Creativity via roleplaying backstories

We are all, in some way, trying to be more creative.  Creativity influences numerous things from hobbies to our job.  It is easy to talk about being more creative but, in practice, it is often difficult.  However, there is something out there that can help you.

Tabletop roleplaying.

Specifically, I am going to talk about how character generation can help spur creativity.  Playing the characters you create will also help develop creativity, among other things, but that is for a post at a later time.  For the sake of this post, any references I make to a system or setting will be limited to Dungeons and Dragons and/or Pathfinder as those are the systems I have the most experience in.  However, the system you are playing does not limit the creativity boost you can get.

Typically, for me anyways, I already have an idea, a concept if you will, of what kind of character I want to play.  With the concept in mind, I will pour over any source material I have, or can find, and go over what kinds of classes are available that my concept fits into.  However, this is not always as straight forward as you would think.

A five page backstory I wrote for a character of mine seven or so years ago
A five page backstory I wrote for a character of mine seven or so years ago

Once you have your class figured out, many DMs (Dungeon Masters; they control the flow of the story, combat, etc.) will want you to come up with a backstory. This is where the meat of the creativity comes from.  The backstory is everything your character has done up to this point.  You get to flesh out their motivations, their family, their associations, their journey, etc.  The idea is that you are becoming this person (you are going to play them).

You aren’t going to simply say, “Paladin Bob grew up in a convent and now the church has asked him to help the town of River’s End with their problem.”  Even if that is the case, there’s room for so much more.  How was it growing up in the convent?  Did you pursue the path of a Paladin or did a god call out to you?  The key to making a good backstory is writing it as though you lived it; become Paladin Bob.  This will get the creativity flowing.  You are now a different person living a different life.  What are your goals, your dreams?  Why do you do what you do?  The possibilities are boundless.

Now, take this same idea and apply it to your life.  How would Paladin Bob tackle that problem as work?  Does Paladin Bob have a better way to test something?  How does Paladin Bob react to a new situation, be it at a social gathering or at work?  Does he have an idea that could greatly improve a process or make a process more efficient?  It might seem silly, but being able to get into the mindset of someone else, who doesn’t do what you do day in and day out, can get you thinking very creatively.

Do you enjoy making backstories for your roleplaying characters?  Are you like me and almost require a backstory before you really know your characters?  Please tell me what you think by leaving a comment below and/or by sharing on Twitter.


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