Backstory and what makes a good one

Hi guys!

I’m trying to write my characters backstory, but I’m constantly second guessing it and hoping that it doesnt come across as bad or feeling not in keeping with the world of Empire. I’m planning for it to deal with some not particularly nice family issues, as my character was essentially locked up in her family house (unsure of why as of yet) which does play into her current personality and behaviour. I’m just scared it will come across as too edgy or something. I’d really appreciate some help from some people who are better versed than I in this area.

Thank you so much in advance!

There is an email address for backstory questions if you’re really stuck (backgrounds@profounddecisions co.uk), or if you’re happy to share we can help here.

Be aware that deprivation of liberty is illegal. Under False Imprisonment on the wiki.

Also note that Empire is not a hereditary society and all nations have options for anyone who is legally an adult (passed citizenship test around age 10) to leave and find a new group that better suits them, so being stuck with a family that is being horrible to you is hopefully less likely than in real life.

General wiki help here: https://www.profounddecisions.co.uk/empire-wiki/Background

Also if it only affects the way your character behaves then you don’t have to submit one at all.

My character still doesn’t have one 7 years in, although I know what happened to her in my head, and it has affected some trinkets on my costume but the rest of it is roleplay only.

Backgrounds are really there for Plot to mine for ideas/victims! If you’re not putting in names and places or dates they’re not essential.

A good backstory will impact your game without you having to tell people it.

This isn’t saying don’t talk about your backstory, but one that impacts how you feel about things, drive you to action, make parts of the game more emotional to you all are better backstories.

In terms of locked in family home, I might suggest the Barrens as a place of origin, if your character is young it’s been a war zone/under enemy occupation for most of the 6 years of game, which allows you to go that route with less worry about legality. It’s easier to keep people in when you are in a Siege mentality.
(I can expand on this if you are interested.)

I would say ‘hooks’ make a good background.

A hook is a feature which can latch onto other players’ plot. Maybe it’s a goal - you have always dreamt of being the Imperial Ambassador to Dubhtraig - or it could just be a trait like never backing down from an insult. It’s something you say or do which makes people stop and go ‘I want to drag this player into my story’ because you seem like fun to the player, even if it’s because their character would hate you.

For example, my character writes pamphlets about the Anvil Hospital growing stagnant. The Anvil Hospital is a well-established and useful institution which is probably going to be around until the system ends, but it has created game for me because people drag me into their own stories; a couple of hospital staff wanted to know more because (I assume) they want to make the hospital better, one person wanted to talk to me about helping to fund a psychiatric hospital, another person walked up to me and flat-out asked how much money / granite I needed to make the medical school I was ranting about at that event.

A guild-mate wanted to be a politician and that meant lots of running around trying to make friends and maybe to apprentice under an existing one. He later went on to decide he wanted to marry a woman in another nation (after getting permission from her player) and that led to all sorts of wacky hijinks including getting beaten to a pulp by her IC dad, promising to kill an immortal being and bring its head back, then finally going through a bit of a quest to change nations.

In both cases, those little hooks gave the characters a set of goals, a vague idea of how they might go about reaching those goals, plus a lot of complications that other characters could throw in their way or help them to overcome.

To share a hypothetical situation I heard once:
Four larpers walk into a bar looking for a ranger. In the corner is a brooding figure who sticks to the shadows, smoking a pipe, and glares at people as they walk in. At the bar is a ranger with a pint in hand who is loudly telling the unbelievable tale of how they slew a dragon with a single arrow.

One of them is offering you information about themselves and giving you an easy way to join their game, the other is not. They are offering you ‘call my bluff’ as a hook. They are offering ‘buy me a pint’ as a hook. They are inviting and hard to ignore. The other one… they are less inviting and easier to ignore.

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That hypothetical situation at the end there is an absolutely perfect example of being careful when trying to play the “brooding loner” type! Aragorn got lucky :wink:

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Aragorn played the brooding loner right; he approached the party with a specific response to an existing hook (that’s no trinket you carry) and directed them toward another plot. For that reason, I think he was put there by the plot-team so that they could add a couple of Nazgul encounters without overwhelming the players.

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Worry not! My character is a moron who is the least likely to be found brooding in a corner. More likely, she’ll be asking people dumb questions or being a hot mess of a changeling.

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