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tesral
10-22-2010, 03:44 PM
We call them role-playing games. That is playing a role, something we are not. I see here in the forums a lot of rule-playing. Most forum questions at least in the fantasy areas (which I frequent) are looking for the best build of this character class or a clarification of that rule; game specific mechanical questions.

What happened to the role? I don't mean your character's class-race-collection of feats. I mean your place in society, your character's background. What happened to the role? What do you as the player/GM do to create the role and support it?

I start with the character's background. Where they come from, why they adventure. I may even sketch out a few NPCs that they are associated with, family, childhood friends, mentors. Yes I work with the GM to integrate these persons. They are usually little more than a name and a relationship with the PC. Stats are not usually required. A paragraph of description.

Then and only then do I take up game mechanics and build the character stat wise. I first want to know who they are before I define what they are. One reason I dislike games that make items of background random. This is my place to create.

The deal being is that no one comes into being from the void. Where your character comes from often defines where they are going. People without a past have no future. By grounding your PC into the world you give them more reason to exist than fight monsters and gather treasure. You also get a chance to be the center of the plot as the GM can use those elements to enrich the game. The good GM does not continually abuse the character with the background. Characters that have no positive associations with there world result in disaffected players.

What are your background building methods?

Malruhn
10-22-2010, 05:14 PM
Although I use this with my players, I've found that I do much the same thing with/to myself.

I use random tables to generate the background - the stuff that Tesral and Malruhn have no control over - who your parents are, are they married, how many siblings you have, who is still alive, what your parents do, and most importantly - WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO DO. Yeah, most end up being the child of farmers, and if the parents are the least bit wealthy (comparatively speaking)... they might aspire to get you into the priesthood.

Yeah, and you wanna be a mage/fighter/rogue... heck, even a ROUGE...

The "game" starts when you are about 12/13 years old (or the racial equivalent) with one question: "What do you wanna do with your life - and how can you justify getting to the class you want?" I'm pretty easy going, but the players understand that the world revolves without their input or interaction just fine, thank you, and that the character is STARTING with a background.

I let the player choose gender and description, but everything else is based on tables. You wanna be from the Barony of Southdale, then you are either Caucasian or a "native" (think American Indian), and your physical description has based on "racial" norms for that group (and you have a reputation of being a "country hick"). If you wanna be from the County of Seaview, you have black hair and swarthy skin (think Greek/Mediterranean) (and you have a ready-made reputation for being VERY cheap and a shrewd bargainer).

For that "going-to-be-farmer" that wants to grow up to be a fighter, the player's few options include running away to enlist in the military or militia, or try to get selected as a page (quite rare). Okay, now you can select your skills and feats (with ONE bonus skill point going into Profession: Farmer), and about four to six years has passed. You have been discharged from the military near your home-town, and what are you going to do?

I probably shouldn't be, but I am still amazed at the number of people that go home and give them money to defray the inevitable debt that villeins and serfs owe.

And then, to segue into the Campaign Practicality Fails thread, this young farmer has visited home, and is contemplating his new lot in life over an ale in the local tavern, when in walks a mage, a cleric and a rogue...

That's about it.

Now, for MYSELF, I get wild hairs that attack me from time to time. I sit down to roll up a fighter, and something caught my eye and I end up with a mage. Heck, my last character was going to be a fighter and ended up as a cleric with an 8 CON. Outside of that, everything else runs pretty much the same, with the DM providing my parameters for what is "assigned" (the uncontrollable parts, as described above).

VERY nice thread!

Utgardloki
10-23-2010, 05:50 PM
I tend to combine fluff and crunch. For example, when i created my first Iron Kingdom's character, I had not played a sorcerer before so I decided to play one. Then I randomly rolled to determine if I would play a male or a female. The Nyss race looked intriguing, so I chose that for my race.

Then I went to the Iron Kingdoms forums to determine who a Nyss sorceress would be and why she would be with this party. I ended up with a background where she was a curious teenager who wandered too far from home and captured by Gobbers, who sold her to some pirates. She escaped using her newly developed sorcery skills. And she never, ever EVER wants to go to the Five Fingers city in that setting. And she NEVER calls herself a "sorceress". She says that she is a "wizard", an "adventurer", a "scoundrel", a "warrior", a "ranger", a "hunter", even a "priestess". But she is not a "sorceress" even though that is what it says on her character sheet.

For my second Iron Kingdoms character, I based her on an NPC I had in a game that I ran. She was a necromancer/monk whose family was killed by a necromancer, so she swore revenge on all necromancers. Failing to become a bard (although she did manage to pick up a rank in Perform Singing), she entered the Order of Keeping to learn fighting skills to be used in her goals. It would have been better mechanically if she had not specialized in necromancy, but I determined that her background had forever tainted her so that she could not learn certain spells, and instead created necromantic variants of a couple of the conjuration spells that she had tried to learn.

So I can go either way, thinking either of a class/race combination I'd like to try and looking for a background to match, or thinking of a background and looking for a class/race combination that fits. Sometimes thinking of backgrounds gives me new ideas for class/race combos, like a female hobgoblin ranger idea I have from thinking about how females fit into hobgoblin society.

In the game that I run, I've developed the habit of assigning an ethnic group and background to a new character, unless the player wants something else. That way, I don't have to burden the player with the task of reading several pages of setting background, and the PCs all fit into my setting. My main homebrew is designed to support most common fantasy character tropes. I would like to come up with some random *suggestion* tables for things like race and family.

rabkala
10-23-2010, 11:32 PM
:lol:This was created as a war game first, the whole role-play snobbery happened later... Oh yes, snobbery. My favorite role is that of a young game mechanic trying to test the limits of the game I have created. :mad::confused:

Come on, if you really wanted a true role-play game you would play a dice-less nearly rule free game system on-line. Shouldn't thous writ at least twenty pages of internal soliloquy before stating anything with meaning?
Role adds dimension, it is not the be all end all of gaming. Look at the trends of gaming... people are getting back to the truth of the strategic war game. Ooh, 4e is hard and fast, too fast for the Gygaxian dinosaur. People want an impartial referee, not a rule 0 dictator on his one fit of fantasy despite the players. So, my method is what works with the rules, not in spite of them. Optimization is justified.


