Backstories. Some have it. Some don't.


Advice

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In my current game. I only have one PC who wrote a backstory. A lot of these players are new to pathfinder, but not new to RPGs. I asked if they would write one.

We are now 3 sessions in and still only the one player has fleshed out a backstory.

Because I am using an adventure path, is their backstory crucial or can I just let it go that they have decided not to give their character any story before they all met.


Problem with backstories is that they can be crippling.

To start with, in an unfamiliar world, it's much easier to be a generic murder hobo than to be grounded. You need to know the world, its countries and its cultures to make up a good backstory, and even if you do, it's a lot easier to stay vague, because if you're too precise, you might lose any good reason to be where you are when you're needed (like in an inn in the right country/city at the right time to be given a quest).

To boot, a developed backstory involves rooting in the character's motivations... and if the character has objectives and motivations of his own, he might not be so ready to take your proffered quests, because they take you away from what he really wants to do, and geasing/questing random people to force them to go on with the story, or any other methods of railroading, (Reign of Winter, I'm looking at you) might not be well received.

Also, there's the risk of the DM being a sadist and messing with your background ... I know campaigns where, as a player, I lost all motivations because of such practices.


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AP's do not require a backstory, and unless the GM wants to modify an AP to make a backstory matter there is no need for one.


Back stories are great especially in a home brew world. If you took the time to develop a world of your own I would be ready to agree with you. In a preexisting world it can still be important especially if you plan on working into your own story. The story being told (adventure everyone is playing) has a lot to do with it. Since you are playing a premade adventure I would not worry so much about it unless you want to roll into your own story line after the module. The more you put into the action and story taking place has a huge impact on how much you expect from your players.
From the other point of view if I put the time into creating a backstory I had bloody well get some spotlight time (I dont need a whole game) during a game or two pulling at the strings of that back story. Its very frustrating when I am asked to do this and get nothing in return. I may as well randomly generate a back story to record if it does not come into play.


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Klorox wrote:

Problem with backstories is that they can be crippling.

To start with, in an unfamiliar world, it's much easier to be a generic murder hobo than to be grounded. You need to know the world, its countries and its cultures to make up a good backstory, and even if you do, it's a lot easier to stay vague, because if you're too precise, you might lose any good reason to be where you are when you're needed (like in an inn in the right country/city at the right time to be given a quest).

To boot, a developed backstory involves rooting in the character's motivations... and if the character has objectives and motivations of his own, he might not be so ready to take your proffered quests, because they take you away from what he really wants to do, and geasing/questing random people to force them to go on with the story, or any other methods of railroading, (Reign of Winter, I'm looking at you) might not be well received.

Also, there's the risk of the DM being a sadist and messing with your background ... I know campaigns where, as a player, I lost all motivations because of such practices.

To answer the OP, no a backstory isn't crucial to running an AP, but it helps.

I wanted to reply to the above however. in my opinion a backstory is ever only problematic if a player makes his character in a vacuum or actively tries to go against the AP's assumptions. Paizo publishes Player's Guides for all APs. You should always have a session before the game begins for character creation in which all players and the GM participate. The players should ideally tie their characters to each other and the GM should work to tie them to the setting. If you do that, you should come up with PCs with proper motivation who fit into the setting well with backstories that the GM can actually use to everyone's advantage. Also, making the PCs together means that the GM can nip problem conepts in the bud.

My only other thing to add is that I do prefer backstories to not be overwrought and appropriate for level 1 PCs. Keep in mind the character is at the beginning of his adventuring career and not at the end of it. Most of his major life events lie ahead of him not behind him. In most cases, it's not that believable to claim that he is the Dragon Knight of Legend at level 1, haha!


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Sure, I never had any problem with Kingmaker, my character was from a noble family and out to carve new domains for the kingdom... whatever followed comes under character development.

My beef with Reign of winter is that you necessarily built your character in a void, because nobody could know in advance the assumptions of that AP, and the gross railroading involved pretty much rankled on my nerves... because, yeah, it involved meddling with people that my character knew about and wanted to avoid like the plague.


You can always roll with it- Strange Aeons makes it so nobody has a backstory!


Backstories are never a necessity in Adventure Paths, but it can help you create some nifty segue side-quests if you have them to refer to, or create some unique social encounters from their stories.

