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Discuss Swords & Wizardry White Box - Rules questions, commentary, house rules
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One Sentence Background

Fri Aug 04, 2017 2:50 pm

James Spahn posted an interesting article about character backgrounds on his site http://halflingsluck.blogspot.com/2017/08/the-white-box-one-sentence-background.html

In a nutshell, players write a one sentence background to help flesh out the character's background and motivation. This idea keeps it simple just as all character creation should be in games like White Box. It gives players an idea about their motivation and also gives the DM some guidance on how to rule on PC actions.

One thing I don't want is another rule or mechanic, and this idea does not do that. I like the open ended feel of it. If a player has a character whose background is farmer would have skills useful in certain situation. Another character who was a scribe may have a knack for doing something else. It doesn't have to be a discrete modifier, but it can certainly help the DM in ruling the outcome.

The idea of the one sentence background is not new. I have seen gaming tips on creating very brief descriptions, even one or two word descriptions for NPCs, villages, dungeon rooms, etc.

I the idea of keeping it simple and wonder to what extant other forum members use this concept?

Re: One Sentence Background

Fri Aug 04, 2017 5:55 pm

None of my players has ever shown any interest in the concept of a "character background". They're more interested in the present (Where can we hire retainers? Can I buy a crowbar? Which way is the dungeon?) and the future (How can we avoid being ambushed next time? Let's wipe the smug smiles off those bandits' faces! Will I make it to 2nd level?).

I suspect their characters' backgrounds would be variations on the theme of "impoverished vagabond who plans to become rich and powerful by killing monsters and taking their stuff".

None of which means I disapprove of the idea, especially if it adds colour to the game. However, a player who said, "My character is a sea-captain who seeks revenge against the white whale that bit off his leg" shouldn't necessarily expect to have his or her character's background indulged in the campaign. Although, come to think of it, I would probably look quite favourably on someone who said, "He's a pest-control operative who seeks revenge against the white rat that bit off his toe."

Re: One Sentence Background

Fri Aug 04, 2017 6:55 pm

I think it's a good idea, if nothing else to prevent players from too much PC investment. Most of them will die, after all :). But I would only do it for campaigns or for PbP characters - longer running games.

Re: One Sentence Background

Fri Aug 04, 2017 7:23 pm

I like some kind of backstory or at least an occupation...like the DCC funnels in which we've played. Have a zero level expendable is okay...but when I learn it is a baker's apprentice armed with a rolling pin and half a sack of flour...well, now your talking!

Some of my favorite moments in rpg come from the character interactions and the silly things we do in-between combat! :lol:

Re: One Sentence Background

Fri Aug 04, 2017 8:10 pm

Seems like a good place to mention Zenopus's OD&D/Holmes Basic backgrounds:
http://zenopusarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2 ... ounds.html

Re: One Sentence Background

Fri Aug 04, 2017 11:06 pm

Here's Johnn Four's one sentence NPC generator

https://roleplayingtips.com/one-sentence-npc-generator/
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