Why Turn In A Backstory?
When you build a character you put a lot of time and effort into that character’s hopes, dreams, backstory, and drives. We want to know about these things!
This helps us write in villains that you would be drawn to, or storylines that would interest your character. What things may cause your character to panic or get furious. Pretty much everything that makes LARPing super fun.
Campaign 5 (starting May 2020)
Since the cataclysm, over 2000 years ago, the twin islands of Dusk and Dawn Exile have been untouchable. These islands sit across the globe from each other, on polar opposite sides of the world, and move through the oceans in tandem. When one moves north, the other goes south. Scholars have discovered that after a century, the islands will reach the arctic circles, and slowly reverse direction. Instant and strange death for all who stepped upon their shores. Wild magics coursed across the shifting islands, and anyone who stepped foot upon the sandy beaches were instantly exploded, or turned into something horrific by the twisted and chaotic magics.
Though this could have been a fascinating puzzle for scholars, the world was shifting, continents rearranging after the Cataclysm, wars fought, and history forgotten. There was too much to do to wonder at the death-bearing fallout that was the islands.
As the kingdoms of the world grew and changed, every so often one or more of them would send a scouting ship to one of the islands, to see if the wild magics had died down enough to explore. Some years back it was discovered by a joint effort that the islands were, after 2000 years, safe enough to investigate. After careful study, an exploratory team was launched into each island.
Those who ventured into the Dawn Island began to establish settlements on the island, a feat that is made difficult by most of the land’s shifting, chaotic nature; the only “safe” places to live are the few plots of stable, non-shifting land. But settle they did, and adventure and excitement followed.
Those who ventured into the Dusk Island were never heard from again. It seems that the moment anyone stepped off of the sandy beaches into the dense forest that seems to cover the entire island, they vanished and were never seen again. No messages reached in or out. After sending in rescue parties, trying all kinds of magics available, and establishing a make-shift port and floating dock to maintain surveillance, virtually every kingdom either decreed or strongly suggested that their citizens avoid the island until a solution could be discovered.
The Dusk Island of Exile
You ventured onto the Dusk Island. Whether you were part of the initial push, or a ill-fated rescuer, you have been wandering the strange shifting landscape for some time, mostly alone. You may have wandered into another lost adventurer, or a creature intent on destroying you, but for some time the shifting landscape has stopped you from finding the shore, or anyone else.
You are unsure of how long you have been wandering when you are greeted by soldier, dressed in a strange uniform, white and red with a helmet, sword, and shield. They offer to take you to a small settlement where you will be relatively safe, where you will be with others from off of the island, and where you can meet the denizens of the island in due time.
“We have been getting a huge influx of lost mortals in the past few years, isolated as we have been this is a new bit of excitement. Sadly you will not be able to leave the island, as we have ancient magics that protect us from the madness outside, but in time you will be comfortable here, and hopefully see it as a new home.”
“But… I thought the island was uninhabitable! Who are you?”
“We are the Nation in Exile, the Purest Descendants, the Unbroken Chain. We are the Kingdom of Lightfall!”
Your Story So Far
For at least the first part of this campaign of Exile, your characters are trapped on this island for whatever reason. Perhaps you were trying to get away from crimes or enemies. Perhaps you were chasing a loved one. Perhaps you were interested in the magical puzzle of it all.
Whatever the reason, our first event you will be taken to a small town and introduced to the mysterious civilization that has been living on this Thought-To-Be-Uninhabitable Island for thousands of years.
Will they work with you? Will they detain you? What secrets does this enigmatic island hold?
FIND OUT NEXT YEAR ON
EXILE: ANCIENT TIES!
(Below the form are some guidelines and musings about ways to get the most out of your backstory. It rambles, so you can read or ignore it at your leisure!)
What Should I Include?
Reasons that your character would be on this adventure. Goals that your character wants to achieve. I like to give my character three levels of goals: here and now, campaign, and unreachable. These levels give me direction when I am playing.
Here and Now are the kinds of things I would do from event to event. Am I here for Money? Maybe I will take deals based only on pay. Am I here for adventure? Well, then I may charge into battle. Am I moral? Am I vain? Short goals that I can work into each event that make it easy to get my character interested in one mod or another. If your character has no reason to want to go poke at a weird, old temple, then you are going to have trouble finding reasons to go on adventures.