Post scriptum: Very nice thread. This is in no way an attack on you Tes, just the truth as I see it and feel it.

Utgardloki
10-24-2010, 12:12 AM
I guess the question is, what does it mean? What does it mean whether you are Bob the Fighter, brother of Bob II the Fighter too, or whether you are a half-elf Ranger/Bard/Cleric who grew up on a broccoli farm that was destroyed when a wicked wizard unwisely summoned a fire elemental?

tesral
10-24-2010, 01:40 AM
While i gave my prefered method, I have taken characters in other paths as well. I'm dead set against random background however, even if I do use a generator table. If i don't like the result it is for a reason. The reason tells me what I wanted.

I've been told I can role-play chess. So yes, I'll insert motivation anywhere.

The one thing I don't do, and I have seen done is the guy that starts are 20th level and works backwards. to first level then starts to play the character. The development is done before they ever start play. What is the point? If you stick to the plan, the play is pointless, if you allow events to modify the plan, why did you start with it? My PCs will have plans, but not metagame plans.

rabkala
10-24-2010, 11:29 AM
I do get your point. I guess the rule-playing and optimization comes because it is a game, not just a storytelling session. Many people feel the need to 'win', or feel superior to at least other players. I know when I play, I want a heroic character. It just isn't as fun to play a strength 9 baker whom decided to become a fighter after being attacked by the cookie golem/ monster. I am going to make the best possible fighter that the rules allow and then come up with a cool story.

Is role needed in the game? Most certainly! I really hate when players try to act completely different than the character would. Your heroic paladin (who hates demi-humans according to his back story) should want to rush headlong to where he heard the fair maiden being kidnapped by the orcs. He shouldn't try and come up with all manner of excuse out of thin air not to go...

People are closer to their characters when they come up with a good story for the motivation by themselves. I have had many players who just are not that creative. Given the opportunity to write a good back story, they come back with rehashed bios of old video game characters repeatedly. If I come up with a good starting point and story for them, they can usually take it from there. Sometimes tables and charts are a good starting point for them. At least you don't have the players who every character seems to have the same personality this way. If I tell them the character is a drunkard, womanizer and gambler ... Maybe they will not try to play the 'strong silent type' for the fifth time in a row.

tesral
10-24-2010, 01:11 PM
One thing I have seen is the burned out player. The guy that in the past has had a GM that abused him with any background they had. Result all their PCs are soulless kill-bots. It's an effort to get a name out of them. (I am thinking of a specific player, not a theoretical example.) I want to beat those GMs senseless with their own books.

As a GM I see a characxter's background as a way to enrich the campaign and role-playing experience. I myself when playing fill my backgrounds with possible game hooks. The last game I played in the other players wondered why my PC was the center of so much plot. I told them, I gave the DM a background that was a bag of plot hooks. Shortly everyone had a background. I stood to the side and hit my marks when it was their turn in the spotlight.

Anything I can do to encourage the natural evolution of the character as a character. It is after all a role-playing game, not a stat-playing game or a rule-playing game.

SDJThorin
10-24-2010, 03:00 PM
Hi Tesral,

For myself, as a DM, I give brownie points to those that bother with a good background -- "good" meaning that I can tell that they made an attempt at one, not necessarily that it's a "good" background. What are brownie point? They're a kind of minor luck, bennie or Fate point.

Depending on the game, I do have tables that help with racial attributes and general appearance and attitudes of the races, but they are used to spark inspiration. If someone wants to play a tall Halfling or a blue skinned Dwarf that's up to them -- within reasonable bounds, as described in their background of course. ;)

As a Player, I usually wait for the other players to pick their PCs and then ask the DM what else they need/want in the game -- I've been playing for more than a quarter century and have played just about every class/role/type there is in the games I do, so for me it's a way to randomly get a starting point.

But once I've got that class/role/type then the real work begins -- I determine why/who the PC will be and try to make it unique in some way and of course fun and challenging to play.

Just to make sure everyone understands, I'm not talking skills, feats, powers, etc. here! I'm talking about the development of his personality, background and who he wants to become. Once that is done, even if it's only done in my head, I start to build the PC within the limits of the game system.

I could care less if I pick skills, feats, powers, etc. that aren't "Optimized" (I am so sick of people saying shit like that) for higher levels... My PC wouldn't know that!!! He only knows that learning X is useful to him right now, he doesn't understand that at level 500 it's going to screw up his ability to get Y as a feat/power/whatever!

For the games I play in, metagaming to min/max your PC's powers/skillset is not the point -- being Heroic (and hopefully trying to make a difference) is, and that doesn't require anything more than good roleplaying, some luck and the will to play your PC with what they have at hand (where the skills and gear come in).

I used to have a DM that would randomly generate the entire PC (I mean totally random, sometimes they didn't even meet the minimum requirements of the class) and hand them out to us, giving us 10 minutes to figure them out and then start the game! I think this is the main reason why I can take any PC, no matter how "crappy" it is, and with a bit of imagination and effort have a playable character :)

For those that like to play, what I call the video game style of RPing, it IS all about min/maxing to "Optimize" your PC to be the ultimate Destroyer of Worlds! But then, I don't play in those games -- it's just not my cup of tea :)

:boink:So, for those that think the video game style is the only style of gaming, please don't mind me and mine as we create those unplayable characters with personality and flaws. LOL :bolt:

tesral
10-24-2010, 09:48 PM
I used to have a DM that would randomly generate the entire PC (I mean totally random, sometimes they didn't even meet the minimum requirements of the class) and hand them out to us, giving us 10 minutes to figure them out and then start the game! I think this is the main reason why I can take any PC, no matter how "crappy" it is, and with a bit of imagination and effort have a playable characterYea, I can do that, I don't like to. I prefer to do my own work.



I could care less if I pick skills, feats, powers, etc. that aren't "Optimized" (I am so sick of people saying shit like that) for higher levels... My PC wouldn't know that!!! He only knows that learning X is useful to him right now, he doesn't understand that at level 500 it's going to screw up his ability to get Y as a feat/power/whatever!

I'm feeling you pain here. My character live in the world not the game book. I seldom have "perfectly" optimized PCs. Funny thing, I have damn good ones.

