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Author Topic: Character backstories  (Read 5502 times)

BedrockBrendan

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« Reply #135 on: June 29, 2017, 02:35:26 pm »
Quote from: Nexus;972151
What is the definition of 'story' being used here? In relation to rpgs, when II  say story I mean 'what happens in the game' but its apparent that is not what other people mean. I like what 'what happens in the game' to resemble the genre the game is meant to emulate so there is some literature structure to it.


I have no problem with using 'story' to mean the stuff that happens in game. And your preference for the game to emulate literary structure is fine. I was purely talking about people equivocating to connect those two things (i.e. the game is about a story; therefore the mechanics and system should produce results that feel like a story). But people saying 'story' when talking about what happened in their D&D session is something I hear in regular conversation all the time.

BedrockBrendan

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« Reply #136 on: June 29, 2017, 02:37:27 pm »
Quote from: daniel_ream;972161
But some OSR fatbeards shriek like autistic frogs when you do that, so I avoid the word.  Clunky as the alternatives tend to be.

I think a lot of these discussions escalate because tone is so hard to establish in a post. Whenever I have these conversations face to face (or even on skype) it is a lot easier to have a real dialogue for that reason. Online they always seem to result in a meltdown at some point.

Nexus

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« Reply #137 on: June 29, 2017, 02:53:31 pm »
Quote from: BedrockBrendan;972171
I have no problem with using 'story' to mean the stuff that happens in game. And your preference for the game to emulate literary structure is fine. I was purely talking about people equivocating to connect those two things (i.e. the game is about a story; therefore the mechanics and system should produce results that feel like a story). But people saying 'story' when talking about what happened in their D&D session is something I hear in regular conversation all the time.

(Man, I hate the lack of tone in this medium :) )

I was really asking what different poster mean when they say "story". It feels at times like different people are using different definitions (myself included) and assuming everyone else is on the same page. I should ask about 'fiction' too when I say fiction I mean 'imaginary'.
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CRKrueger

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« Reply #138 on: June 29, 2017, 03:24:38 pm »
Quote from: daniel_ream;972161
I never used the word "fiction".  I said "events in game".

Now, personally I have no problem using the perfectly serviceable word "fiction" to mean "the events that happen in the imaginary game world, like Strongdor the Barbarian issuing a mighty challenge to the Ice Drake afore cleaving it in twain" so as to distinguish them from the events that happen around the table, like Dave rolling really well on his Boast check and getting a +1 to damage.

But some OSR fatbeards shriek like autistic frogs when you do that, so I avoid the word.  Clunky as the alternatives tend to be.


I know you used events, which is what I try to use.

The thing is, you also said "it's all made up", which is the argument that gets used to mean "it's all fiction" which then conflates "the events that happen in the fictional setting that players create while roleplaying" with "the story people are creating OOC as they utilize various OOC narrative control mechanics, conflict resolution, etc".

It's just the case of some using very loose definitions of "story", "fiction" etc, and others using more specific definitions.

The idea "it's all made-up therefore it's all fiction" is a rationale that frequently starts with the loose definition as foundation, then moves to the specific definition when we get to mechanics, usually when someone is about to argue that a certain mechanics is not OOC/storygamey/narrative/whathaveyou.

So "it's all made up" doesn't really help anything was my point.
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« Reply #139 on: July 02, 2017, 01:56:34 am »
The right way to do "backstory", using some, none or all of the following:
-Roll for social class
-Roll for background skills
-Roll for family
-Roll for lifepath or prior significant life events


The wrong way to do "backstory":
-let the players write 25-50 page background novels about how amazing their character is and then have them expect you to integrate that into the campaign.
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« Reply #140 on: July 03, 2017, 12:00:15 pm »
If I'm running D&D, I'd prefer the "significant  life events" occur during the game.  As for social class, you're all nobodies from nowhere that no one cares about. But then again, I'm not interested in D&D and especially not D&D slapped onto a fake European medieval society.

