When most players think about character development, they think about background first. Sometimes, it’s all they ever really consider. I think that it’s actually the least important aspect of the Character Wheel, but it does have value in helping guide and inform your choices elsewhere on the wheel.
First, before we go any further, make sure you have a copy of the Character Wheel Sheet, so you can follow along.
6 Page PDF
This Character Sheet includes sections for every part of the Character Wheel. It is system agnostic, so feel free to use it with any character for any game.
Hey, Good Lookin’. Where you from?
A character’s background includes where he came from, what events have occured during his life, and how he got to be where he is today.
The mistake many roleplayer’s make is giving their character’s too much history for their power level. While a character should certainly have some interesting things in their past, these should be things that can have an effect on the story going forward. All your character’s history doesn’t matter if it has no impact on the game. Thus, you should start by picking a handful of things that will come back to haunt your character.
In some regards, these questions could go on forever, but there’s only so much space or time. Instead, I’ve included the things that are significant moments to most people. These include your Hometown, Greatest Success and Failure, First Job, and stuff about First Lovers. Feel free to think of your own questions as well. Additionally, there are a few questions about things that may never have happened to your character, but if so would have a dramatic impact, such as committing a crime and saving someone’s life.
Strangely, perhaps, I’ve included your character’s First Kill as something that expected to have happened. That’s because most roleplaying games are violent by nature. This may say something terrible about all of us, but I’ll leave that for another topic.
As you go over these five sections, there are three basic questions you should ask yourself:
- Where did my character come from?
- How did my character learn his skills?
- Why did my character decide to become X? (Where X is whatever the setting assumes your character is, Adventurer, Hero, Criminal, Revolutionary, etc.)
I didn’t include these exact questions on the sheet, but you’ll notice that they align pretty closely with the sections Childhood, Scholastic, and Professional. Those words simply take up less space and convey the same idea. The questions above are meant to guide you in makeing decisions.
I’ve also included Romantic history and Accomplishments & Awards. The impact of these depends on the setting, but both provide opportunities for adventure.
These are the moments in your character’s life that are still remembered to this day. Some are Jovial, some are Tragic, and some are Inspirational or Life Changing. Don’t fill all of this out yet. Most of these should occur during the game.
That does it for Background. Tune in next week when we cover Attitudes.