Case in point the last one again. The new guy who was doing is newibe best to min max. His character had died twice within two sessions. A record for the low PC death game. I was giving him a bit of grief, all in fun. He sulked. "Wait until it is your turn." I informed him that in two and a half years my PC had never been in negative hit points. His eyes bugged out. He looked a the DM. DM confirmed it. Play smart, not min max.

SDJThorin
10-24-2010, 10:55 PM
I've had similar PCs. :)

Thorin -- the one I take my handle from, started as a D&D Fighter (no not 3rd edition! We're talking the original box set from the 80s) and was converted over to 1st ed and then finally to 2nd ed AD&D where he evolved into a Paladin Cavalier of Torm. He's been almost killed a dozen or more of times and has lost scores of levels via the undead that he was drawn to fight (I've been told more than a few times that I should outfit him into an undead slayer, but that's just not who he is). He's lost everything and rebuilt himself many times over as well. Currently he's 12th level (for the 5th or 6th time), even though he been played for over 2 decades. Without all the level drains I'm sure he could have made it well into the 30s, but then he wouldn't have been as fun to play :)

DMMike
10-25-2010, 08:51 PM
:boxing:The specialist grappler makes a bit more sense now.

Malruhn
10-25-2010, 11:06 PM
I just had a GREAT character that had a wonderful background that died a couple of weeks ago. Ignoring the fact that he was a 4th level cleric in a campaign with 5/6th level characters against CR 8-10 creatures, he died in a manner befitting his situation.

22 hit points, take 17 due to an unholy blight - and walk into a room with an erinyes. He took a 17-hp arrow in the forehead before he could run away. It had nothing to do with his level or build - or his background. I worked hard on his background to ensure it made sense and workable, and it is sad that he died so quickly (our second session!). You know what I said?

"Where's my dice? I have some new background to establish."

DMMike
10-27-2010, 01:14 PM
Discussing roleplaying could lead to something like character threads, in which the first post is a description of the character's physical, personality, and historical characteristics. Subsequent posts might look like the player's description of an in-game situation, and either a request for suggestions/predictions, or how the player decided to roleplay it out.

Anyway, one reason you might not see a lot of roleplaying posts is that it's a completely subjective topic - so no one can be right or wrong. Much like politics and religion. You can offend someone, but you can't prove they're wrong.

Man, would my creative writing teachers of the past be disappointed by that analysis!

Oedipussy Rex
10-28-2010, 04:54 AM
I guess I'm what some would call a piss-poor role-player. The roles a I play are characters that live in a world of no technology, magic, monsters, and a cave/dungeon around every corner. I worry about my character's background as much as script writers worry about a Red Shirt's background: he was born to die, usually against some horribly demented figment of someone's horribly demented mind. If the character lives more than a few sessions, then background and motivations start to emerge.

But then, the style of game I prefer is where all the stuff that gets my character to the dungeon/lair/adventure is handled by DM/GM fiat: "Your character's have been hired to clear out the caves to be repopulated by the former residents. After resupplying and a couple days' travel you find yourselves at the cave." Maybe it was too much Wagon Train (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wagon_Train), Maverick (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maverick_(TV_series)), and Star Trek (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek) growing up, but I really don't care what happens between adventures and I really don't want to role-play it. Let's face it, Star Trek would be a horrifically terrible show if we had to watch all the tedium of getting from planet M113 at the end of "The Man Trap" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_Trap) to Thasus at the beginning of "Charlie X." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_X)

Does this mean I'm not a role-player? Of course not. At no point in my life have I ever killed someone and taken their stuff. Even when the rat bastard deserved it.

SDJThorin
10-28-2010, 09:25 AM
Hey Oedipussy Rex, got a question for you...

Do you have fun playing your PCs and getting into the character, or are they only revolving stats and gear lists that allow you to kill stuff like a 1st person shooter video game in god-mode?

Having fun Role-playing, at least the way I classify it (YMMV), does NOT require a background, etc. -- hell Thorin didn't have anything other than a PC sheet for years -- but it does require that you have fun and play the character by interacting with the other PCs and NPCs.

There are many ways to play RPGs, and every person has their own ideas of what ROLE-playing means. Personally, I think that if you and your friends are having fun, that's enough.

Caveat -- My only real touchy point is when people screw with others trying to have fun... if they've got to put you down to prove that their way is the only way then I've got no time for them.

tesral
10-28-2010, 11:31 AM
When has anyone suggest you need to live the dead space? It is a game here, not living for the characters. I certainly advocate having more personality than a red shirt however. It does make playing a character that has more personality than a red shirt possible.

DMMike
10-28-2010, 12:43 PM
The proactive DM will use dead space for character development. And plot development. Or encourage his PCs to develop their characters.

DM: The rickety wagon rolls along the old dirt road, toward the fiendish-dire-blinking-spider mines. You know Mialee, you haven't told Tordek about your encounters with previous dwarven fighters. Maybe he should get an earful?

Mialee: Ummm. No.

Tordek: I look Mialee over, scoff, and turn away.

DM: The wagon driver looks wistfully into the distance. "You know, when I was a young 'venturerr like y'selves...(goes into flavor story)."
The wagon driver stops in his story to look out at some marble ruins in the distance. There's a smoke trail rising from them. "Funny place to camp," he says, interrupting himself.

Dead space solved!

Malruhn
10-28-2010, 09:03 PM
The backstory stuff is how we, as human beings, and our pen and paper characters, learn to react to stuff. Why does Grodek get so ticked off when he hears goblin war drums? His family was slaughtered by them. When faced by overwhelming odds against gnolls, Grodek runs away... but he may not if they were attacked by goblins. Your sister was turned into a newt by a wizard? How will you react to the party's new wizard?

You will note that the Red Shirts never got speaking roles...

If you wanna play a Red Shirt, I'll let you. But don't get upset when you are rolling up a new Red Shirt after every encounter. CHARACTERS have reasons to live... Red Shirts don't.

Dragon of Tyr
10-28-2010, 09:38 PM
I think the idea of classes can be a crutch at times for players, especially those that want to jump into the game directly and roles be damned. Its not always the case but it does happen. With players today more interested in hack and slash, and less characterization, they often rely on the archtypical roles in whatever game they happen upon to serve as a defacto template for said PC. I noticed that players i've had in the past who select a paladin, and gear themselves for physical combat, or choose to be a wizard and immediately array their spellbook for maximum combat magicks. I finally had to interject and ask what motivated their PC's to such ends, and when they told me outright, so that they could win, i had to retool the game. I started all PC's at level 0, stats and no skills and let them build into their character class, let them live out the motivations that shaped their character.