Campaign goals are things that could reasonably be completed in 2 years of LARP events (or a reasonably length-ed table top, etc.). So, perhaps your goal that you would be able to see completed is to avenge the death of your wife, and you have chased the murderer to this location. Maybe it is to cure a strange curse laid upon you, or perhaps simply to make your father proud. These make it easier for the GMs to have things tied to various stories that might lead you in the right direction.
Unreachable goals are things that drive the core of your character, but would be outside the scope of a campaign. Perhaps at the end of your character’s life they want to have settled down with their own bar and family. Maybe they want to be the most respected mage in their organization, or ascend the throne of their family. These are things that you know you will not see in a campaign, but can give you insight into how you make decisions. Perhaps you will abandon a fight if it becomes dire, because your ultimate goal is to settle down and grow old and comfy. This would make it all the more drastic when something is dire and you lunge head-first because you BELIEVE in this cause!
This is not a be-all, end-all list, it is simply what I do to give myself direction as a player, and to make it easier for the plot-writers to tie my character into anything they can.
Writing My Own Villains/Allies
When writing a backstory for your character, try to keep other characters’ motivations and goals vague. If you have villains, enemies, or allies, if you put TOO much detail in what they are going to do or want to do, it makes it more difficult for us to work it into the story. For example:
“I made an enemy of Paul Patrick the Druid. His only sister was killed in an accident that was my fault. He has vowed that he will hunt me down. His organization of druids has 15 members and they are on their way to kill me. He will try to kill me with plants and animals and we have fought 15 times before. He was hot on my tail when I came to the island, and I am sure he will arrive shortly to kill me and then go on his way.”
“I left my homeland after an accident led to the death of one of Paul Patrick’s sisters. Paul was a respected Druid in our land, and he vowed vengeance. I packed my things and left, unsure of how far he would pursue me.”
The first story has a LOT of little details that an NPC might forget or stumble over. It also leaves little room for us to add details to Paul. What if we want to have another sister coming out, instead of Paul. “But Paul only had one sister!” and so on. While we can play with the details of the first, if you keep it a little vague, we won’t run into any issues of accidentally messing up your backstory and things can flow more easily. Not to mention it will be more of a surprise for you when details that you were unaware of come to light!
The End of My Villain
Try to make sure that, when writing your backstory, the end of your character’s arc is NOT the end of whatever elements you give the NPCs to play with. For example, if you are coming to this island to find a cure for your sister’s ailment, and yours is one of the first stories we wrap-up, you will be hard-pressed to find a reason to stay as your character. Try to be sure that the plot elements you give the plot-directors to play with aren’t ALL that your character has going on.
“I am out to adventure and explore, to help everyone escape this island, and maybe find a cure for my sister’s blindness.”
The above is a good set of goals, because if we run a plot that gets your sister a cure in the first four months of the campaign, there are still reasons for your character to be involved in other things.
That’s Not My Story
Backstory villains and aspects may cater to your character, and obviously there will be other, larger stories in which to involve yourself. Become embroiled in them, even if they are not your own. Adventure into the other mysteries and villains that exist. Show interest in other stories, and help other players achieve their goals, thus tying your goals together in one big, entertaining and intriguing knot. Who knows, maybe your villains will meet and decide to team up and kill you in your sleep!
Once you give your story over to plot, it can mutate and become all kinds of things for you to unravel. You are giving us a place to start, but if you knew everything that was coming, than this is a play and not a mystery! Some stories may be similar enough, or have aspects that overlap to the point where they might merge in a way that makes an incredible, surprising reveal. And if you make sure to become interested or entwined in the larger stories, or helping other people with theirs, you won’t be at a loss for what to do next when you finally drive the sword through your mother’s murderer’s heart.
I rambled a lot in the above paragraphs. Try to keep your stories concise. That is not to say that you can’t write a whole book on your character’s backstory, with motivations and interactions galore. But do remember that we are going to be reading everyone’s and trying to remember details from everyone’s. The more concise you keep it, the easier it will be for us to both remember things, and make sure we don’t miss things, buried in paragraph 14, section B, subsection iii.
That’s It For Now
Thank you for reading! Leave comments with your suggestions and musings on this page if you like! I love to see other people’s methods of writing characters!