In my campaigns, if players provide a decent backstory I reward them for it. I like to know that a player is as invested as I am, and so I like to give them a little something for it.

That can range from a theme related trait that fits their backstory, let them pick an extra trait, or even give them a non-retrainable feat (like Endurance, Athletic, or a Skill Focus etc) if its not game changing. Or even something like a 'for 1 session during the campaign you recieve a +1 bonus to all of your rolls'.

If you like their backstory and they have put in more of an effort, reward them. It might make the others jealous, or it could spur them on to get theirs written!

Just food for thought.


I wouldn' worry too much about it. There is a value of making your character's current actions important, rather than what they did.


Klorox wrote:
My beef with Reign of winter is that you necessarily built your character in a void, because nobody could know in advance the assumptions of that AP, and the gross railroading involved pretty much rankled on my nerves... because, yeah, it involved meddling with people that my character knew about and wanted to avoid like the plague.

Well, the GM knows. That's why I recommend that the GM be a part of character creation. If a player is going in a direction that the GM knows will be an issue later, he can steer the player in a different direction.

Grand Lodge

I've seen other players get outrageous with their backstories too. SO much so it is completely unbelievable for a Level 1 character to accomplish/do/live through.

A few Lines is always good enough for an AP. Remember the typical adventurer is still starting out in life and should not already be a grand demon slayer a few years ago unless they have the level to back up their claims.


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

The player's guide for RoW is pretty transparent about the fact it'll be cold, and that you probably won't spend too much time at home.

I honestly don't see anything wrong with it.


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

The backstory I started out with for Hell's Rebels is "Pomeroy Franchot, my Elven Medium tries to channel The Brightness, but only gets dead people"

I have since expanded it a bit as we go through the first few sessions, but that's all I started with. :-)


Back stories don't necessarily need to be fully fleshed out, but I think having at least a little bit of history is helpful, even in an AP.

They give possible motivations for why a character chooses to follow the path beyond not having anything better to do. It helps to explain why a character behaves the way he/she does, and gives motivation. Additionally, even with an AP, having a little bit of a back story helps tie the characters directly to the story.

For example, I am running a RotRL campaign for some players who are new to Pathfinder. Two of the players selected characters who have a distinct Japanese flavor for them, so opted to have their characters be from Tian-Xia/Minkai. This offers me an immediate link to the Kaijitsu family in Sandpoint, where I plan to have those characters be familiar with the Kaijitsu family name from back home, and foreshadow events that will occur in Jade Regent (which I hope to run for them after RotRL).


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Backstories are not required for APs, but they can help define a character.

That said, how are you going to use the one backstory that you received? Instead of trying to pressure the remaining players to provide one, think about how you are going to use the one backstory you have to help create an interesting plot. Hopefully they provided you something that could work with one of the side quests or background details to make that character more connected to the story.

Some players will never give you a backstory. They don't enjoy or might have had bad experiences with GMs using it against them. Don't force the issue.

Instead, focus on what you can do for the player who did.


captain yesterday wrote:

The player's guide for RoW is pretty transparent about the fact it'll be cold, and that you probably won't spend too much time at home.

I honestly don't see anything wrong with it.

and I played an Arctic Elf ranger with cold lands for a favored terrain... the thing is that he wanted no part of messing with Baba Yaga and the White witches of Irrisen, *precisely* because he was from the cold lands (the Linnorm Kings to be precise)and knew about them. The GM had my character concept before I made him, and had no comments.

To boot I did not have the player's guide available, so I may have lacked data thanks to a skewed briefing.


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

Well that's his fault. :-)


I like characters to have backstories as that helps with roleplay. They can sketch out a plan or gradually come up with it. Makes side quests more personal.

Lots of Pathfinder blogs have tackled this, so finding some could help sketch one out.


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If the players who did not create backstories are experienced roleplayers, they might be paranoid about what you are going to do with whatever backstories they create (based on bad experiences with previous GMs). When such players do create backstories, they tend to make characters who are orphans with no friends or living relatives.

The cure for this would be to use the backstory that the one player created to give him some neutral or even spotlight time. When the other players notice and mention that you seem to be favoring this player, you can remind them that they could get the same attention if they gave you a backstory to work with. They might even have an easier time coming up with a backstory if they have played the character for a couple of levels and thus have worked out the character's general personality.

