Gather around and take a seat, I want to ask you all a question. How does everyone feel about roleplaying in modern gaming? If you are playing a character in a game, how important is their background to you? And, if there isn’t a satisfying background provided- do you make your own? I ask because I was having a few discussions on discord recently with a friend this week and it came up that we are very differently minded when it comes to backgrounds in games.
My friend Law is an avid roleplayer who loves combat role-play and is a writer who finds inspiration for his stories with the community stories he takes part in. So when Law and I were asked if we wanted to play in an upcoming DnD game we both jumped at the opportunity and started talking about character ideas. Law sent over a sizable backstory for a character he wanted to run if we couldn’t come to terms for a team to introduce into this new campaign.
I loved Law’s character. It was detailed with a real background, and has stories that come across in both his physical design and his demeanor. After I get done reading about Law’s project character, it hits me that I have never created a character with such an in-depth background.
My characters start out as a concept idea. Such as, I wonder if I can make the ultimate Lovecraft inspired cleric. From there, the character gets a name and a fairly generic background and goal. My cleric is going to have dump stats in all physical attributes since she stays up all night focusing on the obsession and feeding her ravenous hunger for information of a forgotten god and world that may have existed before her. Her classes will be: cleric (knowledge), warlock, and wizard. While studying her arcane arts, she must have found a forbidden book. When learning about the book, she read and continued to read it as madness had overtaken her, getting her to sell her soul to understand more and then upon forming a pact with this Eldritch creature wanting to spread the word about it.
This character doesn’t have a connection to any one place, and can fulfill her mission in any world that the DM will allow the existence of an Eldritch god. I like to make my characters adaptable so that once I fall in love with the idea I can play them often. But, I know that not everyone does that. Being in the Role-play community since the dark days of the post-by-post forum play, I have had friends that wanted to play in a scenario but ‘didn’t have a character for it’ because of the lovely characters that they have created ‘would never be in that situation’. They also know that by the time they craft a new character, the play will most likely be over.
I’m not saying one way or the other is better. I’m trying to provide two different ways, out of the many, that people go about this. With WoW Classic out and thriving, we see Rp worlds returning. With games like the Elder Scrolls and Fallout out we have the same modeled blank character with a small push into an objective but no pressure to complete it. In those situations, what do you do? Do you create the epic background for your Khajiit? Or does your character’s ideals and ethics grow and evolve as you play them? Or do you play yourself? Are you the type of person that asks yourself what would I do in this situation and then sees how things would turn out?
I used to find it hilarious watching my ex play Assassin’s Creed. Whenever she would struggle or needed a new perspective, she would hand me the controller. I would often do things in solo games that would shock her. “You can do that?”, would be something that I heard a lot. Now some of those questions were about stupid things like wall clipping or finding exploits, but when I look back and think about it, I believe that what really stunted her imagination for options in the game wasn’t a flawed understanding at how games work. She was a seasoned gamer, after all, but she never thought the character she was playing would do that. Her Ezio Auditore was not the same as mine, and our Ezio was a special person that neither of us could have come up with.
So there is something to how we see our characters in solo games too. So what do you all think? Am I being foolish thinking these ideas of ‘Who is my character?’ is something that impacts all of these mediums? I’d like to think that’s the beauty of how our brains take on other roles and learn to view the world in other’s shoes.