Character Backgrounds - Off Limits to GMs, or Fair Game?


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Referencing a character's background is great. Mining that background for people you can kill without talking to the player first is not. Asking a simple little question is so incredibly easy, and then you know who is off limits and who isn't. Players are human beings, and s#!% happens in people's lives. A player who lost their father to violence might have a very good reason to not want their character to go through that... or might actually be okay with such a story because then they can work out their aggression against the evil monster that killed their PC's dad. What does it cost to ask though?

Shadow Lodge

Kelsey Arwen MacAilbert wrote:

I don't like it when GMs use elements of my backstories as adventure hooks. I'd like my characters to actually be able to have family without worrying about them being used as hostages or killed.

Usual Suspect wrote:
But any post start use of your back story should be up to your GM. If you put relatives, loved ones, and friends into your background story you have to expect, and even want the GM to make them part of the story. Otherwise, your entire life is just cheep window dressing.

I wouldn't want it any other way. I put a LOT of effort into backstories. I don't want the GM to come and start messing with that effort. I would also like to focus on actually doing the job my character was hired to do, not gallivanting about paying more attention to her personal affairs than her job.

I think the reason I dislike it so heavily is that I tend to play characters in positions of authority, and one of my biggest crime drama pet peeves is the storyline where a cop's family is kidnapped or killed and the cop goes after the perpetrator. That's a situation where the cop should not be allowed to have any involvement in investigating the case or pursing the perpetrator under threat of suspension or termination from the force, not a situation where the cop should go after the guys who did it. It's a massive conflict of interest likely to result in the cop losing control or a court case having serious vulnerabilities. In my mind, my character would be obligated to stand down and let somebody else rescue her family or kill the murderers, not go on a quest to resolve the issue herself.

I get that, Kelsey. And a GM shouldn't do things like that all the time; or even regularly. It should be a rare event that challenges the player to be a better role player and makes for an epic and awesome story.

Just killing off family, that's not epic. Having your family pop up now and then in the story, and possibly becoming important to the story; that can be epic. But the GM does have to do it right. The GM has to know and understand the purpose of your back story. It's a tough challenge because it takes a certain level of cooperation between GM and player. And it certainly takes agreement from both.


deusvult wrote:

I'm going to go ahead and agree that it's not only heroic to go save your loved one, but also disagree with Kelsey that it's unrealistic for a fantasy character to do the "professional thing" and recuse oneself.

Recusals over conflicts of interest is a sort of modern world concept that just doesn't transplant well into a faux-medieval world fantasy settings are based upon. It's the same reason even though magical flight is a thing you still see castles looking like castles, rather than bunkers ringed with AAA sites. It doesn't *feel* right.

A magistrate stepping aside to allow another uncompromised agent deal with a threatened loved one just doesn't make sense in a setting where there are no laws against police brutality and there is no actual oversight on law enforcement.

Seriously, it's often the case of "the law is what I say it is". And not just in chaotic evil society exceptions, either.

Hmm. I have a preference for more modern social mores, even in cosmetically medieval settings, so that gender equality, the ability to choose a career, and some form of oversight over authority are generally the cause. Don't really want to replicate actual medieval society. Quinn is a fairly good example of the type of character I like to play (except the adventurer part), though I also really like characters who have a position and duties such as being a sheriff.


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Usual Suspect wrote:
Kelsey Arwen MacAilbert wrote:

I don't like it when GMs use elements of my backstories as adventure hooks. I'd like my characters to actually be able to have family without worrying about them being used as hostages or killed.

Usual Suspect wrote:
But any post start use of your back story should be up to your GM. If you put relatives, loved ones, and friends into your background story you have to expect, and even want the GM to make them part of the story. Otherwise, your entire life is just cheep window dressing.

I wouldn't want it any other way. I put a LOT of effort into backstories. I don't want the GM to come and start messing with that effort. I would also like to focus on actually doing the job my character was hired to do, not gallivanting about paying more attention to her personal affairs than her job.

I think the reason I dislike it so heavily is that I tend to play characters in positions of authority, and one of my biggest crime drama pet peeves is the storyline where a cop's family is kidnapped or killed and the cop goes after the perpetrator. That's a situation where the cop should not be allowed to have any involvement in investigating the case or pursing the perpetrator under threat of suspension or termination from the force, not a situation where the cop should go after the guys who did it. It's a massive conflict of interest likely to result in the cop losing control or a court case having serious vulnerabilities. In my mind, my character would be obligated to stand down and let somebody else rescue her family or kill the murderers, not go on a quest to resolve the issue herself.

I get that, Kelsey. And a GM shouldn't do things like that all the time; or even regularly. It should be a rare event that challenges the player to be a better role player and makes for an epic and awesome story.

Just killing off family, that's not epic. Having your family pop up now and then in the story, and possibly becoming important to the story; that can be epic....

I guess I can see family being involved, but actually investigating something involving them would be a bit much.

I do like being part of the world, but more in the manner of having a position in the local area than in my backstory being used as adventure fuel. If I am the sheriff of a region, that makes my character important to the greater area. If the entire group works for the King, we have a vital role to play within the nation. That is better than being a wandering adventurer, in fact. I like having actual duties.


As a DM, I wouldn't think of changing a character's backstory unless that was an explicit part of the story. For example, I just ran a game where anyone who stayed within the borders of a particular kingdom would lose all memories of their previous life and gain false memories of being a native born resident. (Inspired by a specific area of Ravenloft) So for that game it was okay for me to change backstory.

Now the other part is something I always try to do, build from the backstory. I don't have villains swoop in to capture or kill everyone they hold dear, but I try to incorporate aspects into their tale. If they say that the character washed out of sqiuredom, I might have then encounter a former squire that has now risen to knighthood. If their family was bankrupted by an unscrupulous merchant, they could find out the merchant is involved in shady dealings they are investigating. Stuff like that. That's what backstory is best used for, seeds for future plot elements.


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Kelsey Arwen MacAilbert wrote:
I don't like it when GMs use elements of my backstories as adventure hooks. I'd like my characters to actually be able to have family without worrying about them being used as hostages or killed.

It surprises me to see 'family used as hostage' put in the same category as 'family murdered while you were away'. I've done so in the past (once, and the family members weren't really in much danger) without considering whether the players would mind.

Trying to motivate the variously-aligned PCs to actually want to do the next thing in the story is difficult for GMs. Rescuing someone your character cares about is more interesting than rescuing generic NPC 17.

Kelsey Arwen MacAilbert wrote:
That's a situation where the cop should not be allowed to have any involvement in investigating the case or pursing the perpetrator under threat of suspension or termination from the force, not a situation where the cop should go after the guys who did it.

PCs are not police.

