Posts Tagged by backgrounds


Veteran game masters might fall into the trap of viewing every monster in terms of its hit dice and combat capabilities. It’s too easy to just plug in a monster that matches the requisite challenge rating, call for initiative, and play on. Resist that urge. Freshen up those monsters. Every time your group rolls up new player characters or you start a new campaign, you have a chance to make those familiar entries in the Monster Manual new again — legendary even. The key is […]


You’ve heard of “using the whole buffalo,” right? The idea that if you’re going to kill a buffalo, you should respect the buffalo by making every bit of it useful: eating the meat, tanning the hide, making stuff from its bones? When your players hand you their character sheets, think of each of those character sheets as a buffalo. Then, mix your analogies: Everything on your players’ character sheets is a flag. A what now? A flag, gaming-wise, is this (courtesy of our woefully out-of-date […]


John Fiore is a “low-prep” GM and a connoisseur of stuff that makes his life easier. His guest article sold me a set of these little cubes on the spot. Thanks, John! I wouldn’t have spent a single minute with Caitlin — let alone date her for almost six months — had I known in advance that she was a militant vegan with severe dependency issues and a fondness for Coldplay. Our relationship was, at best, terribly inconvenient for me, and I could have done […]

Story Forge Character Background

I am madly in love with Kickstarter, and have been backing a number of projects since I discovered it last year. Earlier this year, I backed a very interesting project called Story Forge; a tarot-like set of cards for creating plot ideas and character backgrounds (genius!). This week, I got my deck of Story Forge cards and was dying to try them out. Overview and Review I will let the creator of Story Forge give you the full details on the cards and all their uses. […]

Years ago I played in a game where the GM asked us to help creating the area around our starting town. We brainstormed landmarks, terrain types, enemies, allies, secret societies, and treasures. Sure, our starting area was a little rough, but it was full of cool stuff, and everyone had at least a few things they were excited to explore. Then we showed up to play. The GM started the session by explaining that he “didn’t like” what everyone had come up with, and instead […]


I’m a big proponent of using everything my players give me, especially when it comes to PC backgrounds: If you put it in there, I assume it’s because you want to see it in the game, and I’ll do my best to make that happen. But why assume? As a player, I design character backgrounds this way. I include NPCs my PC would love to fight, fuck, or otherwise interact with; I build conflict into my characters’ pasts, and leave big, juicy pointers to future […]


There are many ways to build a good character, but one aspect that often gets overlooked — or conversely, over-worked — is motivations. If you know what motivates a character — PC or NPC — you can extrapolate a lot of other things on the fly. The trick is not to make your motivators too broad or too focused. Too broad, and they’re meaningless (“She’s motivated by a desire to do the right thing”); too narrow, and they either dominate the campaign or never come […]