The Exchange

Im one of those players who are uncomfortable with backstories because someone ever questioned me saying a character of my alignment wouldn't do (a certain action). I shudder to think what would happen if I gave GMs backstories to mess with. If I give backstories, there's usually minimal npc involvement so the GM has less to hold me "ransom" with.


David knott 242 wrote:

If the players who did not create backstories are experienced roleplayers, they might be paranoid about what you are going to do with whatever backstories they create (based on bad experiences with previous GMs). When such players do create backstories, they tend to make characters who are orphans with no friends or living relatives.

The cure for this would be to use the backstory that the one player created to give him some neutral or even spotlight time. When the other players notice and mention that you seem to be favoring this player, you can remind them that they could get the same attention if they gave you a backstory to work with. They might even have an easier time coming up with a backstory if they have played the character for a couple of levels and thus have worked out the character's general personality.

Don't do this. All you are going to do with this is have the player resent you or the person that has the spotlight.

As the GM, just sit down and say "Hey guys, I'd totally like it if you guys make some cool backstories. Don't worry, I'm not going to abuse your characters or their loved ones consistently, and they can also be super helpful. So create away!" Better to be open and honest with your players instead of doing amateur social engineering. And if they don't do it after that, then it isn't in the cards. You can't force or trick someone to play how you want. Just gotta be an adult and tell them straight to their face. Lay all cards on the table.

If they don't dig backstories, try and see if you can shift the focus on bonds with current players. I find that people that don't really do backstories seem okay with making backstories with other players. That way there is more collaboration and you ally (another PC) getting attacked and such is par for the course in a D&D game since you are both adventurers. Look at some of the Dungeon World playbook questions for cool ideas of setting up bonds.

The Exchange

Sometimes old habits are hard to break and after you've been resisting backstories so much, they won't come. Also, should you write a backstory that will screw you over in gameplay after, you only have yourself to blame.

I.e if you write you hate all orcs, and you're playing a paladin, the villagers tell you that some orcs have been killing their cattle, you burn down the entire orc village and your GM declares you fall.

Why? Because the orc village was framed by someone else. Since you don't speak orc..there's no way you could even have a trial.

Meh. Reminds me why I don't play paladins.


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Just a Mort wrote:
I.e if you write you hate all orcs, and you're playing a paladin, the villagers tell you that some orcs have been killing their cattle, you burn down the entire orc village and your GM declares you fall.

Why not role play the character coming around to understand his own prejudices? Why not role play the conflict? Too often people see their character as immutable granite from the time of creation. Why not have his life experiences shape him further once the game starts?

I think too often, people assume that PCs have to go full nuclear assault against everything in their path. Why would they act like that?


Odraude wrote:
As the GM, just sit down and say "Hey guys, I'd totally like it if you guys make some cool backstories. Don't worry, I'm not going to abuse your characters or their loved ones consistently, and they can also be super helpful. So create away!" Better to be open and honest with your players instead of doing amateur social engineering.

While I agree with being open, honest and just encouraging (not enforcing), telling someone not to worry sometimes makes them worry.

If you build on a player's backstory, you automatically reward them with additional spotlight time. In case this favors a certain player at the expense of the others, you probably should link them to the new content. For example, if someone made a powerful enemy in their past and he now pops up, the group could help to get rid of him.


Just a Mort wrote:

Sometimes old habits are hard to break and after you've been resisting backstories so much, they won't come. Also, should you write a backstory that will screw you over in gameplay after, you only have yourself to blame.

I.e if you write you hate all orcs, and you're playing a paladin, the villagers tell you that some orcs have been killing their cattle, you burn down the entire orc village and your GM declares you fall.

Why? Because the orc village was framed by someone else. Since you don't speak orc..there's no way you could even have a trial.

Meh. Reminds me why I don't play paladins.

Honestly, I'm pretty okay with my character's flaws and traits coming back to bite me. It's part of the roleplaying experience and is just another challenge to overcome.

As for the orc thing, a common misstep people make is an extreme, all or nothing character. You don't have to have him hate all orcs and murder them. He could have simply hate orcs but eventually through interaction, come to appreciate them.

