JP On Gaming

Monday, April 18, 2022

[Old Pro Trick] Character Background: One Person, One Place, One Event Examples

Part 1

Here are some examples of One Person, One Place, One Event stolen from my own characters and those of others.

Example 1

I was raised as a monk in a mountain retreat (place) by an old and mysterious master (person) until someone set fire to the monastery.

So here, as a GM, I have a mysterious monk and I have an arsonist. Plus I have a number of threads: where are the monks now? why was the monastery where it is? why is the master mysterious?

Example 2

Son of innkeepers, I always wanted to get my mother's (person) approval. So when approached by a retired pirate about a lost treasure (event), I went to look for it (place).

As GM, I have a family with an inn, I have a treasure somewhere, I get other pirates. And threads: why did the pirate retire without the treasure? Is the treasure real? what is the story of the treasure? what does it contain?

Example 3

Coming from a distant land (place), I got drunk (event, repeated) and woke up on a ship that dropped me here. The only person I met who understood my language was the harbormaster (person).

As a GM, I get a distant land with a sea route to [here]. I have a character who does stupid things while drunk, repeatedly. And I have a harbormaster who speaks many languages. And this leads me to: what other mischief did the character do before? did he insult someone in his homeland?

Example 4

I got into a spat with my father (event, person) who threw me out. So I left town and I have been trying to get my application to the temple approved.

As a GM, I get an antagonist father as a mini-boss/distant threat, where are the character's friends? what was the argument about? are the friends employed by the father? why is the temple delaying?

Example 5 (an odd example)

I was sold by my parents (event) to a traveling musician (person) and I dream of returning to the family farm (place).

As a GM, this one is complex, but I can nonetheless get a number of things. Why was the character sold? why would the musician agree to such a deal? what is so unique and different about the farm?

This is very intertwined and leaves very little to interact with the outside world. The place is more of a motivation than a place. I would encourage the player to change that. I might replace the place with a location in town, perhaps the church or school where the character went. With a church or school, the GM can draw characters such as "Oh! Don't you remember me? I went to the Church of [...] also! I saw you there."

Example 6

I was sold into slavery (event) by my jealous sisters (persons). I became the swordmaster at the house of my new master (place).

As a GM, I get two evil sisters. I know I said to target ONE person, but a pair of sisters is close enough. Why was the character sold into slavery? where is the new house? what did the rest of the family do/say about the disappearance? Why does the new master need a swordmaster?

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