In real life, pretty much every type of situation the PCs deal with should be handled by a large force of well-trained professionals. These guys should receive regular pay, and not loot the bodies of the people they kill. They should follow strict laws to protect the innocent and not let it get personal.

RPG characters tend to live in worlds where no such force exists. Maybe the police are hopelessly corrupt. Maybe they're not strong enough to deal with an evil necromancer. Maybe they're too stupid to recognize that the king is a vampire. Or maybe you're operating beyond civilization, in a place where no government exists.

The PCs aren't the ideal people for the job - they're the only people available. The PCs aren't doing it because it's their job. They're doing it for personal reasons.

It would be better in real-life terms if someone other than Luke Skywalker could avenge the death of Obi-Wan, rescue Han Solo, and so on. But within the fiction, he's the only one who can. And because it's more personal, it's more interesting.


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Matthew Downie wrote:


Trying to motivate the variously-aligned PCs to actually want to do the next thing in the story is difficult for GMs. Rescuing someone your character cares about is more interesting than rescuing generic NPC 17.

Something I've changed over the years, I no longer see it as my responsibility to "hook" the players. Instead it is their responsibility to tell me why their characters are motivated to do these things.

As DM, I have enough on my plate as it is. If the players aren't interested in my game, we'll do something else.


Irontruth wrote:
I no longer see it as my responsibility to "hook" the players.

I see that as my primary responsibility. Everything else is bookkeeping.


Matthew Downie wrote:
PCs are not police.

If I get get the GM to allow it, I am. It's a shame that it is so rare. Being a member of a faction with concrete goals is fun.

Quote:
In real life, pretty much every type of situation the PCs deal with should be handled by a large force of well-trained professionals. These guys should receive regular pay, and not loot the bodies of the people they kill. They should follow strict laws to protect the innocent and not let it get personal.

I dedicated large swaths of my campaign setting to exactly that idea, though there are multiple organizations involved. In the nation of, say, Vendalia, you have the Army, city constabularies, and county sheriffs at the lower level, and marshals for national law enforcement. Within the marshals are the reaper squads, so nicknamed because they show up to deal with rogue mages that local authorities can't apprehend and any monster too powerful for the local authorities (so, above CR 4), and aren't usually called into situations that don't end in lethal force. Reaper squads are where the player characters may be found. In other nations the players are in the same role, but the organizations are structured differently. Wrapping the players in is easy, because any time a really dangerous monster pops up, it makes sense to send in the people trained and paid to handle exactly that situation.


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Matthew Downie wrote:
Irontruth wrote:
I no longer see it as my responsibility to "hook" the players.
I see that as my primary responsibility. Everything else is bookkeeping.

I think of the game as a collaborative process. If a player isn't interested in contributing, I'm not interested in playing with them (as DM or as a fellow player).

It also gets to how I am as a player. If I'm in your game, you don't need to "entertain" me. I'm going to participate, be creative and add to your game.

Players are participants, not an audience.


Tormsskull wrote:

When a player creates a background for their PC, how much control or manipulation should the GM have over it?

I'm assuming that the PC background fits with the campaign world, and the GM has reviewed it and accepted it.

After those steps are completed, should the GM have free reign to affect a PC's background, alter events that the player wrote about, or should the GM get the player's consent before doing so?

Example, a player writes in their back ground that their character has a wife and children. If the GM thinks its a good idea for the wife or children to be killed or kidnapped, is that fair game, or should the GM ask the player first?

As far as past events are concerned... NO the GM shouldn't change what they both already agreed on without getting permission from the player first. This is harmful to the player's creative process and I consider it bad GMing. If you as a GM want to go a different direction in a PCs background then the time to discuss it is during character creation.

However it is a GOOD thing to use elements of a characters background going forward. Stating up enemies and allies from the background can make them an ongoing driving force in the campaign and really really make the player feel involved in the story, his creative energies were well spent. That said there is a wrong way to do this... turning all a PCs loved ones into victims and all the PCs rivals into major bad guys with an unhealthy obsession against the PC is way way off course and probably just as damaging to a PCs creative process as any altering of past events. Sometimes it is best as a GM to step back and look at the story you want to tell using the PCs background, and if it is something you would be either bored or disgusted by then maybe you should get outside creative help... maybe the player will have excellent insight into the sort of ongoing story they were hoping for from their back story; it is the place I would start.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Kelsey Arwen MacAilbert wrote:
I don't like it when GMs use elements of my backstories as adventure hooks. I'd like my characters to actually be able to have family without worrying about them being used as hostages or killed.
It surprises me to see 'family used as hostage' put in the same category as 'family murdered while you were away'. I've done so in the past (once, and the family members weren't really in much danger) without considering whether the players would mind. ...

Every GM I've had (other than 1 as teenagers) that used the PC's family / friends / relations as hostages ploy has always made them nearly impossible to rescue alive and sane.

It has always been to force the PC to do something evil that he wouldn't normally consider. And since it is a bad guy, he will dispose of them when not necessary.
Since the 'goal' of the GM was to force you do to something evil and not mount a rescue raid. The rescue will be in some nearly impenetrable lair. Breaking in will give the bad guy plenty of time to off the hostages.

Nearly every time.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Matthew Downie wrote:

PCs are not police.

In real life, pretty much every type of situation the PCs deal with should be handled by a large force of well-trained professionals. These guys should receive regular pay, and not loot the bodies of the people they kill. They should follow strict laws to protect the innocent and not let it get personal.

.

That's a very modern concept. In renaissance times and earlier, Loot was the major part of the pay. The Musketeers for example, got very little besides money for their uniforms and weapons, most of their upkeep was from loot, and support from ladies that sponsored them.

This practice hasn't gone away in modern times. I invite you to look up the term "Civil Forfeiture" Or watch this very entertaining video from "Last Week Tonight"


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
ElterAgo wrote:

Every GM I've had (other than 1 as teenagers) that used the PC's family / friends / relations as hostages ploy has always made them nearly impossible to rescue alive and sane.

It has always been to force the PC to do something evil that he wouldn't normally consider. And since it is a bad guy, he will dispose of them when not necessary.
Since the 'goal' of the GM was to force you do to something evil and not mount a rescue raid. The rescue will be in some nearly impenetrable lair. Breaking in will give the bad guy plenty of time to off the hostages.

Nearly every time.

I've been GMing for 25+ years, and I'd say that's an example of your GMs going on a power-trip. That's very much not cool in my book. I'd never do something like that... Unless it was a horror campaign, and even then, with the understanding at the start that bad things could happen to friends and loved ones.

I always run a "session zero" with no actual play that focused on character generation, background, explanation of the themes and goals of the campaign, and a Q&A on the campaign world. This allows the players to write interwoven backgrounds, with ties to the plotline and themes of the game. It also allows me to veto any background elements that don't mesh with the campaign.

