JP On Gaming

Sunday, April 17, 2022

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

Wow! It's been a while since I made one of these posts... Here goes.

I've been recently called upon to help work on a number of characters and I was asked for guidelines. Since many were new players, I wanted to give them a solid foundation through which they could create their characters, even if they did not know the setting very well.

I paced a little before arriving to this "three elements background" which definitely fits for any RPG, any setting, and any character. It boils down to: One Person, One Place, and One Event.

One Person, One Place, One Event

In short, give your GM a rough outline of what you want, something that allow him to include you into the story while keeping things maleable. Keep yourself open to the GM's ideas about the character. He may have a character who could fit the description perfectly. Or he might change the context a little, instead of a human, the NPC is an elf.

One Person means giving the GM one NPC that is important to YOU. This could be an ally, a relative, a villain, or your master. Whenever the GM pulls out this NPC from his bag of tricks, your character should be driven to action. Don't over-specify who that person is, or how they are.

I mean if it is the wizard who trained you... then you that NPC is likely to be... a wizard.

One Place is a location that is important to you. Don't specify the name, but keep it to a generic location, such as your home village, a castle, a church, or a ship. This gives flexibility and allows for some adjustment. Maybe your village is not on top of the highest mountain, but isolated in the hills. Or is a fishing village.

One Event means you get to decide one thing that happened in the world. The less you know about it, the more localized it should be. Perhaps your parents were killed, or you found a shiny magical object.

The one thing to avoid here is to have the event remove the person and place from the game. Basically don't have you person be your father and your event the murder of your father. Or your special place is a castle and your event the castle vanishing in another dimension. The event should be linked to the other two, perhaps clarifying the relation to the person or giving a short history of the place.

The result should fit in one or two sentences that you can easily use. Then, as you grow and the campaign advances, you will expand and explore that background.

The goal is to help the GM tell a better story and for you to feel more invested in the adventure.

See Examples in follow-up post.

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