I'm also a big proponent of games that have no classes, Shadowrun and WoD, for example. Yes they have archtypes, but its geared mostly towards day-to-day management of tasks as opposed to fufilling preconcieved combat roles...

Back to point, a DM/GM needs to take time and foster character building skills as well as game officiation and rules mongering...its something that the industry has gotten away from and by action, or omition from players and DM/GM's alike have sort of gone along with...too bad.

tesral
10-29-2010, 12:39 AM
The original game, D&D 1973 so we are clear on that. DID NOT mention role-playing at all. A War game playable with pen and paper was the tagline on the cover. Yes you were meant to play a stats/race/class. The numbers themselves didn't mean a lot. The race was little besides a label. We've come a long way. I frankly like that about the game. It isn't enough to roll up a bunch of new characters every time and troll through a random collection of monsters and treasure. People quickly found the story telling potential of reoccurring characters. I have characters that I have played for decades. I like that.

I know their stories, I reveal in the fun I've had with them. Yes, beloved characters of fiction. My friends and my fiction. Hell look at how over the top some people will go for literature and movie characters. Harry Potter and Twilight come to mind. How much better when the characters and the adventures are the ones your friends and yourself made up?

Utgardloki
10-30-2010, 04:09 PM
One question I'd like to ask is how DMs can encourage the role-playing aspect. I frequently find myself with a character who has a well-detailed background, and find that it makes no difference in the game. I hope my players don't have a similar experience in my games.

SDJThorin
10-30-2010, 05:14 PM
If a player creates a background I usually go over it with them first, tweaking it to fit into the game world where necessary.

This way I find out where they want to go with their PCs and what they are comfortable with me poking around with. I've had players who get upset when I go anywhere near their backgrounds and at the other extreme players who write backgrounds specifically for me to "attack" them with.

Once that's done, I usually make a few notes and try to flavour future games where it makes sense. For the ones that wanted the "attacks", I create a conflict for them every so often too :)


For myself as a player, I hate it when a GM takes my background and uses as a shopping list of people and things to torture and kill!

Don't get me wrong, occasionally threatening them and such is fine, but when every time I turn around someone the PC cared about was wasted -- it just sucks and makes me not want to bother with the game anymore. Same thing with pets, mounts, familiars and personal followers!

I can take a killing, but only if it makes sense within and for the story -- even if it takes a while for this to come to the fore -- and it's not all the fracking time!

tesral
10-30-2010, 11:20 PM
But yup yups here. I always clear the details of a background with the GM or want them cleared with me. Again plot hooks are fine but killing every member of the PC's family down the list is not what backgrounds are for.

Part of clearing the background is to make sure the details fit in with the campaign. Great I just wrote up a member of Aragon's rangers and the GM looks blankly and says "I never knew Ara was here." This is not a background that will work. Trust me on that.

Oedipussy Rex
10-31-2010, 04:30 AM
Okay. Looks like a little clarification is needed. I didn't say I played Red Shirts I said I put as much effort into character background as is put into a Red Shirt's background. As far as I'm concerned, if it's that important to a GM that character has a background then he can write one for the character.


Hey Oedipussy Rex, got a question for you...

Do you have fun playing your PCs and getting into the character, or are they only revolving stats and gear lists that allow you to kill stuff like a 1st person shooter video game in god-mode?

It's not quite that binary, but I'm in the game to kill things and take their stuff, to solve mysteries, to overcome obstacles to achieve some objective, etc. That said, every character is played with a different personality. One character will be overbearing and uptight while another will be introverted to the point of invisibility.

And with that said, I hate "sandboxes." I have neither the time nor the inclination to set one up as a GM and as a player I have no desire to suss out the next adventure. Just put me at the start and tell me the objective, I don't care if it's a dungeon crawl, an overland trip, or what have you. I'm not here to be part of a "shared narrative;" I'm here to play a game.

I've been told that I'm a terrible campaign GM but an excellent convention GM. I guess the same holds true as a player.

Malruhn
10-31-2010, 12:16 PM
Okay. Looks like a little clarification is needed. I didn't say I played Red Shirts I said I put as much effort into character background as is put into a Red Shirt's background. As far as I'm concerned, if it's that important to a GM that character has a background then he can write one for the character.
Which is to say... you play a Red Shirt.

I'm not saying that it's a bad thing, but let's call a spade a spade. You don't role play, you don't care about motivations, you play for power. End of story.

Sascha
10-31-2010, 01:16 PM
Which is to say... you play a Red Shirt.

I'm not saying that it's a bad thing, but let's call a spade a spade. You don't role play, you don't care about motivations, you play for power. End of story.
You might not be saying it, but you're saying it.

rabkala
10-31-2010, 06:28 PM
I must thank some for illustrating my point of snobbery! I can tell some enjoy the Trolls & Flame Wars system for role-play. We could just be civil adults. :boink:

I do role-play. I hate video games. I do not mean to offend anyone who finds my opinions to be in direct conflict with their delicate sensibility's. These are simply my opinions based on my experiences in many years of gaming, no insult intended. :bolt:

So, lets take a game like Monopoly. First, I take away the money system. Who needs it! Then I decide that my lover (WHOM ALWAYS PLAYS THE CAR) can move any number of spaces up to 6 + the die role. Next we decide the state owns all property and no one really can own it unless you play the thimble (which is always my buddy of thirty years), which is now part of the state conspiracy. Next all houses are condominiums and hotels are orphanages filled with your children. Then, since I am the 'banker' everyone must pay me up to 20% tax on their government given stipend depending on their skill at role playing their reason for continued movement around the board. The 'banker' can change any rule after your die roll for story purposes. Finally, all new players must play the shoe which must grovel at the feet of all others before they can roll the dice or lose all of their resource points. Is this game still Monopoly? I think not.