For example, I had a player who wanted his character's parents to have been kidnapped by drow, and he wanted to be a drow-hunter. In my world, drow were boogeymen of legend that no one actually believed in-- kind if like Bigfoot in the real world. I then asked how he wanted to play it. He went for it: in his background, instead of people being sympathetic to his plight, they thought he was deluded. Kind of like real-world Bigfoot hunters. He would not have come up with this without us working together on PC background. The character was a whole lot of fun, and the player really enjoyed that game. I had another player once who wanted to be the crown prince of the kingdom, and have access to royal resources. I told him I would let him do that on two conditions: 1) he start out as a 1st-level aristocrat, and 2) he'd be followed around everywhere by a pair of higher-level body-guards that he only had partial control over, and who would always whisk him away from danger unless he gave them the slip. We tried it for a few sessions, and he didn't like the way it worked, so we wrote that character out, and he made a new one.

Sovereign Court

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ElterAgo wrote:
Matthew Downie wrote:
Kelsey Arwen MacAilbert wrote:
I don't like it when GMs use elements of my backstories as adventure hooks. I'd like my characters to actually be able to have family without worrying about them being used as hostages or killed.
It surprises me to see 'family used as hostage' put in the same category as 'family murdered while you were away'. I've done so in the past (once, and the family members weren't really in much danger) without considering whether the players would mind. ...

Every GM I've had (other than 1 as teenagers) that used the PC's family / friends / relations as hostages ploy has always made them nearly impossible to rescue alive and sane.

It has always been to force the PC to do something evil that he wouldn't normally consider. And since it is a bad guy, he will dispose of them when not necessary.
Since the 'goal' of the GM was to force you do to something evil and not mount a rescue raid. The rescue will be in some nearly impenetrable lair. Breaking in will give the bad guy plenty of time to off the hostages.

Nearly every time.

Well, I'm sorry to say, but you have been playing with horrible GMs then.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I tell my players this when it comes to backstory:

You get one paragraph to tell me the salient points of your back story. Anything you tell me may be used during the course of the game as an adventure hook, or as a motivating factor.

One paragraph is enough that your history will have plenty of blank space for me to add shocking revelations, and sudden twists!

For example:
Luke Skywalker's backstory is that he was raised by his Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen on a moisture farm on the desert planet of Tattooine. His father was a spice trader and he doesn't know who his mother was. He yearns to become a pilot and leave the boring life he leads behind.

During the course of the game as a GM I can introduce:

Star Wars Spoilers:

Your call to action will be the death of Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen at the hands of the Empire.

You were only TOLD your father was a spice trader, when in fact he was a brave JEDI KNIGHT, killed by the Empire's most hated figure DARTH VADER.

Later you will learn that you in fact are the son of Darth Vader!

Finally you'll come to learn that you are not Vader's only child, you have a sister, another player character named Leia!

As a GM, my goal is to integrate the story of the player characters into the plot of the game!

To me, a player who has a back story that has no effect on the plot of the campaign may as well not have a back story at all. We could be playing a board-game instead. A short back story that allows the GM to help customize the campaign and make the players feel like their characters are a key part of the story is so vital to the fun of my campaigns.

In my campaigns:

Kingmaker:

One PC has discovered that she's the granddaughter of Nyrissa.
Another one had his mother show up and try to arrange a marriage for him.
Another PC found her long lost mentor and now plays him as a back-up PC.
Another PC found her long lost son and tried to rescue him from becoming possessed by the spirit of a barbarian warlord.
Another PC died, but then came back as a Dhampyr, and is discovering that he might be an imperfect clone of himself.

Jade Regent:

One PC has found wanted signs from his bandit past, which is embarrassing since he's atoned and become a paladin. He's oni-blooded and will discover that he is related to the Jade Regent.
Another PC will discover that he is chosen to bring balance to the material and spirit realm.
Another PC will find out that he is descended from a lost line of Minkai nobility.
Another PC will be asked to betray the players by the ninja clan that outcast him.
Another PC will find out her grandmother has been imprisoned by the corrupt Jade Regent.

I try not to be a jerk about these things. I tend not to endanger NPCs willy-nilly, but if the story calls for it, I'll have it happen. My players always have a fair shot at rescuing anyone in danger (I wouldn't for example murder Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru while Luke was out. I'd probably have him arrive just as the Storm Troopers are attacking, giving him a fair shot at finding his Aunt and Uncle and sneaking them out. Although they might sacrifice themselves to make sure that Luke's safe).


DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

I tell my players this when it comes to backstory:

You get one paragraph to tell me the salient points of your back story. Anything you tell me may be used during the course of the game as an adventure hook, or as a motivating factor.

One paragraph is enough that your history will have plenty of blank space for me to add shocking revelations, and sudden twists!

For example:
Luke Skywalker's backstory is that he was raised by his Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen on a moisture farm on the desert planet of Tattooine. His father was a spice trader and he doesn't know who his mother was. He yearns to become a pilot and leave the boring life he leads behind.

During the course of the game as a GM I can introduce:
** spoiler omitted **

As a GM, my goal is to integrate the story of the player characters into the plot of the game!

To me, a player who has a back story that has no effect on the plot of the campaign may as well not have a back story at all. We could be playing a board-game instead. A short back story that allows the GM to help customize the campaign and make the players feel like their characters are a key part of the story is so vital to the fun of my campaigns.

In my campaigns:

** spoiler omitted **...

Actually in the Star Wars game, I'd be more upset over the GM railroading me into being a Jedi. I wanted to play a fighter pilot.

Unless of course, we'd actually talked that over out of game and agreed I'd be going that direction.

I disagree that back story having no effect on the plot of the game is anything like playing a board-game. For me, it's the in-game decisions that make that difference. For those it doesn't have to matter whether I've got a mysterious past or not. Bilbo's family history never played any role in the plot of the Hobbit. Conan's Cimmerian childhood friends and enemies never came back to haunt him (in the Howard stories at least). Their backstories influenced their characters and thus their actions, but not outside events.


Hm... Biblo's family history was very salient to the plot of The Hobbit though (even if they absolutely massacred the book to make the abomination that was The Hobbit movies), and was pivotal to the lord of the rings.

If it wasn't his relation to Frodo then Frodo would have never come to inherent the One Ring and be the broody failure that Samwise had to save (again, and again...).

And if it wasn't for his family's history for 'weirdness' Gandalf wouldn't have sought him out.


Abraham spalding wrote:

Hm... Biblo's family history was very salient to the plot of The Hobbit though (even if they absolutely massacred the book to make the abomination that was The Hobbit movies), and was pivotal to the lord of the rings.