That's the thing about character traits and flaws. Far too often, players use them as the only means of defining their character, almost to the point of it being a caricature. But ones personality and demeanor change over the course of months and years, especially by going on life changing adventures. Your character is a snapshot and their life is a scrap book. Remember that.

Also, as a GM, i'd make it quite clear that doing something would make them fall. But that's just me.


SheepishEidolon wrote:
Odraude wrote:
As the GM, just sit down and say "Hey guys, I'd totally like it if you guys make some cool backstories. Don't worry, I'm not going to abuse your characters or their loved ones consistently, and they can also be super helpful. So create away!" Better to be open and honest with your players instead of doing amateur social engineering.

While I agree with being open, honest and just encouraging (not enforcing), telling someone not to worry sometimes makes them worry.

If you build on a player's backstory, you automatically reward them with additional spotlight time. In case this favors a certain player at the expense of the others, you probably should link them to the new content. For example, if someone made a powerful enemy in their past and he now pops up, the group could help to get rid of him.

At that point, if the player is absolutely worried, then I'm going to sit down with them and talk about why they don't trust me and what I can do to help them out. Clearly, either something I've done or something that happened to them is causing this issue, so there is a problem I'm going to at least try and get to the bottom to.

To me, D&D isn't a game. It's a social activity and group, complete with its quirks and social dynamics. So I'm going to do my best to make sure things run smoothly and everyone is having fun without feeling hurt.


Odraude wrote:
So I'm going to do my best to make sure things run smoothly and everyone is having fun without feeling hurt.

I believe you that, already after reading your previous post. Just wanted to point out that a wording can result in unnecessary trouble.


I both love and hate backstories. They add a lot to a character on one hand. I was once invited to play in a group where everyone else was given information on the game, thus they were able to all include each other in a backstory. I, not knowing much about it, made a wizard character. The other players used their background story that they had come up with together, they were friends and had grown up together, as a way of leaving me to die because they did not want their family member or friend to die.

They were told that it was going to be a very undead heavy game. I wasn't so I made an elven enchanter. Not very effective when all we fought were zombies and skeletons.


That was a group of a!%*!$$s, I hope you did not play long with them.


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SheepishEidolon wrote:
Odraude wrote:
As the GM, just sit down and say "Hey guys, I'd totally like it if you guys make some cool backstories. Don't worry, I'm not going to abuse your characters or their loved ones consistently, and they can also be super helpful. So create away!" Better to be open and honest with your players instead of doing amateur social engineering.

While I agree with being open, honest and just encouraging (not enforcing), telling someone not to worry sometimes makes them worry.

If you build on a player's backstory, you automatically reward them with additional spotlight time. In case this favors a certain player at the expense of the others, you probably should link them to the new content. For example, if someone made a powerful enemy in their past and he now pops up, the group could help to get rid of him.

That is why I suggested using the backstory of the character who gave you one as an example of what sort of positive things can be done with them. You should then be at most two sessions away from doing nice things for the other players (assuming that they give you some sort of backstory at the next session and you have time to do something with it in the following session). You should not even require a high level of detail -- just something that provides useful adventure hooks. For example, if their backstory mentions an NPC who might be in the area where the party is adventuring, you could have that NPC be the patron who hires them for their next adventure. The established relationship in this case should work purely in the party's favor, as one member of the party has reason to trust the NPC and vice versa.

Sovereign Court

For APs backstories mean very little. Usually just a need to incorporate something into your character. The only ones I'd say where I feel a backstory would be useful is campaigns in one location like Kingmaker or Curse because you are in a known location for a long period of time where background items can come up.

For home game a backstory needs to be worked through with a gm to ensure that it suits the world.

As a GM you should make sure to more reward a character for a background more than punish them. If you keep kidnapping their family or screwing them up using their background then they won't submit another one. This isn't to say you can't exploit their backgrounds but you need to balance it with some rewards.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I believe backstory is what you write at the table.


I personally prefer a picture and a paragraph (or so) of background. I've always viewed background as story hooks for when the DM needs a bit of inspiration. And yes, that 25 page backstory (I HAVE seen that) is too much.

Owner - Gator Games & Hobby

I care way more about personality and presentation than any sort of written backstory.

