December 29, 2019

Managing Characters’ Backstories

Today’s #GMAdvice centers on how GMs can manage their player characters’ backstory.

Backstory is history, baggage, and major experiences a character has had before the game/story begins. It’s oftentimes a incredibly fun and engaging process for the players to undertake prior to playing the game. Some players banter and discuss their options, others are more private, reserved, and focused in their choices.

For GMs, this backstory creation step is critically important as it sets the stage for a number of different expectations players will have for their story. In Luke’s Edge of the Apocalypse game for example, my character’s backstory expressly revolved around the cleansing of an ancient, tainted land. So of course I expect at some point to at least have an opportunity to make that happen.

GMs therefore need to find a balance between not interjecting themselves where they’re not needed and acting as a guide for the potential options for the story they’re all going to be playing.

StoryTogether’s advice is to simply listen to your players. Hear where they’re coming from and digest what they want and need. From there, keeping in mind what you want to bring to the table, you can begin to weave the tapestry of story around the completed puzzle that is the group’s backstory. This mutual investment in each other always always pays dividends!