If it wasn't his relation to Frodo then Frodo would have never come to inherent the One Ring and be the broody failure that Samwise had to save (again, and again...).

And if it wasn't for his family's history for 'weirdness' Gandalf wouldn't have sought him out.

That's pretty tenuous, but I'll accept it. More like, my backstory gives me a reason to be in the game in the first place. A far cry from his relatives being threatened or one of his childhood rivals turning out to be a recurring villain.

Frodo, certainly. Also all kind of coming back in the scouring of the Shire.

Still, links to backstory aren't really required for roleplaying. Neither necessary, nor sufficient. Roleplaying is required for roleplaying.


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Yeah, there is of course more to it than I provided however it does make the point. Most the time the backstory should help fit the game to the point where you can easily argue it's incidental to the story/game but honestly those are probably some of the stronger backstories. So while it isn't going to be needed I agree it certainly can add to the entirety of the game and roleplaying.

More to the point a good backstory is not a reason to be roleplaying lazy either (I'm sure you have seen this happen too). On a few occasions I have finished up building a character, have his backstory in place and had the worse sensation in my live: I realized I was satisfied with the character. Which was horrible because I didn't feel any room for them to grow.

Shadow Lodge

Kelsey Arwen MacAilbert wrote:
Usual Suspect wrote:

I get that, Kelsey. And a GM shouldn't do things like that all the time; or even regularly. It should be a rare event that challenges the player to be a better role player and makes for an epic and awesome story.

Just killing off family, that's not epic. Having your family pop up now and then in the story, and possibly becoming important to the story; that can be epic....

I guess I can see family being involved, but actually investigating something involving them would be a bit much.

I do like being part of the world, but more in the manner of having a position in the local area than in my backstory being used as adventure fuel. If I am the sheriff of a region, that makes my character important to the greater area. If the entire group works for the King, we have a vital role to play within the nation. That is better than being a wandering adventurer, in fact. I like having actual duties.

I love having an actual place in the world. My current favorite character is getting ready to buy into Savah's Armory in Sandpoint as her partner in business. He has real community ties, real friends inside the game, and real relationships. He even owns a house. I was forced to turn in my Murder Hobo card because if all this of course.


Fair game, I'd say.

Provided the DM in charge actually reads the background.

I've had a dm who used the background well, and the same DM just browse through and completely mess it up because they missed some rather important points.

If the character is say-a noble knight type, kind and generous to a fault, for them to lose everything in a sudden political backstab.

It's not okay to have them suddenly realize that they actually are a wanted criminal for several muggings and murders unless you have a spell effect or some other mind control that made them forget it.

Going with a background is different than rewriting it.

DMs should also respect their players when they start to play with it.

If there's a nemesis, by all means throw them in.

Don't make the nemesis a comatose defenseless bunny to slam their ego.


I have taken several, several different takes on this, but I almost always USE the players' background without CHANGING the background.

I LOVE giving characters heirloom items that give them a little power that is related to their back story.

I ran a game at one point where all the characters history were tied together and they had no idea, because it was from over a thousand years before. They were the scions of a group of dragonslayers and were brought together by a mysterious benefactor...who was the dragon's son and was wanting to recreate the event that lead to his mother's death...and kill the lines off. He had spent generations culling the scions so that each was the last of their line. It lead for a very, very interesting game and it ran from level 1 up to level 18 or so in 3.5.

I USUALLY ask my players to leave potential hooks in their background because it makes the world feel more organic.

In one of my current games, I have a player who has never met her mother (she is a undine) and so she could have a huge family and has no idea.

I have another character who's inheritance was a pair of ships that were stolen from her (it's Skull & Shackles) so there is hope that she will be able to take them back to add to the fleet eventually.

I had a player who was certain she was descended from a great pirate captain, had picked one as her father, but she had no idea who it might ACTUALLY be.

These to me are the best kind of backgrounds, they give you a great characterization AND leave plenty for a GM to play with.

Years ago, I had a player who had written that her father had disappeared on a mission years before. It had been 25+ years (he was an elf). I had him reappear as a charmed bodyguard to one of the big villains later on...and after he was knocked out and the villain was about to be killed, a young half-elf walked in...a teenager that looked very much like the father...and thus my player suddenly had a half-brother. (Eventually that was a different major plot hook of them trying to fix her father's memory)

I think what I'm getting at is that this is something the GM and Players should be working together on not against one another. I think that is a common problem in the game...the us vs. them mentality. While yes, we are storytellers, our players are a part of the story and without them it isn't going to happen. And if they aren't having fun, then they aren't going to play...which means we aren't going to get to run. Then no one has fun.


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This thread is full of stories of GMs handling backgrounds awesomely, horribly, and everything in between, but it seems that the one consistent element in good background use is cooperation. Killing off a PC's relative doesn't need to be an antagonistic act, but it's very likely to be one if you spring it on the player out of the blue.

Also consider that, every now and then, the death in the family could actually be from natural causes. A family funeral is a great excuse to draw the players to a different town, and perhaps launch entirely new plot elements! Maybe the PC's half-sibling is under the influence of one of the party's recurring villains and is trying to seize the entire inheritance to unwittingly support that villain. Maybe the town is suffering under harsh taxes from an evil sheriff who is using the taxes to live a life of luxury as the town slips into poverty.


If you don't want me using or altering it, don't make backgrounds.
For the most part, other than a brief note about which city/town in which country you come from, backgrounds aren't a big deal in my Mystara campaign. If you absolutely want to have a backstory and I accept it, it's my game and my right to do what I want with it. I generally don't change anything, possibly a few details, especially if, as has happened, you are less than detailed in your description and my interpretation wasn't what you had in your head.
The character is yours and yours alone (given that it fits the game), the rest of the world is mine.


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Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:

If you don't want me using or altering it, don't make backgrounds.

...
The character is yours and yours alone (given that it fits the game), the rest of the world is mine.

If the character is mine alone, and the background is part of that character, why are you allowed to alter it against my will?


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Sissyl wrote:

A good backstory is something that gives the GM a clue to what you want your character to be ABOUT. Most characters can be described in terms of conflicts, at least outside the gaming medium. Can a relatively powerless person succeed where the great heroes of the ages did not, merely due to his strength of character? Can a person deny the wanderlust within him and what price will he pay for not doing so? Can a wanderer accept his heritage and assume the mantle that is his? What will a prince do when given a chance to help his kingdom even if it will risk his soul? I assume all these should be relatively familiar.

But in RPGs, we get characters whose main defining trait is "I can do 1d12+567 damage when I power attack". I don't know about you, but to me it feels like a pretty big waste. I know many don't agree with me.