That has been my experience with most of the 'True role-play games' I have joined. They no longer play the game. They play something loosely based on the game. Dm's don't know the real rules anymore and change them at a whim for dramatic tension or random plot elements. The DM's special home brew world and his grand over arching story are all that is really important. New players face blatant favoritism and better know their place as two bit actors in the story. You can't succeed unless you are a card carrying member of the Drama club or have taken years of over acting lessons. Very little gets accomplished because the play degenerates into some version of a bad Spanish soap opera. The game has been lost in translation to role-play. They should have chose to play Pace (or some other very light dice less system)instead of claiming that they play D&D (which is the heaviest rule system ever made)or any other rule based game.

One such experience: Several years ago, an infrequent player in one of my open games (Steve) said he was going to re start a D&D campaign with a couple old friends (since his job was moving him to a town north of us). He asked if anyone was interested, because he only had three players. They were more into role-play than roll play... sounded okay. Myself and another (Greg) agreed to drive the 30 minutes up there as we had nothing going on that day.

We showed up at his old friends house who was hosting the game (Gary). Despite the fact that the game was not to start for half an hour, Gary was dressed in some sort of bad Robin hood get up and insisted on being called Prince Tristan. We shared a few looks then finished our characters (a wizard for me and a cleric for Greg). The others arrived (the GM - Steve, his girlfriend - Ruth, and a friend from one of their jobs - Sarah). The game started without flourish as the other players already had characters from the year before. We were in a small town apparently run by an evil mobster type and given no direction. We role played various innocuous and mundane things for an hour and a half (nearly 40 minutes just on the purchase of matching purple cape and shoes for one of the players). We finally got wind of some strange goings on in the 'magic trading post' and decided to investigate. Prince Tristan got up from the table to prance into the kitchen for a snack and then to his bedroom for a fencing foil without explanation (?). We decided to go in as customers and see if we could find anything out. As soon as we walked in, we were attacked. Apparently, the Big Bad Mobster had magically overheard our plans in the alley behind a nearby shop for no reason. We were quickly over come and on a slave ship bound for nowhere despite our attempts to do anything. As Ruth cued up some ominous music on the boom box, we were ship wrecked (wow). Greg and I set about searching the wreckage with a couple good d20 rolls and a brief desciption of our search. Prince Tristan and Sarah rambled on for twenty minutes ... mostly about unrequieted love. Prince Tristan (the ranger) found a magical sword of speed and a magical dagger, Sarah (the fighter) found food supplies and magical armor, Ruth (a thief, who didn't roll a die or even much attempt to role-play) found talking thieves tools and some cryptic scrolls, while myself and Greg found drift wood. I was unable to memorize spells without my spell book and the gods were not answering Greg. We crudely covered ourselves in palm leaves and set down the beach to look for anything we could use. Greg and I were surprised by raptors and killed, as Tristan tried to intimidate them with his prancing and Sarah tried to reason with them. Ruth says "Don't worry there is a witch doctor in the forest who can reincarnate you." (? , what!) Session ends.

Greg and I didn't return for more of that role play railroad.


Again, this is just from my experience. Your experience may vary and your opinions are yours. I am not claiming your game is bad, nor pointing my finger at any on this board. Play how you like or were tights if you like, I like a real game with my role-play.

SDJThorin
10-31-2010, 07:52 PM
Ouch! You did better than I would have... I would have left when the fencing foil came out... That's a little too weird and with all the odd gaming before... ick -- I'd be thinking they (OK Prince Tristan at least) were whack jobs and be fearing for my safety!

But then, I was in a group where one of the new recruits became unstable and had planned to kill us... no... really!

DMMike
10-31-2010, 09:18 PM
Not just your experience, rab. That exact thing happened to me. :eek:

tesral
11-01-2010, 12:26 AM
You are blaming the game, not the people playing it. It is possible to have a good shared story experiece and not run into any of those proboem, and not every group is that way. I would have to place you in the same category as Mike-the-souless-killbot. Slug GMs have made you hate what you think is the concept, not the actual concept.

I see the game as a means to an end, that end is having fun. If fun is not being had, the game has failed. Be that game tiddleywinks or D&D. You have fallen back on a strict interpitation of the rules as a defense and avoiding the role in role-playing.

It is not the fault of role-playing. An idea is not responsible for those that claim to follow it.

Oedipussy Rex
11-01-2010, 03:05 AM
Which is to say... you play a Red Shirt.

I'm not saying that it's a bad thing, but let's call a spade a spade. You don't role play, you don't care about motivations, you play for power. End of story.

Who says I don't care about motivations? My characters' motivations are developed through gameplay, not predetermined for the purpose of some overarching story. If the GM decides to give my character a backstory I'm fine with that and work with it. I've done it before. Example: new gaming group and new level 1 characters. The GM tells me that my Fighter is a member of the town garrison, is an orphan from an orc raid ten years earlier and that the Captain took him in and raised him. And I played the hell out of it, all the way castigating the other characters for stepping out of line, not holding their own in combat, and firing the characters who had been hired to assist in the adventure because the group was better off without them. (And then the very first attack in the next combat was a critical hit that split my character in twain. HA! It was beautiful!)

As for "play for power," I have a 4th level Zealot (HackMaster) with a single +1 weapon. I have another character that's a Half-Ogre Zealot of Nudor (again, HackMaster), a pacifist gawd. Why did I choose the absolute worst Race/Class combination possible? For the challenge. Just because I don't give two shits about creating a background, don't think I can't and don't roleplay.

What I'm uninterested in is all the tedious bullshit that doesn't advance the game and, quite frankly, bores me to distraction. If, for example, the adventure is to track down and recover a stolen item then I'll question NPCs trying to find clues if it's necessary, but if the characters are between adventures don't expect me to roleplay looking for the next adventure. Give me the plot, not the hook. I'm here to play a game of fantasy and violence, not to perform amateur community theater. (Hyperbole for the purpose of emphasis.)

And as for the overall tone of your post, be careful to whom you say such things; I've a character who would first take out the healers to ensure that you couldn't be raised.

rabkala
11-01-2010, 09:30 PM
You are blaming the game, not the people playing it. It is possible to have a good shared story experiece and not run into any of those proboem, and not every group is that way. I would have to place you in the same category as Mike-the-souless-killbot. Slug GMs have made you hate what you think is the concept, not the actual concept.

I see the game as a means to an end, that end is having fun. If fun is not being had, the game has failed. Be that game tiddleywinks or D&D. You have fallen back on a strict interpitation of the rules as a defense and avoiding the role in role-playing.

