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Dungeons and Dragons: The Back Story Trap



Just a quick one today. Being on house duty and a solid day at the chalk face has left me fairly wiped out.

Also, it's bin day. That means I need to take out the trash bins. That might not seem too arduous to some, but I live on the top floor of an old listed building, and so need to drag a week's worth of a family's trash downstairs. And then 200 meters across campus to where the big wheely bins are. Then drag those wheely bins 50 meters to the nearest pavement where they can be picked up.

I'm not even exaggerating those numbers. Being a Physics teacher, I used one of our meter wheels to measure it.

Yes, I am that much of a nerd. And could you resist using a meter wheel to measure stuff if you had one?

Actually getting the meter wheel was a funny story. But I'm not going to get into it. Because this is an example of The Back Story Trap.

Dungeons and Dragons is a story led game. It's all about the narrative you build with the other players in your group, as you respond to whatever the DM throws at you. As a result of that, people tend to want to craft a fantastic story for their character that gives them the impetus for adventuring, giving them that reason to go dungeon diving.

These backstories more often than not evolve into grab epics, spanning pages and pages of exposition. There will often be a paragraph dedicated to each item of equipment the character has, because where they got their Utility Stick is a really important event that people should know about.

Given the chance, people will spend a good ten minutes of the session telling the group about it. Or even worse... have it, and then never tell anyone about their tragic back story, because it's just too painful for their character to tell.

In other words, a waste of time.

The good stories in Dungeons and Dragons are the ones born out of cooperation and interaction between people. Writing a complex back story for your character isn't playing DnD. It's writing a book, and it's something you don't need to involve other people in to do. And if other people aren't involved in the story, it's fairly dull DnD.

The story you should be focusing on is the one you're creating with the group itself. The interesting stuff is the character development you all have as the dice clatter, sealing the fate of your avatars.

Basically, spend less time at home writing stuff, more time at the game shop playing stuff.

And less time writing about putting out bins and more on DnD.

Right, I'm going to bed.

Until next time!

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