If you have a backstory to write, try to find a theme, a conflict. Is your character's focus on the conflict between wilderness and civilization? Is it about duty and doing good? Freedom and security? Trust and vulnerability? So long as you take care not to make that ALL he or she is, it's a good way to find a backstory that works to build off.

The namesake and 'main' PFS character I've got rolling is a former slave. While there isn't much opportunity for rp in face-to-face sessions, several of his actions in PbP play have been very much tied into that backstory, and why he reacts the way he does, how he plays, etc.

One of my GMs dropped a bombshell on him, presenting an opponent that we're ostensibly supposed to slaughter for mission success is actually not only as enslaved as the character once was, but is trying to fight for freedom of not only itself but others.

Am I mad at the GM for doing that? Heck no! That's awesome character development material right there.

Now if the GM had said "Oh, it's enslaved but that's okay for that sort of being, you have no problem with that." Well, that's a whole different kettle of fish.


I've been reading the thread, not really sure where I stand. I always have a backstory for my characters, and prefer them as a GM, but rarely even give them a second glance for inclusion of material in the game.

Then I came to the realization of why.

To me, the background/backstory is exactly that, the background. The whole point of the story is for me to get into the head of the PC. I use it to define their choices, beliefs, reason for leaning towards any one specifc class or alignment, and even what set them onto the path they find themselves on at the start of the game.

As both a player and GM, The backstory is for me to use as almost a psychological profile. It helps me decide what drives the PC, what will motivate them. I don't have to include/encounter the stuff/people in the past as much as use the events as a guide in how to engage the character.

Also, it is written from a narrative view, not a character view. These are not events as my PC percieved them. These are the events that happened. The PC is not telling the backstory, I am, as if to say "this is who I will be playing" beyond the mechanics of race/class/alignment.

If I leave a vague point (father was murdered but the killer was never caught), then feel free to introduce the killer. Just as long as you don't introduce some twist where the doting and loving father was the villain in some way and the killer is somehow justified. It's best left as a side note, the father's name on some list of victims is more than enough to involve my PC.


Aardvark Barbarian wrote:
Also, it is written from a narrative view, not a character view. These are not events as my PC percieved them. These are the events that happened. The PC is not telling the backstory, I am, as if to say "this is who I will be playing" beyond the mechanics of race/class/alignment.

Yeah... it's one thing for the GM to look at the background, note that your mom was a paladin who fought in the Mendevian Crusades, and decide that there's a demon out for revenge who's going to take things out on you. It's another thing entirely for the GM to reveal that your mother was secretly an antipaladin, having fallen from grace and joined up with the demons.


Hama wrote:
ElterAgo wrote:
Matthew Downie wrote:
Kelsey Arwen MacAilbert wrote:
I don't like it when GMs use elements of my backstories as adventure hooks. I'd like my characters to actually be able to have family without worrying about them being used as hostages or killed.
It surprises me to see 'family used as hostage' put in the same category as 'family murdered while you were away'. I've done so in the past (once, and the family members weren't really in much danger) without considering whether the players would mind. ...

Every GM I've had (other than 1 as teenagers) that used the PC's family / friends / relations as hostages ploy has always made them nearly impossible to rescue alive and sane.

It has always been to force the PC to do something evil that he wouldn't normally consider. And since it is a bad guy, he will dispose of them when not necessary.
Since the 'goal' of the GM was to force you do to something evil and not mount a rescue raid. The rescue will be in some nearly impenetrable lair. Breaking in will give the bad guy plenty of time to off the hostages.

Nearly every time.

Well, I'm sorry to say, but you have been playing with horrible GMs then.

Agreed. I have somehow managed to find some real charmers over the years.

But that is why the backstory hostage gambit is such a huge red flag for me. "Oh crap not again. Let me guess, we have no idea where to search, not even any clues, and divination magic turns up nothing. Yep, that's what I expected. I predict I will have to murder some innocent to save X. Yep, right again. I would say the odds are pretty high X will get killed anyway." I won't just immediately walk out the door if it comes up, but it does get me started thinking along those lines.

Similar to why the guy's statements above about "I'm the GM, it's my world, anything is fair game, I will do whatever I want, you have no say..." is also a huge red flag.

My history tells me that the 'backstory hostage gambit' or the 'whatever I want is fair game regardless of what you want' attitude seems to correlate almost perfectly with being on the receiving end of a bunch of RP emotional abuse.

Is it possible for it to be done well and be part of a good campaign? Certainly. I have seen it myself. But almost as rarely as hen's teeth.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Most of this is a control issue. Backstory, and secondary semi-PCs (familiars, cohorts, eidolons, etc.), are on shaky grounds in the control spectrum of a GM and player.

Too much player freedom creates narrative altering backstories (background of I'm a noble born, and the adventure takes place in my native lands - when the GM just wants plug and play adventurers). Too much GM control may make players feel like they are in a straight jacket as the GM runs the game for his/her self and any PC decision tree still branches back to the same ending.

My basics for a background are as follows - The lower level the start, the shorter a background should be. If you start at first level, no long tales of heroic deeds. You're first level. If everyone starts at 20th level, give me cliff notes on what you are best known for. In this instance, a ten page backstory is welcomed. No one sentence background saying "I kill stuff in dungeons and haz loot."

Another thing about backgrounds is that they should be like provocative clothing. Long enough to cover the subject, short enough to keep a GM's attention.

Biggest rule, cooperate with a backstory. It's okay to add plot hooks so long as both GM and player are okay with it. Have friends that were also adventurers? Ask the GM first to see if and how such a background element is to be added (maybe such friends give the group plot hooks to follow up on. Maybe those friends travel distant lands and might not be seen until much later, if at all. Perhaps the player group finds the bodies of those friends when they explore hazardous ruins. Maybe the only interaction is with a group of friendly people they sometimes meet at a bar to swap stories with - no more, no less.). Adventurer friends shouldn't be used as a get out of plot free card (I'll magically message my friends!), or show the group that a lone PC has other employment options (I take my ball and go home, can the GM run a solo plot for me and my NPC friends?). It is important that GM has narrative control, yet doesn't hammer such control over the PC's head. This means that important NPCs in a backstory don't always have to become hostages, turn up as mind controlled antagonists, or just become some sort of abuse buffet. It's okay to just leave NPCs alone. Such treatment only encourages players to make an endless string of lone wolf orphans that I find utterly boring. It is also important the players contribute to a story without derailing a campaign. These are matters of degree and social interaction, not an exact, measured science. Like art, you know it when you see it, yet can't really define it.


Matthew Downie wrote:


Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:


If you don't want me using or altering it, don't make backgrounds.
...
The character is yours and yours alone (given that it fits the game), the rest of the world is mine.

If the character is mine alone, and the background is part of that character, why are you allowed to alter it against my will?

