Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Background Check

Neglected the blog for too long, but this was due to a (just completed on Friday) internship (experiential practice). After finishing my regular weekend shift plus some minor errands, I needed a day to recharge.

A topic came up today in the two PbP games I'm in. PbP being the only active gaming format I can twist liberally into any schedule without a problem.

In one game, it's been a recurring discussion that I don't have any background for my character. There is nothing at all, maybe a few out-of-character lines during the initial group discussion for character creation. It's worked out fairly well so far. We finished our first full mission without problem and I'm settling into the character. I've been hashing ideas for development with the DM. We're in no rush, but it's an ongoing chat about where to take the character, what hooks I want to see for him.

Today, in the other game (and unexpectedly), the DM asked me to slim down and truncate my rather extensive character background. This character is in every sense the opposite of the first. This one has an extensive background that aside from family and friends NPCs created for the character also ties into an official noble house in the setting. Furthermore the background was based on the comprehensive lineage developed by a freelancer partly for his own use (and as yet published in an official source, but may be in the future in some form).

I guess since the games are in the same setting, I should have both characters depart and join the other group. Now that would be an interesting response to both lines of discussion.

Since the DM loaded up the noble lineage document onto the site, I figured that forms one of the bounds for level of detail the game would accept (or even encourage). To my chagrin, I'm actually getting an XP bonus for providing a summarized version of the character background. DM said he followed the beginning fine, but stop reading during the character's early adulthood. Granted I began the piece with more energy (and probably better writing) and towards the end probably waned as I casually transmuted ideas in list format into prose. I felt the latter parts really established the core of the character.

However, I can see why that may be excessive for a D&D game. Maybe I should be working on these with a set word count. Those do help me get to the point from past experiences. Still, if one doesn't want long histories, posting setting lore of comparable length sets a confusing precedent.

So, what is the optimal length for a character background? From this instance one would figure a brief background is ideal. I still think the answer is it depends and it's something the group has to work out together. I've seen backgrounds go to both extremes with equally diverse play experiences between them.