
Life on the farm has been wonderful to you thus far. You love the routine of it. You love your cows, your parents and siblings, and your sweetheart. The only thing you’re not sure about is if they think enough of you. They are the child of the towns doctor. You’re just the child of a farmer. You are betrothed and everything is set for you to be married in two years time. With the blessing of her parents and your parents, you decide that you are going to go out and see the world for a year so that you are going to better be able to provide for and help your sweetheart with their dreams as well as yours. After a tearful good bye, you set out on the road where you run into a band of adventurers who take your under their wings.
Those aren’t my normal backgrounds, there is no revenge in them, though I did keep the quest for a lost artifact that I’ll often use as a potential backstory plot hook. But in the case of the first two there is a big plot hook for the DM to latch onto. The last two fall more into the adventuring for adventuring sake. But because everyone has their family still, and they have a clear objective of what they are looking for and possibly timelines for things as well, there’s plenty to play around with as a DM.
With the cleric, the artifact 100% won’t do exactly what the legends say it will do, so yeah, you’re going to have to deal with that. Also, you’re going to be racing against someone else to get the artifact.
With the wizard, you are going to get to the ruins and find everyone dead from some curse and then you’re going to find that you’ve been cursed as well. Now you have a deadline to figure out how to break the curse that was laid upon the ruins so that you don’t end up dead as well.
With the noble, as DM I would have you stumble across a plot against yourself and your family to kill all of you. However, you’re only ever going to see the edges of the plot, unless you want to keep your disguise and infiltrate the organization and find out who is at the top of it and who is after your family.
With the farmer, something is going to happen to your village or your sweetheart. Most likely a questionable noble is going to show up in your village, fall in love with your sweetheart and demand to marry them. When that gets turns down because you are betrothed already to them, they are going to start demanding taxes and making the life of your town miserable and you’re either going to have to deal with that noble yourself or do something to get the attention of someone higher up to rein in that noble.
Which of these backstories would you want to play? And have you made a character before with a non-tragic backstory?
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It’s Halloween time, and that means we need to create some D&D monster fun and build one of the most iconic horror movie characters of all time. Freddy Krueger This classic monster from the Nightmare on Elm Street movies has long razors on his hands […]
The sage is the scholar of the D&D backgrounds. While you might not be studying now, you have studied a lot in the past, even to the point where you might now be teaching or have taught in the past. This background is what a lot of people would use if they were going to play a Wizard. A Wizard has learned magic and has likely studied somewhere for it.
There are plenty of other classes though that could use the background, they give you a number of areas that you could have studied, but being a Dwarven metal work professor would be out of the ordinary and go against the normal teaching options that they give, or area of study options. It’s also a background that people will use to play a smarty pants character who is condescending or thinks they know more than everyone else, because they might actually know more than most people. I’d say if you are going to go that route, be aware of two things, make sure that if you are going to be condescending in the game, have it be clearly between characters so it doesn’t seem like it might be above the table and directed at a player. Secondly, consider it being a character arc, maybe this is your characters first adventure and they think they know everything and don’t really need others to make decisions but then as the game progresses, they can come to the realization that they need others, and that book smarts are not the same as street smarts.
Beyond that, I do think that there are two main reasons that people go with this background. It gets two nice features in the Researcher, which means if you don’t know the answer, you know where to find it. Very powerful in a game, especially a city game where you can always go and research. That means that you are going to probably be able to find that information pretty quickly and without much travel. The other being that you get two languages. Might not seem like that big of a deal, but if you are in a port or if you are going to travel a lot in the game, you are going to run into races and places where they might not speak common, or at least will drop out of common when they are going to talk about you.
Now for some story ideas using the sage background:
You grew up on the rough side of the city and it was your goal to get away from that. When you were a teen, you ran away from home and found yourself on the doorstep of a temple in the nicer neighborhoods. Pretending that you weren’t from around the city and that you had been mugged wasn’t that difficult when you had nothing your whole life. The temple believed me, or if not took pity on me and took me in. They started training me, and gave me shelter and food. As part of our agreement, I was going to work for them and pay back, in work, what I had been given. I got a job in the city library as a librarian, turns out it was run by the temple. After I paid off my debt, I continued to work there and get more training through the temple, then one day, some people who I had known as kids came in before hours and killed a guest from out of town who had gotten special permissions to come in early. They were caught, but they implicated you in the crime, that you had let them in. You were kicked out of your job, but the head of the temple believed you. Now you have to track down who actually called in this hit and clear your name.
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Your time in the university was fascinating and you got a great love for people, races, and creatures out of it. In fact, you got so much love for them that you decided to leave any chance at a easy job or well paying job at the university to go out and research some of them. Finding a tribe to follow around and study wasn’t too difficult, but getting close to them and really learning about them was very difficult. The tribe of orcs didn’t let you in easily, but once they were used to you, they opened up. After spending years with them, you were starting to truly understand them like no one had before and they were teaching you their ways. Then a plague hit their village, but it didn’t affect you. You watched as those you had known died around you and you felt powerless to stop it. When the chief became ill, he asked you to help save what was left of his village, because they couldn’t seem to get away from the plague. You took off with a handful of hunters and those who had dealt with society before. Then you met a strange woman in the woods and she offered to help. You needed to save them, so you agreed to go with her, but when you saw her place, you quickly realized she was likely the cause of the plague. Calling her on that, she fled, and while a small bit of the tribe was saved because she left, you want to hunt her down and keep her from experimenting on others.
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Notes: This one I like because you are playing the dummies of the D&D world with a barbarian, but it’s something that you learned after you were a sage, so it makes a very uniquely flavored character.
Your family was poor and life was hard for you and your six siblings. Your parents had trouble keeping food on the table. When you were a young teen you told your parents that you’d drop out of school to go out and work at a farm to help make ends meet and to keep everyone fed, but they told you they wouldn’t let you throw away your chance at a better life. That night, you made up your mind, you didn’t want to work on a farm, but you didn’t want to be a burden to your parents and not help. Packing the little that you had, you snuck out of the house and made your way down the road for a week where you knew a wizard lived in a tower. You’d heard stories about them and how they sometimes used an apprentice. You knocked on the door and introduced yourself. It took some begging and testing to get the position. It didn’t make you much money, but you sent, anonymously, the little that you made home to your parents. It wasn’t until you had studied more under the wizard that you realized they were not a good person. They started to do experiments on you and run you through the ringer. One night a voice came to you offering to help and get you away, you took the chance and escaped. You went into hiding for almost a decade before the voice came back to you and told you that your parents had sold your youngest sibling to the wizard and that it was time for you to act.
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral/Chaotic Good
Less backstories than normal, but some longer ones than normal. I hope that you’ve enjoyed them. There are three more backgrounds left to do after this.
Have you played someone with a sage background? Why did you choose that background and what was your backstory?
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