Building Character: How To Make A Good Backstory for a D&D game

Building Character: How To Make A Good Backstory for a D&D game

So, you finally have joined a new campaign, or perhaps are starting over with a new character after you regrettably fell off a cliff and gotten eaten by a green dragon. While obviously rolling up stats for a character is an important step in character creation, building a character also involves creating who the character is as a person and how they fit in the world the Dungeon Master has set up to play in, helping to guide you as you tell the story together. 

The first thing that you’ll need to figure out for your backstory is just exactly who your character is on the most basic level. Things like their name, race, class, appearance, parentage, family, personality, employment, education, religion, etc. Ask yourself if and how these core attributes define the character, and how these attributes have affected their growth as a character throughout their life. If you need help asking more questions beyond this,  YouTuber Ginny Di has made an excellent video here with a detailed list of questions to ask yourself and your character during the backstory creation process. 

While you’re asking yourself about your character, it may be handy to think about your character’s Flaws and Bonds. No one is perfect, and having flaws and bonds can add a whole lot of depth to your character, making them far more solid and three-dimensional as a person than just a two-dimensional stereotype or cardboard cutout sort of character. Flaws can range from as simple as “I never like to back down from a fight”  or “I get bored easily and if I’m left alone for too long, I might try to steal things” to as complex as “I made a terrible mistake in my past and now I’m afraid I will repeat that mistake now that I’ve tried to come clean.” 

Bonds can help tie your character to the world by giving your character a reason to care about something or someone outside of themselves, which in turn, gives further depth to your characters. As your character grows, sometimes the line between bonds and flaws can become very blurred, which can add more complexity in and of itself. For example, a character who cares about their friends may face some internal conflict amongst themselves when they are faced with losing their loved ones. The Player’s Handbook has some great ideas for potential flaws and bonds that you can use to get started For reference, I’ve linked a handy guide to get started here

Take the time to talk with your DM about your character to help them understand your character’s backstory and how to fit it in the world. Your characters don’t exist in a vacuum and have connections with others in the world, whether it is through people, organizations, or events in the character’s life that have special significance. Also, be aware of making enough ambiguity and holes in your character’s backstory, especially at the beginning of a campaign, in order for the DM to have some hooks to begin with. You will be filling in many of those holes throughout your adventures. This is especially true if you’re starting at low levels. 

After talking out your character with the DM, also keep in mind how your character may interact with your fellow players. The interactions between player characters can be an incredible source of growth, or perhaps even conflict for your character. Perhaps your character may know another character, which can add a whole new layer of complexity as they interact with each other. Remember to keep open communication between players in order to facilitate this relationship between your characters. With solid communication, you will be able to really enhance both characters and in turn, have a backstory that can really shine! 

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