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« Reply #141 on: July 06, 2017, 08:48:25 pm »
Most of a character's formation should happen in actual play, I agree. But creating a few prior events can be enormously helpful to give a player an idea of where to go with the character.
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cranebump

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« Reply #142 on: July 09, 2017, 09:29:11 am »
Quote from: RPGPundit;972611
The right way to do "backstory", using some, none or all of the following:
-Roll for social class
-Roll for background skills
-Roll for family
-Roll for lifepath or prior significant life events

This is the "right way" for someone who likes keeping players on a short leash (i.e., YOU). You can also ask the players to list this items as bullet points, rather than mandating a random roll. This is assuming, of course, that you actually view your players as people, rather than vacuous ciphers sitting at your table to serve your interests alone.


Quote
The wrong way to do "backstory":
-let the players write 25-50 page background novels about how amazing their character is and then have them expect you to integrate that into the campaign.

On this we agree. But make no mistake. You're still an asshole GM, for asserting random rolls are the "right" way to address character background. For that matter, you don't need any background at all. The characater's race, class, attributes, and skills (if any) allude to that. But, rather than allowing me to concoct a brief abstract, let's just roll on your random tables, shall we, so we don't disturb your gentle sensibilities by allowing one iota of player input.:-/
« Last Edit: July 09, 2017, 09:33:20 am by cranebump »
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Nexus

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« Reply #143 on: July 09, 2017, 10:57:11 am »
Quote from: cranebump;974122
On this we agree. But make no mistake. You're still an asshole GM, for asserting random rolls are the "right" way to address character background. For that matter, you don't need any background at all. The characater's race, class, attributes, and skills (if any) allude to that. But, rather than allowing me to concoct a brief abstract, let's just roll on your random tables, shall we, so we don't disturb your gentle sensibilities by allowing one iota of player input.:-/

The breadth of experiences found in gaming is truly amazing, no joke. In this thread I keep hearing about the "25-50 page" backstories and I have never, in 30+ yrs of gaming gotten anything that long. I think the longest background I can easily recall receiving was 8-10 pages from a player with a very ornate writing style. Someone more with a drier more concise style might have said the same thing in 3-4. I don't think I've ever gotten one of these infamous masturbatory fanfics disguised as a background which seem to plague so many others. But that might stem in part from a different outlook. I've rarely run "You're nobodies and don't matter." zero to hero games.
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daniel_ream

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« Reply #144 on: July 09, 2017, 11:24:10 am »
Quote from: Nexus;974132
In this thread I keep hearing about the "25-50 page" backstories and I have never, in 30+ yrs of gaming gotten anything that long.

Oh, I have, multiple times.  Like just about all things in gaming it's highly dependent on your local gaming culture.  I did most of my gaming in university, so you're going to get different player behaviour from university students than, say, people you meet down the local hobby shop in a largely working class rust belt town.  Personally,  I'm always surprised when people talk about gaming drunk or stoned; I've never seen that in thirty years, but apparently it happens.

Quote from: CRKrueger
The thing is, you also said "it's all made up", which is the argument that gets used to mean "it's all fiction" which then conflates "the events that happen in the fictional setting that players create while roleplaying" with "the story people are creating OOC as they utilize various OOC narrative control mechanics, conflict resolution, etc".

Shrieking about the imaginary storygamer boogeymen is the RPGPundit clown-persona's schtick.  Stealing other people's jokes isn't cool, man.
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Nexus

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« Reply #145 on: July 09, 2017, 11:31:08 am »
Quote from: daniel_ream;974134
Oh, I have, multiple times.  Like just about all things in gaming it's highly dependent on your local gaming culture.  I did most of my gaming in university, so you're going to get different player behaviour from university students than, say, people you meet down the local hobby shop in a largely working class rust belt town.  Personally,  I'm always surprised when people talk about gaming drunk or stoned; I've never seen that in thirty years, but apparently it happens.

