This Is How I Roll: Why Back-Stories are Essential in Character Creation

Posted on June 14, 2011


After nine years of gaming, I have to admit it’s not often I feel excited about a new game.  Sometimes when you do something far too long or often, it tends to kill the fun of why you started in the first place.

Character creation is never as tedious as it is in gaming.  Yet despite this difficulty, I really love putting together a new character.  However, I’ll be the first to admit to laziness these last few years.

All too often have I just thrown together a character without much thought to what motivates them.  Essentially what I created instead of a ‘character’ these past attempts ended up as ‘tools.’ Or more accurately, cardboard cutouts.  The games ended up losing their fun because of my boring vanilla characters.

Here recently my Saturday gaming group unknowingly challenged me to create my characters with more thought with how more role-play intensive they are.  With their incredibly detailed back-stories, I felt mine was done half-assed.  This had me go back and do up a back-story for my current character, a half-orc Inquisitor named Aneli.

There have now been talks of adding a new game and rotating it Saturdays with the same group.  This means I get to create a second character for this rotating game.  So now I am jumping on the opportunity to ‘do it right’ by taking a page from my past when I first started gaming and really getting to the core of my new character.

There are endless options of what one can choose from for their character.  For example, just last night I decided on playing an Oracle class from the Pathfinder system.  Deciding what class to play is just one hurdle to overcome.  Now I had to figure out WHY my character is an Oracle.  WHY she has become a tool of a war god.

For me, the WHY is so much more important than the WHAT. Figuring out why your character does the things he/she does enhances the game or story.

Back-stories are the key in all character creations whether that be for gaming or writing.  It helps you identify with your character. A good back-story also gives characters a uniqueness and helps you understand why they react the way they do to obstacles.

You would even be surprised at how much more fun you have because adding a back-story also pulls you in and connects you to your character, acting very much like a life-line.  All of a sudden, you start to care about what happens to them.  It even makes your character more memorable as games/stories pass.

What are some of your most memorable characters?