Too often I see characters that have pages of backstory written for them that fall flat at the table because the backstory stays on the page instead of actually showing up at all in how that character plays.


When I play:
In a homebrew world I talk to the GM about how much he wants and if it even matters. It never has so far, so I usually shoot for a short paragraph, notes about the character's mentality is a mandatory minimum for me, and a picture if I can find one.

In a published setting I will usually write about two paragraphs of not-too detailed stuff that leave plenty of wiggle room for the GM to manipulate if he wants to. Add that to the mandatory minimum and it works great.

When I GM:
I like the players to talk to me about it, but most of the time they develop their backstories separately and don't have them completed until we want to start to play, so I have to improvise.

The Exchange

Scenario:

Paladin goes to orc village, announces in common ,"You have been charged with theft of cattle. Come with me to village of X to face trial."

Orcs stare at him like he's some kind of madman, since they don't know what he's saying. Maybe some shrugging his shoulders and wringing of hands. Heck, they might call their town guard on him for having a raving lunatic on the streets.

He thinks that they're trying to pretend they didn't commit the crime, and starts grabbing an orc and marching him to the village. The other orcs see he's trying to kidnap their friend and start attacking him = full fledged fight.

Have you ever tried communicating with someone who doesn't share a language? Prejudice makes things even worse.

2nd scenario:

Or lets say your GM wants to get a recurring villian. He gets captures your characters parents and ties them up. Tells the group, you let me go free or I kill *your characters parents*. Your gaming group will get irritated when your character pleas with them to let the villian go. And when the villian plans an ambush for them, they'll blame you for the time if you didn't let him go, this wouldn't have happened. No-win situation.

I don't like backstories for these kind of reasons. More ways for the GM to screw with you.


Backstories should be approached like wikipedia articles. The main goal is to deliver background on the character, not write a short story. Too often I see people waste time writing huge, narrative backstories that provide almost no relevant information on the character. I give no weight to how good someone is at writing in a vacuum, keep it short and informative. Like 1-3 paragraphs max.

@Just a Mort: That's just lazy GMing, it doesn't really have anything to do with backstory specifically. I'm sure not having a backstory wouldn't stop a lazy GM from hamfisting some drama in wherever they pleased.


I like backstories, so much so that I have all my players take 3 traits and a drawback, and we incorporate it into the character.

It's part of a long series of house rules of mine that turn my games into what I call: "Everything good about 5th edition, and nothing that's bad about it."

The Exchange

Perhaps, but making a backstory just makes it easier on the GM to do so.


It also makes it easier for the GM to incorporate information in a positive way. You shouldn't dismiss a fleshed out character because you're afraid of the consequences.


Eh, backstory or not, if a GM wants to screw with you, they will. A part of adventuring is facing difficult trials and overcoming them. Sometimes it's by force of arms, other times it takes cunning and more nuance. And by having flaws in your character, it gives you social obstacles to overcome (or succumb to, in your case) through character development. You handle the rewards and consequences of your actions in game. It's really no different than the GM throwing monsters at you to challenge you. Granted, it can be ruined by lazy GMing, but really, anything can be ruined by lazy GMing.

Honestly, the first scenario seemed like a misstep from your end for treating the situation so binary, not the GM (except for the fall. I probably would have warned you about that before your actions). Lazy handling of the situation. Second scenario is definitely pretty lazy on the GM.

And if you're worried about being screwed over by the GM, perhaps it's best to stick with simpler dungeon crawls and wilderness adventuring.


Just a Mort wrote:

Scenario:

Paladin goes to orc village, announces in common ,"You have been charged with theft of cattle. Come with me to village of X to face trial."

Orcs stare at him like he's some kind of madman, since they don't know what he's saying. Maybe some shrugging his shoulders and wringing of hands. Heck, they might call their town guard on him for having a raving lunatic on the streets.

He thinks that they're trying to pretend they didn't commit the crime, and starts grabbing an orc and marching him to the village. The other orcs see he's trying to kidnap their friend and start attacking him = full fledged fight.

Have you ever tried communicating with someone who doesn't share a language? Prejudice makes things even worse.

