Letting Players Do the Work
Of course, you don't have to do all the work. Your players can provide most of
the energy, enthusiasm, and ideas needed. Your task is to provide direction
Allow your players to decide what kind of people their characters are. One
could be a rough nomad, another an over-civilized fop, others, homespun farmboys
or salty seadogs. Let the players decide, and then tell them if, and how, their
characters fit into your campaign world.
When a player says, "My dwarf's a rude and tough little guy who doesn't like
humans or elves," you can respond with "Fine, he's probably one of the Thangor
Clan from the deep mountain regions." This type of cooperation spurs your
creativity, and involves the players in your world right from the start. You must
come up with answers to their questions and ways to make their desires work in the
campaign. The will be rewarded with the feeling of getting the characters they
A carefully well-crafted character background can do more than just provide
emotional satisfaction. It can also provide motivation for the player characters
to undertake specific adventures:
Just what is a dwarf of the Thangor Clan doing outside his clan's mountainous
homeland? Is he an outcast looking for some way to redeem himself? Maybe he's a
restless soul eager to see the bright lights of the big city and the world.
A character can have parents to avenge, long-lost siblings to track down, a
name to clear, or even a lost love to recapture. Background can be used to build
sub-plots within the overall framework of the campaign, enriching character
descriptions, and interactions.
Background should not be forced: Do not insist that a player take upon his
character a crippled grandmother, three sisters stolen by gypsies, a black-hearted
rival, and a stain on the family name. Instead, see if the player has any
ideas about his character. Not every player will, but the AD&D game depends as much
on the players' fantasies as it does on yours.
Characters who players are happy with and feel comfortable about will create
their own special excitement and interest. Players who are interested in their
characters' backgrounds can be a source of creative energy, as they offer you a
constant stream of new ideas.
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