Author Topic: Writing a good background  (Read 722 times)

Hi Tech Lowlife

  • Posts: 10
Writing a good background
« on: September 21, 2017, 03:06:05 PM »
I've read/heard a few opinions here and there on backgrounds, which seem to vary...some people obviously really enjoy writing intricate backgrounds, whereas others prefer to keep it more general and provide only the basics.

In my (relatively) short time playing, I've noticed here and there that staff will compliment a particular background I've written (in some cases even ones I didn't think were very good), which definitely makes me feel suitably chuffed.

This got me to wondering what actually makes a good background, since there doesn't appear to be one "right" way to do it (strictly speaking anyway), so I thought I'd ask the good(?) people of the GDB what you think makes for a good background? How do you approach it, and regardless of length, what would you say are important things to include or perhaps expand upon?

Cheers in advance guys. :)
You're solid gold.
I'll see you in hell.

Lizzie

  • Posts: 7458
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2017, 03:19:07 PM »
My backgrounds are horrible. Very generic with just a few specifics to make one character not a carbon copy of the other. An example:

Quote
Skarp was born in the warrens of Tuluk and has spent the past several
years helping to carry corpses to the incinerary for sids.  As a result he has
become stronger and more hardened to the less pleasant aspects of life.
Skarp has saved up enough sids to equip himself with a bit of armor, and
seek a less morose livelihood, possibly as a mercenary for hire or guard.
He would augment his income if needed, with some modest armorcrafting skill
he picked up while stripping some of the dead people he hauled off the roads
and away from the city gates. 

That's an actual background for one of my only two-ever male PCs. He was killed by his own unit via a Tuluki templar, shortly after being promoted to Byn Sergeant by default (the other one died and he was next in line).
Talia said: Notice to all: Do not mess with Lizzie's GDB. She will cut you.
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Molten Heart

  • Posts: 1847
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2017, 03:41:45 PM »
My backgrounds usually start out with their heritage/family (or lack of) and may include notable events in their youth or just move on to their current situation. I'll often list personality traits and things they like or dislike. If they have any goals I'll include those. Sometimes it's difficult to narrow the background down the size limit but if I have a lot I'll make the initial background more of a summary and include the more in-depth background as the second biography entry.

Jihelu

  • Posts: 2564
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2017, 03:43:04 PM »
My background writing process is generally a basic idea.

The thieving son of a claymaker

A water mage that couldn't save his family

Something like that. A one liner that's extended out over a few paragraphs.
Outside of very few characters, I generally try not to expand on their lore and leave backgrounds to events in their lives.

Then there are my tribal characters....
I write way too fucking much about them.

"What makes a good background"
Hell, what makes a good book? It doesn't have to be interesting or even thrilling, it should highlight things in your character's life. Mentioning his first love doesn't matter if it never comes up or doesn't get followed by 'they left him emotionally scarred for life'. So keeping things important is a good start I think.
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nauta

  • Posts: 2188
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2017, 04:05:12 PM »
I'm terrible at backgrounds.  Mine barely scrape that four sentence minimum, and usually are just variants on: whore raised by assassin or assassin raised by whores.

However, I do put some thought into my character before they come into game, and I focus on a few things, most of which fall under the category of: "What can I say at the bar to people?"

1. Personality and personality quirks.

2. Basic immediate family (having seven brothers is always fun).

3. Any past jobs she might have done (explains how she knows what she knows coming into the game).
as IF you didn't just have them unconscious, naked, and helpless in the street 4 minutes ago

Hi Tech Lowlife

  • Posts: 10
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2017, 04:42:09 PM »
"What makes a good background"
Hell, what makes a good book?

I'm not really looking for an answer to what makes the best background, since as you say it'd be about as useful as asking what makes any good piece of fiction - I just figured hearing some different takes on how people approach this could be useful. :) There have definitely been some interesting points on the subject so far, personally almost all my backgrounds to date have been very rambling, often having to be cut short to make the limit.

I can definitely see the benefit of taking a more spartan approach and sort of letting the IG history of the character do more of the work in shaping them.
You're solid gold.
I'll see you in hell.

Riev

  • Posts: 4728
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2017, 04:58:52 PM »
I just think of what makes for a good reasoning to my PC still being alive in this harsh world, and why he might behave the way he does.

Son of a farmer with little education, raised to do brute, rote work that isn't very fun - Ends up being a fighter or a Bynner or something simple.

Left alone by his family before he turned 13, learned to fend for himself on the streets. - Either a pickpocket, or a merchant focused on socializing and raw resources.


If you can start with that one line, flesh it out from there. Hit a decent paragraph/4 lines that explain what they did on the streets, or that they had two sisters that teased them relentlessly.