2nd scenario:

Or lets say your GM wants to get a recurring villain. He gets captures your characters parents and ties them up. Tells the group, you let me go free or I kill *your characters parents*. Your gaming group will get irritated when your character pleas with them to let the villain go. And when the villain plans an ambush for them, they'll blame you for the time if you didn't let him go, this wouldn't have happened. No-win situation.

I don't like backstories for these kind of reasons. More ways for the GM to screw with you.

Okay so scenario 1 can be entirely stopped by one of the Orcs having the 12 Int needed to speak common, or the Paladin speaking Orc. Common is well, common, it's really obvious in its utility. And what kind of person declares enmity with a whole species, and never learns how to speak their language? "Keep your enemies close." Looks like a strawman to me.

As for scenario 2, what if we replace a few words? No backstory here, just past character behavior.

"Or lets say your GM wants to get a recurring villain. He captures your characters innocent bystanders and ties them up. Tells the group, you let me go free or I kill this mild-mannered suburban family. Your gaming group will get irritated when your character pleas with them to let the villain go. And when the villain plans an ambush for them, they'll blame you for the time if you didn't let him go, this wouldn't have happened. No-win situation."

Well, can't play a good character, only bad things will happen.

"Or lets say your GM wants to get a recurring villain. He captures your characters money and ties them up. Tells the group, you let me go free or I kill your money. Your gaming group will get irritated when your character pleas with them to let the villain go. And when the villain plans an ambush for them, they'll blame you for the time if you didn't let him go, this wouldn't have happened. No-win situation."

Welp, can't play a greedy character, only bad things will happen.

This argument says that having traits in general is bad when you peel away the layers.

Here's the good news. Backstories can give you advantages too. That wizard school you went too? Might have a library with crucial info. That Fighters guild you learned your cool I-sheathe-my-sword-then-the-other-guy-falls-down technique? Maybe they can help defend that town being invaded by zombies.

I get the worry that a backstory could end up having a negative impact on your character at some point. But, isn't the struggle half of the fun? Like, risking yourself in combat=cool, but loved ones in danger=bad?

Would you create a backstory if you knew the GM wouldn't just use it for ez-button drama?

Edit: Look, I don't know how someone would kill money, okay? I just wanted to keep the format going, and the mood light.


I don't subscribe to the idea that a backstory gives a DM leverage to use against your character. So what if the BBEG takes an adventurer's family hostage? Your adventurer character will do some adventuring, which presumably you were going to do anyways. Now instead of having to contrive a reason to go on this adventure—not everyone is Sinbad the Sailor, after all—your motivation is ready to go.


I'd be happy if all the players provided one paragraph, even if it only says what the character looks like. I like to write a full page that might include background, appearance, beliefs, flaws, motivations, etc. I leave it loose enough that I can adapt to the adventure and improvise as things happen. The details I write are just seeds to start with. However, I find a lot of people just won't write anything.

The Exchange

I've never had a backstory be helpful, only used against me. So if I sound like a cynical coot, well that's what I am. If innocent bystanders are to die to get the BBEG, yes I would do it. The needs of many outweigh a needs of a few.

Money...eh. What's that. I already spend more on being a packrat - so if you wanted the money you're barking up the wrong tree. You're more likely to find an portable laboratory, traveller's any tool...that kind of funny stuff on me then actual cash.

You don't need to learn their language to declare enmity on a species. Say if orcs burnt down your hometown, do you need any reason to go murderhobo them all?


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

I didn't realize this was such a polarizing subject.


Everybody plays for different reasons, and enjoys different aspects of this multi-faceted game. If a player is happy to draft a backstory - yay! If they are not budding authors and really don't want to, mandating them may put them off altogether.

If you want players to draft even a short backstory gentle encouragement, or just asking a few questions and making notes yourself, may be the way to go versus reluctant writers.

Me, I rarely write a backstory, but I usually have a fair idea about the character and their background in broad terms - it just never gets written down mostly because I'm lazy, but also plausible deniability as I have had some bad experiences similar to Just a Mort.


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
Green Smashomancer wrote:
Just a Mort wrote:
stuff

Okay so scenario 1 can be entirely stopped by one of the Orcs having the 12 Int needed to speak common, or the Paladin speaking Orc. Common is well, common, it's really obvious in its utility. And what kind of person declares enmity with a whole species, and never learns how to speak their language? "Keep your enemies close." Looks like a strawman to me.

i'm not sure if you're aware, but 'most of history'.