I met most of gaming crew in high school and college then online. I never got much into the pick up game at the FLGS thing but it was healthy around here for awhile. Never had the gaming drunk/stoned issue come up but we were pretty straight arrow. Worst that happened was playing -way- to late and sometimes things got weird about 3-4 in the morning. :D
Remember when Illinois Nazis where a joke in the Blue Brothers movie?

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 "The salient fact of American politics is that there are fifty to seventy million voters each of whom will volunteer to live, with his family, in a cardboard box under an overpass, and cook sparrows on an old curtain rod, if someone would only guarantee that the black, gay, Hispanic, liberal, whatever, in the next box over doesn’t even have a curtain rod, or a sparrow to put on it."

WillInNewHaven

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« Reply #146 on: July 09, 2017, 11:39:24 am »
Quote from: Nexus;974135
I met most of gaming crew in high school and college then online. I never got much into the pick up game at the FLGS thing but it was healthy around here for awhile. Never had the gaming drunk/stoned issue come up but we were pretty straight arrow. Worst that happened was playing -way- to late and sometimes things got weird about 3-4 in the morning. :D


Gaming drunk? Once or twice. Gaming stoned? More often but the weirdest was gaming with the GM's two exes in the game.

WillInNewHaven

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« Reply #147 on: July 09, 2017, 11:42:53 am »
Quote from: Nexus;974132
The breadth of experiences found in gaming is truly amazing, no joke. In this thread I keep hearing about the "25-50 page" backstories and I have never, in 30+ yrs of gaming gotten anything that long. I think the longest background I can easily recall receiving was 8-10 pages from a player with a very ornate writing style. Someone more with a drier more concise style might have said the same thing in 3-4. I don't think I've ever gotten one of these infamous masturbatory fanfics disguised as a background which seem to plague so many others. But that might stem in part from a different outlook. I've rarely run "You're nobodies and don't matter." zero to hero games.

What is it with the "you're all no one from nowhere" attitude. Being someone from somewhere, even if neither is very important, is part of being a character and how can one play a  character without being one?

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« Reply #148 on: July 09, 2017, 01:21:52 pm »
Quote from: WillInNewHaven;974137
What is it with the "you're all no one from nowhere" attitude. Being someone from somewhere, even if neither is very important, is part of being a character and how can one play a  character without being one?

What, seriously?

The reason "orphaned sociopath with amnesia" is such a common character back story is that a very, very large portion of players are not interested in the slightest in playing a character - they want to kill things, or disturb shit, or just pfaff around in a fictional world without consequences.  A similar portion of players are so emotionally invested in their character that any attempt by the GM to motivate them by leveraging their character's relationships is tantamount to railroading.  This is a trope that goes back to the very beginnings of roleplaying.

People who want to play a character will do so without needing any further prompting.  People who don't, won't, and no amount of encouragement will get them to.  Know which you've got in your group and plan accordingly.
D&D is becoming Self-Referential.  It is no longer Setting Referential, where it takes references outside of itself. It is becoming like Ouroboros in its self-gleaning for tropes, no longer attached, let alone needing outside context.
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CRKrueger

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« Reply #149 on: July 09, 2017, 01:35:23 pm »
Quote from: daniel_ream;974134
Shrieking about the imaginary storygamer boogeymen is the RPGPundit clown-persona's schtick.  Stealing other people's jokes isn't cool, man.


How disingenuous of you. Those types of arguments have been made here.
Even the the "cutting edge" storygamers for all their talk of narrative, plot, and drama are fucking obsessed with the god damned rules they use. - Estar

Yes, Sean Connery's thumb does indeed do megadamage. - Spinachcat

Isuldur is a badass because he stopped Sauron with a broken sword, but Iluvatar is the badass because he stopped Sauron with a hobbit. -Malleus Arianorum

"Tangency Edition" D&D would have no classes or races, but 17 genders to choose from. -TristramEvans