I received a copy of The Ultimate Character Backstory RPG Guide by James D’Amato. It’s an exercise book that can be used to develop RPG characters or really any fantasy character. The book assumes that you are playing in a fantasy RPG which is kind of sad because there’s a lot of RPGs out there besides Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder. Some of the exercises are broadly applicable like “Save the Cat” but the charts and suggestions for your character are based on fantasy tropes. If you are playing a fantasy RPG though, The Ultimate Character Backstory RPG Guide is a fun way to learn about your character. I’m definitely going to bring it to my next Dungeons and Dragons session for my players to flick through while I look up monsters and restock the snacks.
I did some of the exercises in the book to learn more about my next Dungeons and Dragons character, Aryana Val, a Drow Arcane Archer. And I learned a surprising amount just from a couple of prompts!
The first exercise I did was close to my heart; “Save the Cat.” The exercise posits that there is a cat in a tree and gives you evil, neutral and good options. I thought for sure Aryana would fit with the evil options. She’s a Drow! They’re slavers and misandrists and worship the goddess of treachery! But the neutral options fit her character better. The evil options would take effort on her part. I took from this that she’s not malicious, but rather doesn’t care about others.
The next exercise I did was “Venture.” It presented several dating-app style bios for adventurers looking for a party. Aryana swiped left on almost all of them. Funnily enough, she picked two dwarves because they mentioned in their profile what they could do. The rest talked about boring stuff like backstory and interests and feelings. Ayrana wants to know how her teammates can pull their weight!
I skipped ahead for the last exercise I did. The book organizes the prompt’s by levels and Ayrana’s around level 11, so I did one of those. I decided to go with the “Five Scars” Prompt since she’s been running around Faerûn for a while, she’s probably picked up some battle scars. The prompt gives you five scenarios where you got a scar. They didn’t all fit Ayrana, but the second and first prompt made me think about her childhood and how dangerous and hard it would have been to become a skilled Archer in cutthroat Drow society.
If these exercises appeal to you, check out the Ultimate RPG Character Backstory Guide! I’ll be keeping it on hand when I start playing my firbolg barbarian, my aasimar paladin and my dwarf grave cleric!