It is not the fault of role-playing. An idea is not responsible for those that claim to follow it.

So you say, "Hate the playerz, not the game!" That does fly in the face of popular wisdom, but I do not hate the game. I love the game! The game is pure and beautiful. Thousands of people have fun with the game as it is. I hate the bastardization of the game. I hate when people take one small portion of the game and take it to the nth degree. I am sure some people love to role play every bathroom experience a character has, does that mean we all must to be great? Some may have problems moving from point A to C, so they need to express point B ad nausium. You can have fun with point B, but it is meaningless to me and the game. I must be a horrible person for not needing to buy matching shoes and cape for 40 minutes. I couldn't possibly be able to role play if I do not feel the need to waste my real life and time on every single stupid mundane issue in a fantasy game!?!

To a some extent you may be right. I have seen extremes in both directions. The games that made me the most uncomfortable, the angriest, met the most unstable excuses of humanity, had the least fun, etc. just happened to be toward one direction of that spectrum. Maybe just coincidence? That caused me to pull toward the other end. I do know that not all games are like the worst I have been in. Certain games and rule sets do bring certain expectations, though. I guess none of us become who we are in a vacuum.

There does often seem that many carry a strict interpretation of people who do not role-play 99% of the game, must be moronic people beneath the oh so great role-players who could not possibly have fun or play a game where others have fun. That is just wrong and needs to stop. I suppose only your race is proper, only your religion is right, only your values are correct, only your favorite color is pleasing, only your interpretation is valid ... wow, let me join the cult. Hey, where's the Kool aid! We can and do role-play even if you like more. I have played with many hundreds of players, and the great majority loved my games even if they were not a great stage play without mechanics. The point is; that what you deem as 'the best fun', is in no way more valid than another persons fun.

SDJThorin
11-01-2010, 10:16 PM
Sounds like we are all saying similar things just in different ways...

We play to have fun!

For me, I try not to dive into the ad nauseam of shopping, etc. but if all the players are into it then we go through it.

Yes, I've DMed an entire week within an Inn, but the players were having a hell of a time and so we played through it until they had enough.

And yes, I do skip days worth of travelling and other things that aren't worth spending time on.

On the topic of Backgrounds, they don't all take the forms that we've discussed... when you talk about the DM giving you the start of a back story and you expand your character (be it in your mind or on paper) and interact with NPCs to solve a mystery... that is what I call role-playing...

From much of what you've said, I think that you are in fact (what I call) a good role-player.

Malruhn
11-01-2010, 10:16 PM
You might not be saying it, but you're saying it.
Not at all. I just believe in truth in advertising...

If I say that I play a tactical war-game, and then go on to say that the numbers don't interest me and that I just want to role-play, then I am being disingenuous. In Oedipussy's first post, he intimates that he doesn't have any interest in background and then, in his latest post, seems to indicate that there are "tedious" parts that he dislikes. From his tone, I have inferred that this is situational background... the "role" playing part. Sure, he says that he can role play, but if you dissect his posts, it appears that this is the least of his interests.

But then he says he is a role player.

Sorry, but I think this is being disingenuous. Personally, I don't give a rat's behind if he likes it or not... but at least be honest.

To further muddy the waters, he says that when handed a background, he makes use of it when he plays. Well, then, why say that it doesn't matter and that you don't care about it? His posts are all confusilating! It's like saying that you are a follower of one political party, but say that you don't follow their ideals, but then go on to say that you DO follow their ideals...

I'm not talking any flavor of snobbery at all (toward rabkala)... I'm just saying that people should be honest about their styles and their interests.

If a person has no interest - and SAYS that they have no interest - then SHOW no interest. Don't go on to say that you DISPLAY interest and provide examples of how you show this interest. It isn't a good OR bad thing, it's just called consistency! Make up my darned mind!

tesral
11-02-2010, 12:40 AM
:focus: I'm calling troll. It isn't about one person.


The game is what the players make of the rule books. I do not see "The game" as a thing you can stick in a box and sell frankly. The game is created by the players. No, I don't see much fun in linear goal-oriented play. I like a bit of sand box frankly. Direction is nice, but I like a chance to play the role as well. Anyone thing in excess is bad.

I have been running a great deal of goal oriented non linear games in a sandbox. But that is mostly what city play is about. Half the battle is choosing the battles. The most recent major event was an earthquake that left a good deal of city and thousand of people dead in the dust. It produced some lasting images as well. The party fighting a rogue army unit that was looting rather than protecting from looters. The image of thousands of people crossing the Steel Bridge, a five mile suspension span, on foot to get to old city and the solid ground while the fires burned in the new city.

Recenthy they dealt with the fallout from an early action. Mind Flayers loose in the city trying to find out why the flow of slaves had dried up. It had dried up because the party had killed the slave dealer that was shipping them to the underdtark. That was months ago.

These kind of things don't happen in a linear here is the mission, go get'm bucky kind of game. Now that kind of adventure has a place in the over all tool kit, but doing them day in and day out is like eating the same food all the time.

Sticking to the books. Well if the rules covered every possible event that might be one thing. However the rules do not. That is what the game master is for, the times when you have to punt. A good game master makes punts look seamless. There is a way to make sure the rules cover everthing, that is never to create anything that steps out side the box of the rules. That is called RPGA or Pathfinder Society. And I have seen the play of both, and the gorge rises. That style of player in my game flounders. Game mechanics will not save your ass. I require real thinking, not a role application of X game mechanic.

Utgardloki
11-02-2010, 02:00 AM
The way I see it, computers don't think, so we might as well. That's the point of playing a game with paper and pencil instead of a video game in the first place.

tesral
11-02-2010, 02:37 AM
It is indeed. Computer games, and I'm not knocking them here, cannot do a thing that wasn't programed into them to start with. The ultimate in linear goal based adventure. But unless the program placed it in the game, you the player cannot do it. While the graphics usually lack in P&P fames the imagination level does not. One of the reason I play them is you can do things that the game makers did not think about.

Again "The Game" and "The Rules" are not one in the same.

Oedipussy Rex
11-02-2010, 06:06 AM
:focus: I'm calling troll.