Along with Nauta's suggestion, I often try to work on a character outline. Personality Surveyes.
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BadSkeelz

  • Posts: 8248
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2017, 05:01:06 PM »
The characters I've had the most success with (in terms of inhabiting their headspace) tend to have simplistic backgrounds. Where they're from, what their parents did (and how this impacted the PC's childhood) and what their general goal in life is going to be. I like to use broadstrokes because I often end up creating my character's backstory on the fly in game, when I'm relating it to others or thinking up some sort of justification for something I just did or am about to do. If I develop a background too much, recording what I've already "done" I find myself getting trapped and bored.

Backgrounds are really a tool for you to use in guiding your character, so there''s no right or wrong way to do them.
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azuriolinist

  • Posts: 312
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2017, 11:44:08 PM »
When I started out, I'd gone with simple backgrounds. Partly because I was a newb to the gameworld. Mostly because I just had no idea what to put in there. Nowadays, if I have the time to sit down and work through them, I prefer fleshing out the personality and backstory of my character. If I don't have a PC's personality figured out, I find that too much of myself ends up seeping into the character (which still happens, way too often, but a fleshed out personality helps me combat this).

Usually, I start off by fleshing out a vague idea of my character‘s personality. The initial idea is often a quirk or some exaggerated attitude (e.g., always angry, lies all the time, etc.). When I have a good image of their overall personality, I go on to figuring out the major points of their life and asking myself how they ended up as they are now.

The background then ends up a simmered down summary of the backstory and personality.

And then, of course, the character dies two hours in and I roll a character with a three-sentence background who ends up living near a RL year.

Hauwke

  • Posts: 1178
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2017, 11:49:03 PM »
And then, of course, the character dies two hours in and I roll a character with a three-sentence background who ends up living near a RL year.

127% This. I spent like an hour figuring my guy out once, died to a scrab the second I stepped out the gates.

10 minute character: Survives 6 ingame years.

Kankfly

  • Posts: 1182
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2017, 01:43:19 AM »
And then, of course, the character dies two hours in and I roll a character with a three-sentence background who ends up living near a RL year.

127% This. I spent like an hour figuring my guy out once, died to a scrab the second I stepped out the gates.

10 minute character: Survives 6 ingame years.

This is why all my PCs are 10 mins character backgrounds.
I ruin immershunz.

Hauwke

  • Posts: 1178
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2017, 10:30:14 PM »
Yeah, I have taken to writing very lazy ones and lo and behold, all my PCs live to stupid points and I get bored with them rather than them die.

My last proper guy was infuriatingly hard to get out of because I dont much like storing.

Dar

  • Posts: 1168
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2017, 06:56:24 PM »
Heh. I remember helping this newbie player dude create his second character. He didn't like his first characters personality and wanted to play something else. So he gave me this veeeeeeerrrry vague, stream of consciousness outline of what typw of a character he wants to play and I whip out a background on the fly. Concise, but full with ohilosophy mixed with grit and murder. The new dude is ecstatic. I'm reading that bio and wonder to myself, "why the hell, cant I write one like these for myself?!?!"

Grapes

  • Posts: 116
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2017, 11:29:14 PM »
Best background: Crap out four generic lines, make shit up, and just roll with it. The more fleshing out you do of your backstory, the more you paint yourself into a corner. Feel free to go hog-wild with just a few lines.

EDIT: All of us are, in a sense, storytellers, so tell a story. One doesn't start a story by graphing out family lineage and a timeline, one digs right in and does it simply because they like telling stories, they you go back and clean up the nitty-gritty details later, and edit some into character behavior, does that sound like a fun game to you? Charge in and do things. There's no editing, just keep your options open and have fun.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2017, 11:35:57 PM by Grapes »
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solera

  • Posts: 1752
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2017, 12:57:25 AM »
I start with  one  idea to build a character around, eg  guild/skill, race, location, social position or job, or an ooc goal, and gradually the rest of these fall into place . By the time this has happened I normally have a clear idea of what their childhood  and relationship to family or peer group was like , those things that form our strengths and weaknesses and can continue to control us.

Most of my  written backgrounds seem to be a long or short paragraph, dropping them at the doorway of chargen with a few memories  and hopes.

Apart from my first,  twice the character limit for a PC that lived a few hours.

WarriorPoet

  • Posts: 4445
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #15 on: October 04, 2017, 08:50:27 AM »
Best background: Crap out four generic lines, make shit up, and just roll with it.

This is how I always do it. Bare bones bg and then find out who he is through play and experience.
We were somewhere near the Shield Wall, on the edge of the Red Desert, when the drugs began to take hold...

Riev

  • Posts: 4728
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2017, 08:53:01 AM »
I once started a character with the goal of being "a good little soldier" because, at the time, I had started a job where I'd be assisting children with Autism all day. I wanted a role where I'd just do whatever people told me to do and be done with it.

The character had his ups and downs, but ended up being a Sergeant, and was SUPPOSEDLY very close to getting into his own Elite Unit. Because I wanted to be a "good soldier".

