Creating a compelling character backstory is an essential part of the tabletop role-playing experience. A well-crafted backstory not only provides depth to your character but also serves as a springboard for role-playing and helps guide your character’s actions and motivations throughout the campaign. With that in mind, I’ve created a rollable table of 10 backstory prompts that can inspire you to craft a unique and engaging history for your next character.
How to Use the Backstory Prompts Table
The table below is designed to be simple and easy to use. All you need is a ten-sided die (or an online dice roller) to roll a random number between 1 and 10. Match the number you roll with the corresponding backstory prompt in the table. Feel free to use the prompt as-is or modify it to suit your character concept better. You can also combine multiple prompts or pick and choose elements from different prompts to create a truly unique backstory.
|1||Your character discovered a hidden talent for magic after a chance encounter with a wandering mage.|
|2||After a traumatic event, your character vowed to protect the innocent and bring justice to wrongdoers.|
|3||Your character was once a member of a notorious criminal gang, but left seeking redemption.|
|4||Ancient ruins near your character’s childhood home sparked a lifelong passion for history and exploration.|
|5||Your character learned their combat skills from a mysterious mentor with a hidden past.|
|6||A prophetic dream led your character on a quest to discover their true destiny and purpose.|
|7||Your character was orphaned at a young age and raised by a kindly stranger with a curious secret.|
|8||A mystical artifact found by your character unlocked their latent powers and changed their life forever.|
|9||Your character is the last in a long line of heroes, charged with carrying on their family’s legacy.|
|10||A close encounter with death gave your character newfound appreciation for life and its mysteries.|
Tips for Crafting a Memorable Backstory
Once you’ve rolled your prompt, here are a few tips to help you flesh out your character’s backstory:
- Keep it concise: Aim for a backstory that can be summarized in a few paragraphs. A concise backstory is easier for both you and your fellow players to remember and can be expanded upon during gameplay.
- Incorporate your character’s class and race: Tie your character’s class and race into their backstory to create a seamless connection between their origins and their adventuring career.
- Include hooks for the DM: Add elements to your backstory that can serve as plot hooks for the Dungeon Master (DM) to weave into the campaign narrative. This can help make your character an integral part of the story.
- Consider your character’s motivations: Think about what drives your character to adventure. Are they seeking fame, fortune, redemption, or something else entirely? Your character’s motivations can help inform their actions during the game.
- Develop relationships: Establish connections to other characters, whether they are fellow party members, NPCs, or even adversaries. These relationships can add depth to your character and provide opportunities for interesting role-playing.
Let’s randomly choose a prompt from the table by rolling a ten-sided die. I got a 7, which corresponds to this prompt:
“Your character was orphaned at a young age and raised by a kindly stranger with a curious secret.”
Now, let’s craft an example backstory using this prompt:
Kael Silverleaf, a wood elf ranger, never knew his birth parents. As an infant, he was found in the wreckage of a small village, which had been attacked by a band of marauding orcs. The only survivor, Kael was discovered by an old, reclusive human hermit named Eldon.
Eldon, a retired adventurer with a curious secret, decided to raise Kael in his secluded forest home. He taught the young elf the art of tracking, hunting, and survival. Kael learned to live off the land and developed a deep connection with nature, thanks to Eldon’s tutelage.
As Kael grew older, he began to notice that Eldon had an unusual affinity for the arcane arts. Eldon was once a powerful wizard, but he had renounced his former life after a magical experiment went horribly wrong, costing the lives of his closest friends. Swearing off magic, Eldon retreated to the forest to live a life of solitude and atonement.
Kael respected Eldon’s decision but couldn’t help being fascinated by the glimpses of arcane power he occasionally witnessed. On rare occasions, Eldon would share stories of his adventures, and Kael became inspired by the tales of heroism and camaraderie. Despite his magical curiosity, Kael chose to hone his skills as a ranger, focusing on archery and stealth.
On the eve of his 100th birthday, Kael received a mysterious letter addressed to Eldon. The letter, written in an ancient script, contained ominous news. A dark force was awakening in the world, and Eldon’s past was somehow connected to this looming threat.
Determined to protect his adoptive father and unravel the mystery behind the letter, Kael set out on a journey to uncover the truth. Armed with his bow, his wilderness skills, and a burning desire to safeguard the world from this unknown danger, Kael ventured into the unknown, prepared to face whatever challenges lay ahead.
This example backstory uses the rolled prompt and incorporates elements such as character motivation, class and race, relationships, and hooks for the DM. This character’s history is concise, engaging, and leaves room for future development during gameplay.
With these tips and the rollable table of backstory prompts, you’re well on your way to creating an engaging and memorable character for your next tabletop role-playing game. Remember, the most important thing is to have fun and let your imagination run wild. Have fun and roll some dice!