Sorry. Didn't realize I was trolling. I'll admit to thread-crapping on occasion but that also wasn't my intent. To directly answer your question:

What are your background building methods?

I let it grow organically through gameplay rather than start with one, unless I have the background given to me.

Xandros
02-17-2011, 11:07 PM
A while back I was initiating some new players to D&D. One guy asked me what the best character class was. I explained that they were really supposed to be pretty balanced, but even so, you really shouldn't be looking for the "best" or most powerful character, but choose the kind of character that you want to play. Fighter, Wizard, whatever you will enjoy playing and create that character. The same goes for Feats etc. You shouldn't really be trying to find the best most powerful combos, but have a character idea in mind and then choose the feats that character would have. My current group has that as one of our main rules. Pretty much anything is allowed so long as it makes sense. Any cross classing, any feats, so long as they make sense for your character and aren't just a way to maximize your character. And yeah, I think a lot of the maximizing characters rather than roleplaying, comes from the computer game mentality.

---------- Post added at 11:07 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:57 PM ----------

And on the note of DMs writing a characters background for them, well couldn't deal with a DM doing that for my character. Not knocking anyone who does do that though, just not my style. I feel a personal connection to my characters. I could never even play games where a DM will hand you a pregenerated Character sheet. I have an allergy to them. Even in the online MMORPG game I play. I see people selling their accounts and characters. They have a lot of powerful stuff, but I don't want to buy and play those characters because they are not my characters. I am a little weird in that area though. Even though in the online game there is no real background for the characters, I have a background for each of my characters in my head.

tesral
02-18-2011, 01:48 AM
You are not the only one. Pregen has its place, testing a new system, Convention games, but it isn't for the average game. I need a connection with the world and the character. I believe I stated earlier that most of my PCs start with the background and build from there. It is after all "The Background". For me at least starting otherwise would be like building a house starting with the sheer panels not the foundation..

HowwwwL
02-19-2011, 05:53 PM
Normally I have the players write their backgrounds. I found though the last time I did this though, only 50% of them wrote one, and the ones that did didn't follow the premise behind their character and started to metagame too much. This time I wrote the backgrounds for ALL the players after asking them what they thought their concept/motivation was. We've been playing since November in this campaign, and it has been a huge difference.

I integrated their backgrounds into the plotline, and with the sandbox style I am using, they are definitely interested and are 'driving the car' sort of speak. All are motivated in their personal plotlines, and in each others. Some backgrounds are interwoven and some are standalone. I definitely see a real interest in the story because they have a personal vested interest in it, and the roleplaying is showing.

It really makes the DMing chore worthwhile when your players 'buy in' like they currently are. Everyone wins.

Xandros
08-27-2011, 06:21 PM
You are not the only one. Pregen has its place, testing a new system
I recently tried out a new system and the pregen/sample characters were very handy in understanding the system (even though I didn't/wouldn't play the pregens. The pregens were used to show how the game mechanics worked. "* character has * skill level and attempts to do *, rolls a 10, so * happens". Being able to see their stats, I could easily understand where the results were coming from. So even though I wouldn't be using the pregens they did give a quicker understanding of the mechanics. More on topic, I also prefer the pregens that actually give a background. Many don't and only provide stats. I understand the point, as then you have the stats already but can make up your own background, which is good. On the flip side though pregen/sample characters with a background can help inspire players in creating their own backgrounds. They can look at a pregen/sample background and think "oh that's what a background consists of, I can top that" and may be inspired to go into a more fully rounded background.

nijineko
08-28-2011, 11:00 AM
i have enjoyed the various posts.

background building methods. to be frank, the majority of my most fleshed out and interestingly background-ed characters started out as power concepts. i tend to read the rule books. heck, i read dictionaries sometimes too. as a result, i wind up with a handful of "oooh! that looks neat" concepts based on some combination of skills, powers, abilities, and/or class features and so forth. then i start thinking about what kind of personality would be interesting with that concept. on rare occasion, i think of an interesting personality and come up with the build concept after, but the vast majority of the time it is the former method.

example 1: cherry moon and cherri moon. this character started off as a monk-ish/ninja-like character with ice magic. (and this character predates the release of the mortal combat game, thank you.) that was it, just the idea of a martial artist of some sort with ice magic. i happened to be using rolemaster at the time, so she wound up as a monk and i spent some of her background option slots to pick up some elemental ice lists in addition to her monk lists.

by the time i was done with her development, she was a descendant of an exodus of refugees on the losing end of a religious pogrom from several hundred years ago which ended in the establishment of a theocracy with no tolerance for "heretical religions" (as in any other religions). her current culture was a mix of religious ideals and languages which gives her a polyglot effect for learning new languages. They live in the far reaches in a chain of volcanically active mountains in an arctic region. literally fire and ice. they are also nearing extinction due to the harsh living circumstances. this has led to a creche rearing system, and children having children as soon as they can bear offspring. after they have had two or three children, they are expected to risk the outside environs in order to provide for the people. They are now beginning to outreach and trade for necessities, including slaves. these "slaves" are actually fresh genetics and are adapted into their society as full members as soon as possible, which is usually during or after they have born two or three children.

she is somewhat of an idealist, having been involved in trade negotiations, she speaks the trade tongue, and has learned to read, which is what led her to learn about people choosing their mates for love, rather than survival necessity. she ran away from an arranged matching and justifies herself by sending trade goods and food stuffs back to her homeland as she journeys from place to place adventuring. quite the mercantile mindset she has developed. she also got a hold of a pair of ring gates, and uses it to send food home. she is known for eating unbelievable amounts of food, most of it actually is being blatantly stolen from banquets and shoveled through the gates. she also spends her free time begging, as the concept of people just giving away money astounds her and tickles her to no end.

she is also extremely suspicious and prone to seeing omens in virtually everything, which drives the dm to distraction as she will react very unpredictably to "normal" situations in roleplaying.

lastly, she has an parallel dimension twin/sister in a scifi setting (cherry moon) who belongs to an ancient kingdom in feif to an empire, she being the eligible daughter in line of inheritance is effectively being held in political durance in order to control said kingdom. she winds up being married off to an outsider who happened to stumble into a heroic situation and come out on top who is then adopted into the empire's royal line as a very minor and non-inheriting nobel, which solves the emperor's quandary of what to do with the latest batch of political hostages without upsetting the delicate political balance currently in effect. She along with two other hostages are married to the reluctant hero, who did not understand quite what he was getting into, and she spends a lot of time trying to track and chase him down and hold him to his patrimonial duty of siring offspring... being that he does not believe in polygyny, proves quite the problem. He is using various other duties to escape and run away, so my character has to find him and ah, nail him down, so to speak. oh, and there is the little competition between the three girls to see who will become the first wife, as in, who makes her perform his duty first, that is. so she is off through space on various vessels going from planet to planet trying to be the first to catch him, and not let him get away. the hero in question had quite the background prior to accidentally becoming a hero, so is surprisingly good at getting away, too.

egads... reviewing that plotline makes it seem like it is straight out of a manga. i wonder if that is where the dm got the idea.... hmmmmm. oh yeah, and her (scifi version) abilities are completely different from the initial power concept, btw. ^^

anyway. i have more examples, but i am out of time for now.