Let the decisions come to you in game, but WRITE THEM DOWN. If your sister Meera is the reason you did something, remember you called her Meera. Reference her later, make it part of the driven RP of your character. Even if you aren't super deep, the fact that you're bringing in outside forces gives you more than "wanna fite" personality.
Masks are the Armageddon equivalent of Ed Hardy shirts.

Culinary Critic

  • Posts: 303
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #17 on: October 08, 2017, 08:01:29 PM »
Love this thread and would love to read a brazillian character backgrounds.

I have exceeded the character limit and had to edit on just about every single one of 29 characters.  The reason for this is that I like to really understand my characters, their feelings and their motivations.  And it's pretty easy for me to do so as I usually have three or four character concepts (including vague backgrounds) floating around in my mind at any given time.

My backgrounds also change perspective.  Sometimes first person, sometimes third.

Here's samples, half-giant first:

I was borned in Nak, least that's what they told me when I started to
learn to remember things like that.  Maybe they told me diferent before,
but like I said, I didn't start to learn to remember things all the way back
then.  But I been all over, to this place where they grow stuff and to Storm
where they got the spice that makes you all tingly down there and to Luir's
where it's so windy I bought pants to keep the sand outta my lady parts.
That's where I met Num.  He was even bigger'n me and we got to be friends
and then I let him play with my lady parts and it was a lot of fun.  But he got all
funny eyed for a human girl!  So I told him that he don't even know and didn't
let him play with my lady parts no more.  Then I met Grunt, and his name fits cuz
he sure grunted a lot when we were kanking.  But he got all funny eyed for
a human girl too!  Not near as pretty as me, so I told him he don't even know too.
But I learned, so I brush my hair all nice and dye it all red so it's really pretty.
And I sharp up a knife and I shave my legs even.  And my eyebrows too, like I
seen some human girls do.  Now I'm even prettier than them.  The other giants
they can go chase the human girls, cuz I'm gonna go and chase the human men.
Maybe even the breed men.  But not the sharp men, they too skinny for me.
Them dumb giants, they don't even know.

Or a Drovian...

Ehrude was born to a pleasantly boring mother, a seamstress by trade, who
brought in ehough coin to keep a roof over their head and both of them
comfortably fed.  From as far back as he can remember, he helped his mother,
first holding cloth or spooling thread, later cutting, trimming and sewing.
While not as talented as his mother, he did contribute and managed to sell a
few of his own creations.  All this changed when he manifested at an early
age.  The room in which they worked suddenly darkened though the sun was
bright in the sky.  While the shadows faded fairly quickly, his mother was
fearful.  But he was her only son and she loved him, so she took him to the
Quarter herself and found the right place to drop him off.  Over the next
year or two, Ehrude looked forward to seeing her again, checking outside in
the street several times a day, but she never came to visit.  Eventually he
gave up and started spending most of his time indoors, listening to anyone
who would speak of his new talents, learning as much as possible and
meditating.  With most of his life spent in introspection, he is lacking in
interpersonal skills.  He tends to get distracted by almost anything, from a
stray thought to a blade of grass on the wind.  Though inexperienced at
actual casting, he has gained much knowledge of the theory of magick and has
finally decided to venture out of the temple. 



Post more backgrounds.







Kialae

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  • Posts: 84
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #18 on: October 08, 2017, 08:13:47 PM »
I'm one of those people whose backgrounds are several paragraphs long, to influence their initial imprint upon the world. Sometimes it's so complex that I can't feasibly maintain it all so have to just shed parts of it for gameplay purposes (doesn't make it any less real, I just find ways around it for my own fun).

azuriolinist

  • Posts: 312
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #19 on: October 09, 2017, 02:10:10 AM »
Love this thread and would love to read a brazillian character backgrounds.

I, too, love reading brazilian character backgrounds.

;]

Kankfly

  • Posts: 1182
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #20 on: October 09, 2017, 02:13:09 AM »
Love this thread and would love to read a brazillian character backgrounds.

I, too, love reading brazilian character backgrounds.

;]

Now geniunely curious what a Brazillian character background is. :D
I ruin immershunz.

chrisdcoulombe

  • Posts: 1009
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #21 on: October 09, 2017, 11:12:55 AM »
Love this thread and would love to read a brazillian character backgrounds.

I, too, love reading brazilian character backgrounds.

;]

Now geniunely curious what a Brazillian character background is. :D

I think its where they wax everything.
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Culinary Critic

  • Posts: 303
Re: Writing a good background
« Reply #22 on: October 09, 2017, 08:53:12 PM »
General to President GWB:  "Mr. President.  Four Brazilian soldiers were killed in a battle last night."

President GWB to the General:  "That's terrible.  How many are in a brazilian?"

Total derail, not intended, please return to bio posting and discussion.