Probably, as he said, to ensure the PC fits the setting. I have random tables which will generate typical backgrounds for characters of different classes (originally done for NPCs, then expanded for PC use). I let PCs roll or choose as they wish. The player has chosen his class first (and rolled his characteristics etc.). Nationality, social class, family members (parents, siblings, birth order, legitimacy) are rolled / chosen. If they want something not on the tables they need to discuss it with me to ensure it fits the world. I leave a lot of details up to the PCs. For example the nature of your relationship with your family. Backstories should be fairly concise (you can always add to it / expand it later if needed). Say you choose or roll the fact that your a b@stard. You define your relationship with your parents (like, dislike, even know them, etc.), siblings etc. Or, again, you can roll reactions for them and build off what the dice reveal. Generally the adventurers start in an area in which they are not native. If family enters it is generally at the players choice ("I'm going home, you guys coming with me?"). Their NPC friends are far more likely to end up as adventure hooks. You're stuck with family, but you choose your friends :D


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

An RPG is a collective storytelling game. The mechanics of the game are there to define what your character can and can't do, but the game itself is about the story. As a GM, I actively look for plot hooks from the players: They tell me what they're interested in, and I'll adapt the story accordingly. And one of those cues is PC backstory. I feel that if I don't include some plot elements from backstories, then I'm not doing my job.

That's NOT the same thing as unilaterally rewriting a PC's backstory. Doing that is like saying "no" in an improv routine. A good GM works with the PC back-story to enrich it, not contradict it. And an out-of-game chat is always in order if the GM wants to change or even shade elements in that story.


deusvult wrote:

Recusals over conflicts of interest is a sort of modern world concept that just doesn't transplant well into a faux-medieval world fantasy settings are based upon. It's the same reason even though magical flight is a thing you still see castles looking like castles, rather than bunkers ringed with AAA sites. It doesn't *feel* right.

A magistrate stepping aside to allow another uncompromised agent deal with a threatened loved one just doesn't make sense in a setting where there are no laws against police brutality and there is no actual oversight on law enforcement.

Conflict of interest isn't just a recognised problem in medieval law, there's a specific word for it. Ambidexterity, which is one of the more peculiar cases of a word changing it's meaning. And letting an outside party, one presumably unbiased, make the decision when one or both parties weren't able to agree was a very frequent recourse in all sorts of legal situations in medieval law. Everywhere from land disputes to who should be king could be resolved that way.

Of course even getting the Pope to rule on something didn't always mean it was resolved, because the Ultimo Ration Regis was always available.


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A lot of people say "don't change my backstory because..." and suggest many reasons. I think the main reason is fear. The character is the one thing the player has full control of and if the GM changes some detail of the backstory it usurps that control.

But does it?

Luke Skywalker was destined to be a moody Jedi from the start. Why? Because he struggled with his feelings of vengeance against Vader BEFORE he knew that was his dad. Did the reveal change the story? Sure, but did it change LUKE? I think in the end his build remained intact but perhaps the character's motivations got knocked around a bit.

Modifying the backstory doesn't HAVE to mean changing the character.

I still feel though that changes should be worked out with the player. This is after all a coop game where the story is woven with the group. If however the GM wants to take a saintly father figure and make him a coward or a murderer, this only modifies the story. Your character remains firmly in your control.

Think from another angle: GMs can change any NPC from good to evil or back at a moment's notice. What if the sheriff that's been your patron this whole time was just using the party to wipe out her competition? Now that the monsters and goblins are cleared out the sheriff reveals she's secretly a dragon blooded sorcerer, a dragon disciple and has ties to a tribe of kobolds that have been living in the sewers while creating inroads into the local mines.

Suddenly the party returns from a mission out of town (that was supposed to kill them all) and finds that the kobold underlords have enslaved the town and put everyone to work in the mines. Their patron the sheriff is sitting on top of a mountain of fresh gold and the PCs would be hard-pressed to go toe-to-toe with her.

That's entirely in the purview of the GM. The players have no input on that, it modifies the story greatly and doesn't change the characters at all. Moreover it adds a new wrinkle that annoys some players and really grabs others. Why?

Because some people fear change.

Some players want consistency. They want the law of averages to work so that their build is consistently awesome. They want to talk to the important people, kill monsters and get treasure, then rinse and repeat.

There is nothing wrong with these players.

I love consistency in gaming but for me personally too much of it is boring. If the GM wants to throw me for a loop I just strap into the roller coaster of TTRPG gaming and start screaming with a smile on my face. But that's me. Not everyone will like this ride.

So talk w/the players, your GM. Find out what kind of gamers they are. Figure out what kind YOU are. Once you know, if you are someone who honestly is ok with change realize that a change in your character's backstory doesn't diminish your control over that character at all.

If done properly this change won't modify your build; if anythig it may possibly introduce items, powers or traits that your character may yet develop. A change in your backstory will modify the story which may in turn change your perception of and immersion in the gameworld. This is no different from a change in the current storyline so if you appreciate change these tweaks are to be expected and savored.

So in the end I say communicate, trust your fellow gamers and be honest about your play style and theirs.


Mackenzie Kavanaugh wrote:
Aardvark Barbarian wrote:
Also, it is written from a narrative view, not a character view. These are not events as my PC percieved them. These are the events that happened. The PC is not telling the backstory, I am, as if to say "this is who I will be playing" beyond the mechanics of race/class/alignment.
Yeah... it's one thing for the GM to look at the background, note that your mom was a paladin who fought in the Mendevian Crusades, and decide that there's a demon out for revenge who's going to take things out on you. It's another thing entirely for the GM to reveal that your mother was secretly an antipaladin, having fallen from grace and joined up with the demons.

Why?

1. Mom died and brought the vengeance of a demon upon me: I'm hunting demons and my build is designed around this.

2. Mom fell from grace and sided with the demons. She once HAD true grace though. I'm going to murder those stinking demons for corrupting her and hopefully remind her of her grace so I can redeem her. My build is around destroying those demons...

So your build and mechanics don't change. Your skills and feats don't change either. You do however have one MORE thing to do with your character though.

Why would you as a player be emotionally invested in murdering demons? They've been around forever, they'll be there forever more and even if you single-handedly closed the Worldwound permanently there'll be other ways for them to get in.

But your mom's redemption? That story has a beginning, middle and end. Maybe she wins and you die. Maybe you win and she's redeemed. Maybe no one wins and in the end you have to murder your own mother. That would suck, but it'd be a story, nothing more.

So WHY would it change things if you decided that your mom was a saint and your GM informed you otherwise?

Let's put it in RL terms: when I was a kid I thought my oldest brother was a pagan god. My dad left home so for years I thought of him as my father figure. Then when I was in college I learned that he struggled with addiction and took a certain job only because he was selling out to our old man. After that I got to know him even better and in the end I strongly encouraged him to follow his dream which he has and he's happier than I've seen him in years.

