For the past week or so I’ve been talking about different aspects of the Dungeons & Dragons 5e core rules set that make it a great RPG. The different game mechanics like advantage and inspiration. So today, I thought I would talk about another aspect of the D&D 5e system that I think is fantastic, the inclusion of character backgrounds. (125-141 PHB)
The addition of backgrounds to the character creation process is truly a no brainer. It’s one of those things that once you see it you wonder why the hell it took five editions for it to be added. I mean, DM’s have been doing this forever! There is no better way to tie PC’s to your world than to give them a history in it, a past, a background! It gives your players a reason to interact with your NPC’s, to visit a far off land, and to vanquish that BBEG. Regardless of DM’ing style or campaign theme, sandbox or rails, dungeon delving or political intrigue, published campaign or homebrew, the addition of character backgrounds is a great tool to help your players immerse themselves in your world, assist in their suspension of disbelief, and just keep the game rolling.
“Every story has a beginning. Your character’s background reveals where you came from, how you became an adventurer and your place in the world.” (125 PHB)
Simply put, character backgrounds anchor your players to your world. Moreover, a good background, including interesting personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws will give your players (especially newer players) a solid understanding of their character right out of the gate, I’m talking session one. This can definitely encourage and improve roleplay. It has been my experience that the hardest aspect of the game for new players to grasp is roleplaying. They understand combat, they get the dice rolls, turns make sense, but roleplaying… “How do I do that?”, “How do I know what my character would say, or do, or think?” It’s a hard concept to grasp for someone who has never played before, and honestly, it’s not that easy to explain either.
Character backgrounds give those new players a frame of reference, a role to play. It establishes a history and life experience in your world for their characters so they can reasonably answer how they know what their character would say, or do, or think. Role playing is much easier when you have an established and fleshed out role to play.
So how about you? What do you think of Dungeons & Dragons 5e character backgrounds? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the comments below!