This is kinda like Native American's learning latin during the colonial era, or the colonizers doing the reverse.

basically, it's not unheard of.


Bandw2 wrote:
Green Smashomancer wrote:
Just a Mort wrote:
stuff

Okay so scenario 1 can be entirely stopped by one of the Orcs having the 12 Int needed to speak common, or the Paladin speaking Orc. Common is well, common, it's really obvious in its utility. And what kind of person declares enmity with a whole species, and never learns how to speak their language? "Keep your enemies close." Looks like a strawman to me.

i'm not sure if you're aware, but 'most of history'.

This is kinda like Native American's learning latin during the colonial era, or the colonizers doing the reverse.

basically, it's not unheard of.

I didn't bring up our actual history for a reason. We're talking about Pathfinder. Where Comprehend Languages is on seven different spell lists as a first level spell, tongues is on eight (and available to the Witch as a hex too) at second level, and understanding of any language is 1 skill rank away unless you've made enemies with druids, or more plausibly, drow with hands. Not understanding people is absolutely a difficult hurdle in real life. Not so much Pathfinder by about level 3.

Even in real life, nations employ translators and code breakers specifically because understanding both allies and enemies is actually very important to people who have cause to do so.

Just a Mort wrote:
I've never had a backstory be helpful, only used against me. So if I sound like a cynical coot, well that's what I am. If innocent bystanders are to die to get the BBEG, yes I would do it. The needs of many outweigh a needs of a few.

It's starting to sound to me like you've played with some over-sized toddlers who ruined a cool thing for you, which is unfortunate. I had an analogy here, but it was terrible.

Just a Mort wrote:
Money...eh. What's that. I already spend more on being a packrat - so if you wanted the money you're barking up the wrong tree. You're more likely to find an portable laboratory, traveller's any tool...that kind of funny stuff on me then actual cash.

So, pedantry then? Money=something of value to the character. If not money then a really cool magic item.

Just a Mort wrote:
You don't need to learn their language to declare enmity on a species. Say if orcs burnt down your hometown, do you need any reason to go murderhobo them all?

That doesn't sound like the kind of character that would last very long as a paladin. But in general? No, you don't need much more of a reason to hold a grudge.

But, like Athaleon said. An adventurer adventures. Is it really important whether it's because the PC is trying to save their family, or because of a nondescript reward? To me, the difference is a matter of the characters investment.

And I'm still curious about my last question: Would you create a backstory if you knew the GM wouldn't just use it for lazy drama?


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
Green Smashomancer wrote:
Bandw2 wrote:
Green Smashomancer wrote:
Just a Mort wrote:
stuff

Okay so scenario 1 can be entirely stopped by one of the Orcs having the 12 Int needed to speak common, or the Paladin speaking Orc. Common is well, common, it's really obvious in its utility. And what kind of person declares enmity with a whole species, and never learns how to speak their language? "Keep your enemies close." Looks like a strawman to me.

i'm not sure if you're aware, but 'most of history'.

This is kinda like Native American's learning latin during the colonial era, or the colonizers doing the reverse.

basically, it's not unheard of.

I didn't bring up our actual history for a reason. We're talking about Pathfinder. Where Comprehend Languages is on seven different spell lists as a first level spell, tongues is on eight (and available to the Witch as a hex too) at second level, and understanding of any language is 1 skill rank away unless you've made enemies with druids, or more plausibly, drow with hands. Not understanding people is absolutely a difficult hurdle in real life. Not so much Pathfinder by about level 3.

Even in real life, nations employ translators and code breakers specifically because understanding both allies and enemies is actually very important to people who have cause to do so.

so, even with all those spells, I'm guessing they're still not that common, they're probably as common as someone learning another language.

In real life, we currently have a globalized economy and yet they still didn't get many translators for the people they were settling over. Look at Russia's eastward expansion, not much translations there. When dealing with people you consider the other, you do not think of learning their language as beneficial, but a drain on your time when you need to keep fighting them.

Most translators that are hired simply know the language, not learned it specifically to be of use during a war.

even then, why would they choose to learn the language of an enemy over a language of their allies, such as elven, dwarven, or other common tongues?

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