Sometimes we think things are one way. Then we learn differently. It doesn't change who we are, but it changes the choices we make going forward. That's life.

Now if the GM was a jerk about it, that's a different story...


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Mark Hoover wrote:

A lot of people say "don't change my backstory because..." and suggest many reasons. I think the main reason is fear. The character is the one thing the player has full control of and if the GM changes some detail of the backstory it usurps that control.

But does it?

Luke Skywalker was destined to be a moody Jedi from the start. Why? Because he struggled with his feelings of vengeance against Vader BEFORE he knew that was his dad. Did the reveal change the story? Sure, but did it change LUKE? I think in the end his build remained intact but perhaps the character's motivations got knocked around a bit.

Modifying the backstory doesn't HAVE to mean changing the character.

I still feel though that changes should be worked out with the player. This is after all a coop game where the story is woven with the group. If however the GM wants to take a saintly father figure and make him a coward or a murderer, this only modifies the story. Your character remains firmly in your control.

Think from another angle: GMs can change any NPC from good to evil or back at a moment's notice. What if the sheriff that's been your patron this whole time was just using the party to wipe out her competition? Now that the monsters and goblins are cleared out the sheriff reveals she's secretly a dragon blooded sorcerer, a dragon disciple and has ties to a tribe of kobolds that have been living in the sewers while creating inroads into the local mines.

Suddenly the party returns from a mission out of town (that was supposed to kill them all) and finds that the kobold underlords have enslaved the town and put everyone to work in the mines. Their patron the sheriff is sitting on top of a mountain of fresh gold and the PCs would be hard-pressed to go toe-to-toe with her.

That's entirely in the purview of the GM. The players have no input on that, it modifies the story greatly and doesn't change the characters at all. Moreover it adds a new wrinkle that annoys some players and really grabs others. Why?

Because some...

It's not always about "fearing change". Nor does it necessarily have anything to do with a mechanical build.

Drastic changes to a character's backstory can and probably should affect the character. Having everything you believed about yourself kicked out from under you is going to do that. This can be a fun roleplaying experience or it can be a disaster, depending on whether you want to play out that experience. The same thing can happen with in-game experiences, of course, but the player has more control over those - though GM abuse of the PC's loved ones is hard to stop.
I've had characters become just miserable to play - guilt, depression and loss aren't fun things to play, especially if you're at all immersed in the character. And that was largely through their own actions - in reaction to GM plotlines, of course.

Things like the "Your child has become a vampire and you have to kill her" suggested above can really easily cross the line.


TheJeff: yes, you're right. This is why I've stipulated over and over that the GM

1. Not be a jerk about it
2. Work with the player

But to say that the backstory is somehow immutable I find disturbing. That's why I reference fear of change. If every single detail provided by the player in their character's backstory is unchangeable and must remain protected against the GM's intervention then I would suspect that there's more going on there than "I want something under my control."

Will there be things protected and respected in the social contract between player and GM? Possibly; it depends on how much trust and collaboration exists between the two and what the ultimate vision of the PC is based on each party's perception. I just would hope that, in the end, the GM was only modifying the backstory for the enhancement of the ongoing story at hand.

I've had jerk GMs. I had one guy not tell us until after the fact that if we chose to FAIL a save our characters would've survived, though have been slightly altered while MAKING our save actually killed us. Same GM took another failed save in another campaign and hinged the entire fate of the world on that one die roll. When I inevitably failed it I was hurled 1000 years in the future where my name and race were synonymous with every hell the earth had endured in an apocalypse I was blamed for. My entire race, home forest/kingdom and everyone I'd ever loved was obliterated. Oh yeah, and I lost a leg only to have it replaced with a combat tail. In the epilogue I got my leg back, so why was I complaining...

My point is that sometimes GMs modify backstories. Sometimes these modifications are a beautiful thing. For this reason I am ok with a GM working with me on mine and I hope that my players will let me work with theirs.


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thejeff wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

I tell my players this when it comes to backstory:

You get one paragraph to tell me the salient points of your back story. Anything you tell me may be used during the course of the game as an adventure hook, or as a motivating factor.

One paragraph is enough that your history will have plenty of blank space for me to add shocking revelations, and sudden twists!

For example:
Luke Skywalker's backstory is that he was raised by his Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen on a moisture farm on the desert planet of Tattooine. His father was a spice trader and he doesn't know who his mother was. He yearns to become a pilot and leave the boring life he leads behind.

During the course of the game as a GM I can introduce:
** spoiler omitted **

As a GM, my goal is to integrate the story of the player characters into the plot of the game!

To me, a player who has a back story that has no effect on the plot of the campaign may as well not have a back story at all. We could be playing a board-game instead. A short back story that allows the GM to help customize the campaign and make the players feel like their characters are a key part of the story is so vital to the fun of my campaigns.

In my campaigns:

** spoiler omitted **...

Actually in the Star Wars game, I'd be more upset over the GM railroading me into being a Jedi. I wanted to play a fighter pilot.

Unless of course, we'd actually talked that over out of game and agreed I'd be going that direction.

I disagree that back story having no effect on the plot of the game is anything like playing a board-game. For me, it's the in-game decisions that make that difference. For those it doesn't have to matter whether I've got a mysterious past or not. Bilbo's family history never played any role in the plot of the Hobbit. Conan's Cimmerian childhood friends and enemies never came back to haunt him (in the Howard stories at least). Their backstories influenced their characters and thus their actions, but not outside...

Yes, but the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are each basically a single plot arc of a campaign in my experience. The Hobbit is maybe 6 sessions, and the LotRs is probably close to 12. If I have a game that runs 50+ sessions and covers years of time, why should I not have you ever interact with your past?


Caineach wrote:
thejeff wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:


To me, a player who has a back story that has no effect on the plot of the campaign may as well not have a back story at all. We could be playing a board-game instead. A short back story that allows the GM to help customize the campaign and make the players feel like their characters are a key part of the story is so vital to the fun of my campaigns.
I disagree that back story having no effect on the plot of the game is anything like playing a board-game. For me, it's the in-game decisions that make that difference. For those it doesn't have to matter whether I've got a mysterious past or not. Bilbo's family history never played any role in the plot of the Hobbit. Conan's Cimmerian childhood friends and enemies never came back to haunt him (in the Howard stories at least). Their backstories influenced their characters and thus
Yes, but the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are each basically a single plot arc of a campaign in my experience. The Hobbit is maybe 6 sessions, and the LotRs is probably close to 12. If I have a game that runs 50+ sessions and covers years of time, why should I not have you ever interact with your past?