Descronan
04-09-2012, 03:03 PM
I've been doing a combination of things.

I give my characters a name (obviously), and occupation, and at least three physical features of the character that everyone notices (skinny, fat, muscular, narrow nose, large ears, a scar, tattoo, etc). I write at least three short paragraphs on his background (origin, family, recent events). Then I come up with three personality traits to differentiate this character from the last ten I've played (happy, grumpy, calm, ADHD, proud, etc). Then I give them three motivations that the GM can exploit (greedy, pleasure seeker, adventurous, fame). Lastly I come up with three hooks that I would like the GM to explore. These are little plots to get the game moving and revolving around my character's background or current situation. Of course the GM has full reign to use them and abuse them to his/her own devices.

I've found this to be the formula that I ask of my players too and it has helped me generate some games that are more focused on the characters and who they are rather than what cool toys they discovered.

Etarnon
04-18-2012, 06:11 AM
I use heroes for tomorrow / yesterday for background.

When doing 3.5, I go with that background, then level up in skills and feats depending on what happened on the adventure, I don't plan it out.

I really dislike the complex combat engine that is 4e, not because of no roleplay, there can be roleplay, but because i doin't want a damn stack of cards in my face as a player, telling me what my Fighters "Powers" are, and the "cooldown" (yuck) period. I do not play Warcraft.

People like 4e, it's not my thing. If I have a non-human PC I use the Races of Books of 3.5 for flavor for languages, etc. 2e, Complete books of.

I like systems like Star wars d6, and Star Trek Last Unicorn. Traveller. Stuff goes pretty fast, lots of narration. Typically big scope stories.

I really liked Iron Crown Rolepmaster back in the day for the flavor, but it's tough to find players for, because of complexity and charts and such.

Luck to all.

Descronan
04-19-2012, 03:33 PM
Normally I have the players write their backgrounds. I found though the last time I did this though, only 50% of them wrote one, and the ones that did didn't follow the premise behind their character and started to metagame too much. This time I wrote the backgrounds for ALL the players after asking them what they thought their concept/motivation was. We've been playing since November in this campaign, and it has been a huge difference.

I integrated their backgrounds into the plotline, and with the sandbox style I am using, they are definitely interested and are 'driving the car' sort of speak. All are motivated in their personal plotlines, and in each others. Some backgrounds are interwoven and some are standalone. I definitely see a real interest in the story because they have a personal vested interest in it, and the roleplaying is showing.

It really makes the DMing chore worthwhile when your players 'buy in' like they currently are. Everyone wins.

This is one of the reasons I came up with plot hooks as part of the PC's background.

Basically the player comes up with three plots that they're interested in pursuing that revolves around their character.

Since they are something that the player is supposed to be interested in investigating it gives the GM a way to get players to buy in and engage and also to help expand the game.

tesral
04-23-2012, 09:25 AM
I use heroes for tomorrow / yesterday for background.



Useful books, I only have the Heroes of Tomorrow. Useful; if you do not hew too closely to a set of rolls and use them as inspiration,. The tables are melodrama heavy to say the least.

I ran into this bit of character fluff and decided to give it a try. It was part of a campaign that involved dreams as a game mechanic. Here is is used to help define a character.

"What did your character always want as a child?”
Was it a particular pet? A certain toy? Or perhaps a desire to see a famous person or place? To never be hungry or to know a lost parent? Perhaps to travel? Or was it to return to a certain place? Consider your character’s origin and childhood as you answer this question and choose a personal dream.

“What did your character desire in adolescence?”
Did the character seek the love of a particular person? Acceptance in a group of people? Perhaps they desired money to pay for essentials, the approval of an authority figure, or merely power? Was there a girl? A guy?
Consider your character’s social status as it may influence this personal dream.

“What does your character strive for as an adult?”
Maybe the character wants immense wealth or a marriage to a particular person? Perhaps just to bed a specific person? Perhaps a desire to join a prestigious group or organization? Are they after land and titles? Or just a simple sort of life? Consider your character’s religious beliefs, if any, as you choose this personal dream.

When these questions have been answered rank these Dreams in order of importance: the most important will be your Hope, the second will be your Aspiration, and the last will be your Goal.

Wurg
09-09-2012, 06:51 PM
I'm in a no-game zone and have been for quite a while, so I'm stuck making mechanical builds for characters and having no information on the setting, campaign and/or party they could potentially be in. What do about it is create generic backgrounds that can be adapted into the sort of setting you expect to be used with the system and integrated into the campaign and party. For all the western fantasy, that means greataxe-swinging barbarian from the far north who loves booze, women and collecting the heads of powerful enemies as trophies.

For Qin the Warring Dynasties, it's a bit more complicated. I've built a Li-Kiu expy (you might've seen him in Jade Empire going by his nickname 'The Black Whirlwind') who uses two sabers refluffed as axes and has the same personality as the original. This determined his place of birth and why he left (to escape arrest for murder). If the stars align perfectly, I'll end up in a campaign or at least a group with a Water Margin theme, and I won't need to worry about integration. If the stars don't align, then he's a mercenary who can get the dirty work done. If that's not something that can be integrated into the campaign and the group, then it's just sour grapes.

As far as mechanics and roleplaying schism...I just have to point to the Stormwind Fallacy and add a corollary that for an ideally built character all the rolls enhance the role and the role enhances the rolls.