In that particular subthread of the argument I was reacting to the claim that without backstory or with backstory that doesn't affect the plot of the campaign, we might as well "be playing a board-game instead."

Not at all claiming that backstory should never affect a campaign, just providing examples of stories where it didn't. Backstory can be a nice addition to a campaign, but it's not essential to roleplaying.


Mark Hoover wrote:
Mackenzie Kavanaugh wrote:
Aardvark Barbarian wrote:
Also, it is written from a narrative view, not a character view. These are not events as my PC percieved them. These are the events that happened. The PC is not telling the backstory, I am, as if to say "this is who I will be playing" beyond the mechanics of race/class/alignment.
Yeah... it's one thing for the GM to look at the background, note that your mom was a paladin who fought in the Mendevian Crusades, and decide that there's a demon out for revenge who's going to take things out on you. It's another thing entirely for the GM to reveal that your mother was secretly an antipaladin, having fallen from grace and joined up with the demons.

Why?

1. Mom died and brought the vengeance of a demon upon me: I'm hunting demons and my build is designed around this.

2. Mom fell from grace and sided with the demons. She once HAD true grace though. I'm going to murder those stinking demons for corrupting her and hopefully remind her of her grace so I can redeem her. My build is around destroying those demons...

So your build and mechanics don't change. Your skills and feats don't change either. You do however have one MORE thing to do with your character though.

Why would you as a player be emotionally invested in murdering demons? They've been around forever, they'll be there forever more and even if you single-handedly closed the Worldwound permanently there'll be other ways for them to get in.

But your mom's redemption? That story has a beginning, middle and end. Maybe she wins and you die. Maybe you win and she's redeemed. Maybe no one wins and in the end you have to murder your own mother. That would suck, but it'd be a story, nothing more.

So WHY would it change things if you decided that your mom was a saint and your GM informed you otherwise?

Let's put it in RL terms: when I was a kid I thought my oldest brother was a pagan god. My dad left home so for years I thought of him as my father figure. Then when I...

It matters because there's serious cognitive dissonance in being told that your mother, the paladin of Iomedae who taught you all about The Inheritor and had you memorize her 11 Acts in preparation for you becoming a paladin in her footsteps... was secretly an antipaladin the whole time. And in league with demons. And somehow you never suspected anything.


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If I ran the forums, I think all discussion of JRRT's books as campaigns would be banned (though not grounds for banning a poster, nothing personal guys).

It's apples to oranges. I'm an experienced GM and a huge fan of Prof T's, and I think that almost nothing productive comes from comparing the two things.


Mark Hoover wrote:

TheJeff: yes, you're right. This is why I've stipulated over and over that the GM

1. Not be a jerk about it
2. Work with the player

...

My point is that sometimes GMs modify backstories. Sometimes these modifications are a beautiful thing. For this reason I am ok with a GM working with me on mine and I hope that my players will let me work with theirs.

I think the parts I bolded are the really important parts. I would have no problem with a GM that was even attempting to follow those.

Many of us have experiences with GM's that won't even consider those to be a valid points or even a think to even be thought about.

One or two of those up thread certainly sound like they wouldn't consider those valid points.


ElterAgo wrote:
Mark Hoover wrote:

TheJeff: yes, you're right. This is why I've stipulated over and over that the GM

1. Not be a jerk about it
2. Work with the player

...

My point is that sometimes GMs modify backstories. Sometimes these modifications are a beautiful thing. For this reason I am ok with a GM working with me on mine and I hope that my players will let me work with theirs.

I think the parts I bolded are the really important parts. I would have no problem with a GM that was even attempting to follow those.

Many of us have experiences with GM's that won't even consider those to be a valid points or even a think to even be thought about.

One or two of those up thread certainly sound like they wouldn't consider those valid points.

May I ask, which posters gave you that impression?


Aranna wrote:
ElterAgo wrote:
Mark Hoover wrote:

TheJeff: yes, you're right. This is why I've stipulated over and over that the GM

1. Not be a jerk about it
2. Work with the player

...

My point is that sometimes GMs modify backstories. Sometimes these modifications are a beautiful thing. For this reason I am ok with a GM working with me on mine and I hope that my players will let me work with theirs.

I think the parts I bolded are the really important parts. I would have no problem with a GM that was even attempting to follow those.

Many of us have experiences with GM's that won't even consider those to be a valid points or even a think to even be thought about.

One or two of those up thread certainly sound like they wouldn't consider those valid points.

May I ask, which posters gave you that impression?

I'd rather not get into that level of accusation (because I could be wrong), but you were not one of them.

Sovereign Court

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I think that making emotional judgements based on prior bad experiences and reading too much into what someone wrote aren't good things.


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Hama wrote:
I think that making emotional judgements based on prior bad experiences and reading too much into what someone wrote aren't good things.

But very, very human things.

Extrapolating from past experience and guessing at what people mean when they might not be saying the exact truth is a big part of what we do.

Especially when it comes to avoiding bad experiences. I'm sure most of the GMs that led to those bad experiences weren't up front about how bad they were going to be.


thejeff wrote:
Hama wrote:
I think that making emotional judgements based on prior bad experiences and reading too much into what someone wrote aren't good things.

But very, very human things.

Extrapolating from past experience and guessing at what people mean when they might not be saying the exact truth is a big part of what we do.

Especially when it comes to avoiding bad experiences. I'm sure most of the GMs that led to those bad experiences weren't up front about how bad they were going to be.

Hama, I can agree with you in the abstract. That's part of why I didn't want to start throwing accusations.

Consider. If what someone says/writes agrees almost precisely with your 'prior bad experiences,' how likely are you to decide join their group? Or might you just decide to pass on them and find a different group who says things the match up with prior good experiences?

As I said, a few words along this line are not enough by themselves to cause me to get up and leave a table. But it is a red flag that does get me thinking along that line and watching carefully how things are going to proceed.

I can absolutely guarantee you that not one of those 'prior bad experiences' said they were going to try see how miserable they could make my gaming experience. However, that's pretty much what happened.

I personally have a moderately limited amount of time that I am able/willing to devote to this hobby especially face-to-face gaming sessions. They aren't always easy to work into my schedule.
Therefore I will put that time into a situation that seems most likely to be fun rather than not fun. How do I go about making that decision? The only way I know of to make an evaluation like that is based on what I have experienced in my life.

Sovereign Court

I don't base my judgements on prior experiences. I have reservations, of course, but I give almost everyone the benefit of the doubt. It sh*t turns ugly, I can just leave.


Hama wrote:
I don't base my judgements on prior experiences. I have reservations, of course, but I give almost everyone the benefit of the doubt. It sh*t turns ugly, I can just leave.

I suspect "have reservations, of course" isn't really that far off from "a red flag that does get me thinking along that line and watching carefully".

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